Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 27, 2007

Japan Leaves the War on Terror

Today, the vessels of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces are serving proudly in the U.S.-led Maritime Intercept Operations, along with the navies of seven other nations. Tokyo’s role has been maintaining a “free gas station” in the Indian Ocean for American and other vessels involved in the war against terrorists on the high seas and in Afghanistan. “This mission is part of an international effort,” Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told reporters recently. “What would the other countries think if Japan were to pull out?”

We will soon find out because the legislative authority for Tokyo’s refueling activities expires this coming Thursday. Moreover, the authorization will not be extended until sometime next year, if ever, so this week Japan will end the mission begun in 2001. Fukuda has submitted a watered-down reauthorization bill—which would not permit Japan to refuel vessels involved in military operations, including those in Afghanistan—in the lower house, controlled by his Liberal Democratic Party, of the Japanese legislature, the Diet. Yet this “antiterrorism” legislation will be blocked by the Democratic Party of Japan, which controls the upper house. The DPJ has vowed to stop the refueling mission on the grounds that the United Nations has not fully authorized coalition operations in Afghanistan, the mission violates Japan’s constitution, and oil supplied to the United States Navy has been used in the Iraqi war.

The Japanese public is closely split on the refueling mission, and the opposition DJP appears to be using the issue to unseat Fukuda’s LDP in the next elections for the lower house. Matters have been complicated by the Defense Ministry’s underreporting of the amount of fuel supplied and unrelated allegations of corruption—this time involving a former official accused of going on more than 200 golf junkets arranged by a contractor. The result is that the world’s second-largest economy, which obtains virtually all of its oil from the Middle East and depends on the United States for the safety of tankers bound for Japanese ports, will drop out of multinational efforts to secure the sea lanes.

The refueling mission is largely symbolic, so its ending will also be full of meaning. The one thing we can say with assurance is that Japan in the Fukuda era is about to take a large step backward as a member of the international community.

Today, the vessels of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces are serving proudly in the U.S.-led Maritime Intercept Operations, along with the navies of seven other nations. Tokyo’s role has been maintaining a “free gas station” in the Indian Ocean for American and other vessels involved in the war against terrorists on the high seas and in Afghanistan. “This mission is part of an international effort,” Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told reporters recently. “What would the other countries think if Japan were to pull out?”

We will soon find out because the legislative authority for Tokyo’s refueling activities expires this coming Thursday. Moreover, the authorization will not be extended until sometime next year, if ever, so this week Japan will end the mission begun in 2001. Fukuda has submitted a watered-down reauthorization bill—which would not permit Japan to refuel vessels involved in military operations, including those in Afghanistan—in the lower house, controlled by his Liberal Democratic Party, of the Japanese legislature, the Diet. Yet this “antiterrorism” legislation will be blocked by the Democratic Party of Japan, which controls the upper house. The DPJ has vowed to stop the refueling mission on the grounds that the United Nations has not fully authorized coalition operations in Afghanistan, the mission violates Japan’s constitution, and oil supplied to the United States Navy has been used in the Iraqi war.

The Japanese public is closely split on the refueling mission, and the opposition DJP appears to be using the issue to unseat Fukuda’s LDP in the next elections for the lower house. Matters have been complicated by the Defense Ministry’s underreporting of the amount of fuel supplied and unrelated allegations of corruption—this time involving a former official accused of going on more than 200 golf junkets arranged by a contractor. The result is that the world’s second-largest economy, which obtains virtually all of its oil from the Middle East and depends on the United States for the safety of tankers bound for Japanese ports, will drop out of multinational efforts to secure the sea lanes.

The refueling mission is largely symbolic, so its ending will also be full of meaning. The one thing we can say with assurance is that Japan in the Fukuda era is about to take a large step backward as a member of the international community.

Read Less

Golden Silents

In his foreword to a lavishly illustrated new book from Little, Brown, Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture by Peter Kobel, director Martin Scorsese points out that viewers of silent films today are like “time travelers.” Precious cultural evidence from before 1900 until the end of the 1930’s, Scorsese observes, was lost when 90 percent of silent films were destroyed or allowed to disintegrate. Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture reproduces posters and other items from the Library of Congress (LOC) film archive, which is energetically engaged in preserving what is left of this legacy.

The LOC’s website offers fascinating short Edison films that document urban overcrowding, whether on New York’s Lower East Side in 1903 or on Paris’s Esplanade des Invalides and Champs Elysées, both from 1900. Perhaps most fascinating of all is a 1903 San Francisco demonstration for Chinese-American rights, on the occasion of an eerily majestic funeral procession. Tom Kim Yung (1858–1903), a Chinese military Attaché, committed suicide in San Francisco after being a victim of police abuse. The procession, as captured by Edison’s cameras, shows hundreds of solemn marchers, while gawkers look on. Later artful documentaries offer fascinating details for history buffs, whether about 1929 Russia in Dziga Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera or 1928 Germany in Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City.

Read More

In his foreword to a lavishly illustrated new book from Little, Brown, Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture by Peter Kobel, director Martin Scorsese points out that viewers of silent films today are like “time travelers.” Precious cultural evidence from before 1900 until the end of the 1930’s, Scorsese observes, was lost when 90 percent of silent films were destroyed or allowed to disintegrate. Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture reproduces posters and other items from the Library of Congress (LOC) film archive, which is energetically engaged in preserving what is left of this legacy.

The LOC’s website offers fascinating short Edison films that document urban overcrowding, whether on New York’s Lower East Side in 1903 or on Paris’s Esplanade des Invalides and Champs Elysées, both from 1900. Perhaps most fascinating of all is a 1903 San Francisco demonstration for Chinese-American rights, on the occasion of an eerily majestic funeral procession. Tom Kim Yung (1858–1903), a Chinese military Attaché, committed suicide in San Francisco after being a victim of police abuse. The procession, as captured by Edison’s cameras, shows hundreds of solemn marchers, while gawkers look on. Later artful documentaries offer fascinating details for history buffs, whether about 1929 Russia in Dziga Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera or 1928 Germany in Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City.

As Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture reminds us, even fictional silent films, many recently transferred to DVD, can give us a taste of bygone eras that cannot be experienced merely by reading about them. D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915)—despite its racist, pro-Ku Klux Klan message that makes the recent statements of scientist James Dewey Watson seem innocuous by comparison—visually echoes Civil War photos by Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner. Griffith’s depictions of 19th century battles are now chronologically closer to these real-life skirmishes than we are to Griffith. Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 Battleship Potemkin, which dramatizes events from a 1905 anti-czarist uprising a mere twenty years after the fact, inevitably idealizes and glorifies matters propagandistically, but is a must-see for its flavor and verve. American director William Wellman (1896–1975) made Wings, a 1927 drama about World War I fighter pilots, a mere decade after he himself served in the Lafayette Escadrille during that conflict. Above and beyond the fictional plot of Wings is a recreation of the bloody 1918 Battle of Saint-Mihiel, featuring dogfights, bombardments, and crashes with an authenticity that today’s special effects technicians cannot surpass.

As DVD companies strive to outdo one another with historical material, even unexpectedly racy material has appeared, such as a collection of French silent films originally made in 1905 and after, to be shown in the waiting rooms of Paris bordellos. Nostalgically titled The Good Old Naughty Days in re-release, this compilation reminds us that some aspects of mankind’s historical behavior are still with us today.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.