Media  Foreign Affairs and National Security  2014.11.10

Another Friendly Overdose

JBpress on October 31, 2014

An October 28 New York Times article entitled "Japanese Village Grappling With Wartime Sins Comes Under Attack" might have knit the eyebrows of many among the silent majority of Japanese, if they could have read it. It is not because the article was wrong or misleading but it is because America fails to comprehend the side effects of its overdose on naivete.

The article, written by a thoughtful Asia hand, asserted that, "Coming to terms with its militarist past has never been easy for Japan, which tried to set aside the issues raised by the war as it rebuilt itself into the peaceful, prosperous nation it is today." Fine, but this is a typical liberal line which tends to overlook the Korean War's impact on Japan in the 1950s.

It also stated, "But pressure to erase the darker episodes of its wartime history has intensified recently with the rise of a small, aggressive online movement seeking to intimidate those ... who believe the country must never forget." In essence, these are not disagreeable to the silent majority of Japanese with common sense.

The article, however, has some misunderstandings about the "Neto-Uyos," which literally means the "right wingers on the internet." For example, it only refers to academic studies claiming that, "The Net Right counts no more than a few thousand active members, many of them from Japan's growing ranks of contract workers who have been unable to find coveted lifetime jobs."

There is no proof that the "Neto-Uyos" are only frustrated young Japanese. Moreover, many of them are probably not even young or real "right-wingers" in the first place. The article implied or could be interpreted as an indication that these extremists have been attacking and intimidating those Japanese who have reasonable human decency. The reality in Japan is not that simple.

Within the context of universal values, every nation has its own way of dealing with its past. For example, in the case of post-World War Two Japan, the North Korean invasion into the South in 1950 forced the U.S.-led occupation authorities to comprehensively change its policy vis-a-vis the Japanese military. This is the legacy which started Japan's dealings with the pre-war past.

Make no mistake. This is not to assert that American liberalism is wrong. It is only to show that no country can represent the "human decency" of the world. Unfortunately, each nation must have its own and no foreign nation can impose its own version on others. More unfortunately, some Americans do not understand this simple fact. This is the American naivete.

Some deep thinkers in Washington seem to worry that there may be a new version of anti-Americanism being recreated in Japan. The silent majority of Japanese do not buy such an argument. It is rather the above American overdose on naivete that really alienate the commonsensical healthy Japanese conservatives that the U.S. truly needs.

As an overdose of medicine may kill a patient, an overdose of an innocent but simple and naive interpretation of Japanese conservatism is not only counter-productive but also may have serious side effects. It is an irony that, by trying to prevent anti-Americanism, the United States is giving it new life, as currently witnessed not only in Asia but also in the Middle East and Europe.

The New York Times article is another unintentional reminder of the danger of American naivete. But, lo and behold. This is what makes America American. The nations of the old world admire and respect that America, while secretly deriding and ridiculing it. If Americans lost their naivete, they would not be Americans anymore, which would be a great loss to all mankind.