A few days ago I was reading the news and I read a New York Times article. I don't normally seek out the New York Times but my girl friend is a 'newsie' and often sends me articles she thinks I would be interested in reading. The title of the article piqued my interest as I assumed it would probably relate to the growing tensions between China and Japan concerning islets and coral reefs in the East China Sea.
I assumed, given the New York Times ideological slant, that they would express concern with Japan's recent military developments in the last few years. We often think of Japan as an extremely pacifist nation that utterly relies on the United States for protection. The reality is that Japan has one of the most developed navies in the world and that what appears to be reliance is simply a high level of integration with the United States military. Imagine my surprise when, instead of a relatively researched piece filled with insight, I get a editorial that had to be no more than few hundred words with no real insight whatsoever. I should have known better considering that it is the New York Times and I have been spoiled by Stratfor reports.
The article was written by the editorial board of the New York Times and their entire op-ed boils down to nothing more than saying "Shame on you Japan for having some of your political leaders visit shrine for your war dead during this time of tension between you and Japan". They also wrote how they didn't like that the current Prime Minister of Japan defended Japan's war time conduct during World War II.
Japan's conduct during the war was atrocious and you will find no argument from me; My grandmother's brother was killed in the Philippines when the US was there to liberate the island. but the war was over 60 years ago and majority of people alive in Japan today either did not fight in the war, or were not even born when it happened. They also paid for their transgressions. The United States fire bombed their capitol, dropped two nuclear bombs and then took away their sovereignty for a period of time. At some point a people get tired of saying 'I'm sorry' for something that happened a long time ago. I believe the Japanese are at this point and I am with them on this.
Even if a nation has fought a war in the wrong it is unreasonable to expect never ending contrition. At some point nations move on and look forward. The fact that the editors of the New York Times are concerned that a bunch of Japanese legislators are visiting a shrine honoring their countrymen who have died in war astounds me. If the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom visited a monument honoring the British killed in the American Revolution it would be a total non-event for me. Nations have every right to honor their fallen. The New York Times probably doesn't object to Japan honoring their dead so much as how they are choosing to honor it - sort of like how the left only doesn't object religion itself, rather how its adherents choose to practice it.
The reason why it is absurd is that rhetoric mean very little on the geo-political stage. Rhetoric is meant for your own people. Reagan's 'Tear down this wall' speech had absolutely zero impact on the Soviets, but Reagan didn't make the speech for the Soviets, or even the Germans for that matter, it was for Americans. You would think that the editors would have finally realized this after the ill-fated attempts by the Presidents to raise our global stature. He gave many speeches in Europe, Asia and most importantly the Middle East. While the intelligentsia swooned and made a huge deal about Obama extending olive branches and mending bridges the reactions, outside of the intelligentsia in Europe at least, were impassive. That's because action, not rhetoric, has any real meaning. Whether the progressives at the NYT want to admit it or not our actions haven't changed. The United States, like any other nation, looks out for her interest first and foremost and always will.
So this is what the NYT editors really need to understand. The Prime Minister and the leaders say what they say for their people and no one else. While the leaders of Korea and China will chastise Japan publicly, privately they couldn't care less. More importantly it's been over 60 years since the war and attempting to 'shame' Japan isn't going to work anymore.