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    How it works

    There’s a post I’ve kind of been meaning to make for the last few months, and given the fraternal love electrifying the atmosphere in the US Congress and blogosphere, this seems like a good time to make it.

    I’ve been getting an increasing number of hits from people looking for information about Japanese defense. Quite a few of them are from university and US military ISPs, but I assume even they are mostly from people who are just kind of curious about what’s going on here.

    There’s always the possibility that someone doing Real Research is blundering into me, though. If so, I hope this is obvious, but just in case: I’m not a moron, but I’m also not a political scientist. Still less am I a military strategist. I tend to choose each story I post about for one of a couple of reasons.

    One is that Prime Minister Koizumi, while hardly perfect, has taken real political risks in so firmly and ringingly allying himself with the Bush administration in the WOT. A lot of Americans–educated general readers like me–seem not to pay much attention to Japan now that its period of dizzying economic hypergrowth has been over for fifteen years, but the Pacific Rim is a region of extreme importance to US interests. Japan’s loyalty to us as an ally and the evolution of its own military policy matter a great deal, and I think they deserve more notice.

    Another factor I consider when posting is that the usual media line about studious, slave-to-tradition, unfailingly safe, enlightened-social-democratic, mysteries-of-Zen Japan is grossly reductive. I’m sure most foreign correspondents make a good-faith effort to report things accurately, but you don’t have to live here long to realize that some of them simply don’t know what they don’t know and can’t formulate the right questions. When a story shows a side of Japan that doesn’t fit the usual pattern, I often find it worth calling attention to.

    Finally, there’s a ridiculous idea abroad in the world that Americans are provincial while everyone else is cosmopolitan and intellectual. That kind of crap is bad enough when it comes from Everyone Else; when I hear other Americans buying into it, it drives me crazy. Japan, despite an educational system that’s the envy of much of the world, displays plenty of what we now call cultural insensitivity…and sometimes plain ignorance. I think it’s helpful to remind people that that kind of thing is a human, not an American, problem.

    I might also say a word or two about my sources. Japan’s tabloidish news magazines are frequently the first to report major scandals and such. I don’t cite them because it’s generally necessary to wait to see whether the major dailies pick up on a story, anyway, to find out whether it has any substance or was just a sensational rumor. The dailies are a little slower, but if there’s meat in there somewhere, it’s in their interest to get to it eventually. And they’re usually far ahead of Reuters or CNN. If a link goes to a Japanese story, the translation that appears here is my own. That means you have to trust me; but I have several readers, at least one of whom comments regularly, who also read Japanese fluently. If I’m parsing anything incorrectly, I have no doubt that it will be pointed out to me immediately and triumphantly. (Don’t make that face at me, boys. You know it’s true.)

    One more thing for those reading from the military: We support you. There’s a lot of jabber lately about polls and yanking people out of Iraq by next Friday and stuff, but the Americans (and a handful of English and Japanese people) I know believe what you’re doing, whatever your individual assignments happen to be, is worthwhile and meaningful. If the President says you’re not done, you’re not done. Thanks for staying on the job. We all owe you. I don’t say that nearly often enough.

    Added on 22 November: From the Grandstand kindly links this post and adds a Thanksgiving-specific message for our military folks to my general one.

    Added on 23 November: Thanks to the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler for the link also. He adds his own thanks to our soldiers.

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