politics

Ex-U.S. diplomat Maher pulls no punches on Japan

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‘Who the hell is in control in Japan' That's the golden question!

15 ( +15 / -1 )

I give the guy credit for saying things that have been needed to be said for years. His views on Okinawa were right on target, unfortunately the local politicians had thin hides and couldnt take hearing the truth.

15 ( +15 / -2 )

all the more reason to give executive power back to the Emperor. He can't simply quit when the going gets tough. plus he is less likely to be blockaded by opposition politics.

-27 ( +0 / -27 )

Maher and I know some people in common. The forthrightness to the point of abrasivness is not simply a face he puts forth for public consumption!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Tokyo is not safe; Tokyo is most likely next. Ironically, the destruction of the central government in a Tokai quake will probably have little effect on the country's ultimate response.

4 ( +7 / -4 )

Not sure when it happened (student riots in the early 70s?), but there was a paradigm shift in Japan wherein to be promoted and succeed in The Way, you more or less did nothing to upset the "wa" and never ever got in a position to take responsibility for anything. We are now in the 2nd or 3rd generation of leaders (in political, academic, and business circles) who have "succeeded" by looking after #1 - himself. This is why Mr. Maher and many readers of articles here in JT are always disappointed in the decisions or lack thereof in recent years. For these people the dirtiest word in the book is "change" and they will do everything in their power to maintain the status quo. It is a shame for those who really care about and love Japan. Wonder if an English version of Mr. Maher's book is available?

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Oh yes, all of the idiot corrupt, old fart parasites, oops J politicians living off of our hard work, but when it comes to national emergencies, shouganai?? Just say oh it is fate?? Karma?? Just sit there and die??

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

He accused Japan’s then prime minister, Naoto Kan, of evading responsibility and trying to pass the problem over to the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co.

That's true. Japan was making plans five years ago to set high-level alert procedures to follow in the event of a nuclear power plant accident .....abroad. Japan was concerned that North Korea may carry out an underground nuclear test. The article titled "Japan Preparing Nuclear Accident" September 2, 2006 Reuters says If the government determines that Pyongyang has detonated a nuclear device, Japan will declare an ``emergency situation'' and a task force will be set up at the prime minister's official residence

1 ( +1 / -0 )

“It’s not stable,” Maher said recently at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “Tokyo is safe, but Fukushima Daiichi is in really bad shape.”

How does he know, on what does he base this? Has he gone there?

Him seeing TV footage of one helicopter means that there was only one there?

-21 ( +2 / -21 )

The Japan That Can’t Decide, Who the hell is in control in Japan, Japan the non stop comedy show. all good book titles

2 ( +3 / -2 )

I'm just waiting for the radicals who can't counter arguments to fall back on the "he's attacking our cultural heritage" line. Maher is 100% on the money, and is even clever for adding the mollifying 'but we believe they are great' stuff referring to how things were handled in the '80s. I think I'll look for this book and give it a read, then set it beside Dogs and Demons on the bookshelf.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Most of our Japanese scholars got their start through fundings from various japanese entities and Government, so it is not surprising there is a prevailing japanese bias( pro Japan, so to speak ) in their research . After all it is not " wise " to bite the hands that feed you. It is refreshing to to have someone with opinions from an " independant " stance. His book should be a plus for understanding of a different culture/society.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

" Maher said that the U.S. government was privately terrified over the unfolding crisis. He accused Japan’s then prime minister, Naoto Kan, of evading responsibility and trying to pass the problem over to the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co.

“I remember sitting on a task force many a time thinking, ‘Who the hell is in control in Japan?’ The government’s not doing anything. Kan made one trip and flew up and got in the way and came back,” Maher said."

Japan needed a prime minister like this man. Kevin Maver for prime minister of japan,now!

1 ( +2 / -2 )

Why should anyone be in charge? We are talking about a nation, with hundreds or thousands of experts. And according to Morris & Peng (1994) http://faculty.kent.edu/updegraffj/gradsocial/readings/morris.pdf Asians are inclined to see decisions being best, normally, or appropriately made by groups with no one person in charge. Mr. Maher talks about good 'ol Japan but sounds like he has just arrived.

With regard to taking the responsibility for something even if one did not do it oneself, I don't see a change in Japan. I am not sure if it would have helped Japan if yet another prime minister had taken responsibility and resigned, for in this case a largely natural disaster.

-14 ( +1 / -15 )

Kevin Maher is right to criticize Naoto Kan. Many Japanese share the same opinion,they say kan is "trash"," ごみ"," ジャンク".

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

If the nuclear reactor is stabilized now, it defies currently held positions that it takes years to stabilize a plant that has undergone a meltdown. Timtak, are you serious? He is pointing out what everyone here knows: that most Japanese politicians and businessmen spend more time worrying about mentsu than they do the people they are serving.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Despite his criticism, Maher—like current U.S. officials—sees bright spots in Japan’s latest prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, who is pushing forward controversial plans to raise taxes and join talks on a U.S.-backed trade pact.

Though a gadfly, the guy is still a US party line man, pushing the US-back trade pact, that could, among other things, wreck our system of socialized medical care. And he thinks Noda's push to raise the consumption tax is cool, never mind that this is going to hurt the poor and low income people in this country.

He is also a militarist, promoting American military interests at the expense of Okinawa.

He more or less hits the right spot about the official idiocy in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The problem is not one of "who is in charge" but the fact that Japan officialdom in totally useless when it comes to crisis management. They are quite a efficient when things are okay and they are doing the same things over and over again every day. But just let the unexpected happen and they fossilize.

The question should be not simply who was in charge when the disaster occurred but who was in charge when that nuclear plant was constructed unsafely in an unsafe place.

The irony is that the US, the big user of nuclear energy in the world is still on the edge of a nuclear disaster as big as Fukushima's.

This guy is okay as far as he goes. But the fact remains that he is a mouthpiece for a nation that makes trouble all over the world and cannot take care of its people. By default Japan is better on this score.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

who cares?

-14 ( +1 / -15 )

I like this guy.

10 ( +11 / -2 )

Kevin Maher is a breath of fresh air, no ... make that a strong gust in the putrid stifling air that is Japanese politics. He's had that reputation for many years well before the gaff to the students in Okinawa. And he's right, they DO and HAVE used the bases issue as a tool. No big news there. It was and still is an open secret. Power to the man for calling a spade a spade. At least someone gives an accurate assessment of the farce that is the Japanese political situation. Much like Karl Van Wolferen's 'The Enigma of Japanese Power' which a great many educated Japanese people say is right on the money, this is high up on my reading list.

8 ( +9 / -2 )

I was just talking to my friend about Mr. Maher last night. From a story my friend told me about how a certain mayor in Okinawa gets additional funding from Tokyo, it is reasonable to believe what Mr. Maher stated. He probably hit the nail on the head. It was unfortunate there were some people who took it personally.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"Maher said he was surprised when he visited Okinawa to promote his book. "There were 4 demonstrators. When I was consul general in Okinawa I could always get 40."

Heh, probably the anti-Maher people couldn't arrange transport to get demontrators in from the mainland in time.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Maher pulls no punches on Japan

But no solution put forward, so what's his point...

-10 ( +0 / -10 )

I remember very well in the 1980s how so many people were afraid Japan was "going to take over the world", but ever since the great stock market and real estate crashes the Japanese have seemed to lose their confidence and are very mixed up about what to do next to get back on the right track for a strong and bright future for their nation. It is so sad to witness, and Kevin Maher is right on!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Bless his heart for saying it like it is!!!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Down vote me all you like, I hate blowhards like this who spout off with no evidence. Interesting that when an American speaks, he's instantly believed.

Any evidence from Maher backing up anything he says?

-11 ( +1 / -12 )

The US Navy had to put out all it's big ships down in Yokosuka out to sea and away from the radiation last March, what more evidence do we need??

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Love the pig-pile because I dared say that an American government official might not know what he's talking about.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

Much like Karl Van Wolferen's 'The Enigma of Japanese Power' which a great many educated Japanese people say is right on the money, this is high up on my reading list.

ditto darkbob: reading it now - amazing how it lifts the fog and clarifies all the paralysis surrounding decision making, systemic wastage and vested interests in Japan.

Initially, I thought it may have been too dated (written in the late 80s) to be relevant today... but sadly, it only serves to amplify that so little has changed.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Maher’s main thesis is that Japan—which has had six new prime ministers since 2006—has been crippled by a failure of its politicians to accept responsibility and, hence, to make hard decisions.

Nothing earth-shattering in this. And this lack of accepting responsibility is not limited to just government. Just look at Olympus, where the whole board, and the institutional investors, punted and have allowed the president to stay in place, even though he is accused of being part of the fraud. NOT making a decision has become an art form in Japan, and why the decline will only accelerate.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

He (fluent in Japanese) is often seen at Japanese media criticizing in rather soft tone and what he says is quite interesting. Some JT posters here often say "Japanese people cannot take criticism from foreigners. They are too proud." It's partly true, but not all as his book has sold more than 100,000 copies and for weeks topped the country's best-seller list for non-fiction paperbacks.

He was one of the key players in Operation Tomodachi. JSDF and US military did a great job in Tohoku as they often have joint training.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

While the Japanese government deserves a lot of criticism and more pressure from the public to be more transparent and assertive in actions that actually serve the people who reside in this country, this guy is a breath of constant negativity, not "fresh air." I've personally worked with him briefly over ten years ago in the course of my own work as an American consulting for the Japanese government and remember him to be absolutely negative and uncooperative with every aspect of what my Japanese co-workers--who were mostly hard-working, earnest, honest folks--were doing. In fact his arrogance and the arrogance of his team from the US Embassy towards Japanese officials embarrassed me deeply at the time. I think no matter how relevant or useful his critiques may be about Japanese officialdom, we have to consider also how American officials in this country (including the author of the book) can be just as horrendous.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

He seems to be annoyed about Japan's system of government that gives the people of Okinawa a say in decision making over their lives through requiring consensus and participation in decision making. I know it's annoying, but I thought those forces were there to protect democracy, not undermine it.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The level of radiation reaching Yokosuka from Fukushima would have been high enough to set the alarms off and shut down the reactor. Putting out to sea was necessary. Its other support ships also put to sea.

@zichi: Tha's not really true. The reactor on the GW is constantly manned, and they have controls to shut it down without having to worry about the outside sensors, since they monitor it closely. The reason it was moved was dut to the possibility of contamination from Fukashima coming towards the ship. If that was the case, the ship would have had to o someplace to be decontaminated, and that would be expensive and cause reprocussions all along the other carrier deployment timelines. The US was simply protecting its asset.

But I do like what the man was saying.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Right at the moment it may be " More fun in the Philippines" with U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas one of the few Black Afro-Americans in the Philippines. When he appears in the news he seems so out of place? At least he did a back tract on his statement that tourists come here for sex and apologized for it is mostly untrue.People go everywhere they can for sex and to find wives. Thank You for letting me comment on the Philippines on your Japanese Ambassador site.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Himajin: "Interesting that when an American speaks, he's instantly believed."

As opposed to what... a Japanese politician? "We will be transparent from now on (doh! no one hit the record button!)", "Trust me", "We did nothing wrong in the first moments of the disaster. ummm... we have no minutes to prove that, but hey... trust us!". "We promise to eliminate wasteful spending... except when we go 180 in a few months and promise to spend more -- except on where it's needed!".

Catch the drift, Himajin? This guy is exactly right in everything he's saying, and he doesn't NEED to prove it because the Japanese government itself has proved it.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Interesting to see someone standing up for what is right for a change

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How dare Mr.Maher criticise the honourable Noda and his reputable sidekick Edano - they handled the crisis so honestly and professionally. NOT! Good on you Mr.Maher - he calls a spade a spade - which has gotten him into trouble in the past - but are there any Japanese pollies or bureaucrats that are honest to the Japanese people? Still waiting to hear about any...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Oops - I think I meant Kan - but like everyone else, I find it hard to recall who is the latest "leader" in this joint...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think that the tendency for Japanese leaders to "take responsibility" and the tendency for Japanese groups (including Japan itself) to not have any one person in charge are linked.

In other words Maher is contradiciting himself. On the one hand Maher wants Japanese leaders to be 'real leaders', to actually make decisions and have power. On the other hand Maher wants Japanese leaders to do the traditional Japanese thing of taking "responsibility even if it was not a mistake that they made" and, if not commiting seppuku, stepping down.

When have we seen a Western demagog take responsibility and step down? Maxwell? Clinton? They have, want, and retain power and do anything to keep it. Nixon may be an exception? Or he had not choice?

Japanese leaders are figureheads. They do not particularly want power and they do not have it since decisions are made collectively (see the research I quoted above." -11" and counting!). While Japanese leaders rarely actually make decisions, one of their major roles is to be a scapegoat and take responsibility and step down.

Maher wants Japanese leaders to be both figureheads and real power players. In your dreams Maher.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

The problem with Japan is mostly with their "consensus-building" mentality. Nothing gets done until a consensus has been reached. An organization making a presentation to a Japanese company can "ace" the presentation with the Japanese company's representatives praising the presentation and the organization, yet never get a follow-up. Why? Because the Japanese company's representatives will not make a REAL decision until it has been referred to the rest of their company and a consensus reached.

Now take that mentality and apply it to the Japanese government. If your leadership is changed every year, it becomes impossible to reach a consensus on ANYTHING and the country stagnates. Just as it requires extra energy to go from treading water to swimming forward, trying to initiate change in how government works also requires an inordinate amount of extra effort. The existing political base acts like the water does in the swimming analogy: They resist any deviation from the status quo. Only with concerted effort on the part of the swimmer will progress be made. Japan needs such a swimmer at the helm.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I think the guy is, largely, right about most things. He knows what he's talking about, anyway.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@zichi: Tha's not really true. The reactor on the GW is constantly manned, and they have controls to shut it down without having to worry about the outside sensors, since they monitor it closely. The reason it was moved was dut to the possibility of contamination from Fukashima coming towards the ship. If that was the case, the ship would have had to o someplace to be decontaminated, and that would be expensive and cause reprocussions all along the other carrier deployment timelines. The US was simply protecting its asset.

My understanding is that the real reason the carrier need to be moved was the following:

-radiation sensors on the carrier are meant to detect a radiation leak from the carrier's reactors

-if the sensors are going off from an outside source, i.e. the nuclear plant, then it would then become more difficult to detect if there was an additional leak with the carrier's reactors... that is, the sensors would be rendered incapable of fulfilling their main purpose

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Welcome to Japan, Mr. Maher.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"The solution to pollution is dillution" (of the truth).....At least Mr. Maher speaks the truth....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan needs to come clean not only to Japan but to the entire world about the radiation situation ASAP!!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I was just talking to my friend about Mr. Maher last night. From a story my friend told me about how a certain mayor in Okinawa gets additional funding from Tokyo, it is reasonable to believe what Mr. Maher stated. He probably hit the nail on the head. It was unfortunate there were some people who took it personally.

Certain mayor? From the prefecture on down to the small villages in Okinawa many receive additional funding to use at their own discretion. It isn't anything new either. The only relatively "big" news is when one city had it's funding cut because the mayor was against the movement of one base into his jurisdiction.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Catch the drift, Himajin? This guy is exactly right in everything he's saying, and he doesn't NEED to prove it because the Japanese government itself has proved it.

I personally think that all politicians are liars, I have yet to see one I'd trust to tell me anything. I just think the lack of any doubt as to what this guy is saying is comical.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I think he has hit the nail on the head. Nobody wants to make decisions in Japan, nobody wants to take responsibility. It shows in the actions or inactions after Kobe and 3/11. It shows in foreign policy and the wishy washy way of doing foreign policy. I was wrong about this guy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@YuriOtani

I was wrong about this guy.

oh HAPPY DAY!!! (Print Screen!!!)

Hugz YuriOtani. They say the truth shall set you free. Maher has been trying to tell Japan and the U.S what's happening over here. It has always been about "Deep Pockets". It's not just Okinawa, I know that's a focal point for you, it's everywhere. People are getting paid off.

To be honest with you Yuri, 3 decades ago I believed that Japan had achieved something that the U.S was never going to achieve....Harmony. That belief sparked my curiosity about Japan and it lead me all the way here.

Surfers always say: Dude, you should've been here yesterday. Totally Rad!!. The rhetorical question we have to really sincerely (DEEPLY) ask yourselves is this. Did I miss it or was it ever really there? I'm talking about that harmony. A society of people sincerely taking care of each other at almost every turn. Japan was this middle class society with all the norms in life.

Don't criticize me okay. I'm just LOOKING at it. I've been here a while so I've seen more. I see a shattered facade. It's all coming down. I'm not saying your country is about to go under. I'm saying the corruption is being exposed more.

The chaos that is America works to solve it's own problems. It forces Americans to have more responsibility for their own welfare than to assume the government, politicians, and excellent PR people have your best interests at heart. Thank God for the Internet and people like Maher. Someone wailing at the top of his lungs the truth so we can all make better decisions for the future.

To OkinawaMike, YuriOtani, and others who have Okinawa's plight at the top of your agendas you've got to elect someone who cannot be bought. Who isn't playing the part to appease you. You'll never win a bureaucracy battle...NEVER. Instead of marching around the base gate....try marching into it. This will require courage, will and conviction. You have to do that knowing there's a possibility the police and / or American military will open fire on you. Spilling blood into the streets. If you never do that.....Maher: "I told you so"

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

This guy is a moron. Nuff said

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

'The Japan that Can't decide'........That was nothing surprise...that nation has ceased to make 'decision' since 2nd September 1945! The rotation of Japanese PM shall keep going and going, bring it on, a very welcoming news for certain countries in asia!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@Himanjin: Maher very likely had access to U.S. military data and assesment info regarding Fukushima. He also probably had data from U.S. experts. In the U.S. you can major in Nuclear Energy at various colleges. How many colleges in Japan offer these majors. The U.S. Navy has over 100 Nuclear reactors on their ships and subs. And, considering the U.S. is constantly monitoring and making contingency plans for various emergencies around the world it stands to reason that they may have actually have had as much or more info regarding the Fukushima meltdown than the acutal Japanese Govt did.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This guy has an agenda, just like everyone else. His seems to be making sure Japan is a quiet client state of the US that will host US military bases in perpetuity and facilitate American style capitalism.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Mayer was/is an arrogant a$$hole. His wife was worse…. (think Yoko Ono) Whether you like the man or not; he told the truth about Okinawa's politicians and their tatics. It is quite evident he is spot-on about the J-Govs handling of Fukushima. He lived in Japan for over twenty years and traveled in government circles as Chief Consul of Okinawa and later held high ranking positions on the embassy staff. He only said in public what a lot of people think in private.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The US was one of the first to be in the know about Fukuichi as their drone aircraft had already indicated temperatures suggesting a meltdown. An NHK interview in those first days has been circulating of late. A tepco spokesman blurts out that the fuel rods are exposed and is admonished off camera ( we aren't supposed to say that) Tepco had dust analysis reports, the govt had SPEEDI data and the US had all that data plus their own. It was obviously more expedient to prevent panic in the capital and show a strong Japan to China than to give that knowledge to citizens immediately. The obfuscation has been well stage managed. There is a reason that the government hid its own government reports and didn't take minutes. That was not negligence.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The US Navy did not have to put all the ships at Yokosuka out to sea to avoid radiation. Whoever printed that information in the first place were telling outright lies. Most the Ships at Yokosuka during the tsunami left to help with the clean up and stabilizing the nuclear power plant.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@WurthingtonJan----Good point about the Pentagon's massive repository of contingency plans.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Carrier was in the middle of a 'yard period', and was otherwise unable to assist in relief efforts because of this. The main reason the ship was sent to sea is kind of a hash of the reasons stated here, but it wasn't the ship's sensors that they were worried about, as those were able to differentiated between radiation sources... It was the constant monitoring of the ship by the Japanese Government for Radiation leaks. It was mostly a move to cover the Navy's ass and ensure the Carrier didn't become an even bigger focal point for criticism.

Besides, we all know the crazies jump at anything when stuff starts going bad, so it only makes sense to get the Nuclear powered carrier out of sight while a large nuclear incident is occurring. Never mind that the carrier not only has some of the best safeguards on it's reactor that money can buy, but the reactor teams run drills, are tested and are inspected so often it drives some to nervous breakdown.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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