George Will

The museum adjacent to Yasukuni says ``The Greater East Asian War'' began because, when the New Deal failed to banish the Depression, ``the only option open to Roosevelt ... was to use embargoes to force resource-poor Japan into war. The U.S. economy made a complete recovery once the Americans entered the war.'' That is disgracefully meretricious -- and familiar. For years, a small but vocal cadre of Americans -- anti-FDR zealots -- said approximately that. But neither Koizumi nor Abe includes the museum in his visits to the shrine.

It would be helpful if Abe would discontinue visiting Yasukuni. He could cite the fact, learned last month, that Emperor Hirohito, who died in 1989, stopped visiting it because he strongly objected to the war criminals' enshrinement. Because China decided to be incensed about Koizumi's visits, there has been no Japan-China summit meeting for five years. In 2005, there were vicious anti-Japan riots in China, and 44 million Chinese signed an Internet petition opposing Japan's quest for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. Relations between the nations are colder than at any time since relations were normalized in 1972, when Mao decreed that both the Chinese and Japanese people had been victims of Japan's militarists.

Things are so bad that, speaking about the incessant incursions by Chinese submarines and military aircraft into Japanese sea and air spaces, a senior Japanese official casually makes the startling suggestion that China's regime, like Japan's regime before the war, does not fully control its military. But relations other than diplomatic ones are flourishing. China is, after America, the second-most popular destination for Japanese tourists. Ten thousand people a day travel between the two countries, and in 2004, for the first time since 1945, Japan's trade with China was larger than with the United States. The controversy about Yasukuni should not mystify Americans. With their comparatively minor but still acrimonious arguments about displays of Confederate flags, Americans know how contentious the politics of national memory can be, and they understand the problem of honoring war dead without necessarily honoring the cause for which they died.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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