Report: Japan to throw billions down rat hole
Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, November 11, 2009
RECENT NEWS REPORTS say that Japan’s government is about to chuck $US 5 billion in the gutter.
Well, that’s not what they really said, but in this instance, one plus one plus one results in a sum of minus 5 billion instead of three.
How does that add up?
Despite the Hatoyama government’s implicit pledge to rethink the U.S.-Japan alliance, it is acceding to United States pressure to provide aid to Afghanistan commensurate with its “international status”.
“Japan said Tuesday that it would dramatically increase its nonmilitary aid to Afghanistan, pledging $5 billion for a range of projects that includes building schools and highways, training police officers, clearing land mines and rehabilitating former Taliban fighters.”
But, some might object, that sounds pretty good. Of course it sounds good. That’s exactly the point. The idea is for it to sound and look like a wonderful gesture, both to the current American administration and to the Japanese media. The former will stop twisting Japan’s arm for the next couple of months, and the latter will trumpet the promise of funds as if it showed the country were a serious actor in foreign affairs. By this time next week, however, they’ll have forgotten about it forever.
And if what happened to the previous aid happens to this tranche, they’ll forget they even knew about it to begin with.
Afghanistan is so corrupt that an enormous amount of foreign aid winds up in the wrong pockets, as President Hamid Karzai tacitly admitted on an American television program.
“Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in an interview airing on Monday he is taking steps to root out corruption in his government, but he also said foreign money was making the problem worse. In addition to what he called ‘the usual corruption in any government,’ Karzai said he is dealing with a kind of corruption that is foreign to his country….Without providing specific examples, Karzai listed contractual mechanisms, a lack of transparency in awarding contracts and corruption in implementing projects among the ‘new’ and more serious corruption problem.”
Note that even though whatever passes for political loyalty in that part of the world has been most easily obtained for cash on the barrelhead since time began, Mr. Karzai wants to shift the blame on the foreigners. That’s an odd position to take for a man who wouldn’t be where he is today—the de facto Mayor of Kabul—if it weren’t for foreigners.
But what sort of corruption is he so delicately referring to?
As Max Boot points out in Commentary’s blog, Contentions:
“Indeed, aid projects have become one of the Taliban’s primary sources of income — they collect extortion payments to let the projects proceed. That should cause the international community — foreign governments, international organizations like the UN, and numerous NGOs — to rethink some of their assumptions.”
It won’t cause the Hatoyama Government to rethink its assumptions, Mr. Boot.
They’re more interested in symbolic, albeit expensive, action that pacifies the Americans for the present and allows them to preen at home and at high-level conferences abroad rather than concern themselves with the efficacy of the action itself. Indeed, if the past is a guide, they may well be indifferent to whether the aid will have any positive benefits.
And let’s not forget the need to placate the handful of lifestyle leftists that constitute the Social Democratic Party of Japan. The ruling DPJ needs to keep the rump Socialists in the coalition corral as long as it lacks an outright majority in the upper house. This is yet another example of how tiny minorities in a parliamentary system can prevent a government from functioning normally.
Here’s another way to add one plus one plus one:
1. Only someone whose outlook on life is as juvenile as that of Hatoyama Yukio, Japan’s boy prime minister…
2. And only two little bon-bons–the British call them chinless wonders—such as Mr. Hatoyama and Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya, neither of whom have ever done a lick of work in their lives thanks to their families’ immense wealth, and neither of whom have ever demonstrated any knowledge or experience of what actually happens in the world outside the hushed and gilded rooms they’ve inhabited since birth…
3. And a Japanese foreign ministry only too willing to follow the long-established tradition of buying its way out of serious international commitments, created by generations of a Japanese political class with neither the guts nor the inclination to expend any political capital on creating a national consensus to give the rest of the world a clear yes or no…
…Would be capable of coming up with this rich-boy-plays-statesman scheme to waste the people’s wealth and think the recipients might benefit as a result.
Why should they care whether they burn someone else’s money? They’ve never had to make any of their own to begin with.
Now really—would someone with an outlook grounded in the experience of adulthood seriously think that vocational training for the Taliban had a realistic possibility of success? That training the Afghan police force will stop religious fanatics ready and willing to die? That land mines won’t be replanted after being bought with extortion money, and new schools won’t be blown up, particularly if girls try to attend?
Of course, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt by assuming that their motives are pure. It’s also entirely possible that their pledge is just another dose of nose medicine (hanagusuri, a bribe or hush money) for the Americans. Besides, if the Americans are so anxious to build turnpikes for the Toyota pick-ups the Taliban use as troop carriers, they should try banging the tin cup at UN headquarters. They’re the ones that authorized the NATO mission to begin with.
Be that as it may, whatever the motives of the current Japanese government, the cash will still wind up in the equivalent of a sewer.
Before a sewer can be repaired, the muck has to be cleaned out first. But what would Messrs. Hatoyama and Okada know about getting their hands dirty?