The Election 2012 Weekly Report: Getting to Arizona

Debating Syria

A Wednesday-night debate in Arizona was the first time the candidates discussed the deteriorating situation in Syria at any length, though mostly in the context of what it would mean for Iran's nuclear program and global energy prices. Mitt Romney did suggest that the United States work "with Saudi Arabia and with Turkey to ... provide the kind of weaponry that's needed to help the rebels inside Syria." Newt Gingrich, as he often does, suggesting a policy of having "our allies covertly helping destroy the Assad regime."

The debate was widely covered as a test for the surging Rick Santorum, who was attacked repeatedly, often by Ron Paul, on his credentials as a fiscal conservative. On national security issues, Santorum touted his long record of urging aggressive polices against Iran and criticized the Obama administration for standing with "radicals" against "a friend of ours in Egypt" -- ousted president Hosni Mubarak. He also seemed to pivot away from his previous concerns about women serving in more combat roles in the military, though he did warn against "social engineering."

Gingrich on the attack

Seemingly eclipsed by Santorum's rise, onetime poll leader Gingrich has repeatedly made news this week for strident attacks against Barack Obama's foreign policy. Gingrich referred to Obama as the "most dangerous president in modern American history" during a speech in Oklahoma, accusing him of putting political correctness above U.S. national security in his administration's response to Islamist terrorism.  Appearing on CBS's "This Morning," Gingrich called Obama's energy policies "outrageously anti-American'' and ridiculed the idea that the electric car "is going to liberate us from Saudi Arabia."

On Thursday, Gingrich again lashed out at Obama following the president's apology to Afghan authorities for the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base. "He is consistently apologizing to people who do not deserve the apology of the United States," Gingrich said. The candidate went on to demand that the Afghan government apologize to the United States for the killing of two American soldiers in the riots that followed the burning.

Romney against the world

The AP's Steven Hurst examined Romney's foreign-policy rhetoric in a news analysis this week, writing that "It often appears that Romney is targeting the rest of the world as fiercely as he does his rivals for the party nomination and President Barack Obama." Referring to Romney's attacks on European socialism, Chinese currency manipulation and Russian duplicitousness, the article asks whether the tone of Romney's rhetoric will hurt him in the general election, or with the governments in question should he become president.

"Other governments are not naive, and they understand the rough-and-tumble of U.S. politics just as we understand the rough-and-tumble of politics in other countries," responded Amb. Richard Williamson, a top Romney foreign-policy advisor.

Obama: I'll get to immigration next term

The president came into office promising comprehensive immigration reform, but the issue has largely fallen by the wayside during congressional battles over health care and the economy. In an interview with Univision Radio this week, the president promised to make the issue a priority if he is reelected for a second term. "I've got another five years coming up. We're going to get this done," he said.

At Wednesday night's debate, both Santorum and Romney held up Arizona's tough immigration policies and the harsh tactics employed by controversial Maricopa Country Sherriff Joe Arpaio as models for how to address the issue. 

Santorum's Dutch disease

Santorum has left many scratching their heads with comments made several weeks ago in which he suggested that 1 in 20 deaths in the Netherlands result from forced euthanasia. Santorum continued to claim that elderly people in the Netherlands often wear bracelets that say "do not euthanize me" and "don't go to the hospital, they go to another country, because they're afraid because of budget purposes that they will not come out of that hospital if they go into it with sickness." The Dutch government declined to comment on the claim this week, but provided the New York Times with documents showing that there is no provision in Dutch law for forced euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia has been legal there since 2002 and accounts for around 2 percent of deaths in the country.

The Netherlands wasn't the only European country Santorum has taken a shot at this week. At a national security focused speech in Ohio, he took aim at the president's relationship with France: "He actually went to France a year or so ago and was with Nicolas Sarkozy and said that, 'Here I am with the French prime minister, our best ally in the world.' Now think about this. Name one time in the last 20 years that the French stood by us with anything."

The remark was given a "pants-on-fire" rating by Politifact.

What to watch for

Arizona and Michigan voters head to the polls on Tuesday. RealClearPolitics's latest poll average shows Romney with a 9-point advantage in Arizona. He also seems to have retaken the lead in his birthplace state of Michigan, but still leads Santorum by less than two points.

Tuesday's victor will have little time to rest on his laurels. The 10 Super Tuesday contests are right around the corner on March 6. The biggest delegate prizes of the day will be Ohio, where Santorum currently leads, and Georgia, where native son Gingrich has the advantage.

The latest from FP

Scott Clement looks at why polls are so all over the map when it comes to attacking Iran.

Joshua Keating rounds up the foreign-policy highlights from Wednesday's debate.

Uri Friedman examines Gingrich's not-so-covert love of covert ops.

Michael Cohen argues that campaign-trail rhetoric touting American exceptionalism is obscuring the real causes of decline.

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Why did China downplay the Nanjing Massacre?

Earlier this week, during a visit to Nanjing the mayor of Nagoya, Japan expressed doubt that his nation's troops had slaughtered tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens in 1937. The event, known as the Nanjing Massacre, remains contentious in Sino-Japanese relations, with many Chinese feeling that unlike Germany and the Jews, the Japanese have not done enough to apologize for the massacre. Yet China's post-war response wasn't exactly open, either.  

Here is a guest post from historian Tony Brooks, who has studied China's post-1949 relations with Japan:

Today Nanjing is a confident, thriving Chinese provincial capital, located 190 miles west of Shanghai. According to a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, Nanjing ranks eighth globally for fastest GDP growth between now and 2025, ahead of New Delhi and Moscow.  

This confidence masks the turmoil over the city's past. In 1937 invading Japanese forces rapidly converged on Nanjing, and after a short intense battle, the city fell into enemy hands. According to Chinese accounts, there followed a six week orgy of killing, looting and mass rape, which resulted in the deaths of three hundred thousand Chinese citizens. Yet in the years when Mao Zedong ruled China, from 1949 to 1976, the massacre has been virtually ignored in official records. Why is that?

Because it was formerly the capital of the Nationalists, the side fighting the Communists in China's civil war, very few Communists lived in Nanjing in the 1930s.

Ever since defeating the Nationalists and unifying China in 1949, the Communists have claimed that they won both the Anti-Japanese War (the Japanese war with China during and before World War II) and the Civil War, and therefore have the right to rule China. If the Communist Party saved China from the Japanese during the War, then why did they do nothing to prevent the Nanjing Massacre?

The Party appears to have sidestepped this conundrum during the Mao era by ignoring the Nanjing Massacre. Instead, they concentrated on highlighting the (minor) role that CCP forces played in beating the Japanese. For three decades after the Second World War, it was not possible to openly discuss the Nanjing Massacre in mainland China. In a similar way, much else was forcibly airbrushed out of Mao era debates on the War, such as Chinese traitors and the role of non-communist forces in beating the Japanese.

The People's Republic of China didn't ignore the war during the Mao years. The press discussed and debated the war in Marxist terms, and anniversaries saw staged anti-Japanese demonstrations of up to one million people. Like the proverbial elephant in the corner of the room, the Nanjing Massacre, which took place in Nationalist held territory in the Nationalist capital, was off-limits until the early 1980s.

During the 1950s and 60s, Japanese delegations visited Nanjing, often with the aim of trying to improve bilateral relations. Nanjing archives record that on these visits, the Japanese visitors frequently asked whether they could visit sites relating to the massacre (of which there are hundreds dotted around Nanjing, mainly just outside the city walls). The Chinese refused. Instead, they took their guests to see the fruits of Communist rule, such as the new bridge across the Yangtze River at Nanjing, or model state owed concrete factories. The Nanjing Massacre did not fit into Mao era narratives of a Communist led victory in the War. One feels that there was a deep feeling of shame that such an atrocity took place on Chinese soil. While the state wanted to ignore the atrocities in Nanjing, this does not mean that the masses wanted to forget.

Declassified archives from the 1950s and 60s show that during rehearsals for visits by Japanese to Nanjing, there was considerable Chinese disquiet. Comments such as "My mother's arm was blown off by the Japanese in Nanjing, why should I welcome them here!" and "the devils burnt our village to the ground, how dare you welcome them to Nanjing now!" suggest that there was a high level of opposition to the CCP ignoring the massacre.         

In July 1982 everything changed. Six years after the death of Mao, the Japanese education ministry published textbooks that whitewashed Japan's role in World War II, and changed the word "invade" China to "advance" into China. New Chinese leadership seemed to argue that if Japanese politicians and ministries were going to forget the war, then the Chinese needed to present evidence of Japanese atrocities committed in Nanjing and elsewhere - in order to force them to remember. An impromptu Nanjing Massacre museum was opened in the city just two weeks after the textbook crisis broke out, conveniently just in time for the anniversary of the Japanese defeat on August 15, 1982. To cite just one example of how the Nanjing Massacre has been caught up in the battle for memory over the War, before 1982 virtually nothing was published by Chinese academics on the subject. Since that date, there has been an explosion of interest in the massacre, with over ten thousand scholarly articles and books published in Chinese alone. As the denial of the massacre by the mayor of Nagoya this week attests, memory of the war is still being bitterly fought over.     

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