Monday, August 31, 2015

Law and Power in International Politics and Japan’s Security Bill

Japan’s debate on the security bill poses a fundamental and universal question to international politics, which is the relation between law and power. Therefore, I would suggest that both academics and practitioners pay more attention to the debate in Nagatacho, even if they are not well associated with Japan. Ever since Hugo Grotius published “On the Law of War and Peace”, human beings have been elaborating to control and restrict wars and conflicts. During the interwar period, US Secretary of State Frank Kellogg and French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand even tried to illegalize the war through the Kellogg Briand pact. However, it failed to stop World War II. In international politics, no authorities are above the sovereign state, which makes it extremely difficult to restrict the war through entirely legal approaches. Quite importantly, Japan is revising such legal restrictions of the domestic constitution, in order to adapt to a power oriented world, while preserving the rule of law.

In order to understand such unprecedented endeavor, we need to review the differences between in law application and enforcement to an individual citizen’s crime in a domestic case and a state crime in an international case. While individuals are subject to the three branches of state authority, none of sovereign states are subject to supranational bodies. Domestic laws are applied through technocratic processes, but political interactions are involved occasionally in international law applications. In case of domestic law violation, individual criminals are captured by the state authority. However, the state cannot be captured and detained by the supranational authority. There is no single and centralized world government that enforces international law. Therefore, law enforcement in international politics depends on the use of military force by powerful and responsible nation states.

In view of this, the constitutional testimony regarding the security bill, at the House of Representatives on June 4, was too simplistic. In the session, three constitutional scholars, Professor Emeritus Setsu Kobayashi of Keio University, and Professor Yasuo Hasebe and Professor Eiji Sasada of Waseda University, stated bluntly that the bill was unconstitutional, which would impair legal stability. However, even international law is imperfect to restrict wars and conflicts. Why should Japan bind her actions so strictly by the domestic constitution? There is no question that Japan is a country of the rule of law, and it is understandable that the above three scholars use the word of “unconstitutional and “legal stability” as a card to stop the bill. But it seems that they hardly care power oriented nature of international politics.

In our exploration of law and power in international politics, Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, presents very well known and compelling arguments in his famous book “Of Paradise and Power”. Applying Kagan’s logic to the security bill debate, opponents believe in a Kantian world of “perpetual peace” ruled by law and transnational cooperation, proponents believe in a Hobbesian world where peace is dependent on military power of the hegemon of liberal order rather than unreliable international law and supranational organizations. The law is no assurance of peace in nation state rivalries to maximize their interests with power. Of course, we all understand that Japan is a rule based and law abiding nation, but there is no guarantee that enemies act so Kantian. Legal stability is primarily for domestic affairs. Opponents to the security bill chant a spell of "legal stability", but this is viable in the domestic ground, not in the Hobbesian international politics. The world has needed Pax Britannica and Pax Americana for "political stability". The security bill will enable Japan to act beyond self imposed restrictions in a Hobbesian world.

In view of such Hobbesian reality, the Abe administration is so cautious as to strike delicate balance between Kantian legal stability and security requirements for the new era. Typically speaking, as to the Persian Gulf, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is so restrained as to mention that Japan sends minesweepers only, though fleet air defense is more critical as Iran’s A2AD capability is rising. As I have repeatedly argued on this blog, this is still insufficient to fulfill Japan's security role, though. Furthermore, Abe says clearly that this mine sweeping mission is a rare exception for the Self Defense Forces to be deployed beyond logistic support for the coalition. Despite a controversial comment about legal stability by Special Adviser to the Prime Minister Yosuke Isozaki (“The truth in Isozaki’s candid words”; Japan Times; August 6, 2015), Abe’s approach is extremely, or even excessively cautious.

The three scholars blame that unconstitutional security bill will destroy the foundation of Japanese democracy and the rule of law. But empirically speaking, the United States, NATO allies, and Asian democracies welcome the new bill. If Abe’s bill is so dangerous as opponent scholars say, why democratic nations support this? Remember, when democratic values are critically at risk, Western nations denounce authoritarian regimes. China is often blamed for human rights oppression, despite growing business ties. Even Saudi Arabia faces bitter criticism when the regime acts too repressively to the public, despite deep rooted strategic partnership. But Japan’s “unconstitutional” security bill never meets such antagonism. Currently, the media watch keenly whether the security bill passes or not, but it is also important to think of how to apply and enforce this bill. That is the question of theory and policy of international politics for people all over the world, and national security for the Japanese public.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

It is Japan’s Interest to Send the SDF to the Persian Gulf

In the debate of the new security bill at the Japanese Diet, the oppositions argue that the Abe administration impose geographical restrictions to send the Self Defense Forces (SDF) overseas. They insist that unlimited military involvement in global operations will hollow the pacifist clause of Article 9 of the constitution. They worry that too lenient restriction will ruin the legal stability. Furthermore, those who oppose Abe’s global involvement, maintain that Japan as an Asian country concentrate her defense resource on threats in East Asia, notably China and North Korea.

However, these arguments are not persuasive. The threats of terrorism, extremism, autocracy, and nuclear proliferation are increasingly globalized. Also, Japan is heavily dependent on oil from the Persian Gulf, over 80% (“Oil Inustry Today 2014”; Petroleum Association of Japan; April 2014). Therefore, Japan needs to act with the United States and leading Western partners to manage the crisis in case of an emergency in the Gulf. We must remember that the genesis of proactive pacifism and the security bill today is the diplomatic humiliation of the Gulf War in 1991. Japan failed to help UN authorized and US led coalition to punish Saddam Hussein’s illegitimate aggression to Kuwait, and she was simply ridiculed an ATM machine to finance the US military missions. This incident has awakened Japanese leaders and citizens how passive and even reclusive postwar pacifism is. From this point of view, it is Japan’s interest and responsibility to share the burden of global security beyond her neighborhood.

Regarding oil route security of the Persian Gulf, the foremost threat is Iran’s rising A2AD capability against US carrier strike groups. Actually, Iran demonstrated her strong will to attack American fleets by destroying a mock aircraft carrier in the naval drill this February (“Iran blasts mock U.S. carrier in war games”; CNN; February 27, 2015). The American carrier squadron is so vital for Japanese defense that enemy hit to the carrier will pose a clear danger to Japan’s national survival and her people. Even Dietman Ichiro Ozawa, who is one the least enthusiastic politician to deepen the US-Japanese alliance, admits that the 7th Fleet is indispensable to defend Japan (“Japan opposition's U.S. military remarks draw criticism”; Reuters; February 26, 2009). Therefore, I would strongly argue that the new security bill should not impose geographical restrictions to Japanese defense missions. The Abe administration suggests quite restrained involvement in a Gulf crisis to send minesweepers only, but fleet air defense is more critical. Seemingly fortified, a carrier is not heavily armed with defensive equipment, and her flight deck lightening is kept low at night to avoid a surprise attack. This implies that advanced fleet air defense destroyers like American Aegis combat system and British Type 45 are indispensable to defend a carrier strike group. From this point of view, it is Japan’s vital interest to send Aegis destroyers as the US and the UK do. Therefore, I would argue that opponents Abe’s extremely restrained vision are so reclusive that they would repeat the same error of the Gulf War humiliation in 1991.

Japanese people have vital historical experience to understand strategic and symbolic impacts of losing capital ships, both in offensive and defensive positions. At the fall of Singapore, the Imperial Japanese troops sank the Royal Navy’s battleship Prince of Wales and Repulse, which inflicted tremendous strategic and psychological damage to the nations of the British Commonwealth and Empire throughout the Asia-Pacific region. On the other hand, the Japanese mainland fell vulnerable to American air raid after the Imperial Japanese Navy lost command of the neighboring sea, as battleship Musashi and other capital ships were destroyed in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. If the enemy hit an American carrier successfully in the Persian Gulf, that would not be a single loss of a warship somewhere far away. Threats across the world would be emboldened, and they would rise against Pax Americana as stated in the broken window theory. Then, Japan’s security and survival would be at critical risk.

In Nagatacho, some diet members regard the recent nuclear deal as a diplomatic thaw between Iran and the United States. President Barack Obama has been exploring to change diplomatic approaches to Iran since the inauguration, as typically seen in his apologetic Cairo speech. But we have to keep in mind that America is not identical with Obama. Remember that British Prime Minister David Cameron is not necessarily evaluated well among American policymakers, even though he is a good friend to Obama. Actually, his nuclear deal faces vehement bipartisan criticism at Capitol Hill. Along with almost unanimously disagreeing Republicans, some Democrats object to the deal. Among such Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer argues that the deal is unlikely to moderate Iran as long as they do not abandon their nuclear ambition (“Schumer: I'm Voting Against Iran Deal”; Weekly Standard --- Blog; August 6, 2015). As if substantiating Schumer’s view, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran’s affair should not be interfered by outsiders. This is interpreted that Khamenei has no intention of stopping the nuclear program, and simply wants sanctions lifted (“Iranian Hard-Liner Says Supreme Leader Opposes Nuclear Deal”; New York Times; August 15, 2015). In view of this, another Democrat opponent, Senator Bob Menendez, expressed critical concerns that the deal had not eliminated Iran’s nuclear program capability completely. That is, some sites like Fordow are inaccessible to inspectors, and numerous centrifuges are still in Iran’s hand (“Senate Democrats stake out both sides of Iran deal” Reuters; August 18, 2015).

President Obama might manage to override the Congressional criticism, but even if the nuclear deal is enacted, it is too naïve to assume US-Iranian tensions are easing. In the past, SALT agreements did not guarantee US-Soviet détente. Nagatacho politicians who believe in US-Iranian diplomatic thaw, appear a kind of Jimmy Carter, who was easily duped by Leonid Brezhnev. Some people argue that Iran will be an ally to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but that is too wishful thinking. ‪Iran‬ may want to stop the expansion of ‪‎ISIS‬, but their real interest is to keep both countries unstable, to weaken American and Arab neighbor influence. That simply makes Iran’s Shiite proxies more rampant (“Sorry, America: Iran Won't Defeat ISIS for You”; National Interest; July 23, 2015). I wonder why some Nagatacho politicians, including some policy consummates, are so optimistic to the post nuclear deal US-Iranian relationship. In any case, Obama’s term will end in a year or so, and the next president will be more hardliner to Iran, even if a Democrat wins the election. ‬‬Also, the nuclear deal can trigger regional tensions as Israel and Saudi Arabia worry Iranian dominance in the region.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Iran is not the only danger posed to the oil route. Nonstate actors like pirates and terrorists can also interrupt navigation freedom in the Gulf with mines and anti-ship missiles. Remember, Hamas is armed with cruise missiles to attack Israel. In order to understand threats in this region, like Iran and terrorists, we need to know philosophical and historical background of Islamic extremism. One Nagatacho politician says that Japan can be a friend with jihadists as long as she avoids being embroiled with American or Western endeavor against Islamic extremism. However, it is an ideology of murderer and destroyer, and completely intolerant of kaffirs and their fellow moderate Muslims. Once regarded infidel, anyone is the target of extremist attack, whether Judaeo-Christian or not. They exterminated Buddhism in India in the Middle Age. Taliban treated the Japanese delegation scornfully when they petitioned to save the Buddhas of Bamiyan. From these aspects, passive and reclusive pacifism shall never help Japan to manage those religious extremists. Remember, they killed many Japanese even before ISIS captured and murdered Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa in January this year.

Regardless of security in the Gulf, some Japanese argue that we focus on threats in the neighborhood in view of aggressive China and North Korea. They say that it is just a waste of Japan’s defense and financial resource to send troops far away home. However, history tells us that their views are wrong. For example, South Korea sent her troops to the Vietnam War, though she faces an immense threat of North Korea just across the border. In those days, South Koreans hardly cared Vietnam as they were isolated and surrounded by hostile powers in the neighborhood, ie, North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union. The relations with Japan were tense. Therefore, Seoul needed to prove their loyalty to America. Similarly, Poland joined the Iraq War to demonstrate close alliance with the United States against Russia. Such loyalty will be of some help for allies to reflect their interests in American foreign policy.

In addition, overseas deployment is a good way to deepen the combat experience of the troop. The Japan Self Defense Forces are highly evaluated for well trained performance in multilateral exercise. However, the SDF are one of the most poorly experienced troops in the world, since Japan has been in peace for 70 years since the end of World War II. Japanese liberals take pride in it, but in my eyes, current SDF are Tokugawa samurais when Matthew Perry’s fleet came to Japan. Can they fight a real battle in case of direct and imminent danger to the Japanese homeland, without combat experience? If the SDF join the multilateral coalition in the Middle East and Africa, that will be a good apprenticeship to prepare for managing dangers near the homeland. In Asia, the SDF is expected to assume key responsibility in the coalition, even without combat experience. On the other hand, the SDF can learn about the war in the real combat in the Middle East or Africa with relatively low risk, because key belligerents are the United States, NATO allies, and regional stakeholders. This is a good environment for Japan’s apprenticeship and preparation for a “do or die” battle field.Prince Henry of Wales said he killed Talibans successfully like PlayStation in Afghanistan (“Prince Harry: 'I've killed Taliban fighters'”; Daily Telegraph; 21 January, 2013). The SDF must keep their clam as the Prince did when they face the enemy.

Those who stress that Japan not be involved in American or Western war in the Middle East and elsewhere may value the friendship and partnership with Asia-Pacific nations. However, this is a blunt denial of our exceptional position in the world, that is, Japan is an Asia Pacific nation, and simultaneously, a Western “great power” to manage he world along with America and Europe since the late Meiji era. Japanese people understand the strategic importance of the Persian Gulf and Japan’s exceptional position very well. It is utterly wrong to say “people do not understand why we need to send the SDF to the Gulf” in Nagatacho. I understand these points very well as I stated here, though I am not a genius at all. Therefore, Japanese people understand the importance of the Persian Gulf very well without any question.

Friday, July 31, 2015

How Should We Assess the New War Concept to Deploy F-35?

F-35 Lightening Joint Strike Fighter is presumed to be a game changer in aerial combat. However, the loss in a dog fight against F-16 Fighting Falcon that is supposed to be replaced by this fighter jet has spurred a nationwide controversy (“The F-35 Can't Beat The Plane It's Replacing In A Dogfight: Report”; Foxtrot Alpha; June 29, 2015). In a mock dog fight, it is not necessarily surprising that a brand new fighter loses against a less advanced counterpart. Though F-15 Eagle is a well known invincible air superiority fighter in real combats, it was defeated by two-generation older F-104 Starfighter of the Japanse Air Self Defense Force in its early days (“Legendary SDF Pilot Shot Down Brand New US Fighter with Aging Jet”; Sankei Shimbun West; December 3, 2014). It is imprudent to judge the quality of the weapon by a single victory or loss.

The Department of Defense defends that the result of the dog fight does not disqualify F-35 as the core of America’s air power. According to the Joint Program Office, the F-35 in the dogfight had no sensors to detect the enemy for the first look, stealth coating to make it invisible to radar, and weapon to hit the enemy plane without turning to and aiming at it (“F-35 fighter makers leap to its defence after it loses dogfight to 1970s jet”; Daily Telegraph; 3 July, 2015). Also, F-35 is designed for BVR combat and ground attack, not for dogfight. It is F-22 Raptor that assumes close aerial combat role, and this is the Hi-Lo mix of the 5th Generation fighters (“Military: Don't Worry If F-35, Most Expensive Fighter Jet Ever, Can't Dogfight Well”; ABC News; July 1, 2015). Furthermore, Retired Air Force General Mike Hostage comments that F-35 may not fly high and fast as F-22, but it is more stealthier. Therefore, he argues that F-35 can get through enemy airspace to destroy their air defense system, and leaves air-to-air combat for F-22. Even so, he asserts that its low observability is a significant advantage over the 4th Generation fighters to defeat them in BVR combats (“F-16 Vs. F-35 In A Dogfight: JPO, Air Force Weigh In On Who’s Best”; Breaking Defense; July 2, 2015).

Despite such positive arguments by defense planners, it is the anonymous testimony of the F-35 test pilot in a blog “War is Boring”, published by a journalist David Axe, that sensationalizes the result of the dogfight. He questions the maneuverability of the F-35, even though it fought “clean”, while the F-16 carried extra drop tanks under the wings. Also, he argues that the helmet, which is designed to help the pilot analyze information, is so large to look back that it is difficult to move the head during the dogfight. Therefore, the pilot grades F-35 inferior to 4th Generation fighters (“Test Pilot Admits the F-35 Can’t Dogfight”; War is Boring; June 29, 2015). Actually, F-35 is in similar weight with F-15E Strike Eagle which is heavier than normal F-15 for more payload and flight range to enhance ground attack capability. However, it is far less maneuverable because of its smaller wings and weaker afterburner thrust of its engine (“F-35 designed for long-range kills, not dogfighting”: Flight Global; 1 July, 2015). Furthermore, Bill Sweetman, Senior Defense Editor of Aviation Week, rebuts General Hostage’s argument for F-35’s stealth advantage over F-22. Aerodynamically, F-22 reflects less electric wave than F-35 does. Also, F-35 is primarily made for export. Besides air superiority, F-22 is more advantageous in DEAD operations, due to speed and larger missile load (“F-35 Stealthier Than F-22?”; Aviation Week – ARES; June 9, 2014).

Such nationwide controversies are largely due to rising costs, schedule delay, and technical problems like software and weapon matching. The total cost to develop F-35 has already exceeded that of F-22, though the price for each is still cheaper. The development cost is more than $200 billion than originally planned, and the schedule is three years behind. Therefore, the number of F-35s to be deployed will fall, and more fund will be allocated to upgrade existing combat planes (“The F-35: Is it worth the cost?”; WBALTV; July 16, 2015). Technological problems also matter seriously. Though the Marine Corps started to deploy the STOVL variant F35B this summer (“F-35 Joint Strike Fighter passes important, live-fire test”; CNBC News; 6 July, 2015), it cannot equip a full load of SDB II, which is the most advanced multi mode guided bomb to attack targets on the ground including moving ones. This is because the weapon bay does not fit, and it will not be resolved before 2022 (“F-35 Can't Carry Its Most Versatile Weapon Until At Least 2022”; Foxtrot Alpha; February 28, 2015). In addition, old A-10 Thunderbolt is more specialized for close air support (“Major Obvious: F-35 Pilot Says A-10 Will Always Be Better At Air Support”; Foxtrot Alpha; April 10, 2015).

A stealth fighter project is costly and technically demanding. Moreover, the Joint Strike Fighter is a multilateral project, which makes the decision making process complicated. This was the case with the Eurofighter Typhoon project. F-35 needs to elaborate to coordinate diversified requirements of partner countries more than Typhoon did. In the past, America pursued a Navy-Air Force joint project to make F-111 Aardvark led by Secretary of Defense-then Robert McNamara. The fundamental idea is to make a common aircraft model carrying long range missiles that would satisfy requirements of both the Navy and the Air Force to reduce the cost for development and maintenance. As a result, F-111 had become too heavy for maneuverable flight and carrier based missions. Is F-35 repeating the same mistake?

Despite cost and technical problems, we must understand new tactical and strategic concepts of F-35, beyond stealth capability. Former RAF Group Captain Andrew Linstead who was a Tornado pilot, comments that it is understandable that people rely on metrics that they are already familiarized with to judge new fighter, like speed, altitude, and agility. However, he says that F-35 has a huge advantage in integrating all field information into one picture to help the pilot's SA to make decisions quickly and properly, and in sharing it with the colleague planes. From his long term experience with Tornado, Linstead argues that this technology is the key to new era combats (“In defence of the F-35: Why future air combat will be different”; Daily Telegraph; 3 July, 2015).

F-35 is not just technological innovation. As we are not pilots, engineers, nor aviation mechanics, we must focus on strategic concepts of the new era for policy making. Eric Adams, Aviation and Military Editor of Popular Science, says that the key to the future of ‪American‬‬‬ ‪‎air power‬‬‬ is beyond ‪new technologies like ‎stealth‬‬‬, ‎UAV‬ and EMP, but the ‪concept‬‬‬ to nullify the enemy without air combat, in "Secret of Future Air Power 2015" of Discovery Channel. See the video below.




Actually, stealth technology itself is nothing new. Nazi Germany had already developed a prototype of current stealth fighter jet. Just reducing RCS does not change the war so dramatically. See the video below.




Nor is BVR combat a new tactical concept. It was already in practice in 1954 when US Navy F-3D Skyknight began to load AIM-7 Sparrow missile. Strategic and tactical philosophy to deploy F-35 is an outcome of such long term evolution. Therefore, it is premature to evaluate a brand new fighter by a single loss in the dogfight. As a Japanese military analyst, Isaku Okabe comments, “It is meaningless to compare fighter jets simplistically from a viewpoint to discuss which is stronger in the battle, tiger or lion” (“How serious Chinese military threat is to Japan?”; Shukan Daiamondo; November 15, 2012). Ex-Group Captain Linstead comments similarly.

However, we have to bear in mind that war makes evolution while maintaining old characteristics. Therefore, excessive obsession with new concepts is quite dangerous. During the Vietnam War, F-4 Phantom relied entirely on BVR missiles without carrying guns against Vietnamese MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21. As a result, American F-4s were completely vulnerable in the dogfight after they fired all missiles they loaded. The United States equipped their fighter jets with guns again to rollback in close aerial combats (“The U.S. Air Force Promised the F-4 Would Never Dogfight”; War is Boring; July 6, 2015). F-111 was obsessed with BVR and ground attack, which made it completely incapable in aerial combat. It was F-14 Tomcat that managed to meet both BVR and close aerial combat requirements, as the fighter was capable of loading heavy weight long range AIM-54 Phoenix missile and agile enough to defeat F-15 in mock dogfights. Unlike F-14, F-35 may fall into early stage F-4, or F-111 in the 21st century. War philosophy may evolve, but the fact that F-35 tested dogfight competence implies that old style combat capability still matters.

Regardless of pro-con debates, F-35 will be the key to air defense for the United States and numerous allies involved in this. Without sufficient understanding of the new warfare concept and the strength and weakness of F-35, it would be difficult to take advantage of this brand new fighter. I wonder whether all the JSF partner and customer governments understand them well. Some of them may have jumped on stealth technology. Also, it is the job of policymakers, not pilots and engineers, to review the Hi-Lo mix of the air power. As General Hostage comments, F-35 will be used for initial stage air strike penetrating through enemy radar. This implies F-35 is a Lo role fighter. It is expected that F-35’s Hi-Lo mix partner by country would be 5th Generation F-22 for the US Air Force, and 4.5th Generation Typhoon for the Royal Air Force. But unlike the United States and Britain, Japan’s Hi fighter would continue to be 4thGeneration F-15. Can the JASDF counter China’s planned stealth Hi-Lo mix of J-20 and J-31? Also, while F-35’s rising cost and schedule delay are controversial issues in the United States and main JSF partners, some countries like Japan, South Korea, etc seem too good customers as to be content with simply buying them. So many things need consideration to start deploying F-35 in a couple of years.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Is China Really Strong as Broadly Percieved?

The rise of China is one of the top issues among the students of international relations. At various international conferences, pundits from all over the world say that we must accept the ascendency of this emerging giant and its “Manifest Destiny” for greater leverage in global issues, regardless of their nationalities, whether Americans, Europeans, Asians, or Japanese. Some of them even argue so passively as to say that established powers like us accept the decline without resisting the trend of global power transition. It sounds very Buddhist to accept the impermanence of all things and whatever happens, whether desirable or undesirable. But in a Hobbesian world, when a state leader takes such self resigned attitude, his or her country will fall into at the mercy of an ambitious emerging power. We have to make a proper assessment of the power of the challenger, and think of the strategy to manage it.

After all, is China really strong, as many pundits and people say? There is no doubt that this country is a rising giant, which could have substantial impact on the world order and global security. But should we assume China an economic giant? For this question, we need to note ambivalence of its economy, extremely huge total size but disproportionately low per capita income. According to 2014 gross national income per capita ranking by the World Bank, China is merely 101st in the Atlas method, and 105th in purchasing power parity. Quite often, businessmen are so impressed with rapid economic growth and urban development that they are infatuated with a rising China like former Japanese Ambassador Uichiro Niwa who was the Chairman of C. Itoh & Co., before entering diplomatic service. The gross size of the Chinese economy is almost dependent on its huge population. A world economic power in poverty has been unprecedented in history, from Spain, the Netherlands, France, Britain, Germany, the United States, to Japan. That makes it extremely difficult to grade the real economic strength of China. After all, it is utterly absurd to assume that China is the foremost and a formidable economic rival to the United States. Actually, it has not overtaken Japan and major European powers. China is even far poorer than Russia. Is China surpassing the United States in the near future? But when?

I wonder why pundits from all over the world dismiss such a simple fact, regardless of their national, cultural, and career backgrounds. The danger of such mis-evaluation of the Chinese power is that the Beijing Communist Party can harness psychological illusion to suppress international norms, in order to win more advantageous positions. It seems to me that eminent people know so much in depth about China as to put aside the basic and simple fact that I mention here. The receptive attitude to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is a typical case of “Buddhistic” appeasement to China’s pushy self claim for the apex great power in Asia. Besides concerns with social and environmental consideration, I can hardly imagine that China has any know how or expertise to manage a multilateral organization. This country has never led regional organization, nor security alliance. It has been isolated from the Western, the Soviet, and the Nonalignment blocs. There are not so many renowned Chinese economists to run a multilateral development bank. Furthermore, can a poor country afford to manage a multilateral bank virtually in a unilateral way? We must understand China’s aspiration to win respect from the United States, Japan, and the global community, but their competence to run a multilateral financial organization is questionable.

Another point that we must question is manufacturing. China is called the world factory, and their competitiveness in low value added products and consumer goods is indisputable. But when it comes to high tech products, China is not a top runner. PLA fighters are mostly copies of the Russian Air Force ones. For example, J-11 is from Su-27, and J-15 is from Su-33. Even China’s indigenous stealth fighter J-31 uses the same engine as that of MiG 29. Actually, Chinese engines are old and weak (“Why China’s Air Force Needs Russia's SU-35”; Diplomat; June 1, 2015). Though J-31 is supposed to be a hacking copy of American F-35, its performance at the Zuhai Air Show in 2014 was graded terribly (“Even Chinese Media Bashed Immaturity of the PLA’s Latest Stealth Fighter”; Iza Sankei Digital; December 17, 2014). However, imitation is no more than imitation, whether legitimate or illegitimate. An interesting example is a German technological transfer of Type 214 submarine to South Korea. Though Koreans were admitted license to build an advanced German submarine, they failed in it, because their bolt connection technology was not developed enough. In other words, technological imitation without a fundamental level of engineering is something like a layman’s cuisine simply dependent on a recipe written by a super cook. Therefore, whether by license or hacking, copied technology is not real technology.

In addition to fighter planes, China’s missiles are also dependent on Russian technology, either imported or copied. In advanced technology, China is so dependent on Russian and hacked American technology. This implies that China’s manufacturing base is extremely poor. In terms of the economy, China is not an irresistible rising power, and it is far from overtaking America, Japan, major European nations, and Russia. The vision of G2 is a daydream. Nor is China a military superpower. China is just a gigantic underdeveloped power. Quite a few people believe that China will make a “declining” Russia their junior partner. That is hardly foreseeable. Applying Susan Strange’s theory of structural power, I would argue that it is Russia that exerts the power to determine the vision of defense, not China. Dependence on Russian technology makes China’s defense system, accordingly. From this point of view, I am impressed with the final line in the article by Kenichi Ito, President of the Japan Forum on International Relations, “Nevertheless, Chinese President Xi Jinping came to such a ceremony, and I wonder whether it was good for China. I am quite doubtful of it”, regarding Xi’s visit to the 70th VE Day ceremony in Moscow (“Putin’s Rule and Russia’s Path to the Future”; JFIR Commentary; May 27, 2015).

Consequently, I would like to ask a question again. Why are pundits from all over the world so receptive to the rise of China, and tolerant to their “decline” in the global pecking order? Buddhistic self resignation is not an attitude of policy making. If there is something undesirable, we have to make it desirable. If there is something desirable, we have to make it more desirable. For this objective, we must make an assessment of the real strength of China, without fear or favor.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Lessons from Netanyahu and Cameron for American Allies

At the Japan-US Dialogue hosted by the Global Forum Japan on March 11, Professor Isao Miyaoka and Professor Yuichi Hosoya, both from Keio University, mentioned some theoretical concepts of the alliance. Particularly, the risk of being embroiled in partners’ affairs and being abandoned by others is critical. Usually, it is assumed that a stronger ally exploits a weaker ally when there are perception gaps about threats. However, James Holmes, Associate Professor at US Naval War College mentions that things completely the opposite can happen. While a weaker ally wants to make use of the power of the alliance hegemony as much as possible to maximize its national interests, a stronger ally does not want to run the risk of confronting the challenger. This is a dilemma that Athens faced when Corcyra urged them to fight against Sparta just before the Peloponesian War (“Thucydides, Japan and America”; Diplomat; November 27, 2012).

The above mentioned Thucydides quotation by Holmes presents quite helpful aspects to understand how to arrange the relationship between the United States and the allies. Particularly, recent disagreements on Iranian nuclear threats between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama give important lessons for policymakers around the world. Despite sore relations with Obama, Netanyahu shares common understanding of Middle East security with American policymakers who are strongly concerned with White House appeasement to adversaries. On the other hand, British Prime Minister David Cameron enjoys a very friendly relationship with Obama, and even called “bro” by him. However, serious policymakers are critical to his defense policy as it lowers Britain’s military capability. Stark differences between both leaders give lessons that we must learn.

To begin with, let me talk about Benjamin Netanyahu. In this case, problems are perception gaps with the Obama administration on Iran’s nuclear threats and partisan split in the United States. The following points are key focuses. The first one is the effectiveness of the nuclear deal itself, as it is temporary. The second one is the inherent nature of Iran’s threat beyond nuclear proliferation. Both issues are closely associated with perception gaps between the Obama administration and Middle Eastern allies that are directly menaced by Iran’s sponsorship for Shiite extremists, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf Arabs. In other words, Middle East allies suspect that Obama treats them like Corcyra. Meanwhile, Republicans and some Democrats share their worries as typically seen in Senator Tom Cotton’s open letter with 47 signatories to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to express their objection to the nuclear deal and its spill over effect on Middle East security. The final one makes things even more complicated as Russia and China are involved in Iran after the deal. For example, Russia sells S-300 anti-air missiles to Iran, which makes Israel, Arabs, and Capitol Hill raise eyebrows. Shortly after Netanyahu’s speech at the Congress, Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, commented that Netanyahu argued that Obama give more strategic priority to Iranian dominance in the Middle East than the battle against ISIS. As to the deal itself, he pointed out the intelligence gap between Israel and the West, and told that the United States must fill such a perception gap with Middle East allies including Israel to stop Iran from cheating. See the video below.


Netanyahu’s speech at the Congress on March 3, 2015


Robert Satloff interviewed on March 4, 2015


Regarding the nuclear deal, opponents are concerned with loose restrictions on enriched uranium and centrifuges, and also its temporary nature. Though enriched uranium in Iran will be reduced, but not necessarily shipped abroad. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities will be closed. Also, centrifuges are not dismantled. This is a great retreat from Obama's demand to Iran in 2012, and that makes Middle East allies critically concerned (“Obama’s Iran deal falls far short of his own goals”; Washington Post; April 2, 2015). Also, Michael Singh, Managing Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, comments that the deal is so unbinding as it is a temporary agreement without official documents. See the video below.




In view of criticism from opponents, Dennis Ross, Councilor at the Washington Institute, argues that the Obama administration show how to deal with concerns with the nuclear deal, notably, breakout time, verification, and punishment for violation. As an advisor to Obama, Ross himself admits that the current deal moved back from Obama’s first term objective to incapacitate Iran’s nuclear development. However, he says that the deal can turn Iran’s intention peaceful (“Deal or No, Iran Will Remain a Nuclear Threat”; Politico; March 31, 2015). Proponents of the deal say that Iran has been suffering from the sanction hit economy, and willing to comply with international nonproliferation norm. Therefore, they argue that we must reach a realistic agreement to achieve our vital objective to stop a nuclear armed Iran. However, that is hardly persuasive for opponents, as Iran and the United States disagree on the meaning of the deal each other. Though the Lausanne agreement on April 2 states that Iran is allowed to enrich uranium within 3.67% for 15 years, Ali Akbar Salehi, Director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that his country could enrich uranium to 20% any time in an interview with Iran’s state owned Press TV (“Iran Nuclear Chief Threatens New Uranium Enrichment”; Washington Examiner; April 10. 2015).

Furthermore, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded that the United States remove the sanctions immediately to implement the deal. Some say that is due to language gaps between English and Farsi documents. According to Rob Litwak, Vice President of the Woodrow Wilson Center, the gap comes from domestic politics on both sides, as hardliners in Iran do not want the deal with the Great Satan while those in the United States see the agreement with a rogue state skeptically. US opponents and Israel see the nature of Iranian regime matters much more than the text of the deal, while proponents argue that we focus on the text technically. Despite that, it is policy emphasis that causes different interpretation. While the United States wants to limit Iran’s capability to make fissile materials, Iran wants to enrich uranium for energy purpose (“The Language of the Iran Deal”; WNYC Brian Lehrer Show; April 13, 2015). Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz points out that Iran can cheat international inspectors easily as numerous facilities and fissile fuels remain intact. American allies in the Middle East see that Obama reached a temporary and weak agreement as recognition of Iran’s regional hegemony. Therefore, Saudi Arabia is exploring their own nuclear deterrence (“The Iran Deal and Its Consequences”; Wall Street Journal; April 7, 2015).

The perception gap between the Obama administration and Middle East allies is beyond technical interpretation of the deal. We must understand it from much more comprehensive security implication of the Middle East. While the Obama administration regards Iran as a some sort of partner to defeat ISIS, the opponents see Iran’s ambition for regional dominance and sponsorship to Shiite extremists the most critical threat in the region. Saudi Arabian former Director of General Intelligence Prince Turki bin Faisal presented an overview of the implication of this nuclear deal to Middle East security, at Chatham House on March 19. He said that the nuclear deal would provoke a nuclear arms race as regional stakeholders were concerned with the US-Iranian collusion to allow more Tehran’s influence in the Gulf area. Regarding Obama’s engagement in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia wants action, not rhetoric, for regional security, and they regard US help to the Free Syrian Army as the vital test. On the other hand, Prince Turki said that the Iraqi government worried too much about offending Iran, and therefore, Saudi Arabia can hardly exert influence there. See the video below.




As Prince Turki talked at Chatham House, Saudi Arabia now regards Obama so unreliable that the Sultan did not attend the Camp David meeting this May, and this country was even considering buying nuclear weapons from Pakistan (“Saudi Arabia vs. Iran”; Value Walk; May 21, 2015). Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon is similarly concerned with the loopholes of the deal, as Iran could obstruct inspectors, and acquire nuclear bomb in the end as North Korea did (“Current Iran framework will make war more likely”; Washington Post; April 8, 2015). Actually Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected international inspector accesses to their military facilities and interviews with Iranian scientists, as Saddam Hussein did (“Iran’s Supreme Leader Rules Out Broad Nuclear Inspections”; New York Times; May 20, 2015).

Obama wants a nuclear compromise with Iran just in order to defeat ISIS, and even helps their Shiite proxies (“Complex US-Iran ties at heart of complicated Mideast policy”; Rudaw; 27 March, 2015). Max Boot, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations says furthermore, that the US Air Force has become the Iranian Air Force (“America’s New Role: As Iran’s Air Force”; Commentary; March 25, 2015). However, Michael Ledeen, Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, comments that the United States and Iran cannot work together simply because they have a common enemy in Iraq. Iran curses America every occasion since the Islamic Revolution. Moreover, Iranian terrorists killed Americans and even plotted to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States. In view of such long and harsh hostility to America and its staunch ally Israel, it is unlikely that Iran quits their expansionist ambition (“The Iran Deal: Forget About Stability, Our Strategy Should Be Survival”; Forbes; April 15, 2015).There is nothing strange that Capitol Hill opponents, notably the 47 senators, demand strongly that Obama stop treating Israel like Corcyra.

Iran sponsors terrorists like Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Shiite militias in Iraq. Also, Iran recruits combatants in Afghanistan to support the Assad administration in Syria. In addition to these regional manipulation, Iran launches massive cyber attacks globally. It is geopolitics and international isolation that drives Iran to act so provocatively. Though Iran is located at the junction of Western Asia and Central Asia, it has no natural defensive borders. Historically, the Turkic invaded from the north, and Mesopotamia had been the disputed are against the Semitic nations, Rome, Arabs, and the Ottoman Empire. Also, Iran found itself completely isolated from both the West and Middle East neighbors during the Iran-Iraq War. Therefore, the Shiite regime in Tehran helps their proxies in the Middle East to overcome historical insecurity (“Why Iran Needs to Dominate the Middle East”; National Interest; April 10. 2015). In view of the above mentioned problems, Retired General David Petraeus supports Israel’s concern that Shiite militia could prevail throughout the Middle East, which would make the whole of this area vulnerable to Iranian influence. In addition, as the Obama administration withdrew troops from Iraq too soon, he said that Iran understood it as weakness of American power in the Middle East. The problem is, Iran wants to dominate the Middle East, annihilate Israel, and continue to develop nuclear bomb (“Former general splits with Obama; says Iran, not ISIS, is the real enemy.”; National Review; March 20, 2015). Furthermore, Iran still continues cooperation in nuclear project with North Korea (“State: We can't deny Iran nuclear cooperation with North Korea; it won't stop nuke deal”; Washington Examiner; May 28, 2015). Netanyahu fears that the nuclear talks proceed at an unfavorable time when Iran is sponsoring their proxies in Yemen. A weak agreement can embolden their expansionism furthermore, and Israel sees that the nuclear deal gives reward to Iran without pushing them (“Netanyahu accuses Iran of trying to 'conquer the entire Middle East' amid looming nuclear deal”; FOX News; March 29, 2015).

As mentioned above, the impacts of the current nuclear deal with Iran go not just the technical aspects, but the whole Middle East security structure. The perception gap between the Obama administration and Middle East allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia is so huge. In addition, Russia and China are exploring to deepen relations with Iran, including in the defense area, after the nuclear deal takes effect. As soon as the deal was declared, Russia reached an agreement with Iran to sell S-300 anti-air missiles, which makes Israel critically concerned (“Russia-Iran relationship is a marriage of opportunity”; Washington Post; April 18, 2015). The core interest of Russia’s Iran policy is weakening Western influence there. Also, the Russian nuclear industry has been keeping an eye on Iranian market, and this nuclear deal is a good opportunity for them (“How Russia Views The Iran Nuclear Talks”; Breaking Energy; March 18, 2015). However, Obama’s comment to defend Russia’s sales of these missiles to Iran startled Israeli media, despite Netanyahu’s fierce criticism to Russia (“Israel analysts shocked by Obama’s comments on sanctions, S-300 supply”; Times of Israel; April 17, 2015). Meanwhile, China sees the deal necessary to secure their oil import from Iran (“The Dragon and the Atom: How China Sees Iran and the Nuclear Negotiations”; National Interest; November 14, 2014).

The Iran nuclear deal led by the Obama administration is so dangerous that opponents in Washington, notably the 47 senators, resonate concerns raised by Israel and Saudi Arabia. When the hegemony of the alliance treats a weaker ally like Corcyra due to perception gaps, should the weaker one act with opponents in the hegemonic state, and get involved in its domestic political rivalry to overturn the decision of its government? Despite the above mentioned defects of the nuclear deal and dangers of Obama’s Middle East strategy, Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, comments critically to Netanyahu’s deep involvement in Washington politics. Remember that Kagan is no proponent of Obama’s foreign policy. Then, why does is he so critical of it? He says that Netanyahu’s involvement in Washington politics is a foreign intrusion, regardless of the strategic importance of Israel and his tense relations with Obama. Also, that would preclude America from shaping a national consensus on Iran policy. As Kagan mentions, partisan split is a serious problem for American foreign policymakers. Furthermore, Winston Churchill gave the Iron Curtain speech in Fulton of Missouri, instead of the Congress, because he did not receive an invitation from the president and already stepped down from public job (“Five reasons Netanyahu should not address Congress”; Washington Post; January 29, 2015). Kagan still continues that if House Speaker John Boehner can invite Netanyahu to the Congress, that will allow Democrats to do the same against the Republican administration (“At what price Netanyahu?”; Washington Post; February 27, 2015). The case of Netanyahu is a critical agenda for state leaders around the world to explore how to behave when America does not fulfill global expectation. Asian nations are so pleased to hear of Obama’s strategic rebalance, but that is no guarantee for his security commitment to them. What happens if he appeases to China as he does to Iran now?

On the other hand, in the case of David Cameron, the problem is military capability as an ally. Cameron enjoys good personal relationship with Obama. At Former South African President Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013 in Pretoria, Cameron took selfies with Obama and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt so cheerfully (“David Cameron defends 'selfie' at Nelson Mandela memorial”; Daily Telegraph; 11 December 2013). However, that does not necessarily give him credit from American policymakers. Since the 2010 SDSR, Britain’s defense capability has been curtailed, which makes many Americans critically concerned. General Raymond Odierno, Chief of the Staff of the US army, commented that Britain’s defense cut might jeopardize the Anglo-American alliance as Britain has been the most reliable partner in US military operations across the globe in the postwar period. Particularly, the rise of Russian threat after the Ukraine crisis and the emergence of a self-called caliphate by ISIS necessitate NATO member states to re-strengthen their defense, and Britain leads this effort. But its army, navy, and air force were cut so drastically that the military capability scantily meets the requirement for global actions. Cuurrently, the Royal Navy's manpower and number of flight squadrons are too small to operate Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers (“US fears that Britain's defense cuts will diminish Army on the world stage”; Daily Telegraph; 1 March 2015). Despite that, British voters are too happy to see its defense spending plunge below its overseas development aid (“EXCLUSIVE: UK set to spend MORE on foreign aid than on Armed Forces”; Daily Express; March 1, 2015).

The problem with UK defense is excessive focus on NATO requirement of the GDP 2% line, but the real capability is not determined by the amount of the budget. Alexander Clarke, a naval historian, argues that Britain make it clear their defense needs and what they want for those objectives (“The Defence Debate – why the UK needs to change the subject”; USNI Blog; February 20, 2015). Actually, Britain faces challenges to defend even its own sovereign territory. In Scotland, Russian submarines navigate close to the UK Trident submarine base at Faslane. Britain needs help from its allies, including the United States, Canada, France, and so forth to counter Russian undersea fleet. In other words, Britain cannot protect its own independent nuclear by itself, because Cameron cut anti-submarine capability (“A Suspected Russian Submarine Is Lurking Off Of The Scottish Coast”; Business Insider; January 9, 2015). This is appalling, considering Britain’s leading contribution to NATO to counter Soviet submarine force during the Cold War with its rich experience to fight against German U-boats. Cameron’s fatal mistake was to scrap Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft (“Nimrod cuts 'have allowed Russian submarines to spy on Trident”; Daily Telegraph; 29 May, 2015). The rise of nationalism in Argentina poses another threat. While the Royal Navy decommissioned the Invincible class aircraft carriers before the Queen Elizabeth class are deployed, Argentina leases Su-24 bombers from Russia that are capable of attacking Falkland Islands (“Britain's military defences in the Falkland Islands”; Daily Telegraph; 24 March 2015).

It is quite unbelievable that a global naval power like Britain have a blank period in capital ships. The decline of Britain’s military capability is closely associated with lack of foreign policy visions. Maxine David, Lecturer at the University of Sussex, analyzes such a trend as the following. Prior to the general election, party leaders hardly talked about foreign policy in the debate on April 2. Antipathy to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rise of local nationalism have made Britain more isolationist. Furthermore, the decline of public attention to global security turns UK foreign policy more trade oriented (“State of the Nation: Britain’s Role in the World Just Keeps Shrinking” The Conversation; 29 April 2015). This is typically seen in Britain’s bid for AIIB membership, which was the first among European nations. The problem is, Britain is not likely to assume global role when the world faces increasingly multiplied threats (“World crises may be multiplying, but campaign turns Britain further inward”; Washington Post; April 25, 2015). Britain’s engagement is declining from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, to Asia. The Cameron administration even did not protest strongly against China’s repression to student rallies in Hong Kong. France also worries a more isolationist Britain as military role is sensitive for Germany (“Britain’s Drift From the Global Stage Becomes an Election Issue”; New York Times; April 27, 2015). The problem of Britain’s defense capability is quite deep. Downing Street is so reluctant to use full potential of its national power for international security and global public interest. General Odierno’s comment represents concerns among Britain’s allies worldwide, even though Cameron is a nice bro for Obama.

As I talked about America’s primary allies in the Middle East and Europe, I would like to go on to the one in the Asia Pacific region, that is, Japan. Are there any lessons for Tokyo to learn from Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom? Currently, the Abe administration tries hard to pass a new security bill at the Diet, in order to bolster proactive pacifism. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s speech at Capitol Hill was almost successful. How about security perception and military capability of Japan? In the Far East, China pursues regional hegemony as Iran does in the Middle East. In addition to its own armed forces, China sponsors fishermen proxies to expand the sphere of influence as Iran does Shiite proxies. Therefore, the attitude of Obama’s America to Israel and Saudi Arabia is a critical issue for Japan. So far as the new security bill and the constitutional reform are concerned, the Japanese public is excessively worried about "being embroiled", but the problem of "being abandoned" has far greater implications for Japan’s national survival. Even if Japan is willing to make a full commitment to the US-led allied forces over constitutional and other legal restrictions, who expects us to do something beyond the national capability? Those who argue against further contribution to the US-Japanese and multilateral alliance should focus much more on filling perception gaps with the American side to avoid "being deserted".The worst scenario for Japanese people is that Obama sees Japan another Corcyra like Israel and Saudi Arabia. That sends chills down my spine. Japan can act with sympathizers in Washington political corridors to avoid this, but it must be a smart and stealthy lobbying. That requires political finesse. Netanyahu provoked a partisan split in US foreign policy.

Regarding military capability, it is important to meet the expectation of the global community. Cameron’s Britain fails to maintain defense capability in accordance with her national power. We must bear in mind that this is the vital reason why General Odierno expressed worries about it. Japan has the capability to act beyond its neighborhood in an era of increasingly diversified threat. The Hormuz Strait that Abe mentioned in the new security bill debate is a vital route for Japanese oil demand, and it is Japan’s natural role to join the coalition to secure this route, in case of emergency. However, it is extremely regretful that Abe restricted Japanese involvement to mine sweeping which Japan already did after the Gulf War in 1991. Currently, the most serious maritime threat in the Gulf area is Iran’s anti-ship missiles. Iran has upgraded A2AD capability rapidly since then, both in terms of quality and quantity. Carrier killer missiles can attack any ship even those far away from the minefield. Without a fleet air defense, none of the missions to secure the energy supply sea lane will be carried out safely and successfully. The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force deploys the Aegis Combat System, and it is helpful in a multilateral operation to intercept North Korea’s ballistic missile, as frequently mentioned among Japanese opinion leaders. However, the primary objective to develop this system is fleet air defense, and Japan has the capability to defend multinational fleets from an Iranian missile attack, along with other coalition members. This is not an offensive role, such as nullifying enemy military bases like SEAD or DEAD, and landing in enemy territory, but entirely defensive one. Evidently, Japan has no capability to do those operations in the Middle East, and hardly anyone can imagine that foreign partners expect her to do those jobs. But when it comes to fleet air defense, Japan can do the job, and this is a real step toward proactive pacifism, from she has already accomplished in the past.

Nagatacho debates over new security bill focus excessively on war casualty risks to send troops overseas. But the vital point of this bill is to enable Japan to make full use of her defense capability for global public interest. This is the core concept of proactive pacifism. The security of the Persian Gulf is beyond Japan’s narrow self-interest, and the value of this is far greater than supposed “risks” of Japanese contribution to the global community. Regretfully, both the Abe administration and the opposition miss the imperative point. The quality of defense debates in current Japan is much worse than those in Cameron’s Britain. However, a full use of defense capability will be helpful for Japan to nurture common understanding of security with foreign partners.

Finally. I would like to mention personal relations between state leaders. Even in a state to state relation, there is no doubt that it is advantageous for leaders to have friendly mutual ties. However, I suspect that people of Japanese political corridors and pundits worry friendship between Abe and Obama so much that they see personal relations both leaders too emotionally. Though Cameron is very close and friendly with Obama, American political corridors and intellectuals do not necessarily evaluate him well. To the contrary. Netanyahu was able to mobilize 47 signatories to support him, even though his relationship with the White House is not necessarily good. Of course, it would be preferable that a foreign leader not get involved in domestic partisan split in the United States, as Robert Kagan mentioned even though he is critical to Obama’s foreign policy. Nevertheless, I would like to raise a question that the implications of Abe-Obama ties were overinterpreted emotionally among US-Japanese relation watchers. It seems that such trends are found among Japan experts on the American side as well. I have no intention of downplaying personal ties between national leaders, but I would rather suggest that opinion leaders both Japan and the United States focus on more important issues.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Does Putin Act Responsibly to Reduce World Nuclear Threats?

It is expected that the leader of permanent member of the UN Security Council act responsibly to defend the global public interest, as cited in the Atlantic Charter and the UN Charter. However, Russia’s new nuclear doctrine and provocative behavior in Europe since the Ukrainian crisis raise doubts that the Putin administration abuses great power status, rather than assuming burden and responsibility. Putin’s nuclear saber rattling simply destabilizes global security. Despite that, Russia is a member of both P5+1 on Iran and the Six Party on North Korea. Therefore, we must ask critically if President Vladimir Putin fulfills his responsibility to lower nuclear threats of the world.

Prior to the new strategic doctrine, Russia has been pursuing to build up nuclear arsenals. Bulava SLBMs were deployed to the Borei class submarines recently to go through the enemy missile defense system. More problematic one is Iskandar mobile theater ballistic missiles, which is accused of the violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by the American side (“Russia’s deployed nuclear capacity overtakes US for first time since 2000»; End the Lie; October 6, 2014). As nuclear attack capability expands, Retired Army General Yuri Yakubov told Interfax News Agency that Russia revise military doctrine to declare preemptive nuclear strike against adversaries, and make it clear that the United States and NATO as the primary security threats ("Russian General: Bring Back Pre-emptive Nuclear Strike Option Against NATO”; Breitbart News” 3 September 2014). The doctrine raises widespread concerns in Europe, as Russia behaves aggressively these days (“Insight - Russia's nuclear strategy raises concerns in NATO”; Reuters News; February 5, 2015).

As the Ukrainian crisis deepens, Russian intrusion to the British airspace has become frequent. RAF Typhoon fighters intercept TU-95 bombers over Scotland almost routinely these days, and some of them even go southward to the English Channel and carry nuclear missiles. Former Ambassador to Russia Sir Tony Breton says that Putin wants to show his anger to Britain, regarding Western involvement in Ukraine (“Putin showing UK 'what we are taking on' with Russian bombers, former UK ambassador claims”; Independent; 7 March, 2015). Russian intrusion also comes from the sea. Royal Navy frigate Argyll tracked Russian frigate Yaroslav Mudryy and supporting tanker Kola through the English Channel (“UK Navy's HMS Argyll tracks Russian warship in English Channel”; Naval Technology; 18 February 2015). More dangerously, Russian military intelligence aircraft had a near miss with an SAS airliner from Denmark flying off Sweden. Both Denmark and Sweden summoned Russian Ambassadors for he safety of civilian flight (”Scandinavians warn Russia after air near-miss”; Financial Times; December 15, 2014).

It seems that Putin is augmenting nuclear threats just in order to demonstrate Russian power, rather than behaving as a responsible stakeholder in global security. Russia’s preemptive strike doctrine and air-sea intimidation in Europe make its credential as a member of the denuclearization talks with Iran and North Korea questionable. Actually, some Russian actions to Iran and North Korea appear more oriented to geopolitical power games, rather than nuclear nonproliferation. We must examine critically, whether Putin gives more priority to the rivalry against the West or great power responsibility for nuclear arms control.

While participating in the nuclear talks with Iran, Putin takes some controversial actions which are contradictory to the role of P5+1. In parallel with the Crimean crisis, Russia started bilateral economic cooperation talk with Iran last February, to propose assistance to build civilian nuclear power plant in return for oil and gas concession for Lukoil. Iranian ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanai even said that Russia should have natural privileges in the Iranian market as a friend since the 16th century (“‘Friends from Russia should have advantage in the Iranian market’ - Iran’s ambassador”; RT; February 17, 2014). Actually, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia would take retaliatory measures against Western sanctions over the Ukrainian crisis (“Russia May Alter its Position on Iran in Standoff With West”; Global Security Newswire; March 20, 2014). Despite Western criticism, Russia reached an agreement to build two nuclear reactors in Iran. Critics argue any nuclear technology transfer to Iran is dangerous. Quite problematically, currently negotiated nuclear deal does not limit Iran’s uranium enrichment capability. But the Obama administration withdrew objection to this deal itself. Meanwhile, the United States and its allies demanded that Iran stop enrichment (“Russia Reaches Deal With Iran to Construct Nuclear Plants”; New York Times; November 11, 2014).

Regarding enriched uranium, Iran agreed to send declared low grade stockpiles for medical use to Russia and France to process them into nuclear fuel, in 2009. However, that did not cover undeclared ones (“Iran Agrees to Send Enriched Uranium to Russia”; New York Times; October 1, 2009). However, Iran declared that they did not reach such an agreement with the United States, earlier this year (“Iran says no deal with U.S. to ship enriched uranium to Russia”; Reuters News; January 3, 2015). The deal is so fragile that it is unlikely to bind Russia even lowly enriched uranium were sent there. When just the preliminary deal was struck, Putin decided to sell advanced Antey 2500 anti-air missile system to Iran. Russia’s high-tech weapon agreement can hollow international sanctions on Iran (“Putin Throws Wrench in Iran Nuke Talks”; Fiscal Times; February 23, 2015).



Su-35 Super Flanker


Russia also takes action to deepen ties with North Korea, which could embolden another nuclear proliferator. Since last year, Russian politicians from Moscow and Far Eastern provinces visit North Korea frequently to boost trade and investments, and upgrade railway systems through North Korea to Siberia. Though North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said to expand political and military ties with Russia earlier this year, along with economic ties, Russia has not resumed military aid due to international sanctions against North Korea. However, North Korea expressed strong interest to buy Su-35, which is the most advanced fighter of the Russian air force, in order to replace aging Soviet made fighters like MiG 17, MiG 21, and so forth. Currently, Russia abides by international sanctions, but we need to watch North Korea’s bid closely, because they will acquire nuclear delivery vehicle once they buy Su-35. North Korea has developed ballistic missiles, but they have not made nuclear warheads small enough to be loaded. But with Su-35, North Korea could launch nuclear attacks throughout North East Asia. Of course, as Richard Weitz (Director of the Center for Political and Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute) argues, Russia is more likely to provide aeronautic spare parts for North Korea by labelling them as civilian aircraft use, rather than taking a risk of violating sanctions by selling super advanced fighters. In either case, we must watch very carefully whether Putin is hollowing nonproliferation sanctions against North Korea (“Moscow and Pyongyang: From Disdain to Partnership?”; Diplomat; February 19, 2015).

In view of Putin’s behavior regarding new strategic doctrine, Europe, Iran, and North Korea, I have to conclude that Russia is intensifying nuclear threats to global security, and does not fulfill the responsibility as a great power that was envisioned by Franklin Roosevelt for the postwar world order. We must send some strong messages to demand that Putin act more responsibly on global nuclear security issues. For one of them, I would suggest that the global community remove Russia from permanent members at the UN Security Council. In practice, this is quite hard as Russia has a veto. More realistically, I suggest that world leaders mention great power responsibility in the statement of the 70th anniversary since the end of World War II. It is already the 21st century, and behavior of major powers within this 70 years is far more important than past misconducts by Japan and Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel may not be interested in such an idea, judging from her softline policy to Russia. On the other hand, it will be helpful for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to mention irresponsible great powers in the 70th anniversary statement.

This February, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told that China and Russia would co-host the 70th anniversary ceremony of anti-fascism and victory against Japanese invasion, in order to suppress Japanese “right wingers”, and confirm their continual position as World War II victorious great powers (“Chinese Foreign Minister Told Not to Dstort Wartime History”; Mainichi Shimbun; February 24, 2015) . When Abe delivers a joint statement with the United States to stress postwar democratic and peaceful Japan, he should mention great power responsibility to counter the Russo-Chinese axis. Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, comments that both Russia and China behave provocatively not for their defense but restoring their wounded pride by Western supremacy (“The United States must resist a return to spheres of interest in the international system”; Brookings Institution blog --- Order from Chaos; February 19, 2015). This is typically seen in Putin’s brinkmanship diplomacy and geopolitical power game mentioned in this post. Therefore, nuclear security is a vital issue to question Russia’s credential as a responsible great power.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Still, Japan Should Proceed Proactive Pacifism to Suppress ISIS and Iran

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trip to the Middle East spurred criticism from the opposition and some opinion leaders, as ISIS broadcasted videos of killing two Japanese hostages worldwide on the Internet (“ISIS Says It Has Killed 2nd Japanese Hostage”; New York Times; January 31, 2015), when Abe declared to donate a $200 million humanitarian aid to the Middle East, and stand against prevailing terrorism in this region ("The Best Way Is to Go in the Middle"; Speech by Prime Minister Abe; January 18, 2015). According to the poll by the Japan News Network, 55% of the Japanese public see the timing of Abe’s visit to the Middle East was inappropriate (“55% Say Abe’s Middle East Visit Inappropriate”; TBS News; February 9, 2015).

However, it is too superficial to relate the hostage killing and Abe’s $200 million aid speech in Egypt and his subsequent visit to Israel. The real objective of terrorists is to agitate fears among the public, and demonstrate their presence, according to a New York based writer Sawako Yasuda. I agree with her, because I believe that it was media criticism to George W Bush that drew anti-American terrorists to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Criticism to Abe blamers also comes from the Arab side. Palestinian Ambassador to Japan Waleed Siam, who is the Dean of the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Tokyo, condemned ISIS and defended Abe (“Rising Voices against Blaming Abe”; J-CAST News; February 2, 2015).

Though the murder of two hostages imperiled Japanese people, Japan needs to secure its own national interest by departing from postwar omnidirectional diplomacy. Japan is losing confidence in Obama’s America, as Obama himself remarked that the United States was no longer the world policeman. If that is the case, Japan has to do something more involved to stabilize the Middle East as a core member of democratic nations. Otherwise, Japan cannot sustain its economy, because it is so dependent on Middle East oil (“A tipping point for Japan’s foreign policy”; Financial Times; January 28, 2015 or here). The problem is beyond Japan’s self-restricted narrow national interest. The Japan Forum on International Relations, a leading think tank advocating proactive pacifism of the Abe administration, issues the 37th policy recommendation to endorse Japan’s departure from postwar “One Country Pacifism”, in order to get actively involved in buttressing the liberal world order.

The focal point of this recommendation is neither re-militalization nor the quest for great power status of Japan, but founding a real “global no-war regime” by suppressing threats to world peace (“Positive Pacifism and Japan's Course of Action”; Japan Forum on International Relations; August 2014). Abe’s initiative of civilian aid to displaced people around Iraq and Syria is an action to put the concept of positive or proactive pacifism into practice. The advent of ISIS is a grave challenge that could dissolve current Westphalian system as it strives for establishing a global caliphate of fanaticism and terrorism. That will endanger the vital foundation of Japan’s peace, prosperity, and national welfare. Regardless of the partisanship of Nagatacho politics, it is Japan’s interest to suppress threats in the Middle East.

Despite that, some Japanese blame the timing of Abe’s Middle East tour, as they firmly believe that his diplomatic schedule was so reckless as to provoke ISIS to kill Kenji Goto and Haruna Yukawa. It is extremely tragic that our fellow citizens were so brutally murdered. However, I would argue that Abe seized the opportunity to visit the Middle East and address Japan’s global engagement. That serves the public interest of the world, but those who denounce him give hardly any consideration to this. I am not hailing Shinzo Abe. I am critically concerned with Barack Obama’s horrible mismanagement in the Middle East, as I frequently and repeatedly argue on this blog. American allies, including Japan must take any action to make up for his blunder.

The foremost reason that allowed ISIS to vandalize and imperil the Middle East is the failure of Obama’s Iraq policy. This is typically indicated in frequent change of the Secretary of Defense in his administration. From Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, to Chuck Hagel, criticized Obama’s disengagement with Iraq. Even former Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy, who joined Obama’s team so early during the transition period, left the administration along with Panetta, and refused to accept the job offer after Hagel. The power vacuum by Obama’s premature pullout from Iraq has made the problem extremely complex. While most of the experts and opinion leaders focus on the axis of Sunni extremists and ex-Baathists in Syria and western Iraq, Shiite jihadists in southern Iraq and Levant are no less formidable as Iran sponsors them. Too many opinion leaders assume as if it were an equation of only one unknown x. They dismiss another unknown y in this equation, which is Iran’s influence.

How should we solve such a complicated equation? It is very risky to deploy Kurdish and Shiite militias in the same place, just to fight against ISIS, because sectarian killings by those militias are reported (“U.S.-backed Iraqi forces face risky urban warfare in battle against Islamic State”; Washington Post; February 8, 2015). In addition to local Shiites in southern Iraq, Iran sponsors Shiite proxies in Syria to defend the Assad administration. According to Phillip Smyth, Researcher of the University of Maryland, their influx into Syria is nothing to imply spontaneous Shiite unity, but to indicate highly organized geostrategic and ideological plots by Iran. There is already Hezbollah in Lebanon that Iran has been supporting since overthrowing the shah. In addition, Iraqi Shiite group Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas joins the civil war in Syria. Like ISIS, Iran recruits volunteers by Facebook. That is particularly targeted for Afghan Shiites living in Iran. The Revolutionary Guard of Iran makes such an extensive network to look for insurgents. The negative influence that Iran can exert is bigger than commonly thought (“The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects”; Washington Institute for Near East Policy – Policy Focus 138; February 2015). Despite those so many concerns, Obama is extremely naïve as to believe that Iran would play a constructive role in Iraq and Syria, if the West admitted nuclear infrastructure and rightful position in the Middle East for them. Even Democrat Senator Bob Menendez and Obama’s long term ally Senator Tom Kaine oppose such a daydream about Iran (“Obama’s fight with his own party over foreign policy”; Washington Post; February 1, 2015). Smyth suggests that the West interdict online propagandas and recruitments of both ISIS and Shite jihadists in the Policy Focus, but that is just the beginning.

In order to explore how America should manage these dual enemies, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy held a panel discussion on February 11. Michael Knights, Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute, and Phillip Smyth, the University of Maryland, presented strategic overviews and suggested policy directions. Their debates were concluded by P. J. Dermer, retired Army Colonel. To begin with, Knights told that the war against ISIS is winnable in a few years, but the clash by Shiite proxies with the Kurds and the Iraqi central government can disunify Iraq. Also, Baghdad worries that Shiites would take over their country, if the coalition is too dependent on Iran. Therefore, he insisted that the United States and coalition members must outperform Iran in this war. Otherwise, Iraq will fall into Iran’s satellite state, and the United States will lose a vital regional partner. Iranian influence in the Levant region is another problem. As Shiite militias secure Assad’s rule in Syria, their presence will pose threats to Israel over Golan Heights, and to Iraq over the north western borders. Therefore, Smyth warns that Iran would expand its sphere of influence from the Levant to the Persian Gulf. In view of complexity to deal with ISIS and Iran at the same time, Dermmer concluded that the biggest challenge for the United States will be making Iraq as a stable and lasting partner after defeating ISIS. See the video below.




I am somewhat bewildered to hear their discussion, because it sounds as if they admitted Obama’s approach to ask Iran for help to defeat ISIS, while America faces tough negotiations on nuclear disarmament with Tehran. I am critically afraid that Obama’s appeasement will make Iran overconfident as America appears weak for them. Remember that Retired Army General Jack Keane told that Iran was not interested in stability in Iraq as long as their influence was solidified by Shiite militias at the conversation with Senator John McCain at the American Enterprise Institute on June 18 last year.

Considering the points raised thus far, I believe that Abe’s $200 million aid plan was addressed exactly at the right time to dwarf the shadow of Iran, while the coalition fights against ISIS. Japanese media failed to mention this. Abe himself or Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida should have told this boldly in public, to promote awareness and understanding of the threat of Islamic extremism among the Japanese public and intellectuals. Japan took absolutely necessary action to relieve both Israel and Arab nations from the threat of Iran and make up for Obama’s fatal error to allow their involvement in this war. This is exactly a response to put proactive pacifism into practice. Why so many quibbles in Nagatacho and among the media?

In view of such security threats, Abe seized the best opportunity to visit the Middle East. The beheadings of Goto and Yukawa were horrible, and I would like to give my heartfelt condolences to them. But in my impression, those who blame Abe for their death are excessively emotional, and simply make use of this occasion to attack him. The problem is not whether to like Abe or not. We need an overview to think of Japan’s contribution to Middle East stability. America and Europe have been engaged to sweep out terrorists in the region for a long time, and Japan is the last major democracy to have additional leverage to suppress socioeconomic instability that nurtures ISIS and Shiite jihadists. Abe visited Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority, and all the four arrange tight diplomatic schedules to meet the Japanese Prime Minister, regardless of the regime, state recognition, ethnicity, religion, and so forth. Even the god cannot stop anyone from disliking Abe, and do as they like. But to my regret, most of those who blame Abe’s visit spoke from old passive pacifism that Japan be detached from US-led coalition without showing the vision of the Middle East, which is so isolationist and outmoded in this century.

In addition, I would like to express my anger to widespread anti-Semitism among Japanese opinion leaders. They argued that Abe was too reckless to trigger Arab anger to visit Israel when Japanese hostages were killed. That is utterly wrong. The Palestinian Authority welcomed Abe’s visit to Israel, along with themselves. More importantly, Israel is a de facto ally to Gulf Arabs against Iran’s threat of nuclear weapons and Shiite proxies. From these perspectives, I wonder why so many intellectuals and citizens in Japan lapse so easily into anti-Israeli views, although both countries share common values and interests in global security. The joint press conference by Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Shinzo Abe on January 21 was nothing anti-Arab nor anti-Islam. Netanyahu stressed the global peril of nuclear proliferation to Iran and North Korea, and subsequent leak to terrorists. Meanwhile, Abe talked about terrorism and bilateral relations, and also stressed that Japan would endorse the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as a friend to both actors. See the video below.




While opponents regard Abe’s visit to Israel as further blind followership to the United States, he is more realist to pursue Japan’s independent interest and presence in the Middle East. By deepening relations with Israel while maintaining ties with Palestine, Abe seeks more Japanese influence there (“Shinzo Abe Raising Japan's Profile by Engaging the Middle East”; Economy Watch; 11 February, 2015). Many Japanese people were so shocked to hear the murder news that they reacted hastily to relate the tragedy to Israel, and some of them even talked as if this country was the root of all evils. But we are the nation of humanist Sempo Sugihara, not racist murder Adolph Hitler. Hopefully, the Special Government Assessment Committee headed by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita (“EDITORIAL: Review of Middle East policies best way to assess handling of hostage crisis”; Asahi Shimbun;February 12, 2015) wipe out such poorly grounded anti-Semitism instead of Israel, when they review the hostage crisis.

Also, we must understand the nature of Islamic extremism. Even if Japan had appeased, ISIS would have killed them. Extremists kill even their fellow Muslims. Why bother to kill kafirs? There is a widespread misunderstanding that Japan not be involved in the Islam-West clash of civilizations. That is utterly wrong. Christians and Jews are not the only people whom Islamic extremists antagonize throughout the history. They wiped out Buddhism in India, and destroyed Gautama Siddhartha’s sacred birth place. Remember, how Taliban treated the Japanese delegation scornfully when they made a plea to stop bombing the Buddhas of Bamyan. Nor is it right for Japan to stay away from the US-led coalition, because they even killed Russians (“ISIS video claims to show boy executing two men accused of being Russian spies”; CNN News; January 15, 2015). The foremost points we must bear in mind are their bigoted ideology and lunacy. As historical evidence indicates, Islamic extremists are intolerant of moderate Muslims and people of other religion. Today, they are more radicalized and violent due to their devotion to Salafism, the most doctrinaire sect of Sunni that legitimizes killing of innocent people.

We must understand complicated security interactions in the Middle East and the nature of Islamic extremism. Finally, I would suggest that the global community make an international protocol to defend the life of journalists and aid workers from terrorists in combat areas. They may not be willing to follow instructions by the government, because they value independence from the authority. However, terrorists use their courageous devotion to the job, by kidnapping and killing them to horrify the world. Therefore, the government of each sovereign state must show the guideline to journalists and aid workers how to avoid getting involved in dangers in the War on Terror area. It is more important to prevent the crisis, rather than saving hostages captured by terrorists. Once captured, there are virtually no ways to liberate hostages from terrorists.