Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Question to Japan’s Defense Self-Reliance to Manage the Trump Shock

Donald Trump’s unexpected and unwanted victory in the presidential election is horrifying American allies around the world. Since Trump suggested repealing the alliance network worldwide, and even demanded some allies like Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia to nuclear arm by themselves, people fear New Global Disorder resulting from unilateral abandonment American hegemony. Some people in Japan and Europe argue that that the Trump shock is an opportunity to rethink the postwar security framework, and explore self-reliant foreign and defense policies.

While foreign policy pundits are critically concerned with unpredictable insecurity under the Trump presidency, Japanese nationalists are overjoyed with his suggestion to pull out US troops from Japan, as they want to seize an opportunity to wipe out “postwar political submission to the United States” (“Japanese Nationalists Increasingly Welcome Trump’s Ascendency”; Yahoo News Japan; March 27, 2016). More rational and somber voices emerge from Europeans. Matteo Garavoglia, an Italian and German dual citizen fellow at the Brookings Institution argues that Europe develop independent defense capability, deepen mutual security cooperation within the region, and explore partnerships for global stability with major democracies beyond Europe, like Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, and India (“Never waste a crisis: Trump is Europe’s opportunity”; Brookings Institution; November 10, 2016).

The problem is, Japan does not join any multilateral regional security organizations, because Asia is still too diversified in terms of culture, history, and political economic development. Also, Japan still has territorial disagreements with some potential security partners such as South Korea and Taiwan. Therefore, Japan’s so-called self-reliant national security policy, would simply result in isolation from the world. While nationalists are overjoyed to imagine their long awaited dream of the resurgence of the Imperial Japan, it takes quite a long time to build up truly self-reliant military power, even if Japan is willing to increase defense spending rapidly. Weapons are made to order, and they do not arrive to the customer as soon as payments are made. Also, soldiers need training to use these weapons. Remember how Iraq felt uneasy with the Obama administration, as they delayed to deliver F-16 fighters and train Iraqi pilots, when ISIS was almost taking over Baghdad (“From Iraq to Syria, splinter groups now larger worry than al-Qaeda”; Washington Post; June 10, 2014). From this point of view, an independent nuclear deterrence against North Korea that Trump once suggested is ridiculous.

The problem is not just defending the Japanese a territory including Senkaku Island from China. Without associating with the United States, it is hard for Japan to edge out Chinese influence from Asia, both in terms of geopolitics and business. While Japan appeals universal value of rule based international relations, Asian nations more or less embrace China as an irresistible rising power. In the economy, high quality of Japanese goods and services does not necessarily charm Asian customers over inexpensive and aggressively marketed Chinese ones. A self-reliant Japan would be so vulnerable in Asia, even though it could barely defend its own territory from China. Asian neighbors are not unanimous, regarding the threat of China. Some like Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar are pro-Chinese. Even supposedly pro-Western and pro-Japanese countries can appease China. It is vital for small powers to pursue national survival among competing great powers, rather than to uphold lofty ideals. Thus, they sometimes embrace “irresistible” rise of China as seen in AIIB membership and Indonesian super express railway. Nationalists' dream of a Japanese-led Greater Asia Co-prosperity Sphere is simply absurd and dangerous.

Despite Trump’s isolationist election promise, Asia is historically a natural sphere of American influence even before the disappearance of the frontier in 1890. This is the vital reason why Matthew Perry’s fleet was sent to Japan in 1853 and 1854. That is starkly in contrast with America’s engagement in the Middle East, which was inherited from British imperial legacy. If Trump were to be a realist in foreign policy, he must understand such deeply embedded US presence in Asia, rather than to adhere to myopic profit and loss mindset of a typical businessman. However, Robert Kaplan at the Center for a New American Security criticizes that Trump does not understand realism. He says that Trump has no accurate vision of America’s role and position in the world, and he is hardly dedicated to defending allies and harness American power for global stability (“On foreign policy, Donald Trump is no realist”; Washington Post; November 11, 2016). During the election, what Trump remarked, were utterly contrary to Kaplan, and extremely obsessed with predatory zero sum ideas like racketeers. That has spurred worries among foreign policy pundits both in the United States and abroad.

The Trump shock is by no means an opportunity for Japan to end “servile” relations with the United States, and adopt “independent” and “proud” foreign policy. Then, how should we manage the crisis? Above all, we have to understand Trump’s fundamental thinking pattern. According to Professor Emeritus Gerald Curtis of Columbia University, Trump’s making a deal obsession comes from negotiation techniques of a real estate developer, that is, to show maximum demands at first in order to explore how much the counterpart can make compromises.

Bearing this in mind, we need to think of domestic channels to manage uncertainties of the Trump presidency. Curtis comments that checks and balances through the Congress, the media, think tanks, and the bureaucracy at the State Department and the Pentagon shall not approve of annulling the alliance with Japan. Also, he argues that fundamental national interest will not change whoever the President is (“Trump couldn't change Asian policy even if elected, Columbia professor says”; Nikkei Asian Review; November 8, 2016). In addition, we must work with like-minded Western democracies, and find common resolutions with Washington élites. Fortunately, poorly educated Trump supporters in the election can hardly have influences on policy interactions at this level. Also, a complete beginner in politics, Trump will need help from renowned experts when he finds himself incompetent to fix the problem. Nothing can control an erratic president perfectly, but we must explore every means.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Rebuild Western Democracy to Overcome a World of Uncertainties

People talk about a multipolar world of uncertainties, as the rise of isolationism in the United States is leading the public less willing to support the role of the world policeman. There is no denying that Russia and China are increasingly self-assertive, as they see that America and its Western allies are less interested in engaging with the liberal world order, and Western hard power is in relative decline. But it seems to me that people focus too much on raw power aspects, and dismiss much more worrisome trends, which is the decline of Western democracy. When people lose confidence in democracy, autocratic nations and demagogues are emboldened. This makes the world increasingly unstable and unpredictable.

Let me talk about the general background of democracy in crisis today. The rise of populism in an age of uncertainties is found everywhere in the world. Professor Niall Ferguson of Harvard University presented an overview of this at the Barclays Asia Forum in Singapore on October 20. As seen in Brexit and the Trump phenomenon, antipathy to immigration, free trade, and “corrupt establishment has become more virulent in developed economies, as a result of the financial crisis. On the other hand, people in emerging economies crave for strongman leadership to satisfy their nationalist sentiment, which weakens checks and balances, and also transparency in those countries. See the video below.




How populism deteriorates democracy? A Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt warned about “terrible simplifier” in a letter to his friend Friedrich von Preen in 1889 that “ruffian” leaders would assume their omnipotence to resolve complicated national issues, which would ultimately deny the rule of law. Today, bills and treaties have become extremely lengthy and complicated, compared with those in the past. While historical documents like the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence were just a few sheets of papers, the draft of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) totals 5,554 pages and the Obama care does 961 pages (“Simplifiers v. complicators”; Boston Globe; October 3, 2016). In a circumstance like this, politicians are liable to debate trivial details each other, without sufficiently understanding the overview of the issue. As élites are confused like this, people are increasingly defiant to their “preaches”, and driven by ugly emotion (“It’s Time for Elites to Rise up against Ignorant Masses”; Foreign Policy; June 28, 2016). People today are more susceptible to “ruffian leaders” than those in the Burckhardt days.

Donald Trump is the most notable “terrible simplifier" today, who could discredit Western democracy and destabilize the world. Nevertheless, he is a savior for anti-establishment working class. Not only does Trump disdain economic freedom of choice in his support of protectionism and government controls, but also belittle democratic procedure as shown in his remark “I alone can fix the problem”. Referring to Max Weber’s analysis on charismatic authority, Washington Post columnist George Will argues that popular crave for Trump’s charisma implies that Americans are unprecedentedly receptive and credulous to a magical savior. It is such changes in social norms and national character that helps the rise of a demagogue (“If Trump wins, the Republican party will no longer be the party of conservativism.”; National Review; September 28, 2016). Furthermore, I would argue that Trump’s lifetime career as a family business owner does not match well with checks and balance requirements of governmental administrator. Like employed management professionals, presidents and prime ministers are hired by the state. Trump’s “business acumen” is more adaptable to dictatorship rather than democracy.

Democracy decline in the West emboldens autocratic great powers. This is typically seen in the US presidential election this year, which has fallen into vulgar blame games between the Democrats and the Republican candidates, rather than serious exchanges of policies. The global public is disillusioned with American democracy, which was an exemplar of good governance. Nevertheless, Hillary Clinton showed her superiority in policy common sense to Donald Trump in all presidential debates. Her victory would lessen deleterious impacts of “ruffian” populism that nurtures nativism, racism, misogynism, and isolationism. No wonder Russian President Vladimir Putin meddles into the election to boost Trump. The global public already knows vulgar and anti-intellectual nature of populism in Trumpism, Brexit, and far right surges in Continental Europe. Ironically, NIMBY xenophobia among those self-assumed patriots simply harms the reputation and international standings of major Western powers.

How should policy élites reinvigorate liberal, open and rational democracy? There is no simple answer to this question, but at least, I would argue that they should not compromise with popular nativism. For example, the Obama administration cut democracy promotion budget through the USAID during their terms, as the American public loses interest in it. According to the Pew survey in 2013, only 18% of Americans regard democracy promotion as a foreign policy priority, and 80% of them say the government focus more on nation building at home rather than overseas intervention. However, such disengagement trend puts critical dangers to US national security. They should remember Western indifference to Afghanistan after Soviet withdrawal was so fatal as to cause 9-11 attacks. The rise of far right movements like Trumpism and Brexit is the consequence of élites’ failure to educate the nation to the right direction.

But not everything is pessimistic to Western democracy. Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution maintains that slowing economic growth is eroding the legitimacy of autocracy in China and Russia. Democracy is not perfect, but it is less violent, more respectful to human rights, and more likely to develop the market economy, as he says. Alt-right ideals are not so open and liberal, and completely the opposite. They are more like those of national socialism. Regarding implication of democracy in global security, we have to recall a comment by Former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, “Not every democracy in the world was or is a close ally of the United States, but no democracy in the world has been or is an American enemy. And all of America’s most enduring allies have been and remain democracies” (“Democracy in Decline”; Foreign Affairs; July/August 2016). Ironically, malfunctioned democracy at home poses threats to the free world as dreadful as external threats. Therefore, it is necessary to rebuild our domestic democracy and revitalize our effort for democracy promotion, to restore the stable world order that we rest on.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Japan Should Leave the Job to India to Split the Russo-Chinese Axis

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin early this December in Yamaguchi prefecture, Abe’s home constituency(“Abe to Meet Putin in December”; Sankei Shimbun; September 1, 2016). Both leaders will talk about the bilateral peace treaty of World War II, the Kuril Island territorial dispute, and bilateral economic cooperation in the Russian Far East. Some people in Japan argue that Abe seize this opportunity to split the Russo-Chinese axis, in order to manage the world of uncertainties. However, I would insist that Japan not run such a risk to jeopardize the Western alliance, and leave the job to India instead. Let me explain it below.

First, it is necessary to mention the Russo-Chinese axis. Superficially, both great powers are allies against the West, notably the American world order. However, the Russian Far East is sparsely inhabited, thus, hugely populated China across the border is a potential national security threat. There are only 4.3 million people in the Russian Far East border area, including the Amur oblast, Primorsky Krai, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, and Khabarovsk Krai. On the other hand, the Chinese Northeast overwhelms the neighbor with the population of 109 million (“Russia, China and the Far East Question”; Diplomat; January 20, 2016). In addition to such a state-to-state level threat, Snakehead criminal gangs and illegal loggers from China pose threats to civil and environmental security. In view of Russia’s hidden distrust to China, it is understandable that some Japanese talk of developing a strategic partnership with the Kremlin in order to split both countries to check the threat of the PLA.

However, I would argue that the forthcoming summit should focus on bilateral issues such as the peace treaty and the Kuril dispute. Japan is at the heart of the Western alliance, and therefore, it is not in a good position to get involved in the Russo-Chinese power game. Rather, Americans and Europeans would simply see it suspiciously whether Japan wanted to “Make Russia Great Again”, when tensions over the Baltic and Crimea continue. Just as Japan feels uncomfortable with European appeasement for China, Europe does so with Japanese appeasement for Russia. The notable case of European appeasement is the Anglo-Chinese nuclear deal led by Chancellor of the Exchequer-then George Osborne, which raised critical concerns with Chinese espionage on Britain among the British national security community. Also, Japan and the United States were severely dismayed with such a controversial agreement.

However, current Prime Minister Theresa May said that she would reconsider the deal, in order to weaken Chinese influence on nuclear plants at Hinkley Point and Bradwell (“UK's Theresa May to review security risks of Chinese-funded nuclear deal”; Reuters; September 4, 2016). As the Home Secretary in the Cameron cabinet, May raised national security concerns with the nuclear deal, along with Downing Street Chief of Staff Nick Timothy and MI5 (“Hinkley Point: Theresa May's China calculus”; BBC News; 31 July 2016). May’s action will deter penetration of PLA influence in Europe through China General Nuclear. Japan should act accordingly on Russia.

Meanwhile, India is in a very good position to intervene in the Russo-Chinese power game. None of Western nations raise eyebrows at close Russo-Indian defense cooperation to check China, like the FGFA stealth fighter project for India. Historically, India had close ties with the Soviet Union to rival against pro-Chinese Pakistan. India imported numerous Soviet weapons, such as MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-27, and MiG-29 fighters. After the Cold War, India still deploys Russian weapons, as typically seen in Su-30MKI, which is built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited under the license from Russia. Despite such strong and enduring relations with Russia since the Soviet era, India had kept nonalignment foreign policy, and never joined the Soviet bloc in history.

On the other hand, India had deepened military ties with the West during the Cold War era, and those relations are still developing in this century. India bought Mirage 2000 from France in the past, and during the Indo-Pakistani War in 1971, the Indian Navy deployed the Vikrant, which was a second hand aircraft carrier from Britain. After 9-11 terrorist attacks, India’s strategic partnership with the United States develops rapidly, as typically seen in the nuclear deal between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush. Under the Obama administration, this security cooperation has developed furthermore to invite Japan to the Malabar joint naval exercise (“US, Japan, and India Kick off 2016 Malabar Exercise”; Diplomat; June 12, 2016), in order to deter Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea (“India, Japan Call on China not to Use Force in South China Sea Disputes”; Diplomat; June 15, 2016).

India has been an independent actor in the great power rivalries, and its close relationship with Russia will not change geopolitical balances dramatically. For the West, India is a friendly nation and prospective market. Also, the West balances this country and Pakistan in the War on Terror in Afghanistan, since the latter is frequently unreliable. In view of such close relations with both Russia and the West, India is more fit to the role of splitting the Russo-Chinese axis. For this objective, both Japan and the United States must deepen foreign policy partnership with India, and explore common understandings in Asian security with them. Also, Abe should focus on bilateral issues when he meets Putin this December, in order to avoid unnecessary frictions with America and Europe.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The Fatal Implications of Trump’s Russian Scandal

The American national security circle was outraged to hear Donald Trump’s provocative utterance to urge Russia to hack the Hillary Clinton side’s e-mail, because it was a criminal treason the nation. Trump supporters defend him that he was just joking, but we must remember that his foreign policy “suggestion” was serious as he stressed his America First vision upon accepting the formal nomination from the Republican Party, which was utterly incompatible with party values. It is quite appalling to demand a foreign government, particularly strategic rival to spy on an American official (“'Treason'? Critics savage Trump over Russia hack comments”; Politico; July 27, 2016).

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta questions his loyalty to the United States, because he asked the Russian intervention into American politics (“Former CIA director questions Trump's loyalty to the US: report”; Hill; July 27, 2016). Democrat Senator Harry Reid says more harshly that the CIA give fake information to Trump at the intelligence briefing (“Reid: Intelligence community should 'fake it' on Trump’s briefings”; Hill; July 27, 2016). More critically, Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson comments as a security law expert that Trump’s invitation for Russia to hack America is an act of criminal intent (“Retired admiral: Trump hacking comments ‘criminal intent’”; Politico; July 27, 2016).

In fact, Russia does not necessarily want to help Trump win the election. The vital point is that the Kremlin wants to split the United States as much as possible, in order to impose constraints on American leadership in the world (“Why Putin’s DNC hack will Backfire”; Foreign Policy; July 26, 2016). Trump is so pro-Russian as to remark that he would recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea and lift sanctions (“Trump to look at recognizing Crimea as Russian territory, lifting sanctions”; Politico; July 27, 2016). Actually Trump is scornful of Mitt Romney's warning in the 2012 election that Russia was the greatest adversary (“Donald Trump just called on Vladimir Putin to cyberattack the U.S. and help him win the election”; New Republic – Minuets; July 28, 2016).

What really matters is beyond Trump’s poor awareness in national security. It is his business ties with Russia that could inflict catastrophic impacts on American national security. Trump’s foreign policy advisors George Papadopoulos and Carter Page are deeply involved in the energy business with Russia. Tied with Gazprom, Page criticized American democracy promotion, and asserted that Russia would not invade Ukraine. Also, Trump’s favorite retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn is a regular commentator of Russia Today. In view of their close contacts with these Kremlin-associated companies, Max Boot argues that Trump change his campaign slogan to “Make Russia Great Again” (“Trump's opposition research firm: Russia's intelligence agencies”; Los Angels Times; July 25, 2016).

In addition, Trump himself is suspected to have any financial interests in Russia. He sold his mansion in Florida to a Russian stock broker Dmitry Rybolovlev, with special price. Mentally, Trump and Russian oligarchs are so much in common. Both are overconfident, and in pursuit of hedonistic greed of wealth, lavishness, and sex (“Trump and the Oligarch”; Politico; July 28, 2016). There is no wonder that Trump is so deeply engaged with Russia. His unreleased tax returns makes the public increasingly suspicious of dubious connections with Russia.

The problem of Trump’s pro-Russian remarks is more serious. Appallingly, he said that he would remove the clause of the Republican Party Platform that requires the US government to provide weapons for Ukraine, because he was “not involved” in drafting it (“George Stephanopolous awkwardly corrects Donald Trump when he says Putin is going into Ukraine”; Business Insider; July 31, 2016). Also, he said the mutual defense obligation of NATO was a lopsided burden to America, though European nations join the war in Afghanistan, based on Article V (“Trump’s Loose NATO Talk Already Has Endangered Us”; Defense One; July 24, 2016).

Apparently, everything he says and does is out of rule. There is no wonder why none of renowned foreign policy experts are willing to join the Trump team (“Role Reversal: The Dems Become the Security Party”; Politico; July 28, 2016). If Donald Trump were elected, American foreign policy would be completely paralyzed. The implication of his Russian scandal is fatally deep.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Will Hillary Clinton Rebuild the American World Order from Obama’s Appeasement?

In the American presidential election this year, Republican candidate Donald Trump draws extensive attention with his inflammatory and offensive utterance. The world is imperiled with vehement backlashes to globalization by angry mobs, and furthermore, his isolationism. Foreign leaders and media are scared of a Trump presidency so much that it seems that they are wholeheartedly happy with Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton. There is no doubt that Clinton is far better than incoherent and ignorant Trump. However, we do not want the third term of Barack Obama. We need the candidate to overturn his abstention from American leadership in the world. Obama was obsessed with ending Bush’s war in Iraq and Afghanistan, without helping them rebuild their security forces. As a result, Iraq has become the home of terrorism, and it prevails around the world from there (“Iraq: The World Capital of Terrorism”; Atlantic; July 5, 2016). Also, people have become fatigued with long wars in the Middle East, which leads America less willing to promote democracy, and consequently, adversaries are emboldened (“Democracy in Decline”; Foreign Affairs; July/August 2016). Trump’s America First would make Obama’s failure worse furthermore. Therefore, we must watch Hillary Clinton carefully whether she would reverse Obama’s apologetic and appeasing foreign policy.

Clinton’s foreign policy advisors and campaign funds reflect her liberal hawk visions. From the early stage, neoconservative leaders like Robert Kagan expressed to endorse Clinton (“Trump is the GOP’s Frankenstein monster. Now he’s strong enough to destroy the party.”; Washington Post; February 25. 2016), and he has launched a fundraising campaign for her this June (“Report: Prominent neoconservative to fundraise for Clinton”; Hill; June 23, 2016). Also, Clinton draws by far the most donations from the defense industry during the primary (“The Defense Industry’s Surprising 2016 Favorites: Bernie & Hillary”; Politico; April 1, 2016). Since Republican internationalists such as Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have gone out of the race, Clinton is the last hope for American allies that face critical threats in their neighborhood.

Actually, Clinton is more Republican than Trump in some points. According to a survey by Fortune magazine, 58% of big business executives prefer Clinton, because Trump’s economic policy is still unclear and fear his isolationism ruins their global operations (“Survey: More than half of corporate CEOs prefer Clinton over Trump”; Hill; June 1, 2016). Moreover, eminent Republicans from former senior officials to policy experts express their support for Clinton. They are not just neoconservative pundits like Robert Kagan and Max Boot, but also ex both Bush administration officials, including former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, and former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson (“Here’s the growing list of big-name Republicans supporting Hillary Clinton”; Washington Post; June 30, 2016). From these points, we can expect Clinton to be the candidate of strong and responsible America.

On the other hand, Clinton’s electoral base can move her leftward. Clinton needs Obama’s backing to boost the support by minorities like blacks and Hispanics. Quite strangely, Obama’s approval rate is rising towards the end of his term (“Don’t look now, but Barack Obama is suddenly popular”; Washington Post; May 21, 2016), and that helps Clinton in the election. In addition, she needs to win support from white working class who back Bernie Sanders. This is the key to Clinton’s choice of her running mate. It does not matter so much, if she aligns with Obama or makes some compromise with Sanders liberals in domestic policy, in order to win this election. The real problem is their influence on her foreign policy. That is likely to drive her administration into Obama III.

From the above points of view, let me mention Clinton’s foreign policy speech on June 2 in San Diego. See the video below.




Her speech was almost a template of US foreign policy to deny Trump’s America First visions and irresponsible remark about nuclear nonproliferation. Also, Clinton stressed American exceptionalism for the leadership role in the world. What she said in the speech resonates the Senate testimony by former Secretary of State James Baker on May 12 at the Foreign Relations Committee, regarding US global leadership (“Rubio enlists James Baker to knock Trump”; Politico; May 12, 2016). See the video below.




On the other hand, Clinton stated that she would succeed Obama’s foreign policy approach, typically the Iran nuclear deal. However, this deal was criticized by even Democrats, notably Senator Chuck Schumer, as Iran gets a huge amount of frozen assets overseas to sponsor terrorists through sanction lift. Also, regional tension will grow as Saudi Arabia fears the rising threat of Iran, and distrusts America for a lukewarm compromise with the Shiite theocracy (“One Year On: Iran and the World”; Foreign Policy Association Blog; July 5, 2016). Above all, it is quite difficult to judge whether Clinton’s foreign policy is Wilsonian idealist or realist from this speech. Just as Professor Daniel Drezner of Tufts University comments, everything Clinton said in the speech is right to denounce Trump, but it is quite difficult to categorize her position into right or left, and hawk or dove (“Why Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy speech is almost impossible to analyze”; Washington Post; June 3, 2016). I would say, she is cautious so as not to provoke both Republican exoduses and Sanders liberals.

For further understanding of Clinton’s foreign policy, we need to review the draft of the Democrat Party’s platform on July 1. Wall Street businessmen worry that the party platform is strongly influenced by Sanders, particularly in regulation and taxes to sustain minimum wages. Regarding foreign policy, big businesses are critically concerned with the draft, which says there are “a diversity of views” among Democrats about the TPP. They understand that such an ambiguity suggests that Clinton is not enthusiastic about free trade (“Wall Street Takes a Hit in Democratic Party’s Platform Draft”; Bloomberg News; July 3, 2016). But Trump denounces the TPP more harshly.

Therefore, I would like to talk about some critical issues to see whether Clinton is more proactive in global leadership than Obama or not. The first one is American values in foreign policy. Despite the “smart power” slogan, democracy aid has declined during the Obama era. In the “Protect Our Values” section, the draft mentions various human rights agendas like gender and minority issues, but hardly states about democracy promotion. Middle East terrorism is one of the key matters in the “Confronting Global Threats” section. The draft mentions extensively on the current war in Syria, but not so much on Iraq, though global terrorism is prevailing from there due to Obama’s premature withdrawal. Also, we must not dismiss Iranian proxy influence in both countries, but the draft states Obama’s nuclear deal proudly, while sparing only a few lines to mention growing Iranian threats to Saudi Arabia and Israel in particular. Quite strangely, the draft does not mention China in the “Confronting Global Threats” section, though it was Clinton who led the pivot to Asia, as the Secretary of State.

Above all, Clinton denies Trump’s foreign policy “suggestions” very lucidly and compellingly, both in her San Diego speech and the draft of the Democratic Party platform. Clearly, Clinton’s global policy views are mature and orthodox. Trump’s mishmash ideas are utterly in no comparison. Therefore, I am definitely for Hillary Clinton in this election. Still, we have to be watchful. For fear of flamboyant Donald Trump, people assume that everything is all right if Clinton beats him. But I would call more attention to her. The vital point is the balance of power in the Clinton camp. If the influences of Bernie Sanders and other liberals do not go beyond domestic inequality, things are not so serious. Hopefully, Democrat right wings, neoconservatives, the defense industry, and Republican exoduses have larger voices in foreign policy and national security. Then, America will be much stronger on the global stage.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Brexit Will Turn Great Britain into Little England

Historically, Britain has been Euorsceptic, but that was based on the Anglo Saxon exceptionalism and imperial instinct in the past. After World War II, British foreign policy has been founded on the three circles of influence, the United States, Europe, and the Commonwealth and the rest of the world. Past Eurosceptics placed more emphasis on the Anglo-American special relationship and imperial legacies in the Commonwealth. But today, Brexiters hardly shares such grand strategy visions. They simply fear an immigration influx from the Continent and the impacts of the borderless economy. Such an inward-looking attitude is utterly incompatible with that of Margaret Thatcher who stood firmly against “German dominance” in Europe. Professor Niall Ferguson of Harvard University commented that both the Trump phenomenon and Brexit movements were populist backlashes against globalization after the 2008 financial crisis, in an interview with Australian ABC TV on May 18.

Certainly, Britain has a Common Law tradition, which is expected from those of Roman Law Continental Europe. However, Britain has not been isolated from Europe in history, and even the Splendid Isolation during the Victorian era is a sheer myth. Queen Victoria founded family blood networks with European monarchs and aristocrats through marriages of her children and grandchildren. Among them, Emperor “Kaiser” Wilhelm II of Germany and Empress consort Alexandra of Russia, are very well known. Typically, such sanguine ties helped a peaceful settlement of the Anglo-German colonial rivalry in East Africa, as Queen Victoria gave Mt. Kilimanjaro to Kaiser, while retaining Mt. Kenya under the British sovereignty in 1886. In a more globalized world today, Britain’s position as the bridgehead in Europe to the outside world has become increasingly important.

The negative impact of Brexit ranges from the economy to security. Economic losses are mentioned so much. As a consequence of a withdrawal from the common market, UK GDP would be 6.2% lower than it should be by 2030, according to JP Morgan (“Brexit could cost each Briton 45,000 pounds in lost wealth – JPMorgan”; Reuters; April 29, 2016). Also, consumer confidence would grow weaker. The Bank of England said that business was slowing because of the referendum uncertainty (“Brexit vote uncertainty erodes UK consumer, business confidence”; Reuters; April 29, 2016). But more fundamental and enduring damage to the British economy is a drastic cut of science research funds. Britain is the second largest recipient of EU science budget after Germany, which accounts for a quarter of its research spending (“UK will be ‘poor cousin’ of European science, Brexit study warns”; Financial Times; May 18, 2016). Since more populous emerging economies, such as China, India, Brazil, Nigeria, and Indonesia are rising, advantages in science is critical for Britain to compete in the global market. Brexit could ruin Britain’s economic base for the future.

Security implication of Brexit is no less significant. Britain is the only major European power that exceeds NATO requirement of 2% of GDP on defense. Also, Germany’s Basic Law precludes its proactive military role. Therefore, Europe’s self defense capability will be downgraded, if Britain leaves the EU. And it is not just fire power that matters. The more critical issue is intelligence. Britain shares information with the Anglo Saxon Five Eyes, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Continental Europe may not join this group, but Britain can provide security analyses for them, as long as it stays in the EU (“The Security Implications of Brexit”; Foregin Policy Association Blog; June 13, 2016).

Vice versa, EU membership helps British intelligence. At the parliamentary testimony this May, Former Chief of MI6 John Sawyer and former Director General of MI5 Jonathan Evans told that Brexit would weaken information sharing with Europe, and ultimately, the teamwork of counterterrorism with Continental partners (“Former British spy bosses say nation's exit from EU would pose threat”; Reuters; May 8, 2016). Retired US Army General David Petraeus shares their views as stated in his article to the Daily Telegraph (“Brexit would weaken the West’s war in terror”; Daily Telegraph; 26 March, 2016). Some British experts worry that common European defense would erode British sovereignty, and lead to German dominance (“It is an EU army that could ring about war”; Daily Telegraph; 27 May, 2016). However, Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House argues that Britain uses EU venue to achieve national goals (“Britain, the EU and the Sovereignty Myth”; Chatham House; May 2016).

Hardly any Britain’s international partners want Brexit. The United States worry that Europe’s self defense capability will decline if Britain leaves the EU. If it happens, America has to assume more defense burden against Russia (“The US Has the Right to Argue for Remain”; Chatham House Expert Comment; 20 May, 2016). Also, Britain’s continual engagement with Europe helps America's military and intelligence partnership with the Trans-Atlantic and the Middle East regions (“Brexit Would Be a Further Blow to the Special Relationship”; Chatham House Expert Comment; 20 May, 2016). Germany also wants Britain to stay, because it needs a counterbalance against France (“Germany and Brexit: Berlin Has Everything To Lose if Britain Leaves”; Spiegel; June 11, 2016). British voters are too alert to Japanese-styled pacifist Germany today. Other major partners such as India, Japan, and even “anti-Western” China, want Britain to stay in the EU. It is only Putin’s Russia that wants Brexit to weaken the Trans-Atlantic alliance (“Putin Silently Hopes for Brexit to Hobble NATO”; News Week; June 10, 2016).

Brexiters say that Britain can negotiate the terms to win a more favorable deal with Europe, once leaving the EU. But former Prime Minister Tony Blair commented that new trade and labor movement deals with Europe would require lengthy and laborious negotiations, in an interview with CNN on April 25. See the video below.




Actually, if Britain were to negotiate the deal with Europe to set new relations after Brexit, everything must be done quickly. According to Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union, which was signed in Maastricht in 1992, only a two year negotiation period is guaranteed for a leaver to reset the relationship with the EU. Therefore, it is quite unlikely that Britain could win more favorable deals with Europe in such a constrained condition (“The seven blunders: Why Brexit would be harder than Brexiters think”; Centre for European Reform Insight; 28 April, 2016).

Anglo Saxon élites have led globalization, but ironically, the most formidable defiers to this world order are the working class on both sides of the Atlantic. Like Trump supporters in America, a Brexiter resorted to violence to kill Jo Cox MP (“Jo Cox MP dead after shooting attack”; BBC News; 16 June, 2016). Edmund Burke would have deplored as current Britain has fallen into a turmoil like revolutionary France in those days. But remainers are also to be criticized, as they fail to appeal positive aspects of EU membership, and just argue for status quo to deny Brexit. Therefore, Britain’s Gladstonian open and internationalist ideals are in danger (“E.U. Referendum Exposes Britain’s Political Decay”; Washington Post; June 10, 2016).That has made the referendum on June 23 increasingly confused.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

How Should We Assess Obama’s Hiroshima Legacy?



President Barack Obama visited the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima to deliver a historic speech for a world without nuclear weapons on May 27. The address itself was a critical reflection of human history and civilization to dominate the nature. It was well-balanced, as he expressed heartfelt condolences to Atomic bomb victims of Japanese, Koreans, and American POWs, without giving an apology. In East Asia, Japan faces the continual quagmire of apology to China and Korea. The US-Japanese relations must avoid such an enduring emotional impasse. In the face of the Trump phenomenon, it is quite noteworthy that Obama stressed that America and Japan had overcome wartime hostility to make the alliance real friendship and strategic linchpin in the Asia Pacific region. That helped Prime Minister Shinzo Abe address hopeful and future oriented messages, following Obama.

However, I would like to mention some problems that would ruin Obama’s Hiroshima legacy. The first one is, whether the next president of the United States takes nuclear nonproliferation seriously. The conscience that Obama expressed at Hiroshima needs to be inherited by his successor, regardless of partisanship, ideology, and understanding of wartime history. Particularly, Republican candidate Donald Trump shows extremely insincere attitude on this issue, as seen in his urging of nuclear proliferation to Japan, South Korea, and even Saudi Arabia. Therefore, he is the greatest nuclear threat to the world, now. In view of this, my attention was drawn to the sentence, “When the choice is made by ‪leaders‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of ‪‎Hiroshima‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ is done” in Obama’s speech. Though Obama did not mention the presidential election itself in Hiroshima, he blamed Trump on the final day of the G7 Ise-Shima summit (“In a rare occurrence, Obama speaks his mind about Trump for the world to hear”; Washington Post; May 26, 2016). But the problem is not just Trump. Leaders around the world must be well-aware of nuclear security. Otherwise, the legacy would expire soon.

The second problem is Obama's nonproliferation policy. As shown in the Prague speech, Obama behaved as if he were an apostle of nuclear disarmament. Though the Hiroshima speech was taken favorably among world media and Japanese people, it seemed that he has been obsessed with his lofty ideal at the expense of realpolitik, throughout his presidential terms. This was typically seen in his reset with Russia to start New START negotiations, shortly after his inauguration. However, security environment had changed dramatically, since President-then Ronald Reagan proposed the START with the Soviet Union. Nuclear power balance had turned from bipolar to multipolar, as proliferators like Iran and North Korea emerged. Due to this, America and Russia did not overcome disagreements on the Missile Defense system (“Debating the New START Treaty”; Council on Foreign Relations; July 22. 2010). Also, Vladimir Putin had less incentive to improve relations with the West than the Soviet Chairman Michael Gorbachev did. There is no wonder Obama has not made a spectacular achievement in nuclear disarmament with Russia as Reagan did. In addition, Obama failed to take effective measures to stop the progress of North Korea’s nuclear program. To the contrary, Kim Jong-un has stepped up to test hydrogen bomb and more advanced ballistic missile. But it is not fair to criticize Obama only for this, because his predecessor George W. Bush also failed to stop North Korea.

But above all, the most critical test for Obama’s Hiroshima legacy is the Iran nuclear deal, as he is proud of this “accomplishment”. Opponents criticize the deal, because it will expire 10 years later. Sanction lift releases over 100 billion dollars of restricted assets of Iran, which could enable the Revolutionary Guard to finance terrorists (“Debating the Iran Nuclear Deal”; Brookings Institution; August 2015). Actually, Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that Iran uses some of that money to help terrorists (“US State Department: Iran world’s top sponsor of terrorism”; Y net News; June 3, 2016). The deal may work for the time being, but I would argue that this would not eliminate Iran’s nuclear threats completely. So far as Iran sponsors terrorists continually, they can acquire radioactive materials to make dirty bombs. More seriously, this deal could help Iran develop a plutonium bomb, since the United States purchases 32 tons of heavy water from them for 8.6 million dollars. Under the agreement with P5+1, Iran must restrict its stockpile of heavy water, but it is still allowed to keep a limited heavy water industry for export. This would lead to “external subsidization of Iran’s nuclear program”, according to Tzvi Kahn at the Foreign Policy Initiative (“U.S. Bankrolls Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions”; FPI Bulletin; May 4, 2016).

Obama’s nuclear deal is so fragile, and neither Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei nor President Hassan Rouhani is a Gorbachev. Iran continually denounces America and Britain as evils. Furthermore, they still brandish ballistic missiles to wipe out Israel (“Iranian commander: We can destroy Israel ‘in under 8 minutes’”; Times of Israel; May 22, 2016). It is quite hard to contain their enduring hostility to Anglo Saxons and Zionists with such a lukewarm agreement. The Iran nuclear deal can kill the beautiful legacy that Obama made in Hiroshima. Therefore, we have to see his accomplishments with watchful and critical eyes.