Thursday, December 18, 2014

US Foreign Policy in an Increasingly Complicated Asia

I attended the Japan-Asia Pacific Dialogue, entitled “The Asia-Pacific in Global Power Transition: How Many Great Powers?”, which was hosted by Global Forum Japan and Meiji University on December 12. Panelists at the Dialogue, notably Professor John Mearsheimer of Chicago University, presented a lucid picture of Asia-Pacific power games based on realist perspectives.

Actually, I was rather astonished to hear Wall Street Journal’s editor Bret Stevens talk suspiciously at the Munk Debates on November 5 that Japan’s plutonium facilities could be used for nuclear weapons, if the threat of China grows more critical. Though I agree on his criticism to Obama’s superpower suicide, it was somewhat perplexing that an influential opinion leader like him spoke so alarmingly as if Japan were in the same league with North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan. I am well aware that nuclear nonproliferation is a high priority issue in US foreign policy, and therefore, it sounded like he saw Japan a potential “enemy” to the United States. The problem is not just proliferation itself, but the rise of regional tensions beyond America’s control as we saw exchanges of nuclear tests between India and Pakistan in 1998.

However, Stevens’s comment may not be so “unfriendly” to America’s foremost ally in the Asia Pacific as I worried, according to Professor Mearsheimer’s realist perspectives. The state explores to maximize its national power and prestige, and tries to establish a solid sphere of influence in its neighborhood, for better chances of survival and more freedom in policy options. Therefore, realists see it natural that Japan acquire nuclear weapons, if the United States appeared too weak and unreliable to check growing threats of China. That is because it is the most cost effective deterrence against Beijing.

Granted such arguments, do Japanese leaders dare to get involved in power games with both America and China in their quest for nuclear weapons? Historically, the United States did not accept any dominant power in Asia, as shown in Secretary of State-then John Hay’s Open Door Policy in 1899. Even if seemingly appeasing to China, it is quite unlikely that the United States throws away its grip on Asia, nor does it want unmanageable Far East like the Indo-Pakistani nuclear rivalry in 1998. Therefore, Japanese leaders should act and speak carefully on wartime history, as prominent opinion leaders like Mearsheimer and Stevens speak about the potential of a nuclearized Japan so openly.

The Dialogue was so impressive and insightful, and I would like to raise the following points to consider. The first one is the Pivot to Asia. Certainly, market opportunities in emerging economies in Asia are important. But does that mean that America should be less involved in Europe and the Middle East? Is the Ukrainian crisis simply a diversion from Asia? No, because Russia intrudes Japan’s northern airspace frequently. It is a threat to us both in Europe and Asia. In addition, China defies America globally. Remember China objected to the Iraq War along with Russia for fear of a unipolar world, though the PLA has no power projection capability in the Middle East. Also, China explores to expand influence in Africa through controversial aid. Therefore, I believe that the shift away from Europe and the Middle East is no guarantee of strengthening American presence in Asia. To my regret, this is the real consequence of Obama’s pivot to Asia as typically seen in the rise of ISIS, while China grows increasingly provocative in East Asia.

Regarding China’s global challenge to the United States, we should reconsider why this country frequently mentions itself “still a developing country”. This is not out of modesty, but megalomaniac ambition. I would rather interpret its implicit meaning, “Developing countries of the world, unite! Rise against Western (and also Japanese) imperialism!”. Remember China is a revolutionary state, and there is every reason for them to defy Pax Americana on a global scale. In order to check China’s expansionism, I would argue that the broken window theory be applied. That is, when American enemies find some weak spots, they will be emboldened like gangs who found broken windows on the street.

The second point is a presumed case of hegenomic transition. Should China take over the American world order, the gap with its precursor’s will be huge. Pax Americaca inherited liberal values, culture, and political systems from Pax Britannica. In face of rising rivals in early 20th century, Britain saw America preferable to Germany to share the burdens of a global superpower. This Greece and Rome relations shall never emerge, should China rise furthermore, because the hegemonic fault line between Pax Americana and Pax Sinica would be immense. If it were to happen, China would be Attla’s Hun that devastated Rome and left nothing for the following generations.

The third point is whether the nature of the regime does not matter in great power rivalries even from realist viewpoints. I would like to mention one example which is Iran, because this country has been in quest of the great power in the Gulf region, whether modernist or Islamic theocracy. During the Pahlavi era, Iran sought to rise as America’s guard of the Gulf. The shah was an enlightened despot, and pursued a nation building through Western styled modernization. The shah even appealed great history of the Persians and their superiority to Arabs by de-Islamification. That made Iran very pro-American and pro-Israeli both in terms of realpolitik and ideology. On the other hand, current theocracy wants to rise by defying American supremacy, and extremely anti-Israeli by nature. They advocate solidarity with Shiite mostazafins among their fellow Arabs. There is nothing strange that they sponsor terrorism, both in terms of realpolitik and ideology.

The dialogue was very helpful to understand an increasingly complicated picture of the Asia Pacific region, and sent a critical message to Japanese leaders to behave carefully regarding sensitive issues. Among three questions I mentioned, the most critical one is the real meaning of the Pivot to Asia. Is this just a rhetoric, or kow-tow to market opportunities in China, or real strategic commitment in this region? That is the problem.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Obama's Foreign Policy Makes America and the World More Dangerous

Shortly after the Midterm election, an event called the Munk Debates was held on November 5 to discuss the theme, “Has Obama’s foreign policy emboldened US enemy and made the world more dangerous?”. The Munk Debates are semiannual panel discussions on public policy issues, which are held in Tronto under auspices of a Canadian philanthropist Peter Munk who owns a mining company Barrick Gold. This event draws extensive attention in the English-speaking world, and broadcasted by Caple Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) and CBC of Canada, C-SPAN of the United States, and BBC of the United Kingdom. See the video below.




This event invited four panelists to discuss negative impacts of Obama’s foreign policy on world peace. Pro discussants to this theme were Rober Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Bret Stevens, Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Con discussants were Anne Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of the New America Foundation, and Fareed Zakaria, Host of International Affairs Program of CNN. In these past 6 years, America’s enemies are more multiplied, and behaving more provocatively than ever. Russia’s aggressive policy to Ukraine horrified Europe, as Putin’s behavior to change national borders by force is unprecedented since the end of World War II. The number of Jihadists is rising sharply, and they even found a state-like realm ruled by Sharia law.

Despite the growing global insecurity, perception gaps between Americans and non-Americans are considerable. While Americans disapprove of Obama’s foreign policy far more than they do of domestic policy, it seems that people outside the Unites States still see Obama positively, as if he were the savior to overturn Bush’s unilateralism and overcome domestic racism, as surveys in Germany, Indonesia, and China show people see him favorably. However, Barak Obama’s performance on the global stage is extremely poor. As Bret Stevens said at the event, Obama has not achieved his election promise in foreign policy from curbing terrorism in the Middle East and withdrawing US Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, resetting relations with Russia, to improving ties with Europe and the Islamic world. To the contrary, America’s enemies are growing more active. Jihadists are rampant even though Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden. Russia has reset the reset, and become more adversarial.

Slaughter and Zakaria defend Obama that it is the change of global politics like the rise of non-state actors and emerging nations that matters, which makes the world more complicated. Certainly, Obama is not necessarily responsible for every challenge that America faces today. However, we must doubt his credential as a leader of the state, in view of his precarious and fatal remark to call ISIS a JV team (“What Obama said about Islamic State as a 'JV' team”; PolitiFact.com; September 7, 2014). That startled his own senior officials like Leon Panetta and Michèle Flournoy, and military staff (“Obama ignores Panetta’s warning”; Washington Post; October 6, 2014). History tells us that great empires were often defeated by minor tribes. It is dangerous to belittle the enemy, however weak they are.

In a global security environment as mentioned above, the focal point was the impact of Obama’s failure to meet the red line to stop chemical weapon abuse in Syria, because it was regarded as America’s weakness to manage crisis around the world. Russia’s aggression to Ukraine is a typical case. Furthermore, Kagan stressed that allies from Japan to Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are increasingly concerned with Obama’s appeasement to their enemies in their neighborhood such as China, North Korea, Iran, and ISIS. Rising doubts to American leadership brings about further damages to world peace. Democracy is declining, and rule based world order is defied by autocrats. These points are the core of Kagan’s argument in this event and his publications. Apparently, Obama’s lack of confidence in American leadership makes the world more and more dangerous. For a rebuttal, Slaughter repeatedly asked pro-panelists to prove that global security environment would be much better off, without Obama. But her comment is meaningless, because there is no way of seeing a virtual world. Politics is neither mathematics nor philosophy. However, his fatal error of ignoring national security experts allowed jihadist vandalism in Iraq and Syria. His reset with Russia invigorated Putin. There is no way of denying their ripple effects around the globe.

However, Slaughter raised a critical issue of the post Cold War world, which is the rise of non-state actors, including private corporations, civil societies, individuals, and so forth. She insisted that in an increasingly complicated world like this, American leadership needs to be based on multilateral organizations like the United Nations and its affiliations, rather than exerted through military measures. Also, Slaughter stressed that trade and investment agreements, notably the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), are more important to bolster US preeminence in this century than military actions around the globe. Zakaria said furthermore, that military interventions resulted in catastrophic failure without advancing American values and national interests as typically seen in Vietnam, while the UN and the Bretton Woods systems make much contribution to facilitate American leadership and abate anti-Americanism.

However, it is a complete mistake to under-evaluate military dimensions in US leadership in the world. Though con debaters commented so negatively regarding US military action as the world policeman, Kagan pointed out that Slaughter herself endorsed military intervention in Syria for R2P against Assad, and agreed to fight against Saddam Hussein on the eve of the Iraq War. In addition, I would argue that Kantian diplomacy advocated by Slaughter and Zakaria is reinforced by Hobbesian diplomacy of Kagan and Stevens. Let me mention some cases. To begin with, I would mention the Iran crisis in 1946, which was the first incident, brought to the UN Security Council. As widely known, Josef Stalin’s Red Army continued to stay in northern Iran, even after World War II. It was not just UN resolution, but the potential of a military clash with America and Britain that moved Soviet troops out. Remember Stalin seized opportunities to expand influence and take over neighboring areas in Eastern Europe and Japan’s Northern Territories, without military challengers to fill the power vacuum. Today, Vladimir Putin behaves so similar to him. Shortly after the Iran crisis, the United States led a multinational coalition for airlift against the Berlin blockade in 1948. Subsequently, the United States sent armed forces to fight the Korean War to defend South Korea from North Korean and Chinese invasion, under the name of UN authority. These visible and invisible military interventions boosted the American world order, and Kantian approaches like UN or multilateral initiatives.

While Obama’s premature withdrawal from Iraq and poor handling of Syria has made American allies in the Middle East and around the globe nervous about their national security, Zakaria argued that the pivot to Asia deserves credit as an adaptation to 21st century world, in which Asian economies like China, India, and Indonesia would be increasingly important in world trade and investment. However, Kagan pointed out that Obama’s pivot was simply rhetoric, because the TPP which is the core of his Asian policy was deadlocked, and it is just making power vacuum in the Middle East as bitterly criticized by his former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. Under the name of strategic rebalance to Asia, Obama failed to manage challenges in Asia itself and the rest of the world. China and Russia are increasingly overconfident, and nuclear weapons are proliferating to North Korea and Iran. Furthermore, Kagan said that Obama’s pivot to Asia lacks strategic consideration and so “market-oriented” about the emerging economies. This is the vital point why I am strongly skeptic to Obama’s Asia Pacific policy. I regard America’s strong will to stay as the sole superpower far more important than strategic balance.

In the face of growing Chinese threat, Japan’s response is a vital focus among American policymakers. Kagan said the Japan was so worried of Obama’s appeasement for China, which provoked increasingly nationalist, self-reliant and independent moves among Japanese leaders. In addition, Stevens raised an alarm that Japan’s plutonium facility would be used for nuclear weapons if America appeared unreliable for Nagatacho. I agree with them that Obama’s superpower suicide erodes trust to the United States among Japanese policymakers. However, I do not share with their concerns that current Japan is shifting away from the United States. Certainly, Yokio Hatoyama’s first DPJ administration was so independent and orientalist as to push for the East Asian Community without America. He was an odd man out among postwar Japanese prime ministers, like President Recep Tayyp Erdoğan of Turkey and President Park Geunhye of South Korea are. However, that was rectified under the same DPJ prime minister Yoshihiko Noda. Current prime minister Shinzo Abe may be very nationalist deep in his heart, but as the top leader of the cabinet, he advocates a strong alliance of democracies in his global-oriented diplomacy. Moreover, Abe persuaded Erdoğan to cancel the anti-air missile deal with China to save the Western alliance from autocracy. That may have drove South Korea to reconsider the similar deal with China (“Official: THAAD missile defense system being considered for South Korea”; Stars and Stripes; October 1, 2014).

On the other hand, Japanese leaders must be cautious on wartime history for a staunch and stable alliance with the United States. That is not because Caroline Kennedy was “disappointed” with Abe’s tribute at the Yasukuni shrine last year. She is just Obama’s ambassador, and will go home when her terms ends. No one expects so much on her knowledge of foreign policy. We must see global implication of the alliance from long term perspectives. Kagan and Stevens are well-aware of critical threats of China, while liberals and the business community are more interested in trade and investment opportunities there. But even they worry nationalist and revisionist symptoms in Japan, however small they are. Therefore, Japanese leaders must be cautious enough so as not to help the axis of autocracies led by China.

Finally, I would argue that US leadership cannot be maximized under a president who has little confidence in American values and ideals. Since the inauguration, Barak Obama has been making controversial and apologetic remarks to US foreign policy (“Barack Obama should stop apologising for America”; Daily Telegraph; 2 June, 2009). The same line of thought is expressed in his notorious utterance that America is no longer the world policeman (“Team America no longer wants to be the World’s Police”; Washington Post; September 13, 2013). Such self effacing attitudes have not improved the image of the United States in the world. Simply, autocratic major powers like China and Russia regard Obama’s foreign policy reflects weakening America, and they act accordingly and over confidently, as seen in changing national border by force in Crimea and endangering free navigation of the sea in the South China and the East China seas. Those who hate America hate America, whether Washington is dove or hawk. Long term allies are increasingly worried. Recently reported Iran’s airstrike on ISIS is a critical incident (“Iran Denies it Flew ISIS Airstrikes in Iraq, Pentagon Says Different”; USNI News; December 3, 2014 and “Iran confirms it carried out air strikes in Iraq”; Al Arabiya; December 6, 2014), if Obama permitted their penetration into Shiite areas in Iraq while processing the nuclear talk. Obama’s fundamental view of the world is the key to the question of the last Munk Debates.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Russia encircles Europe from the Air

As tensions between Russia and NATO intensifies since the Ukraine crisis, the Russian Air Force is encircling Europe, not just from the Baltic and the Black seas, but from the North Atlantic airspace off Norway and Scotland. This implies that Russia can cut the supply lines of both eastern and western front lines of Europe. This news draws my attention, because I frequently see information that Typhoon fighters scramble against Russian bombers flying over Scotland on the official Facebook page of the Royal Air force. Particularly, Russian provocation to NATO airspace on October 29 was subsequent and outrageous. Lieutenant Colonel Jay Janzen, Spokesman for NATO’s military command in Mons, Belgium, said “The flights we’ve seen in the last 24 hours, the size of those flights and some of the flight plans are definitely unusual”(“NATO says Russian jets, bombers circle Europe in unusual incidents”; Washington Post; October 29, 2014). It was coincided with annually held Global Thunder exercise by the US Strategic Command. Richard Cliff, Reader of the Aviationist points out that Russia launched similar long range bombers that joined US exercise (“Spike in Russian Air Force activity in Europe may be a reaction to large US Strategic Command bombers exercise”; Aviationist; October 30, 2014).

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has to be more well aware of considerable tension in the air. Scotland definitely needs UK defense umbrella from Russian air intrusion, and things are beyond Trident strategic missile submarines at Faslane naval base. Russia’s encirclement line on the western front stretches further to Portugal. Scottish airspace is vital to stop it. Interestingly, western front nations like Britain and Norway face direct threat Russia as New Europe nations in the Baltic and Black Sea regions do, while Old Europe nations do not. This may be one of the reasons why Old Europe, notably Germany, is more soft liner to Russia than Britain and New Europe. When we talk of Russian threat in Europe, we tend to focus on the eastern front line, since we are accustomed to see standardized world maps like the Mercator projection. The Russian navy and air force can move aggressively into the Scottish air-sea sphere from the Murmansk area via the Barents Sea.




Historically, the air-sea sphere from Norway to Scotland has been a dispute filed of great powers. In both World Wars, Britain and Germany fought hard. During the Cold War, this area was NATO's defense line to stop the Soviet surface and undersea fleets. Today, this is a zone of the Anglo-Russian clash. I would like to argue that a Russian dominance of the Norwegian-Scottish air-sea sphere can cut off the sea lane from Asia to Europe. These days, the potential of the Northern Sea Route draws much attention among policymakers of both Asia and Europe. But even if taking the route off Canada, international trade fleets would face critical threats of Russia when they go into the great power rivaling air-sea sphere.

From this perspective, we must also pay attention to Russian naval aggressivism. US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert told that Russian submarines were increasingly active since the Ukrainian crisis while the surface fleets were aging (“CNO Greenert: Russian Navy ‘Very Busy in the Undersea Domain’”; USNI News; November 4, 2014). Nuclear attack submarines or hunter killers are one of the effective ways to counter undersea threats. The Faslane naval base also accommodates the Astute class submarines, which is one of the best hunter killers of the world. They are equipped with the most effective sonar system (“Astute Class Submarines”; BAE Systems Products), which is a vital advantage to conduct “first look, first shot, first kill” for stealthy arsenals. The air and the sea around Scotland is so strategically important to stop Russia.

Remember Russia acts similarly in East Asia. The Japanese Air Self Defense Force scrambled 533 times against Russian intrusion in the past 6 months, which is more frequently than 308 times in the same period last year (“Russian Jets Invading Japan Airspace In Record Numbers Over Past Year, Japan Wants To Know Why”; Inquisitr; October 19, 2014). Whatever President Vladimir Putin says, this is what Russia does to Japan. Our nation faces the same threat as NATO does. Nationalists and left wingers argue that Japan act self reliant and independently of the West regarding the Ukrainian issue. Definite fact tells us that is absolutely not! I wonder whether they have any proof that the Kremlin is generous to Japan deep in their heart.

Europe and Asia face common threats of Russia. Therefore, both sides need to deepen strategic coordination. Among European nations, Britain is the most willing to seek closer ties with East Asia, as indicated in the word of “re-prioritisation” (“Does Britain Matter in East Asia?”; Chatham House Research Paper; September 2014). Security conditions in the air-sea spheres around Scotland and Hokkaido are so similar.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Don't Politicize American Defense!

While Western democracy was taking holidays from history, challengers like Russia and China reemerged from post Cold War peace. And also, religious extremism rose to eclipse nation states in the Middle East. Furthermore, nuclear proliferators like North Korea and Iran are emerging one after another. The global security picture today has become more complicated than that of the bipolar era. Naïvely believed the end of history as shown in defense spending debate at NATO’s Wales summit, the Western alliance failed to manage multiple rising threats. It is not American “decline” but poorly prepared defense that really matters.

For a peaceful world order, lofty ideals and security strategy must be substantiated with raw hard power. The war against ISIS is dependent on an ad hoc coalition of the willing, instead of established security alliance like NATO. In addition, it is necessary to rebuild American defense beyond partisan and ideological stand points. In order to rebuild defense power, it is necessary to rebuild national security policy.

Currently American security policy is shattered by inter and intra party politics. Michelle Flournoy, CEO, and Richard Fontaine, President, both at the Center for New American Security, presents an overview of politicization of American defense. During the 1970s and 80s, crossover voting was commonly seen, which helped the formation of bipartisan foreign policy consensus. However, strict partisanship prevents it these days. Intra party split is also serious. As to Republicans, Defense hawks and budget hawks bicker each other. On the Democratic side, the far left deviates from mainstream as they regard robust American economic and military presence around the globe simply sacrifices domestic issues like growing inequality (“Rebuilding Bipartisan Consensus on National Security”; June 9, 2014; Defense One).

We must bear in mind that so many Americans are tired of long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that they are drawn to isolationists of either right or left wings. This is the very background to help Barack Obama win the presidential elections for two terms. As Flournoy and Fontaine argued, well-aware people must explore bipartisan national security consensus through various venues. So many things need to be considered to rebuild American defense, including right assessment of threats, right defense size, right defense budget, and so forth. But what really matters is the leadership of the president. As shown in Obama’s comment that he underestimated ISIS threat at the end of this September (“Obama: U.S. Underestimated ISIS, Overestimated Iraqi Army”; NPR News; September 28, 2014), presidential leadership in American defense is extremely questionable.

How Obama’s leadership harmed American defense? Bobby Jindahl, Governor of Louisiana, outlined fundamental fraud of Obama’s defense policy in his lecture on October 6 at the American Enterprise Institute. The fundamental point of his argument is that current world insecurity is the consequence of Obama’s foreign policy viewpoint that denies America’s special role as the provider of global public good and its moral authority in world order. Also, Obama’s disengagement is undermining trust to the United States among the allies. As Jindahl mentions, Obama’s foreign policy is nothing but “don’t do stupid things”, which is simply in denial of Bush’s approach. The most fatal mistake that Obama made was spending cut in defense when multiple threats were rising, from traditional ones like Russia and China to asymmetric ones like Al Qaeda and ISIS. As widely known, Jindahl is one of the prospective candidates for Republican presidential nominee in 2016. The vital point is that he tries to fill the intra party gap between budget hawks and defense hawks by emphasizing himself as a fiscal conservative who advocates wise defense spending while increasing the total amount of it. See the video below.




More importantly, criticism to Obama’s defense policy is rising even from his own camp. When former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates published his memoir, he commented that Obama had no confidence in his Afghan strategy and did not trust his military staff regarding Iraq. According to Gates, Obama was obsessed with nothing but early withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan (“Robert Gates, former defense secretary, offers harsh critique of Obama’s leadership in ‘Duty’”; Washington Post; January 7, 2014). It is somewhat expected that Republican Gates is critical to Obama’s defense policy. Also, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounces Obama’s failure to sponsor the Free Syrian Army, which permitted the rise of jihadists there. Though a Democrat, she is running for the 2016 election, and needs to differentiate herself from Obama. However, Leon Panetta’s rebuke to Obama this fall is startling, because he is a long term Democrat, and held top positions such as the Director of the CIA and the Secretary of Defense under the current administration. Unlike Clinton, Panetta has never been a presidential rival, and supposed to be more loyal to Obama than Gates and Clinton.

In his memoir, Panetta says that Obama was preoccupied with immediate withdrawal from Iraq, although he strongly recommended the president to keep 24,000 troops there (“Obama ignores Leon Panetta’s warning”; Washington Post; October 6, 2014). Along with Panetta, Under Secretary of Defense-then Michele Flournoy and military commanders raised critical concerns with post withdrawal turmoil. However, Obama dismissed their analyses just “bogus and wrong”. That permitted current vandalism by ISIS (“Leon Panetta criticizes Obama for Iraq withdrawal”; CBS News; October 2, 2014). This is partly due to Obama’s lack of understandings in defense and his failure to assess security threats, but more fundamentally, his obsession with stepping down from superpower. In other words, Obama politicized American defense as a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ironically, Obama’s inept handling of defense can be of some help to nurture bipartisan consensus. Obama said, “There is no liberal America and conservative America, but the United States of America” during the 2008 presidential election. Now, he is appalled by both liberal America and conservative America. Will common understandings among the foreign policy circle overcome war weary public and intra party splits of both parties? Hopefully, that will help the next president whoever he or she is.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Japan Should Explore UNSC Reform rather than Permanent Membership

Japan has not abandoned the aspiration for the permanent membership in the UN Security Council, despite a failed bid for this seat during the Koizumi era. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made it clear that Japan would continue to bid for the permanent membership, in his address to the UN General Assembly on September 26. I appreciate such “Never give up” attitude, but is it a worthy quest for Japan? The fundamental problem of the Security Council is not liberating Japan and Germany from the yoke of defeat in World War II, but the veto that precludes the Council from making decisions and acting against threats to global security. Therefore, Japan should propose something fundamental to resolve incapability of the UNSC, instead of reconfirming its position of the 6th or 7th greatest power in the global pecking order, following established P5.

As a matter of fact, I was in the midst of patriotic fervor when the Koizumi administration bid for the permanent membership, which resulted in a failure. I believed so naïvely that Japan step up to a political great power, in addition to its status as the second largest economy in those days. But time has passed since then, and it is necessary to reconsider whether continual bidding will be real Japanese interest or not. Outrageous lobbying will consume a considerable amount of money and energy. Should Japan give pork barrel aid to Asia and Africa, just in order to placate them to vote for itself? To win the bid, Japan asked regional powers such as Brazil and India to make a joint application for the permanent membership. So called G4 applicants, Japan, Germany, Brazil, and India, included emerging powers, in order to charm BRICS nations (“Why Japan Will Never Be a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council”; National Interest; August 4, 2014). However, it is quite doubtful whether regional powers like Brazil and India are prepared to assume global responsibility.

If regional balance is so important, then, the African Union has the right to claim their seat in the Security Council. There is no wonder both the United States and China, supposed to be at odds each other, vetoed G4’s bid (“Editorial: Abe should clarify objective in seeking permanent UN Security Council seat”; Mainichi Shimbun; September 27, 2014). Moreover, Japan’s enduring aspiration for the permanent seat simply gives a good chance for Chinese propaganda. Shortly after Abe’s speech, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reminded all attendants at the General assembly of the fact that it would be the 70th anniversary of Chinese victory over Japanese fascism (“China admonishes Japan in U.N. speech, warning history should not be falsified”; Japan Times; September 28, 2014). If Japan can override the Chinese veto, it is worthy of bidding. Unfortunately, China would block every Japanese endeavor for honorary and prestigious seat, in quest of geopolitical balance in favor of them, and degrade Japan as that target of negative campaigns regarding wartime history, for this objective. In addition, Mainichi Shimbun comments critically that there is no momentum to change the UN Charter, just to accommodate Japan as a new permanent member of the Security Council.

Therefore, I argue that Japan propose something that urges fundamental change of currently indecisive and inactive UNSC, instead of lobbying to satisfy its vanity. I am not in flat denial of benefits to be a permanent member. Prior to the Scottish referendum, former British Prime Minister John Major raised a critical concern, "We would lose our seat at the top table in the UN," if Scotland voted for independence (“What would Scottish independence mean at the UN?”; BBC News; 10 September, 2014). However, Japan’s position is starkly different from those of existing P5 nations, as it must consume so much energy to overcome tough hurdles to win the top seat. Above all, what can Japan do, if it were granted for the permanent membership? Does Japan dare to use veto power at the UNSC to turn the entire world against itself in the worst case? Will Japanese promotion to the honorary seat change the world? Rationally speaking, these are utterly not.

Remember Saudi Arabia stepped down the nonpermanent seat at the Security Council on October 17 last year, because it is so indecisive and so inactive in critical Middle East security issues, including Iran’s nuclear program and the crisis of ISIS. Saudis see current UNSC useless, helpless, and valueless ("Sit on the UN Security Council?"; Weelky Standard; November 4, 2013). Considering burden, benefits, and campaign effort, UNSC membership does not necessarily serve Japan’s national interest. As far as this issue is concerned, I agree with the government of Saudi Arabia completely. We have to keep in mind that the current status of P5 was endowed from the beginning. Therefore, Major’s anxiety on the eve of the Scotland vote makes sense for Britain. But the nations of the rest of the world other than P5 need to struggle to bid for membership in the Security Council even if it is nonpermanent, and not to mention permanent. Japan’s struggle will be vetoed by China in the end. Should Japan repeat such a fruitless attempt?

An initiative for fundamental and universal agenda can create a momentum for change. It is commonly known that the United States is more inclined to the coalition of the willing rather than UN resolutions, because it is the most annoyed with Russian and Chinese vetoes in the Security Council that have been precluding urgent actions even after the Cold War era. This is typically illustrated in the appointment of John Bolton to the Ambassador to the United Nations by the Bush administration, even though he is a vocal critic to this organization. Whether Democrat or Republican rule, such distrust to current UN decision making system is widespread among American policymakers. It is a deadlocked UNSC that really matters to the global community, rather than the pecking order of the nations.

If Japan really were to change the Security Council, focus on fundamental and structural problem. That will draw more support from the world. Regarding the veto problem, I would suggest a change from a single vote veto system to a two or three vote veto system by permanent members. Even if the permanent seat were granted, Japan cannot act alone. A single veto system will not be of much help for Tokyo. Whoever the prime minister is, Japan’s money and diplomatic labor must be spent properly for the right objective. Any actions simply based on patriotic passion and vanity are useless and valueless.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Wales Summit as NATO’s Watershed

NATO’s Wales Summit from 4 to 5 September was a landmark to turn the trans-Atlantic alliance to refocus on Europe from a global NATO after the fall of the Soviet Union, in view of Ukraine. In other words, this summit symbolizes the end of the post Cold War era. In early August, the Lower House in Westminster released a report to stress NATO’s strategic shift from counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan to interstate deterrence against Russia (“Towards the next Defence and Security Review: Part Two — NATO: Third Report of Session 2014–15”; House of Commons Defence Committee). Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, Director of the Paris office of the German Marshall Fund, even argue that Putin’s aggression to Ukraine redefined raison d'être of NATO (“NATO Should Act in Europe’s Defense, Not Ukraine’s”; New York Times; September 9, 2014). European allies welcomed President Barack Obama as he sent a clear message to stop dangerous expansionism of Russia, even though Ukraine was not a member of the alliance (“Putin Has Done NATO a Big Favor”; New Yorker; September 2, 2014). NATO reaffirmed Article 5 to defend East European members to override the challenge posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin (“NATO Summit Steels Alliance Members for Future”; DoD News; September 5, 2014). Let me talk about summit agendas and the future of the alliance.

The most critical issue was Ukraine. Since the Crimean crisis this February, Russian proxies destabilize eastern Ukraine by provoking pro-Russian uprisings. Just before the Wales summit, Russian proxy intrusion prompted an alert among NATO members (“Russia Moves More Troops Across Ukraine Border, NATO Says”; NPR; August 29, 2014). Despite the ceasefire between Ukraine and pro-Russian insurgents on September 5 (“Ukraine's unhappy ceasefire”; Economist; September 7, 2014), and Russian troop pullout since then (Majority of Russian troops have left Ukraine, says Petro Poroshenko”: Daily Telegraph; September 10, 2014), Putin harnesses the weakness of Western democracy by consummate propaganda. He deceives war reluctant Western public that it was local separatists, not Russian proxies. Pacifists are willing to accept such lies (“Putin Attacks the West's Soft Underbelly”; World Affairs; 12 September, 2014). However, Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov who leads an opposition coalition The Other Russia, testified that Kremlin sent troops to invade Ukraine in an interview with BBC on September 4. See the video below.




Therefore, the West should not act on the basis of pacifist wishful thinking against Russia. NATO declared to adopt Article 5 to prevent Putin’s aggression to member states. This is not “a game changer” but “NATO announced military readiness to defend eastern Europe.” See the video below.




The West needs further action to withstand Russian power beyond the current NATO member area. Though Putin cut the scale of troops deployed in eastern Ukraine, it is unlikely that still remaining 1,000 of them leave there. After two weeks since the agreement, NATO commander General Philip Breedlove of the US Air Force told that the ceasefire was in name only, and remilitarization of Crimea was a grave concern. Actually, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said it was Russia’s top priority to increase forces in Crimea (“Ukraine ceasefire is "in name only" – NATO”; Reuters News; September 21, 2014). In face of formidable Russian military presence and Kremlin sponsored seperatists, President Barack Obama offered only $46 million military aid to his counterpart Petro Poroshenko including body armor, engineering equipment and patrol boats, instead of deadly needed antitank weapons and drones. That is worthless, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee urges $350 million military aid in 2015 to counter Russia (“Provide Ukraine with the military aid it needs to deter Russia’s aggression”; Washington Post; September 19, 2014). The West needs to explore further help to Ukraine.

Corresponding to Russian aggression, NATO declared to found the Rapid Response Force to apply Article 5 to east European member states. This joint troop is composed of 4,000 soldiers, and capable of being deployed within 48 hours (“NATO Weighs Rapid Response Force for Eastern Europe”; New York Times; September 1, 2014). Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Spokesman of the Department of Defense, said “It's about making sure a strong message is sent” to Russia (“US Backs Improved NATO Reaction Force in Europe”; Military Times; September 2, 2014). New response force requires command and control reform, logistics innovation, and information sharing among allies, According to Secretary General Anders Fough Rasmussen (“NATO leaders take decisions to ensure robust Alliance”; NATO News; September 5, 2014). Keir Giles, Assiciate at Chatham House, comments that NATO must show the spearhead forces are not just verbal, and act furthermore to stop Russian expansionism (“Ukraine and Estonia are on the Front Line of a New Division in Europe”; Chatham House Expert Comment; 9 September, 2014). In other words, the Wales declaration is just the beginning.

Any declaration or policy must be backed by sufficient defense budget. Putin’s nationalist resurgence was well before the current crisis in Ukraine. However, NATO members cut defense expenditure so drastically in the post Cold War period, as if there were no security concerns in Europe, and even on the global stage. The United States that urges Europe to increase defense spending faces sequestration as the Obama administration failed to manage the Congress. In addition to traditional threats, NATO needs to make preparations for countering cyber attacks (“NATO Set to Ratify Pledge on Joint Defense in Case of Major Cyberattack”; New York Times; September 1, 2014). Leaders from 28 member states agreed to increase spending at the Wales summit (“Allied leaders pledge to reverse defence cuts, reaffirm transatlantic bond”; NATO News; 8 September, 2014). The problem is how it is implemented at each sovereign state level. Poorly coordinated defense policy among allies will not make proposed rapid response forces sufficiently effective.

Though the Wales Summit is a turning point for NATO to refocus on Europe, security challenges outside the Euro-Atlantic sphere have grown substantially. Though the rise of Islamic extremism was not an original agenda, UK Prime Minister David Cameron who hosted the Wales Summit called for a multinational coalition, along with President Barack Obama. The problem is the objective. Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger questioned whether this anti-ISIS operation was to contain them or crush them ("Obama, Cameron to push for coalition against ISIS at NATO summit”; FOX News; September 4 2014). Obama shows lukewarm attitude as he is still weary of firm commitment to send ground troops. Also, despite mentioning to ISIS in the final declaration of the Wales summit, the coalition is dependent on willing sovereign states like France and Arab nations. Cameron himself still must overcome parliamentary objection as he faced over air strike to Syria last time (“Britain close to joining U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State”; Reuters News; September 24, 2014).

Without Putin’s aggression to Ukraine, Afghanistan was supposed to be the top agenda at the Wales summit. ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) will withdraw from there by the end of this year, but continual Western commitment is required. On the eve of the NATO summit, security went worse (“Afghan turmoil threatens NATO's 'mission accomplished' plans”; Reuters News; September 2, 2014). Secretary General Rasmussen urged the Afghan government to sign the BSA (Bilateral Security Agreement) and SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) with the United States as early as possible (“NATO reaffirms continued support to Afghanistan”; NATO News; 4 September, 2014). Three pillars of NATO engagement in the post ISAF Afghanistan are resolute support missions, contribution to build a sustainable Afghan National Army, and strengthening long term political cooperation with Afghanistan (“NATO leaders reaffirms continued support to Afghanistan”; Khaama Press; September 4, 2014). These concepts must be backed up in practice. NATO increased military aid to Afghanistan from $4.1 billion to $5.1 billion after 2014 (“NATO increases funding of Afghan forces to $5.1 billion”; Khaama Press; September 4, 2014).

In addition to stated policy goals and declarations, we need to pay more attention to unstated political moves within the alliance. Turkey’s repivot to the West is a notable one. Ever since Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party) took power in 2002, Turkey shifted away from Kemalism, and pursues more Islamist foreign and domestic policy. However, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, long term political advisor to Erdoğan, tried to repair ties with the West as it faces the war in Syria in the neighborhood. The Syrian civil war has made relations with Iran worse as it sponsors the Assad regime. Turkey lost Islamist allies as a result of the fall of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. Also, Turkey’s sponsorship to the Kurdish against ISIS strained its relations with the Iraqi central government (“Turkey's Middle-East Dream Becomes a Nightmare”; Wall Street Journal; September 3, 2014).

Turkey’s return to the West gives vital implication to global security. Remember Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Erdoğan not to buy air defense missile systems from China that would leak NATO’s sensitive information to potential adversaries. The official declaration mentioned defense expenditure, but it is important how that is spent. The alliance needs to meet dual requirements, which are new Cold War with Russia and possibly with China, and asymmetrical warfare against Middle East insurgents. Just an increase of defense spending does not necessarily satisfy them. Defense policy among allies must be well coordinated to make everything work effectively.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Trans-Atlantic Defense Spending Gap in NATO

On the eve of NATO’s Wales Sumit on 4 and 5 September, the Wall Street Journal showed critical tables ("As Russian Threat in Ukraine Grows, NATO Faces Thorny Spending Questions"; Wall Street Journal; August 29, 2014). Though the size of the economy of the United States and the European Union, most of which are NATO members, is roughly the same, Europeans spend considerably less amount of money on defense than the United States. Agendas at the Wales summit include the Ukrainian crisis, post ISAF Afghanistan, burden sharing, and so forth. Issues like collective security are supposed to be an exemplary model for Japan that is currently turning toward proactive pacifism. However, stark gaps in defense commitment erode NATO’s role model credential among democratic allies.




Let me talk about the two tables. In terms of defense spending share by member state, the portion of the United States rose from 68% in 2007 to 73% in 2013. Currently, sequestration has drastically cut American defense budget, and policymakers are making every effort to revert negative impacts of it to refinance the spending. Despite that, the European share in the NATO defense spending declined. In view of the rise of diversified security challenges, not just increasingly nationalist Russia and widespread Islamic extremism, it is quite strange why Europeans spend so little on defense. As Robert Kagan argues, the gap between American Mars and European Venus is obvious. See the table above.

For further understanding, I would like to mention the other table as shown below, which shows defense expenditure share in GDP of each member state. While NATO recommends 2% for defense, at least, only four countries, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Estonia, meet this. Some of them, including Canada, Spain, and so forth, spend 1% or less for defense, which is the same level as that spent by old passive pacifist Japan. Startlingly, Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania spend only 0.9% and 0.8% respectively. Both of them are front line nations against Russia, and NATO sends air squadrons there, as tensions over Ukraine grow. Some people argue Europeans need to sustain their welfare states, and they cannot pay for defense so much. That is no excuse. They spent 4 to 5% of GDP for defense during the Cold War, while maintaining the standard of social security.




Whatever the strategies are, and however well-designed they are, none of them can be implemented without sufficient size and quality of defense. In the name of a global NATO as seen in operations in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, the alliance downsized its military power since the fall of the Soviet Union. Now, NATO is pivoting to Europe, because Russia reemerges a critical threat as seen in the Ukrainian crisis. However, none of the threats, whether regional or global, can be managed by poor defense.

Remember that Pax Americana is based on the alliance of the willing, whether in a unipolar, multipolar, or even non-polar world. The trans-Atlantic alliance is the keystone of it. A split NATO, leads to a weaker alliance and weaker democracy around the world, and in the end, that will give re-rise to the Dark Age, dominated by autocratic great powers and medieval religious fanaticism. Ask what makes the alliance viable. That is a universal question.