Monday, November 23, 2015

How Should We Respond to the Anglo-Chinese “Golden Era”?

Britain hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping last October to hail the dawn of the “Golden Era” between two countries (“China, Britain to benefit from 'golden era' in ties – Cameron”; Reuters; October 18, 2015). Meanwhile, human rights activists denounced Chinese oppression in Tibet, and the Royal family treated Xi sarcastically (“Chinese president meets Queen as anger over human rights and steel overshadows state visit” Daily Express; October 20, 2015). But from a policy perspective, the most critical concern is the security implication of nuclear plant construction in Bradwell and Hinkeley Point. Before exploring our response to the Anglo-Chinese nuclear deal, I would like to narrate the background of British foreign and domestic policy.

To begin with, we have to understand Britain’s foreign policy rebalance. Currently, British media talk about Brexit as Prime Minister David Cameron suggests a national referendum to question EU membership (“EU referendum: Brexit will become a real danger if David Cameron fails to secure reform deal”; Independent; 9 November, 2015). Britain has been frustrated with immigration problems within the Union, and explores more market opportunities in the emerging economies, particularly in Asia, rather than in the Eurozone. This is nothing strange in view of Britain’s traditional ties with Commonwealth nations, and some of them are leading emerging markets, including India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, and Nigeria. While the United States talks about "pivot" or "rebalance" to Asia, Britain is initiating "reprioritisation" to Asia. This is typically seen in Cameron’s salesman diplomacy when he visited India in 2013 to accompany a huge business delegation (“Cameron bats for British trade with India”; Financial Times; February 18, 2013). Despite notorious handling of Muslims in the Gujarat riot in 2002 as the Chief Minister, Cameron courted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for investment on his visit to the United Kingdom (“Cameron to welcome Modi to UK despite misgivings by Indian Muslims”; Financial Times; July 12, 2015). Human rights activists may blame Cameron, but his diplomacy was already “market-oriented”, before Xi’s visit to London, and it is loyal to Britain’s historical instinct.

In order to assess the controversial business deal with China, we need to understand how Britain sees her global position, particularly between Europa and Asia. This October, Chatham House released a policy paper, “Britain, Europe and the World: Rethinking the UK’s Circles of Influence”, and mentions three challenges to British foreign policy: globalization and intensified economic competition; diversified threats from geopolitical tension with Russia and China to the rise of Islamic extremism in the Middle East and around the world; and structural reform of aging multinational organization from the United Nations, international financial institutions, NATO, and the EU. In view of these challenges, this paper says that Britain must adapt to the trend of the US-China power balance. Then, we need to explore how Britain is making an adjustment.

As the Cameron administration sees the Bretton Woods system needs to be revised to live up to the change of power balance in this century, Britain advices China how to internationalize remimbi. Quite importantly, Britain’s exports to BRIC and MINT countries grow stagnantly, only those with China surges twofold from 2011 to 2014. Though the US-Chinese clash in the East and South China seas is a security concern, Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, points out that Britain has different interest and capability over China from those of the United States as mentioned in the event audio below, taken on October 19. The focal point of his argument is to keep Britain influential. In postwar British foreign policy, the United Kingdom assumes itself a hub to connect three circles of the United States; Europe; and the rest of the world such as the Commonwealth, the Middle East, China, and Japan. However, Niblett says that Britain’s role as the transatlantic connecting bridge is fading, as America keeps more eyes on the Baltic states to contain Russia, and Britain is out of the Eurozone. In addition, Niblett comments that erosion of international organizations like the United Nations, Bretton Woods banks, and the G7, poses critical constraints to British influence in the word as she is a key stakeholder of these organizations. Therefore, he argues that Britain needs to deepen relations with China to rebalance foreign policy priority and rebuild international organizations.

Nibletts’s view is founded on such deep analyses and sober realism, but still, I have to raise an objection to Britain’s excessive engagement with China. Historically, Britain embraced rising powers to maintain global influence. During the Victorian era, Marquess of Salisbury explored to maintain good relations with both America and Germany. But that did not last as Germany grew antagonistic later. From this point of view, we must question to the Anglo-Chinese golden era. Britain’s membership to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank may have a ground to some extent, in view of the Chatham House paper and Niblett’s comment. But the risk and security implication and of the nuclear deal is far greater than that of AIIB membership.

Also, we have to pay attention to the role of Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne within the Cameron administration that overrides security and environmental concerns with the nuclear deal. When he visited China this September to boost bilateral trade, they thanked him for not mentioning human rights so much (“Osborne praised for 'not stressing human rights' in China”; BBC News; 25 September, 2015). Remember Osborne drove Britain to join the Chinese led AIIB (“George Osborne talks up growth on visit to Beijing”; Daily Telegraph; 20 September, 2015). Nigel Inkster, former director of operations and intelligence at MI6, warns of Osborne’s view to seize a huge market opportunity in China. Meanwhile, Osborne wants infrastructure investment from China, in addition to boosting bilateral trade. Due to partisan politics in Westminster, Tory MPs are reluctantly dragged into the initiative of the Osborne Doctrine (“China and 'the Osborne Doctrine'”; BBC News; 19 October, 2015). The underlying idea of this doctrine is that it is Britain’s imperative to be connected with rapidly rising China if she were to stay as a key player on the global stage. This is the vital reason why he wants Britain to be China’s best friend in the West (“An interview with George Osborne”; September 24, 2015).

The chasm between Osborne and Inkster may reflect policy priorities of the Cameron administration. While Cameron is enthusiastic to boost British trade and investment, he has sacrificed national defense for the sake of budgetary rationality as typically seen in Russian intrusion to the Scottish air sea sphere. General Raymond Odierno of the US Army raised a critical concern with this, which upset Westminster this March. Actually, Britain’s defense spending is falling, though Cameron boasts that his country attains NATO target of the GDP 2% guideline (“Britain's Promise to America: We'll Spend 2% on Defense”; Motley Fool; July 25, 2015).

While the nuclear deal with China reflects Brexit moves, we need to notice French involvement behind the curtain. Prior to the Anglo-Chinese deal, EDF (Électricité de France) and CGN (China General Nuclear) signed an agreement for further cooperation to build fuel processing and recycling facility (“China, France further strengthen their nuclear cooperation”; World Nuclear News; 1 July, 2015). It is EDF that helps China build Bradwell and Hinkeley Point nuclear plants (“Chinese investment in British nuclear power is fueling concerns”; Washington Post; October 20, 2015). Nuclear technology is a sensitive issue of national security, but Chinese utility companies are penetrating into Europe much earlier than commonly expected.

In order to tackle these problems, we should appeal our views to the British people who share common anxieties like the environment and security. Particularly, nuclear safety is a globally perceived issue after the Fukushima shock. While China wants to use the power plants for their industrial showcases in the West (“Osborne expected to back Chinese nuclear power station in Essex”; Guardian; 21 September, 2015), British environmentalists and local residents worry whether Chinese companies abide by Western standards to preserve the ecology of the Bradwell estuary (“Chinese-built reactor at Bradwell could have 'major impact' on estuary”; Guardian; 19 October, 2015).

More critically, CNG is closely tied with the People’s Liberation Army as many other Chinese companies are. Chinese engineers can steal sensitive advanced technology through hacking or traditional styled espionage. Remember, Putin’s secret agent lurked in Russian communities in London to kill Alexander Litvinienko. Bradwell and Hinkeley Point plants can become Trojan horses to accommodate Chinese spies for another Litvinienko poisoning. It is too well known that China stole F35 information from BAE Systems (“After latest F-35 hack, Lockheed Martin, BAe Systems, Elbit under multiple cyber attacks….right now.”; Aviationist; March 14, 2012). It may be a tip of the iceberg, and China could have hacked furthermore information from BAE Systems, like the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier and numerous missiles. As a former MI6 senior official, Inkster points out that China will take advantage if they find weakness on the British side, as they are so hard power oriented and self interested. Chancellor Osborne and Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond argue that Britain will exert influence on China behind the closed door, but things will not go so easily as they say.

In addition, this nuclear deal is contradictory to Britain’s recent action with the United States, NATO allies, and Japan, to persuade Turkey and South Korea not to buy HQ-9 anti-air missiles from China for fear of security information divulgence. Also, why does the United Kingdom have to solicit China to build controversial nuclear plants? Britain is a world leader in science and technology, and the public takes pride in it even during the British disease era. As proven in the Astute class submarine, Britain has advanced nuclear industry. Why doesn’t the government sign up with home companies to employ British engineers? This is more logical to create jobs and stimulate the economy through public investment.

We have to raise these environmental and security concerns with the nuclear deal to Cameron and Osborne, in resonance with domestic opponents in the United Kingdom. Particularly, Osborne is the front runner to succeed Cameron’s premiership, and he drove Britain to turn the China policy from Cameron’s meeting with Dalai Lama in May 2012 (“The one chart that shows how George Osborne is almost certainly going to be our next Prime Minister”; Independent; 2 September, 2015). Both the United States and Japan must send a strong reminder message to Osborne, as all Western allies did to Turkey and South Korea over the Chinese air defense system. Though Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn denounced China for human rights violation ("Nuclear deals with China could endanger UK national security, says Labour"; Guardian; 16 October, 2015), his party was critically damaged in the last general election, to lose their traditional electoral bases in Scotland to the SNP (“Election 2015: SNP wins 56 of 59 seats in Scots landslide”: BBC News; 8 May 2015). It is quite unlikely that they replace Cameron. Chinese influence on Britain can grow furthermore, if we do nothing.

Therefore, we must ask Osborne to explain his vision of British and global security. Also, the French connection through EDF must be questioned. China’s penetration in Europe is quite deep, and PLA influence on nuclear security must be removed or minimized before it gets too serious. Finally, I would raise a question whether Japan can replace China to represent the rest of the world, if British policymakers conceive their transatlantic position is eroding so seriously. Ultimately, it is Japan that can share security burdens with Britain, not China. In science and technology, the Anglo-Japanese partnership will bear more fruit than the Anglo-Chinese one. We should be much more alert to this dangerous nuclear deal.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Post Script of the US Naval Aviation

The last post mentioned multimission air wings of the US Navy and Marine Corps, particularly about helicopters. They are used both in combat and support missions, as typically seen in MH-60 Seahawk. Currently, this helicopter is divided into two variants. One is MH-60R Romeo, which focuses on electric warfare, and anti-submarine or anti-surface combat, with advanced radar and sensors.

MH-60R Romeo

The other is MH-60S Sierra, which is used for search, rescue, special force deployment, and other utility missions. Both Romeo and Sierra are derived from Army UH-60 Black Hawk, and share common platform design.

In addition to multimission use, quick and deep troop transportation into the land is a vital role for Marine heavy lift cargo helicopters. Currently, they are replacing CH-53E Super Stallion, or Echo with CH-53K King Stallion, or Kilo. This will enhance quick response capability.

Fixed wing aircraft are also used for multimission with a single platform. Though C-130J Super Hercules is a transport and aerial refueling plane, it is also applied for close air support missions. Helicopters and logistical planes are utilized for numerous sorts of missions as mentioned here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Evolution and the Problem of the US Naval Air Wings

Currently, US air power of both the navy and the air force stand at crossroads. That is due to the following reasons. First, American fighter and attacker inventories are in transition to the next generation because their service life is expiring. Second, new air wings must lay weight on latest technology and changes of aerial combat concepts such as stealth, information fuse, and situation awareness, rather than speed and maneuverability for traditional dog fight capability. Third, global security environment has returned to modern or even pre-modern rivalries. Pax Americana in the air faces multiple threats, as Russia and China upgrade their air power, and other challengers like Iran and terrorists are increasingly defiant to the world order. Fourth, since the end of the Cold War, defense spending has been severely constrained, which hinders modernization of US air power both in terms of quality and quantity. How will the US Navy overcome these problems?

For an overview of America’s naval air wings, the Center for Strategic and International Studies held a panel discussion entitled “Naval Aviation” on August 12, which was featured by Lieutenant General Jon Davis and Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker, and moderated by Retired Admiral Joseph Prueher. Naval aviation consists of various kinds of aircrafts for numerous purposes, from fighters and attackers to those of supportive roles and of command and control duties. Not all of them are based on warships, and some are based on the land. In view of this, the CSIS event summarized the state and the strategy of the naval air wing very lucidly. However, the discussion focused so much on multirole capability of aircrafts and power projection to the land that I would question why they talked so little about fleet air defense from enemy fighters and carrier killers. Carrier squadrons can fulfill their various missions only when they are shielded by firmly founded air superiority. In other words, complete flee air defense is a Monroe Doctrine to the enemy that the carrier strike group is attacking.

Now, let me talk about the panel discussion. Rather than about fighter squadrons, the panelists talked more about multimission helicopters for logistics, electromagnetic and cyber warfare, close air support, reconnaissance, anti-surface and submarine operations, and so forth. Also, they emphasized the importance of information fuse and sharing with friendly aircrafts and vessels for the war in the new era. Among those helicopters, V-22 Osprey of the Marine Corps was the primary focus. The tiltrotor system enables Osprey to fly farther and faster than other ones, which is a huge advantage for power projection to the land. Also, it is capable of doing precision bombing and long range communication, in addition to amphibious landing. As the US Navy is introducing Osprey, they are learning how to use it from the Marines. Due to flexible and multimission use, V-22 draws attention from some American allies. For example, the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier is so large as 65,000 tonnes to make room for V-22 and CH-47 Chinook in its hangars (“Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier: A Guide”; UK Defence Journal; April 2, 2014).

Unmanned aircraft was also a key focus. Lieutenant General Davis talked about the optional use of future helicopter for manned and unmanned operation, depending on the mission. Actually, Sikorsky has already admitted that the Army would use an unmanned version of their UH-60 Black Hawk for dull and dangerous operations (“Sikorsky develops unmanned UH-60 Black Hawk”; Defence Aviation; Defence Aviation; May 3, 2014). But complete UASs (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) such as MQ-4C Triton are already in use for ISR missions, and UCLASS (Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike) is on the test, as Vice Admiral Shoemaker mentioned. Their initial reconnaissance provides integrated pictures for targeting to strike squadrons.

Despite new war concepts and technology, strike and air defense capability of the fighter squadron is the core of naval aviation. The Navy and the Marine are replacing FA-18 Hornets and Super Hornets with F-35B and C, to meet new era requirements such as stealth penetration, and more importantly, information fuse and sharing. However, the F-35 project delays so much, and particularly, carrier based F-35C will not be deployed until the 2020s. Therefore, the Navy and the Marines are extending the lifespan of both Classic and Super Hornets from 6,000 flight hours to 9,000. Still, some of them are so over-aged that Boeing proposes to make new Super Hornets in addition to SLEP (service-life extension program) of currently in service ones, in order to make up for the sharp decline of fighter numbers (“Boeing Offers New, Rebuilt, Upgraded Super Hornets To U.S. Navy” Aviation Week; October 13, 2015). But the number is not the real problem. Both panelists hardly talked about air supremacy of the Navy. Without that, any multimission operations that the Navy and the Marine Corps envision cannot be carried out, as I mention above. Whether FA-18 E/F Super Hornet or F-35C Lightening, they don't specialize in air defense.

Ever since the retire of F-14 Tomcat in 2006, the US Navy has no fighters for air superiority and interception. Due to post Cold War budget constraints, American defense planners have been obsessed with cost performance of fighter jets. That has made US Navy carrier strike groups vulnerable to growing enemy A2AD capability after the return to great power rivalries. Defense commentators criticize that America assumed “the end of history” so prematurely. Dave Majumdar, Defense Editor of The National Interest, comments this more harshly, “In the 25 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Pentagon has more or less taken air superiority for granted. Neither Donald Rumsfeld nor Robert Gates took air power seriously” (“The U.S. Military's 'Top Guns' in the Air Have a Big Weakness”; National Interest; October 13,2015). He argues furthermore, that neither FA-18E/F nor F-35C is reliable enough to ward off current enemy fighters such as Su-30SM and Su-35S of Russia, and J-11D and J-15 of China, in terms of combat range, acceleration, flight altitude, and large missile capacity. In addition, next generation fighters like Russia’s PAK-FA and China’s J-20 have stealth and super cruise capability. Particularly, enemy air power is a critical threat in the Western Pacific. The Navy is exploring an F-14 type air superiority and interception fighter for FA-XX to replace the Super Hornet in the future, with large sensors, fast cruising speed, and a large space for missiles, HPM (high-powered microwaves), and lasers (“Does the U.S. Navy Need a 21st Century F-14 Tomcat?”; National Interest; October 13,2015). But fleet air defense is a current problem, not that of such a distant future.

Retired Captain Jerry Hendrix, Senior Fellow at the Center for New American Security, criticizes more vehemently about the state of the Naval Aviation today. He points out that current US carrier squadrons are forced to move out of the reach of China’s DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile since the range of naval fighters is too short. While DF-21 covers 1,000 nautical miles, Super Hornet can operate only within 496 nautical miles from the carrier without aerial refueling. That is less than half of the range carrier based fighter/attackers in 1956, like F-8 Crusader and A-4 Skyhawk, as shown below. Even F-35C, which is expected to serve for long range missions, has just a 550 nautical mile actual combat range, only 50 nm longer than Super Hornet. That is far shorter than that of F-14 and A-6 (“Retired US Navy captain: The centerpiece of the Navy's future doubles down on a 20-year-old strategic mistake” Business Insider; October 20, 2015). His analysis mentions a vital point. Strategic focus may shift from air to air combat to ground attack, and even to electromagnetic and cyber warfare, but fundamental capability of a fighter must be satisfied. Otherwise, an aircraft carrier does not work as a frontal air base where land based air power is unavailable.

Though Super Hornets have been updated with latter day technology in avionics, sensors, and loaded weapons, they are just larger variants of Legacy Hornets. Inherent defects like slow speed and acceleration, and shorter flight range, are not resolved easily. The performance of a machine is highly dependent on the original design, while that of a man can be improved through efforts. Neither Super Hornet nor F-35 is designed for air superiority, and they are completely different vehicle from F-14 and F-15. Some enemy A2AD can reach farther than land based missiles. China’s H-6K strategic bomber is capable of long range precision strike against the US carrier strike group (“China’s Strategic Bombers Capable Of Long-Range Precision Strikes”; Value Walk; October 18, 2015). As the US Navy tried to counter saturation attack of Soviet Tu-22 Backfire during the Cold War, naval air superiority has become increasingly important today. Fleet air defense with the Aegis Combat System is complete, only when aerial combat fighter squadrons are associated with such surface combatants. Moreover, laser weapons and rail guns are still future technology at this stage.

The US Navy invents so many war concepts as Vice Admiral Shoemaker and Lieutenant General Davis told at the CSIS event. However, fundamental aspects should not be dismissed regardless of changes in strategy and technology. For example, the Navy’s idea of safety is somewhat contradictory. While they use unmanned aircraft for dangerous ISR and low altitude strike missions, the fleet as a whole will be in danger without solid air supremacy. Current state of naval air power is the consequence of policy failure, as it was the case shortly after World War II. To begin with, American defense planners made easy compromises with tax payers’ demand shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and cut a huge inventory of Cold War arsenals to replace some of them with “cost effective” ones. F-35 is a typical case of cost performance obsession, as the Pentagon gave priority to the merit of scale. Like F-111, the Joint Strike Fighter adopts a common design for different services. But a joint project works well when all stakeholders share common objectives. While the US Marine Corps, the Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force need Harrier replacement, the US Air Force and the US Navy do not need STOVL. There is no wonder that this project delays so much, and the cost rises sharply, in view of such discrepancies. The US Naval Aviation must wake up from a holiday from history, with resolidified air supremacy and strike capability.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Postscript of Iran and the United States over the Nuclear Deal

In a previous post, I mentioned Capitol Hill opponents to the Iran nuclear deal were working hard to repeal it. However, they failed to reach two-third majority in the third vote to overturn the deal. As a result, the President’s bill has passed the Senate (“Last bid to kill Iran nuclear deal blocked in Senate”; Reuters; September 17, 2015). Despite that, four Democrat senators of Ben Cardin, Joe Manchin, Bob Menendez and Chuck Schumer voted against the deal for all the three times, along with Republicans (“Senate Dems stonewall Iran resolution, handing victory to Obama”; Hill; September 17, 2015).

However, opponents have not given up hope to impose restrictions on the nuclear deal to prevent cheating by Iran. They call for reauthrozing the Iran Sanctions Act in 1996 to pressure foreign companies not to invest in Iran's oil and gas industries, when Iran does not comply with the deal. In parallel with this, they endorse military aid to Gulf Arabs and Israel to bolster their deterrence against Iran. Furthermore, inspection takes a long time, and conflicts between Iran and the global community may happen. Opponents will demand strict compliance to Iran (“Iran nuclear deal is done, but not the debate in Congress”; AP; September 19, 2015). Remember, disagreements between UN inspectors and Saddam Hussein triggered the Iraq War.

Cooperation among P5+1 is founded on the house of cards. Disagreements over Syria split the stakeholders of the nuclear deal. While Russia and Iran sponsor the Assad administration to defeat ISIS, the United States backs the Free Syrian Army to replace Assad with a democratic regime. Saudi Arabia fears growing Iranian influence in Syria through their support to Assad (“US-Russia tensions on show as Putin and Obama clash over Syria”; Guardian; 28 September, 2015). As tensions between both regional powers get intensified, mutual trust between Iran and the rest of the world will grow increasingly fragile.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Real Will of the Japanese Public at the Friendship Festival in Yokota Air Base

So many people at the US-Japanese Friendship Festival

The US-Japanese Friendship Festival was held on September 19 and 20 at Yokota Air Base of the USFJ (US Forces in Japan) and the JASDF (Japan Air Self Defense Force). The Friendship Festival this year needs more attention than ever. That is because the security bill had passed in the House of Councilors through excessively emotional partisan battle, early on September 19, just before the festival. How this event is taken among the public is a critical test to know the real will of the Japanese that has not revealed in media reports and academic researches. The bottom line is that the media attitude was wrong to over-evaluate opponent voices. That is because innumerable number of visitors and vibrant atmosphere of the Friendship Festival show strong support for the US-Japanese alliance and the defense law among the Japanese public eloquently, whatever they say.

The Osprey draws so many visitors.

This security bill caused huge street demonstrations in front of the National Diet by left wing and liberal opponents such as SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy-s), and the media paid great attention to them as the return of the conflict over the US-Japanese security treaty in 1960. The demonstrations were so big that Katsuya Okada, Leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), branded the bill as a neglect of people’s voices. Certainly, so many people occupied Nagatacho, and shouted loudly against the security bill. But do they really represent Japanese public opinion, both in terms of logic and emotion? We must bear in mind that left wing groups are adept in mobilizing people to such street rallies. According to the introductory theory of political science, a strongly united and firmly directed organization can exert more influence than the majority of people. It is quite doubtful how much Nagatacho occupiers represent Japanese public opinion.

Incredibly many people are waiting to get on board AWACS.

On the other hand, citizens visited the US-Japanese Friendship Festival in Yokota AirBasewere not mobilized by any organization, and they came there voluntarily. Usually, it takes about 15 minutes from Ushihama Station on the JR Ome Line to the base on foot, but it took more than one hour when I visited there. The police arranged the cue of visitors to to go by a roundabout route, so that the huge crowd would not obstruct the traffic of people in the neighborhood. Even before entering the base, such an immense crowd showed high support to the USFJ and the SDF, and their popularity, and it was hardly imaginable that base visitors were Japanese citizens as Natagacho occupiers were. On our way to the base, we found about 20 activists of the Democratic Youth League of Japan were demonstrating against the security bill, but visitors to the US-Japanese Friendship estival are the least likely to listen to what they say. Their rally was simply scorned and scoffed.

GIs and a Japanese girl

In the end, I managed to enter the base, but I had to wait very long at every pavilion and exhibition. Also, numerous visitors took photos with American soldiers. Seeing scenes like these, you will realize immediately, which group do Japanese people trust, the USFJ and the SDF, or SEALDs and Professor Emeritus Setsu Kobayashi of Keio University. Nagatacho occupiers ignored silent voices among the public, and behaved as if “L’opinion publique, c’est nous (We are the public opinion)”. That attitude is quite like that of Louis le Grand, and thus, they are not eligible to call themselves civic activists at all. Politicians who misunderstand public opinion like DPJ leader Okada, should pay attention to people who welcome the US Forces simply and frankly. Such innocent support for the US Forces and the Self Defense Forces is widespread not only among visitors came to the base from somewhere far away by train. People living around the base enjoyed the festival in the neighborhood, and entered the facility to see the firework at night. Unlike Okinawa where left wingers come from the mainland, US Forces in Yokota are on good terms with the local community.

Pax Americana? People rest peacefully on the ground.

In view of these, I would question biased coverage by the media that takes up voices of opponents to the security bill, which has emboldened them more than necessary. They are supposed to listen to silent voices among the public. In addition, opponent parties shouted impatiently, “People do not understand”. However, innumerable number of people showed empathy and understanding to the USFJ and the SDF. The US-Japanese Friendship Festival at Yokota Air Base says it for itself. This implies that acceptance to the security bill that promotes further US-Japanese defense cooperation is spreading quietly among the public. Understanding of this defense law is dependent on the will much more than the brain. It will end up in vain to tell the transition of international affairs and its Hobbesian nature to doctrinaire unilateral pacifists like Nagatacho occupiers. Those who do not want to understand shall never understand whatever they hear. The real grassroots are visitors to Yokota Air Base. Therefore, when the government execute the bill after the vote, they should consider which groups’ voices need to be most seriously taken into account.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Unlikely Détente between Iran and the United States

Some hope that Obama’s nuclear deal will pave the way for a détente between Iran and the United States. But as I repeatedly say on this blog, that is unlikely. The nuclear deal itself faces vehement bipartisan criticism in the Congress and concerns among American allies in the Middle East. Though the Senate vote failed to reach two third majority on September 10 (“Lawmakers Against the Iran Nuclear Deal”; New York Times; September 10, 2015), Senate Republican leader Mitch McConell calls for the third vote on Thursday to reject the deal (“Senate Dems block vote to disapprove of Iran deal”; AP; September 15, 2015). Also, Republicans even suggest to sue the Obama administration for the side deal of this agreement which is not open to the public (“U.S. Republicans Threaten To Sue To Stop Iran Nuclear Deal”; Payvand Iran News; September 12, 2015).

Moreover, proponents of the nuclear deal are not optimistic about the US-Iranian relationship, as Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blames President Barack Obama for abstaining from helping the Green Movement in 2009 (“No Love for Obama”; Weekly Standard Blog; September 9, 2015). Obama may be exploring a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran, but his presidential term expires in a year or so. Clinton’s comments substantiates my view that whether Democrats or Republican wins the forthcoming presidential election, tensions between Iran and the United States will be intensified after Obama.

The deal is inherently full of defects and loopholes. Senator Marco Rubio, who is running for Republican presidential nomination, raises ten points to argue why the nuclear deal is so problematic. The most critical one is suspected side deal between Iran and the IAEA, that could jeopardize the whole agreement. Also, inspections are filled with loopholes as Iran can conduct computer modelling for explosive test of nuclear materials. In addition, centrifuges can be moved secretly, and more dangerously, Iranian officials assume that the deal permits them to deny access of UN inspection to the site, if they think it necessary. Along with the side deal and inspection, an imminent problem is that sanction lifting enables Iran to fund terrorists and buy more weapons (“Ten Things That Every American Should Be Concerned About In The Iran Deal”; Among possible arsenals, American opinion leaders are critically concerned with Iran's ICBM development to destroy the US mainland ("Off-Target: The Folly of Removing Sanctions on Iran’s Ballistic Missiles"; National Interest; August 17, 2015).

Due to these defects, Former Vice President Dick Cheney comments sarcastically that this deal is historically unique to allow the enemy to attack US homeland directly. See the video below.

When sanctions are removed, Russia and China will export their arms to Iran. Prior to the Vienna negotiation this July, Russia announced to sell S-300 anti-air missile, which made Israel frown in displeasure, but Obama approved of it (“Russia-Iran relationship is a marriage of opportunity”; Washington Post; April 18, 2015). This missile is almost identical to the Chinese copy of HQ-9, that caused controversies among NATO and Japanese security experts when China explored to sell it to Turkey and South Korea. Russia’s action inflicts a dreadful impact on Middle East security, and Israel has every reason to question Obama’s Iran policy. Will Russia and China sell more weapons to Iran? I am alert to their export of carrier killer missile to Iran as China demonstrated DF-21D on the 70th day. The Iran nuclear deal can erode maritime dominance of the US Navy in the Persian Gulf.

Also, geopolitics in the Gulf area is inherently unstable. Ever since the Islamic Revolution, Arab neighbors do not trust Iran. This is typically seen in their support to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War. Arab kingdoms like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan are extremely conservative, and they are ideologically at odds with Ba’athist Iraq. However, Iran’s national ideal to export Shiite revolution upset Sunni monarchies so much that they depended on Iraq to counter the Iranian threat. This alliance was so fragile as shown in Saddam’s invasion to Kuwait latter days. Today, the nuclear deal stimulates Arab anxiety to the Iranian threat so much that they are building up their defense capabilities rapidly. Saudi Arabia holds talks to buy advanced frigates and THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-ballistic missile system from Lockheed Martin (“Saudi Arabia, U.S. near deal for two Lockheed warships: sources”; Reuters; September 2, 2015). Also, Kuwait reached an agreement with Italy to purchase 28 Typhoon fighters. The Eurofighter consortium is eyeing on Bahrain for the next Typhoon contract (“Typhoon scores in Kuwait “; IHS Jane’s 360; 15 September 2015).

These movements imply that Europeans are no daydreamer to believe that the nuclear deal with Iran will bring peace and stability to the Gulf area. They endorse the deal because they want new market and energy source after lifting sanctions. France has already found a naval base in the United Arab Emirates during the Sarkozy era (“France Opens First Military Base in Persian Gulf Region”; Washington Post; May 27, 2009). Also, Britain agreed to build a naval base in Bahrain last year. UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond told that Britain and France would fill the vacuum in the Middle East in view of the pivot to Asia by Obama’s America (“Britain returns 'East of Suez' with permanent Royal Navy base in Gulf”; Daily Telegraph; 6 December, 2014). In addition, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Obama so often to urge him to understand the real threat of Iran, and act more steadfast against them (“Obama likely to meet Israel's Netanyahu in November, White House says”; Reuters; September 11, 2015). Now, I would like to ask the following question: When SALT agreements were concluded, did European allies and Japan behaved so upset against the Soviet threat?

In addition to the regional security environment, we should talk about Iranian politics. With or without the nuclear deal, Iran is still unyielding. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated clearly that this deal was an exceptional case, and he still curses the United States and Israel, and sponsors the Assad regime in Syria (“Iranian leader: No wider talks with Washington after nuclear deal”; Washington Post; September 9,2015 and “Khamenei: Israel will no longer exist in 25 years”; Al Monitor; September 9, 2015). The Revolutionary Guard said furthermore that they were ready to annihilate America and Israel (“Iran Welcomes War With The U.S.”; Value Walk;September 4, 2015). President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are supposed to be moderate. However, Max Boot, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, comments it is too wishful to regard Rouhani as another Gorbachev, because he is not interested in democratizing Shiite theocracy, and has not abandoned expansionism in the neighborhood, while Gorbachev did not suppress freedom quest in Eastern Europe right after the fall of the Berlin Wall (“Iran's Rouhani: He's no Gorbachev”; Los Angels Times; November 24, 2013). In addition, we must bear in mind that the Supreme Leader is inherently hardliner as he represents Shiite theocracy, and his power rests on dogmatic loyalists like the Revolutionary Guard. However moderate the president is, it is extremely difficult to overcome this.

Even if the nuclear deal is concluded, the US-Iranian détente is quite unlikely. American allies in Europe and the Middle East understand this. However, Japanese legislators are even asking a too introductory question to discuss the security bill, whether there is an existential threat in the Persian Gulf. But the threat of Iran is so great. The nuclear deal is no guarantee of regional peace. Never cherish any wishful thinking about it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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