Thursday, January 18, 2018

Happy New Year

Happy new year for 2018, the year of dog.



Harlequin Great Danes

Sunday, December 17, 2017

American Foreign Policy That Has Been Severely Distorted by Trump

Ever since Donald Trump won the nightmarish election last November, foreign policy communities in the United States and abroad are keen to watch whether he would adjust his America First election promises to the reality. His official tours abroad from the Middle East to Europe and speech at the UN General Assembly have drawn much attention, and his final trip to East Asia has made it clear that he is more interested in keeping his controversial promise to please his base at home, rather than pursuing global public interests like human rights, environment, and free trade. Also, he continues to laud Russian President Vladimir Putin, though his collusion with Russia is currently under FBI investigation. On the other hand, Trump takes the threat of Iran and North Korea gravely, but he does not react to them properly. His extensive favor to Saudi Arabia has pushed Qatar to lean more heavily on Iran (“Iran, Turkey sign deal with Qatar to ease Gulf blockade”; Middle East Eye; 26 November 2017). His twitter wars with Kim Jongun simply increase tensions without any achievements.

To begin with, let me present an overview of Trump’s foreign policy, and discuss how terribly it has inflicted damage on the American position in the world. From realist to global interventionist, and from liberals to conservatives, it is commonly understood that Trump’s narrowly self-interested foreign policy, as shown in his scornful attitude to collective defense and multilateral agreements, is eroding America’s reputation in the global community, which raises critical concerns among pundits. Max Boot at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a vehement critic to Trump as a neoconservative, and he comments that this president dismissed America’s mission on his trip to Asia. In China, Trump was obsessed with $250 billion business deals including the sales of shale gas, commercial jets, and microchips, while the trade talk did not make progress (“These are the companies behind Trump's $250 billion of China deals”; CNN Money; November 9, 2017). Meanwhile, he emphasized America First in Vietnam, though he mentioned an idea of “fee and open Indo-Pacific region” which is a core concept of new Japanese diplomacy initiated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. However, despite the superficial use of this word, Trump blasted the TPP because he believes that Americans have been duped by multilateral trade agreements, which is completely at odds with Abe’s vision.

Furthermore, Boot raises the more fundamental problem of Trump’s diplomatic conduct. This president is extremely aggressive when he confronts someone weaker than himself, like Gold Star parents and journalists, but when he meets someone in a strong position face to face, such as Xi Jingpin and Putin, he is unbelievably timid. Not only did Trump mention human rights and pay tribute to Liu Xiaobo, he failed to press Xi on intellectual property rights and unfair trade practices. There is no wonder allies distrust Trump’s go-it-alone and deal-oriented diplomacy. (“Trump’s Worst Trip Ever. Until His Next One.”; Foreign Policy --- Voice; November 14, 2017). Trump behaves accordingly to Putin, as he said he “trusted” the Russian president that the Kremlin had not meddled the presidential election, shortly after direct meeting with him at the G20.

Critical concerns come from realists as well, though Trump assumes himself a student of Henry Kissinger. Professor Stephen Walt of the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University, comments that Trump is so disrespectful to promote American values of democracy and freedom that his views of the world is ruining America’s deeply embedded foreign policy assets for decades. While dismissing the advantage of universal values, he cannot draw a distinction between national interests and private interests in his pursuit of a deal-oriented diplomacy. This is typically seen during his visit to China and Saudi Arabia. His art of the deal is nothing but being blandished by the counterpart, while sacrificing vital American interests like fair trade, regional stability, and so forth. More dangerously, Trump praises autocratic leaders, notably, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Recep Erdoğan of Turkey, Jarosław Kaczyński of Poland, and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, without understanding their politics and how such reckless behavior hurts American position in the world (“Trump Isn’t Sure If Democracy Is Better Than Autocracy”; Foreign Policy --- Voice; November 13, 2017). Trump’s self-styled realism may come from his real estate business experience, in which he learned how to outfox his rivals through savage competition. But state-to-state relations do not work like this way, and his dichotomy to dupe or to be duped is a poorly learned or even an underground way to understand multilateral frameworks in international politics.

While Trump boasts his deal-making skills, he remarked so naïvely that he would “trust” Putin over American intelligence agencies. Such dangerous naïveness is quite contradictory to his braggadocios. Former Deputy Director of CIA John McLaughlin raises some reasons for it. To begin with, Trump does not believe information of Russian meddling brought by American intelligence organizations. Therefore, he wants to attack the intelligence community by praising Putin. Also, if the public attention is drawn to the controversy over Russian interference in the election, Russia will be able to divert their alert from another intervention in the US election, which will ultimately help Trump. In addition, Trump believes that Russia is an indispensable strategic partner to the United States, particularly regarding Syria. His views are wrong, but he is too infatuated with Putin’s personality and leadership style (“Why Putin Keeps Outsmarting Trump”; Politico; November 17, 2017). Trump’s dangerous naïveness is problematic in the case of Saudi Arabia as well. He endorses the improbable “reform” by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to deepen security partnership with this country. But it is risky to rely heavily on Saudi Arabia to counter Iran, because the political stability of the Wahhabi kingdom is questionable (“Game of Thobes: Saudi Arabia”; AEIdeas; November 7, 2017). In both cases, Trump is an easy dupe rather than a tough negotiator.

The fundamental reason for Trump’s disdain to American foreign policy achievements and tradition is based on his illegitimate sense of superiority to mainstream politicians and intellectuals, according to Robert Kagan at the Brookings Institution. Trump has conquered the Republican Party with the help of Steve Bannon. They do not have to respect party ideals and establishments, because they regard the mainstream as continuous losers to Barrack Obama, while they defeated the Democrat. Having conquered the party organization and the electoral base, Trump is now using the Republican Party as his private machine (“Faster, Steve Bannon. Kill! Kill!”; Washington Post; October 11, 2017). Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs, comments furthermore, that Trump believes that he is superior to mainstream politicians and pundits because he assumes himself a genius of management (“Donald Trump”; Entertainer in Chief”; National Review; November 27, 2017). Thus, there is every reason why Trump does not hesitate to throw away American foreign policy achievements and traditions since Woodrow Wilson. Trump even scorns advices from more knowledgeable members of his own cabinet as typically seen in his recent decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem, though Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised serious concerns with the safety of American diplomats and troops in the Middle East (“Mattis, Tillerson warned Trump of security concerns in Israel embassy move”; Hill; December 6, 2017). It is virtually tough to control Trump by adults in his administration.

In addition, we have to understand that this administration is inherently disrespectful to America’s venerable Foreign Service. That is not only the case with Bannon and his fellows who pursue "the destruction of the administrative state", based on Leninism. The global community regards Secretary Tillerson as one of the adults in the administration along with Secretary Mattis and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster to conduct the President toward mainstream foreign policy, as seen in the North Korean crisis. Yes, Tillerson is not an alt-right, but actually, he is destroying the State Department professional organization from the cost and benefits perspectives. He stopped recruiting new graduates to the foreign service, which will lead to a huge work force shortage of multi-million dollar projects. Career diplomats are bewildered by Tillerson’s CEO style management (“Present at the Destruction: How Rex Tillerson Is Wrecking the State Department”; Politico; June 29, 2017). The personnel cut plan is so drastic as to reach 9% of the total workforce of the Department. Furthermore, Foggy Bottom diplomats are increasingly critical to Tillerson’s inner-circle policymaking that alienates them (“Tillerson Seeking 9% Cut to U.S. State Department Workforce, Sources Say”; Bloomberg News; April 28, 2017).

The problem is beyond the cut of the workforce and 30% of the budget at the State Department in the name of “diplomatic efficiency”. Tillerson is slashing bureaus and special envoys that are in charge of vital issues, based on advices from Maliz Beams whose professional background is financial consultancy, but no experience in foreign policy. Envoys to be removed include those in charge of Syria, Sudan and South Sudan, and the Arctic. But congressional critics remind him that special envoys are necessary to call attention on critical national security issues among politicians so that they do not fall into oblivion. Removed special envoys are merged into offices and bureaus in the Department (“First on CNN: Tillerson moves to ditch special envoys”; CNN Politics; August 29, 2017). Also, bureaus of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor are eliminated (“Tillerson 'offended' by claims of State Department's hollowing out”; Politico; November 28, 2017). UN Delegations from every bureau of the State Department will be reduced as well. For example, the delegations from the Africa Bureau will shrink from 30 to three (“With Cost-Cutting Zeal, Tillerson Whittles U.N. Delegation, Too”; New York Times; September 15, 2017). More problematically, Tillerson has not nominated key positions of the Department just to “save time and the cost of Senate approval”. Notably, assistant secretaries of state for African, East Asian, South and Central Asian, Near Eastern or Western Hemisphere affairs, are unfilled. Former Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns and Former Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan Ryan Crocker denounce “President Trump’s draconian budget cuts for the State Department and his dismissive attitude toward our diplomats and diplomacy itself threaten to dismantle a great Foreign Service” (“Tillerson 'offended' by claims of State Department's hollowing out”; Reuters News; November 29, 2017).

Tillerson even launches an idea to merge the State Department and the USAID, but the roles of the Foreign Service and development agencies are fundamentally different, and this is why both are separated in major advanced nations. The State Department manages America’s foreign relations through policymaking and diplomacy, while the USAID manages effective and accountable programs to help empowerment of local societies. For these objectives, the State Department works centralized and hierarchical ways, while the USAID works bottom-up ways, as typically seen in disaster relief operations. Therefore, the State Department hires generalists, while the USAID hires specialists (“Tillerson wants to merge the State Dept. and USAID. That’s a bad idea.”; Washington Post; June 28, 2017). But the real problem is not Tillerson, but Trump. In the late November when the media rumored that Tillerson would be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Boot pointed out that he clashed with intelligence officials, because he claimed falsely that the CIA had concluded that Russian meddling had inflicted no impacts on the presidential election (“Tillerson State Department ouster is overdue, but won't solve the Trump problem”; USA Today; November 30, 2017). Unlike purely professional Mattis and McMaster, Pompeo has been a partisan politician after retired from the army, and there is no wonder why he cozies up Trump like that way. It is too wishful to expect the adult in the team to control Trump, due to inherent disdain to governmental technocracy of this administration. Nor, do they understand how much “the world America made” helps American national interests and the global community. Currently, Mattis may be the only real adult in the Trump cabinet. As Roy Moore was defeated in the last Senate election in Alabama, it is critical whether bipartisan common sense and conscience restore the momentum, and stand against the Trumpian idiocracy.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Risk of Hosting Trump on His Visit to East Asia

President Donald Trump is visiting East Asia early November. On his visit to Japan, North Korea and trade will be key agendas of the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Though pundits cast doubts on Trump’s credentials and aptitude for the presidential job, Japanese leaders must hold their nose, as they are in a position to forebear some unpleasant words and deeds by him. Unlike Europe, there is no multilateral security framework in East Asia, thus, a staunch US-Japanese alliance is imperative for Japan’s national survival, whoever the US President is. However, we have to be careful of the Trump risk as we host him. Trump is notorious for erratic behavior, and often deviates from ministerial and working level agreements with Ameica’s strategic partners. The Saudi-Qatari conflict is the typical case. The media and experts are exploring foreign policy making processes of this administration, but it is Trump who makes American foreign policy so unpredictable, and such a risk is visiting Japan, South Korea, and China.

Despite the risk, there are symbolic merits to host the US president. Particularly, Abe’s Japan craves for demonstrating close ties with Trump’s America to meet challenges by China and North Korea. But we have to remember that Trump goes off on his own frequently, and foreign policy discrepancies within the administration has stalled American diplomacy. Regarding Russia, the chasm between Trump and his staff still remains large. Trump startled the world to say that he had revealed highly sensitive information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, which upset American foreign policy officials (“Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador”; Washington Post; May 15, 2017). Associated with Russian election interference, such discrepancies between Trump and cabinet members lower the credibility of American foreign policy (“On Russia, Trump and his top national security aides seem to be at odds”; Washington Post; April18, 2017).

Meanwhile, a fatal discrepancy happened between President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over North Korea, which is, of course, the top agenda on the forthcoming presidential visit to East Asia. Trump ridiculed Tillerson’s diplomatic effort with North Korea through secret channels. It is an act of defection. That has drawn harsh criticism from bipartisan foreign policy experts. Richard Haass, Former Director of Policy Planning under the Bush administration, denounces Trump’s remark that infringes on diplomatic integrity, and even recommends Tillerson to resign. Samantha Power, Former Ambassador to the United Nations under the Obama administration, comments more harshly that Trump’s words and deed are so intolerable as to discredit American diplomacy (“Trump undercuts Tillerson's efforts on North Korea”; Politico; October 1, 2017). Even if Tillerson resigns, foreign policy directions of the Trump administration are disintegrated. While foreign governments listen to Secretary of Defense James Mattis for his venerable career, there are hawkish UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, business-oriented Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, family member Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, etc in the team. In addition, Trump is weakening the Department of State through restructuring and spending cut (“Should Tillerson Resign?”; Politico; October 1, 2017). Those aspects make it more likely for Trump to go off on his own.

The fundamental problem of the Trump presidency is that he does not understand the difference between personal loyalty and national loyalty. According to Professor Eliot Cohen at the Paul Nitze School of the Johns Hopkins University, George W. Bush embraced patriotic criticism from his staff, but in the Trump team, Mattis and Tillerson have been frustrated with the White House whose staffs prioritize personal loyalty to the President (“How Trump Is Ending the American Era”; Atlantic; October, 2017). As long as close aides are so obedient, checks to Trump’s words and deeds within the administration are hardly effective. Therefore, the risk of Trump’s go it alone as seen in the Saudi-Qatari crisis grows larger and larger. The Japanese government must be well-aware of such danger, and watch what happens carefully after Trump leaves Japan to visit South Korea and China. Also, the Abe administration needs to review Trump’s past gaffes and failures on his diplomatic tour, in order to figure out how to manage unexpected crisis if it happens.

Nevertheless, Japanese people are so patient and tolerant as to embrace a foreign leader, however terrible his or her reputation is. That is starkly in contrast with European mindsets that would not accept Trump’s defiance to Western enlightenment. British Prime Minister Theresa May had to postpone the plan to invite Trump, due to rising public antipathy to him. In France, Trump’s attendance to the Bastille Day ceremony is one of the reasons for a sharp decline in President Emmanuel Macron’s approval rate. Abe is blessed with a small luck, as he does not have to care domestic public opinion like this. But it seems that Abe is appeasing to Trump excessively. His cabinet is setting the Emperor to meet Trump ("Trump to meet emperor on his visit to Japan"; Nikkei Asian Review; October 24, 2017), but that is a pressure on European royal families to embrace the notorious American president. Also, it is not appropriate to invite Ivanka Trump to the World Assembly for Women in Tokyo ("Ivanka Trump to speak at Tokyo women’s empowerment symposium"; Japan Times; October 25, 2017), as she is too symbolic of nepotism an kleptocracy that is bitterly criticized in America. Like it or not, the bilateral summit in Tokyo is an opportunity to show the US-Japanese solidarity, but the Japanese government must be well-aware of the Trump risk, and it is necessary to make the danger as less as possible. Ministerial and working level coordination behind the curtain are more important than ever, for both sides. Japan needs to be cautious of Trump, and I do not hope another Saudi-Qatari clash happens in the Far East.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Britain’s post-Brexit Global Strategy and Japan

Brexit has left Britain no choice but to deepen relations with the United States, the Commonwealth, and other major regional powers in the world. Among these nations, Japan is the most stable and prospective for economic and security partnership with Britain. There are some vital points that Britain and Japan share. Both nations have to put emphasis on the special relationship with the United States, despite erratic Trump diplomacy and his reputation in the world. Britain has no choice but to turn to America in the Atlantic area after Brexit. Japan is more in compelling need of a staunch alliance with the United States, as the threats of China and North Korea are growing. In terms of political ideals, both nations value democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. Furthermore, both nations rest their global standings on leadership in science and technology to manage competition with emerging economies.

Meanwhile, Britain’s effort to develop strategic and economic partnership with major powers outside Europe has stalled. Notably, Prime Minister Theresa May was enthusiastic to invite US President Donald Trump to the United Kingdom. As a nationalist, Trump welcomed Brexit so much that he even met Ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage at the Trump Tower in New York, shortly after his election victory. However, anti-Trump movements grew more and more virulent across Britain, particularly when Trump called London Mayor Sadiq Khan a terrorist in the wake of the London Bridge attack this June. In view of this, Queen Elizabeth hinted that Trump’s visit would be held off, in her speech at the parliament (“Trump's state visit to UK not mentioned in Queen's speech”; Guardian; 21 June, 2017). India is another prospective partner. However, Commonwealth bonds and the common law system are not vital to reach a bilateral trade agreement. Rather, it is important that Britain wants to liberalize financial services in India, while India demands liberalization of their student visas and intra company transfers to Britain (“India dents UK trade hopes with lapsed deal”; Financial Times; April 5, 2017). Also, even if the trade agreement is reached, India is a risky market, as the World Bank index shows that her world rankings in economic freedom, corruption, and government effectiveness are extremely low (“Pros and Cons: Bilateral Trade Agreement between Post Brexit UK and India”; Euromonitor International; May 5, 2017).

While May’s post-Brexit diplomacy is critically challenged, she has achieved a landmark success with Erdoğan’s Turkey in January. Along with starting trade talks, Britain and Turkey signed a £100 million deal to develop TFX stealth fighters for the Turkish Air Force (“Theresa May delivers message of support to Turkish president”; Financial Times; January 28, 2017). Both nations are on the flank of Europe, and Britain is leaving the EU while Turkey has been denied the bid for EU membership. However, human rights abuses are concerned, if Britain were to develop economic and strategic partnership with Turkey, particularly after the latest coup attempt. More problematically, Erdoğans Turkey is turning towards increasingly Islamist, and seeks closer ties with Russia, China, and Iran. Turkey even decided to buy S-400 anti-air missile from Russia (“Turkey has agreed to buy Russia's advanced missile-defense system, leaving NATO wondering what's next”; Business Insider; July 17, 2017). Therefore, her loyalty to NATO is critically questioned.

In view of these problems with non-European partners, Japan is a highly hopeful for post-Brexit Britain. As I noted earlier, Britain and Japan share vital national interests and political values. The centrpiece of the Anglo-Japanese relationship is the economy. This is typically seen in motor car factories of Nissan and Toyota in Britain. Actually, 1,000 Japanese companies employ 140,000 workers in the United Kingdom. In trade, Britain is the 10th largest importer to Japan last year (“Japan has the power to radically shape Brexit”; Quartz; September 4, 2017). Also, defense ties between both countries are growing these days. It was quite symbolic that Prime Minister May made a courtesy visit to Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Helicopter Destroyer Izumo of the Maritime Self Defense Force, when she came to Japan for the bilateral meeting at the end of last August (“Theresa May inspects MSDF helicopter carrier at Yokosuka base”; Japan Times; August 31, 2017). It is quite exceptional for Japan to host a foreign leader to her sovereign warship. However, some challenges, particularly Brexit, are critical hurdles to the Anglo-Japanese partnership.

First, let me talk about the economy. The Japanese government and business society are keen to see how Britain will minimize the negative impacts of Brexit. While May explored to start a bilateral trade talk with her counterpart Shinzo Abe based on an EU-Japan free trade deal, the Japanese side was cautious despite their friendly posture. Former UK Ambassador to Japan David Warren told that Japan had deep doubts about Brexit, but the Abe team was too polite to say that (“Japan Unimpressed With May’s Brexit But ‘Too Polite’ to Say So” Bloomberg News; August30, 2017). In the joint declaration on the economy, May and Abe agreed to enhance engagement by trade ministers of both countries, and establish the Trade and Investment Working Group to lower the risk of Brexit and lead free trade worldwide (Japan-UK Joint Declaration on Prosperity Cooperation; 31 August 2017). Actually, this declaration based on a 15 page Japanese request last year, entitled “Japan’s Message to the United Kingdom and the European Union” (also in Japanese), that was taken a dire warning by the British media. Fundamentally, this document requests Britain to ensure transparent Brexit negotiations and to maintain free trade. For this objective, Japan urges smooth and stable transition of Brexit to both Britain and the EU. Specifically, Japan asked both sides to maintain Britain’s access to the EU market, to allow the single passport system for British financial institutions, and so forth.

The focal point of Japanese request is to keep the business environment for financial institutions to stay in the UK. That’s the vital reason why Japan pushed hard for continual single passport system. Also, Japan urged Britain to maintain free immigration of skilled workers to secure her banking interests in Europe (“You should read Japan's Brexit note to Britain — it's brutal”; Business Insider; September 5, 2016).Shortly after the document was released, former Ambassador Warren, currently Associate Fellow at Chatham House, insisted that Britain embrace bitter Japanese medicine. He was critically concerned with rising protectionism in the United States and the future of free trade. Also, he agreed that continual access to the European market is vital for Britain to remain as a major economy (“Japan Lays Out a Guide to Brexit”; Chatham House Comment; 6 September 2016). It is imperative for Japan to assure her business in Britain and Europe, and the note goes beyond this. As a mature and responsible economic power, Japan proposes prescriptions to lessen the Brexit shock on the world economy, which is starkly different from India’s adherence to infant industry protection as an emerging economy.

On the other hand, Britain’s engagement with Asia Pacific security is very helpful to Japanese defense, in view of rising threats of China, North Korea, and even the ISIS. May and Abe agreed to send UK troops to joint exercises in Japan, which is the second foreign armed forces after the United States to be trained in the Japanese territory. In addition to regional threats, Lord Peter Ricketts at the Royal United Service Institute raises critical concerns with China’s One Belt One Road Initiative throughout Eurasia. He argues that both Britain and Japan can share global and Asia Pacific responsibilities as the two closest allies of the United States (“The Case for Reinforcing the UK–Japan Security Partnership”; RUSI commentary; 13 July 2017). Britain’s role in East Asian security role draws attention from some American experts, such as Michael Auslin at the American Enterprise Institute, particularly, her participation in the Operation Freedom of Navigation (“Britain flies into the danger zone: But the risks of getting involved in Asia are worth it”; Policy Exchange; January 12, 2017 and “Britain and Japan have a unique chance to reshape the world – they should seize it”; Daily Telegraph; 28 April, 2017). In addition, Britain and Japan signed a joint project to develop next generation stealth fighters, which will be called F-3 on the Japanese side (“Japan-UK Fighter Project Sign Of Closer Defense Partnership”; Aviation Week; March 24, 2017). As Britain agreed to make TFX fighters with Turkey earlier, more advanced technology will be applied in the project with Japan.

However, it is too wishful to expect Britain to undertake a substantially vital role in East Asian security. Most importantly, the deployment of F-35Bs for UK carrier strike group has been delayed so much due to spending cuts of the Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015 that the Queen Elizabeth needs to host those from the US marines on board. British media frequently mentions her gigantic size exuberantly, but she will not be completely capable as an independent carrier until 2023 when Britain is scheduled to have 42 of them (“HMS Queen Elizabeth to get first F-35 jets next year”; UK Defence Journal; April 26, 2017). Moreover, since the Royal Navy operates in Europe, the Middle East, and the rest of the world, it is necessary to wait for the commission of the Prince of Wales, the second Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier, to expect their full commitment to the Far East. Considering rotation and overhaul of carriers, Britain needs two of them at least, if she were to engage steadily with the Asia Pacific. For some years, HMS Queen Elizabeth will be more like a huge helicopter carrier, and not of much use against Chinese infringement on freedom of navigation and North Korean threats, without US Marine F-35Bs on board. However, her helicopter squadrons and huge internal spaces for command/control facilities will be helpful to fight against ISIS that is currently infiltrating in South East Asia. It will take a while until Britain has steady power projection capability in the Far East to deepen the Anglo-Japanese defense partnership.

The prospect of post-Brexit Britain is so volatile, but it is Japan’s interest to help May’s Global Britain. Some Europhiles such as former Prime Minister Tony Blair works hard to repeal Brexit, but their endeavor is unlikely to win nationwide support at this stage. Japan is not in a position to interfere into British domestic politics, but she can create a favorable atmosphere for Britain’s engagement with the world after Brexit. Otherwise, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn could take office. Corbyn is called another Michael Foot. He said that NATO be closed, and furthermore, Britain abstain from defending European nations from Russia (“Jeremy Corbyn called for Nato to be closed down and members to 'give up, go home and go away'”; Daily Telegraph; 19 August, 2016). More terribly, he remarked that all the Britain’s causes of the wars after World War II were wrong, in his lecture at Chatham House this May (“Jeremy Corbyn: Britain has not fought just war since 1945”; Independent; 13 May, 2017). That shows his sheer ignorance and apologism of history. Postwar Britain has done so many military interventions for world peace, from the Malayan Emergency to the Sierra Leonean Civil War, the Kosovo War, and so forth. A Britain led by Corbyn shall never be Japan’s strategic partner.

Another challenger to current Global Britain comes from the anti-mainstream within the ruling Conservative Party. Notably, pro-Chinese George Osborne pushed for Britain to join the AIIB or Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and attracted Chinese investment in Hinkley Point and Bradwell nuclear power plants as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was the most prospective heir to former Prime Minister David Cameron before the EU referendum (“The one chart that shows how George Osborne is almost certainly going to be our next Prime Minister”; Independent; 1 September, 2015). Neither Corbyn and Osborne is preferable, thus, Japan should be proactive to help Global Britain by May or someone like minded, as long as Britain is not likely to repeal Brexit.,br>

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Can Macron Boost France’s Standing in the Western Alliance?

President Emmanuel Macron shows consummate diplomatic skills to boost France’s position in Europe and on the global stage. While he had a successful meeting to invite controversial US President Donald Trump to the Bastille Day ceremony, he defied an American demand that NATO allies increase defense spending to 2% of the GDP, and gave priority to the economy. This sort of neither flatterer nor foe attitude was witnessed when Macron and Trump met each other for the first time at the NATO summit (“The reason behind Macron’s firm handshake with Trump, revealed: He was warned!”; Washington Post; May 25, 2007). Both leaders stared at each other, and gripped their counterpart’s hand firmly when they shook hands, as if they were dueling arm wrestling. It was quite impressive and illustrative of Macron-Trump relations. How Macron strikes a balance of these international and domestic requirements?

Let me talk about diplomatic approaches to President Trump by major Western allies. Germany is exploring more self-reliant and European-oriented foreign policy, rather than depending on whimsical Trump. That was typically seen at the icy press conference after the Merkel-Trump meeting in Washington. On the other hand, Britain and Japan are compelled to deepen security and even trade relations, despite Trump’s questionable America First values. Despite anti-Trump criticism at home, Theresa May and Shinzo Abe want to keep the special relationship with the United States to reinforce their international standings. Meanwhile, Canada takes an intermediary approach between German and Anglo-Japanese one. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in a starkly different position from Trump over migration, refugees, political freedom, political correctness, and trade (“How Trump Made Justin Trudeau a Global Superstar”; Politico; July 1, 2017). Therefore, Trudeau asked Vice President Mike Pence and state governors to persuade NAFTA-skeptical Trump to update the trade agreement on the occasion of the National Governors Association conference at Providence of Rhode Island (“Trudeau, Pence, Elon Musk, and 32 governors all in one room? In Providence?”; Boston Globe; July 14, 2017 and “Trudeau urges governors to stand with Canada on trade while agreeing to 'modernize' NAFTA”; CBC News; July 16, 2017).

Macron’s approach is more proactive and also more unyielding to Trump than those of other Western leaders. Gideon Rachman comments that Macron is in a strong position to deal with America’s new administration. At the first handshake with Trump, he showed that France would not give in to the flamboyant counterpart, while smiling gently. Macron has made it clear that he aligns with Merkel to advance internationalism. On the other hand, Rachman points out that May’s Global Britain does not impress world leaders, because Brexit is taken isolationist. Her aspiration for deeper ties with nationalist Trump makes her globalist self-assumption increasingly questionable (“Emmanuel Macron demonstrates fine art of handling Donald Trump”; Financial Times; July 14, 2017). May’s position is somewhat in common with Abe’s. Macron used his advantage effectively to impress the Franco-American friendship. More importantly, Trump did not gaffe anything so far as foreign policy and bilateral relations are concerned.

While Macron hosted Trump to the Bastille Day ceremony, he defied the pressure to boost defense spending. But this issue is not just Trump. France is an independent nuclear power, and her national security interest goes beyond a NATO commitment. The Chief of the Armed Forces General Pierre de Villiers resisted Macron’s plan to cut defense budget by 850 million euro vehemently, as he believes it necessary to restore the spending level to 2.6% of GDP in 2000 from 1.8% last year, in view of French military involvement in the Middle East and the Sahel Africa. However, Macron wants to keep the deficit below 3% of EU requirements, in order to manage budget strains after 2007-2008 global financial crisis. After a bitter conflict with the President, General De Villiers resigned (“Macron takes on the military’s chief, and the military loses”; American Enterprise Institute; July 20, 2017).

Considering Macron’s career in the bureaucracy, business, and the Minister of the Economy in the Hollande administration, he is supposed to place strong emphasis on the economy, and it is necessary to understand an overview of his foreign and domestic policy. Professor Zaki Laïdi at L’Institute d’etudes politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) comments that Macron has no clear foreign policy goals yet, but his foreign policy success depends on domestic economy. Poor domestic economy precluded his predecessor François Hollande from boosting France on the global stage (“The Macron Doctrine?”; Project Syndicate; July 4, 2017). Macron ran for the President to move his economic reform as the Economy Minister forward. To begin with, he plans to remove labor code to lower costs, stimulate productivity, and increase economic flexibility. Combined with such deregulations, he envisions to cut corporate tax to help French industry grow more competitive in the global market (“Will Macron's Overhaul of the French Economy Succeed?” National Interest; July 13, 2017).

However, the real problem is whether such a drastic defense spending cut serves French national interests. Macron may have won the bitter conflict, but the cost of sidelining highly esteemed De Villiers will be great, according to Martin Quencez at the German Marshall Fund. Cold-shouldered by the President in the policy making process, the armed forces would lose morale for their job, which would make them reluctant to tell critical security information to him (“French Chief of Defense's Resignation a Difficult Start for Macron”; Trans Atlantic Take; July 19, 2017). Jean-Baptiste Vilmer, Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies, which belongs to the French Ministry of Defense, mentions that France faces several vital security challenges out of the Euro-Atlantic area, such as the civil war in Syria, terrorism in the Sahel, the stability in Libya, the maritime expansionism of China, and nuclear threat of North Korea. In addition, France must manage Russian threats and domestic terrorism, and update nuclear arsenals (“The Ten Main Defense Challenges Facing Macron’s France”; War on the Rocks; May 10, 2017). Can France deal with so many national security challenges? The problem is beyond Trump. Anyway, Macron says that he will boost defense spending, once debt-ridden economy is resolved (“France in the World and Macron’s foreign policy paradigm”; Aleph Analisi Strategische; 19 July 2017).

The proposed defense spending cut focuses on the equipment, which could inflict long term impacts on French armed forces, particularly on power projection capability. In view of counterterrorism requirements in the Middle East and Africa, France needs more tanks, armored vehicles, and heavy-lift aircrafts (“French President Emmanuel Macron is wrong to cut defense spending”; Washington Post; July 19, 2017). Despite this, Macron shows his willingness to get involved in counterterrorism in the Middle East and Africa. After De Villiers’ resignation, he appointed General François Lecointre who commanded the EU Training Mission in Mali to the Chief of Defense Staff. Despite the cut, France deploys 4,000 troops in Africa to fight against terrorism, and urge other European nations to join her operations (“French Military Spending Squeeze Prompts Top General's Resignation”; VOA NEWS; July 20, 2017). However, Macron may appear hypocritical, if he fails to re-increase military spending from next year as he promised. Anyway, it is not clear when the economy will turn well enough to reboot the expenditure. Therefore, France is in a tricky position in the Western alliance.

One of Macron’s options to resolve such a quandary is to deepen defense ties with the United Kingdom despite Brexit. According to recent Wikileaks, Macron’s e-mail interactions reveal that France is considering whether to advance the CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) of the EU or maintain the Anglo-French military ties, as Britain remains most active in defense among European nations. Quite importantly, Macron is skeptical to Germany’s initiative for integrated European troops, because she does not pay sufficiently for joint military projects (“Macron email leak: British military ties to France 'more important' than flawed Germany-EU plan”; Daily Telegraph; 31 July, 2017). In other words, Germany is not necessarily reliable for France, regarding fiscal constraints. Beyond the Euro-Atlantic sphere, France shares more interest with Britain. In the Middle East, both countries have naval bases in the UAE and Bahrain respectively, in order to fill the power vacuum, in the case of America’s pivot to Asia. Also in Asia, both France and the United Kingdom join the Operation Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea.

Nevertheless, it is domestic politics that could have significant influence on the success of foreign policy endeavors. Currently, Macron’s approval rate at home is declining sharply. One of the reasons for growing unpopularity is fiscal austerity. The budget cut is not just for deficit reduction. This is also for vitalizing the private sector whose growth has been clouded out by government expenditure and regulations. But as the following Financial Times video on July 26 tells, fiscal austerity is inherently unpopular. Particularly, military, teachers, and local governments denounce the spending cut vehemently. De Villiers resignation inflicts damage beyond defense. Furthermore, people blame Macron’s tax cuts and economic liberalization, because they see those policies exacerbate inequality.




More problematically, most of the Macronistas of En Marche are young and inexperienced. Traditionally, 5th Republic French politicians have been mostly ENArque, but Macronistas are represented by startup businessmen. Their lack of government experience confuses French politics (“Macron’s Revolution Is Over Before It Started”; Foreign Policy --- Argument; August 14, 2017). Ironically, Macron faces the same kind of trouble that his ideological opponent Trump does. His début was so impressive, but currently, En Marche needs a Nestor to rebuild his leadership. Can Macron’s policy advisor Jean Pisani-Ferry assume this role?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Don’t Dismiss the Insult to Akie Abe’s “English Fluency”

At the last G20 Hamburg summit, President Donald Trump sat next to Akie Abe, and said that the Japanese First Lady was so inept at speaking English that she did not even say “hello”, in an interview with the New York Times, dated on July 19, which turned out very controversial. The Anlgo-American media argued against him, and quite a few of them said Akie was cautious enough to avoid unexpected troubles if she speak something to Trump (”JAPAN’S FIRST LADY AKIE ABE MYSTERIOUSLY COULDN’T SPEAK ENGLISH WHEN SHE MET DONALD TRUMP AT G-20”; Newsweek; July 20, 2017).

Nevertheless, it does not matter so much, whether someone speaks English well or not. Rather, it is more problematic to shame someone in public, particularly a First Lady of a country. The media around the world, notably those of Anglo-American, should have talked about this. In ant case, Trump is so shameless as to enjoy locker room talks in public spaces, and therefore, it is quite unlikely that he cares how anyone whom he mentioned feel about what he says.

Among the US presidents from both parties, Trump is extremely illiterate in world history and culture, and I do not expect him to understand traditional Japanese compassion. However, I have to tell that Trump’s remark is quite unfavorable in terms of Western moral and ethics. Nevertheless, he has believed “only those who makes money is the winners of the society”, throughout his life, and thus, he may not give any consideration to gentleman-like behavior and presidential dignity.

However, we should not dismiss that his Slovenian wife Melania was scoffed for her foreign accented English when she gave an endorsement speech to him during the campaign. It was his supporters who reacted vehemently against that. In view of this, I would have to think that Trump’s utterance to humiliate Akie in public for her English implies that he does not love his own wife.

Furthermore, I suspect that Trump thinks lightly of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe deep in his heart. Abe rushed to meet Trump before his presidential inauguration, and he played golf with him after the inauguration. Trump turns cheerful when someone praises him like this, as also seen in the cases of Chris Christie earlier in the campaign, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions until he changed his mind in view of increasingly robust probe on the collusion with Russia. But we cannot dismiss Trump’s disrespect to Japan. Therefore, Japanese opinion leaders should protest strongly to Trump’s rude remark to Akie.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Trump Should Abstain from Getting Involved in Diplomacy

Quite deplorably, it has turned out that President Donald Trump has not changed his America First campaign promise during the election, and more painfully, he ruined every effort to rebuild mutual trust with allies that his own cabinet staff had done before his trip to the Middle East and Europe. Shortly after Trump's inauguration, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Europe to reaffirm American commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance, which soothed anxieties among Europeans. They paved the way for Trump’s diplomatic début on the global stage as the president. However, his trip has just raised questions about American dedication to regional stability. Now, we need to think seriously of Trump as a security risk, due to his poor understanding of the American role in global security. This risk was expected since his election campaign.

Let me talk about his attendance to the NATO summit first. At the meeting, Trump did not mention Article 5 obligations of mutual defense, which raised critical concerns on both sides of the Atlantic, because American presidents have always referred to this. More startlingly, he admits that he didn’t know much about NATO during the election, when he said the alliance was obsolete (“Trump didn’t know ‘much’ about NATO when he called it ‘obsolete’: report”; Hill; April 24, 2017). There is no wonder why he did not understand the importance of Article 5. Trump’s dismissal of the core of collective defense has astonished European allies, and bewildered his foreign policy staff. In fact, along with Mattis and Tillerson, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster recommended to include Article 5 in Trump’s speech draft. But the fact that Trump did not mention it implies he does not respect their expertise, and acts as he likes however dangerous it is (“The 27 Words Trump Wouldn’t Say”; Politico; June 9, 2017). Instead, Trump blamed low defense spending among European allies at the dinner. He even said he would pull the United States out of European defense. That has simply made America distrusted. Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Jim Townsend comments bitterly that Trump’s improper remarks indicate his lack of self-control to manage national security (“Trump Discovers Article 5 After Disastrous NATO Visit”; Foreign Policy; June 9, 2017).

Such ignorance and immaturity brought problems in the Middle East as well. While accepting Saudi Arabia’s bid for infrastructure investment in the United States, Trump permitted them to denounce and isolate Qatar in the region. Actually, Trump was primarily interested in business on his visit to the Middle East, and he did not listen to his advisors about the complicated nature of regional security (“Trump and the Damage Done”; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; June 16, 2017). Qatar may be relatively conciliatory to Iran, but she hosts the largest US naval base in the Middle East. Actually, autocratic Saudi Arabia and her followers, including Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain worry press freedom in Qatar, which gave rise to the Arab Spring. See the video below.




Therefore, Saudi Arabia offered a generous investment deal to Trump, in order to make use of his character of craving for flattery and respect, so that she can win his recognition to impose diplomatic blockade and sanctions on Qatar (“Saudi Arabia stroked Trump's ego. Now he is doing their bidding with Qatar”; Guardian; 7 June, 2017).

But rather than strengthening the anti-Iranian alliance in the Gulf, his generosity to Saudi Arabia’s pressure on Qatar has complicated regional power rivalries. Turkey intervened to help Qatar, because the Erdoğan administration endorses the Muslim Brotherhood that took power in Egypt during the Arab Spring (“Saudi Arabia is playing a dangerous game with Qatar”; Financial Times; June 15, 2017). As a result, tensions among Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are intensified. Trump’s reckless approach confuses American Middle East policy as well. At the Congress, Republican Senator Bob Corker denounced Trump’s tweet that agitated feud between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as the Chairman of Foreign Relations Committee (“Foreign Relations chairman stunned by Trump's Qatar tweets”; Hill; June 6, 2017). More seriously, a chasm has arisen between the President and the Department of Defense. The Pentagon and the Department of State defends Qatar from Trump’s pro-Saudi verbal abuse (“Trump takes sides in Arab rift, suggests support for isolation of Qatar”; Reuters News; June 6, 2017). As in Europe, current cabinet members and government bureaucrats are compelled to make huge efforts to do damage control.

In view of his diplomatic fiascos, I hope that Trump will not repeat the same mistake in East Asia, where Pence and Mattis reassured continual American military presence. Particularly, Japan and South Korea deadly need such reassurance to manage the North Korean crisis. As in Europe, Trump’s cabinet members did good jobs. However, if Trump were to visit the Far East, we would have to worry about his reckless remarks that would jeopardize the trans-Pacific security partnership. Currently, East Asia is one of the deadliest front lines of a 19th century-styled great power rivalry. Trump’s imprudent gaffe could trigger unexpected tension. Particularly, an insensitive remark about history would complicate relations among China, Japan, and South Korea. Remember, when he accepted China’s historical view to please Xi Jinping at Mar a Lago, South Korea rebuked harshly. Also, Asia does not need an ostracized ally like Qatar.

Trump’s ignorant and insensitive gaffes annoy the Axis of Adults in his cabinet, including McMaster, Tillerson, Mattis, and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly. But among them, only Mattis keeps independent position. Also, any policy made by the cabinet is carried out by career diplomats, in order to ensure American interests. They even make every effort to lessen imposed damages by Trump, and keep friendly relations with foreign partners. Typically, when the President called London Mayor Sadiq Khan a terrorist, American diplomatic corps worked very hard to mitigate antipathy among British political leaders, and keep the special relationship. Despite their dedicated service to the nation, Trump rewarded them with a huge budget cut of the Department of State, and Tillerson just followed this (“Trump Is Cutting Into the Bone of American Leadership”; News Week; June 18, 2017). Clearly, the incumbent president is a heavy burden for American senior foreign policy officials.

Though Trump himself is a critical national security risk, Visiting Professor Anne Applebaum at the London School of Economics argues that it is quite dangerous to take all the responsibilities of diplomacy away from Trump. Technically, she is completely right. Let me mention her case about the war in Afghanistan, in which Mattis assumes full responsibility to command US forces there. Policymakers, both inside the United States and abroad are skeptic to Trump’s understanding of global security so much that they welcome Mattis leads the war. However, Applebaum points out institutional problems with this. Foreign policy run by a military technocrat lacks political legitimacy, because democracy requires support from the Congress and other governmental agencies to carry out the strategy. Also, she argues that military strategy needs policy coordination with other agencies, and the Pentagon cannot lead everything (“Why ‘Mattis in charge’ is a formula for disaster”; Washington Post; June 23, 2017).

But Trump is too incompetent to oversee the problem beyond sectional interests and to make a right decision. This is typically seen in his ignorance about the value of foreign aid in American diplomacy. Actually, it is military professionals, including Secretary Mattis, Ex-Army General David Petraeus, and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, who understand the value of non-military aspects like foreign aid far better than Trump, through their experience in the battlefield. Interdepartmental coordination would be a problem, if some cabinet member were to lead national security policy. In that case, Vice President Mike Pence can oversee foreign policy of the cabinet. His visits to Europe, Japan, and South Korea are helpful to wipe out their worries about the alliance with America. Foreign service officials are dismayed with Trump’s poor understanding of diplomatic jobs and awkward governing skills (“US diplomats are increasingly frustrated and confused by the Trump administration”; Business Insider; July 2, 2017). His recent attendance to G20 simply impressed American isolation from the world. Shortly after his meeting with Putin on this occasion, his remark to strengthen cybersecurity cooperation with Russia startled the national security community in Washington. As a Japanese citizen, I do not want Donald Trump to visit Japan, as global security risks with his whimsical utterance are expected, like the cases in Europe and the Middle East.