Tuesday, May 08, 2018

How Can Atlantic Democracies and Japan Coact against Russia and China?

The transition of international politics of values to geopolitics turns the world increasingly more unstable. During the Cold War, the cohesion of liberal democracies was relatively strong. However, in the New Cold War against Russia and China, the democratic alliance does not necessarily act in solidarity. This is typically seen in quibbles by Europeans and Americans that Japanese are too preoccupied with China, but pay not much attention to Russia. Meanwhile, Japanese often complain that Europeans and Americans are not well-aware of China’s dangerous ambition associated with the Belt and Road Initiative. Historically, there was a similar example, which was the relationship between Britain and white dominions of the British Commonwealth during World War II. There are some geopolitical analogies of revisionist powers between Nazi Germany and Russia, and also the Imperial Japan and China.Likewise, we can regard the British homeland as NATO nations, and the Australian Dominion as Japan today.

The British Commonwealth in the prewar era was more closely associated with British imperialism than the Commonwealth of Nations today. Through World War I, Britain’s white dominions had grown more important actor on the global stage, and they were admitted domestic and diplomatic autonomy, while maintaining special bonds with Britain to bolster the Empire, based on common socio-cultural heritage of the Anglo Saxon and loyalty to the British crown. However, when World War II broke out and geopolitics grew more important, the cohesion of the Commonwealth was critically tested. While Britain gave priority to defeat Germany, Pacific dominions of Australia and New Zealand faced an increasing threat of Japan, particularly after the fall of Singapore. Some cities, notably Darwin, were hit by Japanese air raids repeatedly. In other dominion like South Africa, Afrikaners even defied the British rule, and explored to align with Germany. History tells us that the world order of geopolitics is so fragile, and therefore, it is critical to revitalize the alliance of liberal democracies to manage worldwide challenges by revisionist powers.

In terms of present day security context, NATO nations and Japan have different priorities. However, unlike Nazi Germany and the Imperial Japan, Russia and China are potential geopolitical rivals each other, as they share long borders in the Far East, and compete for superiority in Central Asia. Actually, they had territorial clashes in the Cold War era, over the Damansky Island on the Usiri River in the east and Tielieketi in Xinjian Uyghur in the west, though both of them confronted with America. Their mutual distrust has not been wiped out. Therefore, Japanese policymakers need to draw more attention from NATO nations to the Russo-Chinese rivalry in the Far East, in order to fill the gap of strategic interests and scopes, between Atlantic and Pacific democracies. There is no doubt that Europeans and Americans are more keenly aware of Russia than Japanese, but their focuses are disproportionately concentrated on her actions in Europe and the Middle East, particularly, military threats in the Baltic, annexation of Crimea, sponsorship to Assad in Syria, close alignment with Iran, and so forth. However, these Russian actions are not separated from, but correlated with those in East Asia.

Having mentioned strategic gaps between Atlantic and Pacific democracies, let me talk about Russo-Chinese geopolitical partnership and rivalry. Though Russia and China share common interests to pursue a more multipolar world against Western superiority, their geostrategic goals are not necessarily congruent over the Far East and Central Asia. Globally, while Russia wants to overturn the liberal world order, China has been already incorporated into the global economy, as shown in her WTO membership and numerous subcontractors to Western businesses in manufacturing. Meanwhile, Russia worries about the growing Chinese economic presence in Central Asia and the Far East. In Central Asia, China accommodates Russian interests in the Belt and Road Initiative. But due to critical concern with the growing instability in Central Asia and Afghanistan, China is boosting security engagement in the region, which could edge out Russian military influence in the future. In the Far Eastern Siberia, the Sino-Russian partnership and rivalry is more complicated. It is a strategic imperative for Putin’s Russia to proceed economic development plans in the sparsely populated and underdeveloped region, in order to solidify the sovereign rule there. For this objective, Russia hosts Chinese investments in energy resource and infrastructure in the Far East. Despite friendly personal relations between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, local governments are critically alarmed at the growing influence of Chinese business and gangsters. Unlike Central Asia, the clash of the two major powers arises in the Russian homeland in the Far East. (“Cooperation and Competition: Russia and China in Central Asia, the Russian Far East, and the Arctic”; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; February 28, 2018). In view of such geopolitical backgrounds, Euro-Atlantic nations cannot dismiss security impacts of Putin’s pivot to Asia.

Beyond Russo-Chinese geopolitics, there are some points in the Far Eastern Siberia that deserve attention from Euro-Atlantic democracies. Komsomolsk-on-Amur is the center of Russian aerospace and defense industry, because huge air space of this region is more advantageous to test fighter jets and missiles than congested air space of European parts. Also, Putin started to build Vostochny Cosmodrome in 2011, which is already in use now. Vast Siberian taiga is critically endangered by illegal Chinese loggers, and it is important for the global environment as much as tropical rain forests in the Amazon and the rest of the world. Further to the east, the Bering Strait will be a strategic place between the United States and Russia, in an era of Arctic navigation. Historically, Asian horse riders like Huns, Pannonian Avars, and Mongolians invaded Europe through the Eurasian Steppe that stretches from northern China to Romania and Hungary. Therefore, the new age of geopolitics does not necessarily imply the age of myopic localism. Pacific and Atlantic democracies can fill perception gaps, if both sides understand the link of their primary threats.

On the other hand, Japan needs to reconsider her handling of Russo-Chinese geopolitics. There is no denying that Japan needs assurance of regional power balance in an age of America First populism in the United States. But that does not mean that Japan should make a loophole in the democratic alliance. As seen in the Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU, it is Japan’s vital interest to maintain the liberal world order in the absence of American leadership under the Trump administration. However, Japan has been hollowing Western sanctions against repetitive Russian transgression like the invasion of Crimea, the nerve gas attack against Sergei Skripal, and the sponsorship to the Assad regime in Syria that continually uses chemical weapons against unarmed civilians. Those “independent” actions simply pose the risk of isolation within western democracies to Japan, while she does not have powerful and reliable partners in Asia for her own national survival. More importantly, savage competition of geopolitics makes Japan’s position in the world increasingly vulnerable and fragile (“A New Cold War With Russia Forces Japan to Choose Sides”; Diplomat; April 23, 2018). Nationalists may feel proud of a Japan that is totally “independent” from any regional powers, including China, Russia, and even America, as she was in the prewar era. But Russo-Chinese geopolitics is too big for Japan to handle alone. This is clearly shown in Putin’s blunt comment that Russia had no intention of returning the disputed Kuril islands, because Japan is in alliance with the United States. Remember, prewar Japan was not proudly independent as nationalists argue, but forcefully cut off from the alliance with Britain.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Neocons Do not Give Credits to Bolton

The global community was startled when President Donald Trump reshuffled the cabinet to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster with Former UN Ambassador John Bolton. As tensions over the North Korean nuclear crisis grows, the nomination of loyalist hawks raises critical concerns among foreign policy experts all over the world. While Pompeo needs approval at the Senate, Bolton has started his job from April 9. It is commonly understood that outspoken Bolton is a good match with unorthodox Trump. However, there are some discrepancies in foreign policy views between the both. Particularly, Bolton is commonly regarded as a neocon, and willing to make cases for regime changes against rogue nations like Iran and North Korea, while Trump is inclined to businessman styled costs and benefits thinking and isolationism. Therefore, I doubted Bolton’s appointment to the Secretary of State, when people rumored it in the transition period (”Bolton would consider serving as Trump's secretary of State”; Hill; August 23, 2016). From this point of view, his appointment to the National Security Advisor is rather surprising, despite the mismatch between Trump and McMaster.

However, there are some policy discrepancies between Bolton and Trump, notably on Russia and the Middle East. According to the BBC, their policy match is just 3 out 5 issues. Both think there is nothing wrong with a preemptive attack on North Korea. They also agree to bomb Iran when necessary. In addition, they distrust the United Nations, and prefer the world system based on sovereign states. On the other hand, Bolton strongly believes it was necessary to remove the threat of Saddam Hussein in the Iraq War, which is completely at odds with Trump. Russia is another issue that both disagree. Ironically, Bolton admits Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, although his predecessor McMaster was forced to clash with Trump on this issue (“John Bolton: Five things new Trump security adviser believes”; BBC News; 23 March, 2018). From this perspective, Russian dominance in Syria and its neighborhood could trigger some frictions between Bolton and Trump in the future. Despite vehement criticism from renowned experts, Trump clings to his notorious election pledges like tariff hikes against trade partners whether allies or non-allies, troop deployment on the border with Mexico as he failed to win the budget for the wall, withdrawal from the TPP, repeal of the Paris Accord on Climate Change, and so forth. Whoever the advisor is, it is extremely difficult to avoid a clash with Trump.

Even more vicious criticism to Bolton comes from his fellow “neocons”, most of whom joined the Never Trump movement during the election, as opposed to his firm endorsement to Trump against Hillary Clinton. Let me talk about some example. Professor Eliot Cohen of the SAIS, who led an anti-Trump movement during the election, is critically worries that there is no one to check Trump in the cabinet after he nominated Bolton and Pompeo to take place of McMaster and Tillerson. Thus, Cohen recommends McMaster to write a memoir to tell Trump’s confused management of his administration to awaken the public (“McMaster's Choice”; Atlantic; March 23, 2018). Max Boot at the Council on Foreign comments even acrimoniously. Contrary to historical presidents who explored to seek common ground with the Congress and the federal bureaucracy when they reshuffled the cabinet, Trump appointed friction prone Bolton to replace McMaster. During the Bush era, Senate approval for his appointment to the UN Ambassador was delayed due to his disrespect to international treaties and organizations. As the Ambassador, he failed to exert American leadership at the UN. The National Security Advisor needs interpersonal skills to coordinate foreign policy and defense agencies, but Bolton is not good at it. Most dangerously, he is endorses preemptive attack on nuclear armed North Korea, and withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action without showing an alternative for the United States to denuclearize Iran (“Add another zealot to the White House”; Washington Post; March 22, 2018). Though Boot agrees with Bolton for his criticism to overstaffed and red taped UN, he comments that Bolton’s nationalist and authoritarian mindsets as shown in his antipathy to the EU and Islam are incompatible with idealistic internationalist Republican mainstream, but more compatible with Trumpism (“Why I changed my mind about John Bolton”; Washington Post; March 26, 2018).

Though Bolton joined the campaign for the regime change in Iraq by the Project for the New American Century (“PNAC and Iraq”; New Yorker; March 29, 2009), William Kristol told that he is not a neocon but a national interest hawk in an interview with his Weekly Standard on March 23. In fact, Bolton is not so much interested in universal moral issues like democracy promotion and human rights, although he still endorses the regime change in both North Korea and Iran (“Bolton Brings Hawkish Perspective To North Korea, Iran Strategy”; NPR News; March 22, 2018). In other words, he just wants to overthrow dangerous regimes that pose critical threats to US national security. Kristol’s analysis is plausible as Bolton hardly supported democracy initiatives in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He would not care dictatorship of President Abdel el-Sisi and Gulf emirates, as long as they remain close allies to the United States. Therefore, he is more in line with Trump’s America First than neoconservative idealism. On the other hand, Kristol mentions that Bolton does not agree to Trump’s isolationist view, and he believes in strong alliances with NATO, Japan, and so forth, to boost American foreign policy. From this point, it is critical how much Bolton can exert influence on Trump’s Russia policy. The imminent problem is whether Bolton reinforces or restrains Trump’s instinct of war against North Korea and Iran. Since he argues preemptive attack on the North and repeal of the JCPOA, he is more likely to reinforce Trump’s belligerence. Kristol is not so sarcastic as Boot, but he is critically concerned with the combination of hawkish Bolton and irascible Trump, which was not the case with the same Bolton serving Republican mainstream presidents like Bush Sr and Jr.

Above all, the media use the word of neocon too broadly to anyone who supported the Iraq War. Actually, those who are commonly called neocon include a broad range of foreign policy pundits from Bolton who sees himself a diehard conservative from the beginning, to Robert Kagan who proclaims his thoughts are based on liberal and traditional international interventionism, and endorsed Clinton in the last election from the early phase. The media and foreign policy experts should use the word more precisely defined. But even though Bolton is not a neocon, why he endorses Trump so firmly despite his long career at the State Department? Until the rise of Trump, foreign policy circles both inside and outside the United States assumed that America would restore global leadership under the new president after post-American Barack Obama, whether Hillary Clinton or someone from Republican mainstream. However, Bolton was extremely skeptical to Clinton’s interventionism. One example that he mentions is US intervention in the Libyan Civil War in 2011. As opposed to popular notions of Clinton as a liberal hawk, he argues that she was too timid to remove Muammar Qaddafy without international authorization when Libya was resuming terrorist sponsorship. In his view, UN backed humanitarian intervention is a standard Democrat foreign policy, and hardly compatible with the vision of Henry Jackson (“Hillary and ‘interventionism’”; Pittsburgh Tribune Review; May 7, 2016). While blaming Clinton’s "passive" diplomacy, Bolton praises Trump for his understanding that the War on Terror comes the hate ideology of Islamic extremism to the West. Thus, he endorsed Trump’s Muslim immigration restriction, as opposed to law enforcement approaches of Obama and Clinton. Quite interestingly, Bolton is scornful to nation building in a country without legal, political and cultural foundations as Trump is, though he endorses the regime change in Iran and North Korea (“What Trump’s foreign policy gets right”; Wall Street Journal; August 21, 2016).

Despite such a contradiction, there are some discrepancies between Bolton’s proactive nationalism and Trump’s Fortress America isolationism. From this perspective, the Syrian Civil War is a critical test for both. Though Trump launched air raids along with Britain and France against the chemical attack by the Assad regime (“US strikes three Syrian sites in response for chemical attack”; Military Times; April 14, 2018), he hinted a plan to withdraw US troops from Syria before this incident, while generals strongly resisted that (“Trump gets testy as national security team warns of risks of Syria withdrawal”; CNN News; April 5, 2018). Trump may have shown the power, but Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations tweets, “The US strikes in were a legitimate but narrow response to Syrian CW use. There is no visible change in US policy toward Syria, ie, the US did not act to weaken the regime. Nor is there any more clarity re future US policy or presence in Syria.”

Current Syria policy is deeply entangled with Russia and Middle East policy. Can Bolton persuade Trump to shed his Fortress America instincts? The problem is Trump’s election base. They lament that an interventionist Trump is turning to another Hillary Clinton or George W. Bush, over Syria (“Trump supporters rip decision to strike Syria”; Politico, April 13, 2018). Though alt-rights like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka left the administration, Trump supporters' favorite FOX News anchorman Tucker Carlson propagates isolationism through blaming bipartisan foreign policy leaders (“Tucker Takes on Critics Over Skepticism of Syria Strikes: They Want You to 'Shut Up and Obey'” FOX news; April 11, 2018). Bolton may not believe in neocon idealism, but as a foreign service veteran, he must override populist isolationism on which this administration is founded. That is an extremely tough job.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Without the Ambassador in Seoul, How Can Trump Have Leverage over North Korea?

In the North Korean crisis, there is a growing chasm between Sunshine policy-oriented South Korea and pressure-oriented Japan and the United States. But it is utterly wrong to blame President Moon Jaein of South Korea one-sidedly, though his pro-North posture since the election has been posing constraints to the trilateral partnership with the United States and Japan. We need to pay more attention to an inherent problem of President Donald Trump’s management of the US government, notably, the Foreign Service. Ever since his inauguration, senior governmental positions are still vacant, and the ambassador to South Korea is one of them. In view of Trump’s notorious America First creed, there is no wonder that Moon worries about American commitment to the security of the Korean Peninsular, and appease North Korea. Even if South Korean president were more pro-American than Moon, this country would lean toward balancer diplomacy with the North and China, rather than a staunch partnership with the United States and Japan. In my eyes, the more one knows about Korean affairs, the more liable to dismiss this basic point.

With a highly qualified ambassador in Seoul, America and South Korea would be able to discuss North Korea policy on a daily basis in every detail. The role of the US ambassador in South Korea is not just policy consultations with the Blue House. The American ambassador in Seoul can watch and control Moon so that he will not deviate from the common ground with other US allies in the region. The Commander of the US Forces in Korea is not in a position to be involved in political affairs. It is the ambassador who can have leverage over the Blue House, whether through compassionate consultation or ruthless pressure. We need to remember geopolitics that South Korea is adjacent to North Korea like China, thus, she is tempted to an appeasement to Pyong Yang for fear of instability of the Peninsular and a huge influx of refugees in her territory. Only a strong diplomatic presence of the United States can keep South Korea closely aligned with Asia-Pacific democracies. The Trump administration was so upset to send Vice President Mike Pence to the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchnag Olympics, in order to drive a wedge between South Korea and North Korea (“The Last Moratorium that the US gave to South Korea”; Gendai Business; February 16, 2018). Furthermore, the administration even sent Ivanka Trump to the closing ceremony, that spurred bitter criticism to her poor credentials in diplomacy (“Ivanka Trump's chronic problem”; Chicago Tribune; February 28, 2018). Anyway, they stayed only a few days there, while an ambassador can meet Moon almost daily.

As shown in Trump’s notorious plan to cut State Department budget and personnel based on cost and benefit perspectives, his disrespect to the Foreign Service is terribly lopsided. But considering the emphasis on North Korea in the New Security Strategy last December (“President Trump's New National Security Strategy”; CSIS Commentary; December 18, 2017), Trump needs to recognize the importance of Foreign Service professionalism, rather than clinging to populism and cost-and-benefit thinking. From this point of view, Trump has to reconsider the appropriate balance of diplomatic bargaining and military pressure against Kim Jongun. He may want to send his own appointee to South Korea after Barack Obama’s ambassador Mark Lippert. However, as long as he disdains expertise of the Foreign Service, he will not find the right nominee by himself. This is why former National Security Council Victor Cha in the Bush administration did not accept Trump’s nomination (“Trump Finally Taps Ambassador to South Korea”; Diplomat; December 16, 2017 and “Still No US Ambassador in South Korea”; Diplomat; February 10,2018).

The fundamental problem goes beyond the ambassador to South Korea. The populist businessman is not well acquainted with those who have close contacts with the government. Also, Trump himself has little experience working for the government. Therefore, his appointment of senior officials has been delayed so much. As of February 28, Trump fails to nominate 41 ambassador positions, including those in some strategically critical countries such as Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan (“More than 40 countries lack a U.S. ambassador. That’s a big problem.”; Think Progress; February 28, 2018). In addition, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Department reorganization plan to cut sections and positions raises serious concerns among national security experts that it will erode the capability to defend the homeland from global problems like crime and terrorism, and weaken diplomatic presence on the global stage (“Rep. Nita Lowey: Trump is destroying America's status as a global leader and endangering national security”; NBC News; March 1, 2018). These messes were foreseeable when Trump bid for the presidency. Trump’s lopsidedly business-oriented thinking and disdain to the government are shown in his appointment of his cabinet members. From the presidency of George H. W. Bush to Barack Obama, more than 80 % of the cabinet secretaries have governmental experience, but only 47% has in the Trump administration. On the other hand, CEOs account for 28% in the Trump team, but they accounted below 18% in the predecessors’ team since 1989 (“Donald Trump’s Cabinet is radically unorthodox”; Washington Post; January 11, 2018).

The Trump administration is neither comfortable for qualified political appointees to work, nor is it respectful to existing governmental professionals. During the transition period shortly after Trump won the election, Professor Eliot Cohen at the Paul Nitze School of the Johns Hopkins was so discouraged to hear incoherent policy and acrimonious atmosphere in the Trump team that he recommended his fellow conservatives not to work for this administration (“I told conservatives to work for Trump. One talk with his team changed my mind.”; Washington Post; November 15, 2016). A few months after Trump’s inauguration, things went so negatively as Cohen said. His administration disinformed the public that Obama wiretapped him, his dismissal of human rights eroded America’s influence and reputation on the global stage, and his nepotism brought conflict of interests to the White House (“Eliot Cohen was right: Work for Trump, lose your soul”; Washington Post; April 3, 2017). As a result, this administration is forced to appoint unfit people to the ambassador and senior governmental positions. This is typically seen in the case of Ambassador Pete Hoekstra to the Netherlands. Former Republican Congressman without diplomatic experience, he was severely questioned about his past remark to agitate fears about Muslims in the Netherlands, at the first press conference as the ambassador (“Trump's ambassador to Netherlands finally admits 'no-go zone' claims”; BBC News; 12 January, 2018).

Trump may want to replace Obama’s appointees with his favorite ones from his inner circle, but that causes frictions at home and abroad. Therefore, I would suggest that Trump be more respectful to America’s venerable Foreign Service to rebuild diplomacy. Considering talent depletion in his network, he should appoint career diplomats to unfilled ambassadorial positions. Furthermore, Trump and Tillerson should overturn the State Department reorganization plan to keep qualified candidates for ambassador vacancies. This is not just a problem of US-Korean relations.Among industrialized democracies, the Civil and Foreign Services are merit-based, and the ambassador represents the state, not the incumbent administration. Why doesn’t Trump follow this global standard? How can Moon trust current America whose government and diplomacy are in a terrible confusion?,br>

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>