Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why Do Europeans and Japanese Quibble over American Hyperpuissance?

There is no doubt that sound relationship between the United States and major democratic allies is the key to world peace and prosperity. However, both Europeans and Japanese are somewhat skeptic to American hegemony, despite their heavy dependence on it. In order to find clues to understand European and Japanese quibble over Pax Americana, I read “Of Paradise and Power” by Robert Kagan again. Though it was published before the Iraq War, this book still provides deep insights on the relation between the United States and key democratic allies.

In terms of history, the United States is quite distinct from Europe and Japan from the following points. Since the earliest days of the colonial era, America has been pursuing ever lasting expansion. Its sphere of influence has expanded from the Wild West to Europe and Asia. After the Cold War, American influence spread furthermore to Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. On the other hand, Europeans and Japanese have experienced rapid shrinkage of their spheres after World War Ⅱ. Europeans withdrew from their colonial empires, and Japanese threw away the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere.

In addition, Americans genuinely believe in universality of their national foundation ideals. Therefore, Americans are confident in their missionary spirit, while Europeans and Japanese are self critical to their behavior in the past. Neither Vietnam nor Iraq can erode this self-confidence.

Above two points bring about stark gaps between America and its European and Japanese allies. Such innocently genuine confidence is envy for Japanese conservatives who resent hysterically to Congressman Mike Honda’s resolution on Korean comfort women during the wartime. The Japanese are more retrospective and more oriented toward their ethnic uniqueness. Nor, do Europeans share this sort of unadulterated creed, although they have common backgrounds in political foundation and civilization.

Only Britain has some close mindset because of their “liberal imperialist” tradition. But the British are more self critical to their imperialism in the 19th century. As Former Prime Minister Tony Blair remarked in his public speech, British leaders avoid using this word. They prefer to use “liberal interventionism” instead, so as not to impress arrogant and high handed image to the global community.

Kagan says that this historical and psychological difference is reinforced by power gap in the post Cold War era. American military power is by far the strongest in the world. Due to this power gap, both Europe and Japan are preoccupied with their neighborhood, rather than global security. Terrorists and rogue states attack “America first”, and therefore, Europeans and Japanese are more tolerant to these threats. As a result, the relationship between the United States and its allies has become that of sheriff and saloon master.

In this book, Robert Kagan talks of philosophical foundation of postmodern Europe. The fundamental idea of European integration in the postwar ear is rejection of modern Europe under power politics. According to a British diplomat Robert Cooper, postmodern European order rests on Kantian ideals, notably, the rejection of force and self-enforced rules of behavior. Ironically Kantian Europe can enjoy their peace and prosperity under the hegemony of Hobbesian America, whose willingness to use military power keep Europeans safe from challengers like Russia, rogue states, and dangerous non-state actors.

I would say Japanese are more retrospective than Europeans, and trying to restore cultural tradition while pursuing greater influence and dignity on the global stage. But this aspiration cannot be achieved without American support. Ultra conservatives in Japan feel disgusted with American influence on Japanese politics, culture, and lifestyle. However, Japan can act on the global stage only with close partnership with the sole superpower. Nor, can Japan deal with threats posed by China and North Korea without alliance with the United States.

Despite such dependence and free ride, both Europeans and Japanese are reluctant to accept American hyper puissance. Robert Kagan points out that Europeans were not so much worried of threats posed by Saddam Hussein, but the consequence of unilateral and extralegal action by the United States to attack Iraq. If unsuccessful, this would destabilize the Middle East. If successful, this would ruin Kantian ideals of “postmodern” Europe. Retrospective Japanese share this sentiment to some extent, and are annoyed with macho Americans continue to “impose” their values on Japanese people.

One of the key issues of this blog is sound alliance across the Atlantic and the Pacific. It is necessary to understand why America causes uneasy sentiments among European and Japanese people. Neither of them shares Americans’ indulgence to unadulterated expansionism and the Manifest Destiny. For further understanding of the relationship between the United States and its allies, I recommend “Of Paradise and Power”, as this book has implications to US foreign policy, even though American leaders are turning toward multilateralism on Iran and North Korea. Can Europeans and Japanese really get along with power oriented America?