Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Japanese General Election and Foreign Policy Debates

The general election of Japan will be held on August 30. This election draws much attention, because the Liberal Democratic Party, which has been staying in power almost throughout the postwar period, is expected to step down. As the economy is in recession, socio-economic inequality is growing, and the public is annoyed with the LDP-bureaucracy tie, the Democratic Party trumpets the Hope of the Change. Will Japanese Democrats really put an end to the 55 regime of LDP single party dominance, or will they fail as the Hosokawa administration did in the past?

In any case, people talk of post-election change of government, and the choice of policies is unprecedentedly important in this election. The media calls it a Manifesto election. The Election Information Site (選挙情報専門サイト) shows the manifestos of all parties, and they primarily focus on the economy and social welfare. Foreign policy debates in this election are not sufficiently sophisticated.

Last Sunday, I saw “The General Election Special” by NHK on TV. At the end of this program, the panelist from each party discussed the US-Japanese alliance, which is the core issue of Japanese foreign policy. Unfortunately, the debate was too bilateral and too regional. None of the panelists talked about the relationship with the United States through grand pictures of global and historical perspectives. I am stressing this, because I strongly believe in the slogan, “Free nations of the world, unite!”

Having seen the TV discussion, I would like to mention the following points, mostly missed by the panelists.

1. Currently, the world is divided into pro-Western liberal internationalism and anti-Western cult nationalism. The rise of authoritarian nationalism in Russia and China poses critical threats to global security. This is a result of the failure of incorporating both nations into Western-led global economy under the Clintonian neoliberalism. This is no longer exclusively a neoconservative agenda. Even centre left BBC reports the danger of resurgent nationalism in both post-communist giants (“Russia and China 'approval down'”; BBC News; 6 February 2009). Radical ideologists and rogue states also believe in anti-Western cult nationalism. History has returned, not ended!

2. Fundamentally, Japan is at the heart of the Western alliance, which makes this country distinguished from any other nations in Asia. While US Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman insisted on eliminating Russia from G8, Japan has been an indispensible member of this the Best and the Brightest Club, from the beginning. None of respectable leaders in America and Europe have casted any doubt on it. This is Japan’s pride and glory.

It is vital that Europeans accept Japan to share common executive chairs with them, primarily because Japan is one of the key allies to the United States. This is the ultimate reason why the US-Japanese alliance should be much more stauncher.

Appallingly, panelists were too Orientalists, and they were excessively preoccupied with political rivalry with China. But who in the West admit China to join the chief executive board with them to manage the globe? From this perspective, it is historically correct to assume that Japan as the leading Western power.

3. Regarding North Korea, all parties were too soft on the appeasement policy of the Obama administration. None of them were brave enough to argue that Japan play the role of Sir Winston Churchill to impose tougher sanctions against the rogue in Pyongyang. John Bolton has been insisting that America is rewarding bad behavior by Kim Jong-il.

Remember, Americans were reluctant to stop Josef Stalin’s red expansionism when they heard the famous Iron Curtain Speech. But now, Churchill is unanimously a great hero among Americans. Japanese Democrats, if you are so serious to transform the US-Japanese alliance into an equal partnership, why don’t you explore the Curchillian role?

4. However, I agree with Kenji Eda of the Your Party that the Japanese government explore more access to power center of the acting administration, rather than mainly depending on the Japan lobby.

Furthermore, I would like to argue that Japan needs trans-partisan access to the power center in Washington political corridor. The armed forces and neoconservatives are such actors, and they represent America of America. According to Yoshiki Hidaka of the Hudson Institute, the military has always been pro-Japanese simply because Japan is a key US ally (with us or against us!).

History has returned, and nothing is so important as this. Whoever wins the election, narrow bilateralism and Orientalism do not work.

Free nations of the world unite!

It is pity that none of panel discussants talk about the US-Japanese alliance and Japanese national security from this perspective.