Saturday, August 10, 2013

How Can Japan Make Its Voice Heard More in American Foreign Policy?

Japan is a country prospering in a world of Pax Americana, because Japan itself was remade into a liberal democracy by America. Nationalists should bear it in mind, in recent debates for constitutional reform, before complaining US made postwar constitution. Blaming America will dismantle the safety net for Japan’s security and global standing. Therefore, it is Japan’s foremost priority to make its voice heard among foreign policymakers in the United States, whether in a unipolar or a multipolar world.

Since foreign policy is primarily arranging state to state relations, the Abe administration is right to improve relations with the Obama administration, which was shattered by the Hatoyama administration. Some people mention philosophical gaps between supposedly nationalist Abe and liberal or even “post-American” Obama. However, enduring alliances in history have overcome such differences. This is typically seen in Britain’s special relationship with the United States. It has been a foreign policy priority for Britain to keep a staunch alliance with America to boost its global standing, regardless of ideology of the incumbent administration, as in the case of Democrat Kennedy and Conservative MacMillan, Republican Bush and Labour Blair. But that is not enough to maximize Japan’s influence on US policymaking.

For fear of Chinese and Korean lobbies, with the background of the rise of Asian American population, Japanese people insist on strengthening counter lobbying against their aggressive penetration to the American political corridor. Congressman Mike Honda’s “notorious” resolution to blame Japan for Korean wartime sex slaves inflicted deep psychological scars among the Japanese public. Therefore, such sentiments are understandable, but lobbying to serve specific country’s interests will make Americans increasingly suspicious and vigilant. Remember vehement hostility to the Japanese lobby among the American grassroots in the 1980s when a Japanese company bought the Rockefeller Center. Excessive dependence on the “Japan lobby” or the “Japan handlers” does not necessarily advance Japan’s national interest.

Rather, I would argue that Japan appeal common interests with US global strategy. Despite post-American thinking of the Obama administration and isolationist mindset among small government Republicans, we have to notice backlashes of internationalists among American foreign policymakers. They are much better partners for Japan than dubious “Japan Lobby”. In order to explore close relations with internationalists in Washington, the Japanese side must be more broad-sighted and globally-oriented. Let me mention a typical case. The Japanese public welcomed naïvely when the Obama announced the pivot to Asia. In reality, it was just a scale down of US military presence in the Middle East, as seen in the withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, as MackenzieEaglen, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, frequently points out that American military presence has not strengthened sufficiently tocounter China, North Korea and so forth.

When Secretary of State John Kerry visitedEast Asia this April, it was global interventionists who demanded him not toappease China with regard to the Sino-Japanese conflict over the East China Sea. Eight Republican senators, including John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and so forth sent an open letter to Secretary Kerry to remind the amendment of the National Defense Authorization Act by Democrat Senator Jim Webb and Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman (Senate Approves Webb Amendment to Reaffirm US Commitment to Japan on the Senkaku Islands; Pacific News Center; 30 November 2012) to articulate US obligation to defend Japan, in case of the Chinese invasion to the Senkaku Islands. Therefore, the reminder to Secretary Kerry is beyond partisan politics. Also, most of them are critical to Obama’s Middle East policy as a superpower suicide. It is neither regional balance of American strategy nor America’s attention to Japan that matters. It is the will of assuming the burden of Pax Americana that really serves the interests of Japan and the rest of the world. Most importantly, 9-11 terrorist attacks have made it clear that commitment to Pax Americana is the vital interest for the United States itself. True partnership is mutually beneficial. This shall never be achieved through the channel of dubious “Japan Lobby”.

Fortunately, there are some initiatives by globalists in the United States. A joint project called “Defending Defense” was found by the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Foreign Policy Initiative. This project explores how to maintain American defense capability both in terms of quality and quantity in an era of fiscal austerity as typically seen in sequestration. More importantly, political heavyweights are launching initiatives to overturn the post-Americanism and isolationism. Former Democrat Senator Joseph Lieberman andformer Republican Senator Jon Kyl founded the American Internationalism Project in the AEI. The objective of this project is not to act receptively to multiplied threats, including terrorism, Chinese expansionism, nuclear proliferation, and so forth. More affirmatively, the Internationalism Project advocates US commitment to build a world based on American ideal of liberal values. Whether liberal or conservative, there are numerous American think tanks and civic organizations that advocate US commitment to world peace and prosperity. The focal point is that venerable and influential politicians take leadership to override fiscal constraints, psychological fatigue with overseas intervention, and isolationism. Japan’s national interests must be closely assosiated with those of such far-sighted people.

Of course, it is also important to promote Japan’s interests through specific lobbying channels. In this case, Japan must find allies for specific objectives, among ethnic, religious, industrial, or any other kind of groups in the United States. Successful alliance with those groups will help Japanese influence advance, and make it taken positively among the American public. For example, pro-Israel lobby is an alliance of Jewish and evangelists. Fear of Arab terrorists is widespread among the American public, and particularly in both groups. Sharing common awareness, Jewish and evangelists are strongly united to make their voices heard in American public opinion. Similarly, Koreans and Armenians formed a solid alliance to build a comfort woman statue in Glendale, California. Koreans and Armenians have common historical perception that they were repressed by Japan and Turkey respectively (“Glendale approves Korean 'comfort woman' statue despite protest”; Los AngelsTimes; July 10, 2013). For Japan, Indian Americans may be a potential ally against Chinese influence, because Indians and Chinese compete high skill brain jobs. Also, their home countries are geopolitical rivals each other.

What I mentioned here are not the only way to maximize Japan’s voice in the American political corridors. In any case, whether to take a broadly based globalist approach or narrowly focused specific alliance approach, excessive dependence on the Japanese connection shall not expand Japanese influence. America’s primary allies such as Britain and Israel use various channels, and they combine those methods. As other state and non-state actors upgrade their approaches to the United States, Japan needs to do so accordingly.