Saturday, May 27, 2006

Book Review: Eternal Japan-US Alliance

I would like to write a post based on a Japanese opinion leader’s viewpoint this time. The book is entitled “Eternal Japan-US Alliance: Nothing Wrong with Being America’s Tributary State!” or "日米永久同盟:アメリカの「属国」でなにが悪い!" (Kobunsha Press 光文社, by Hidemi Nagao 長尾秀美, Public Relations Officer of US Navy in Japan). This Japanese book is recommendable to understand the US-Japanese alliance , because it is lucid.

Nagao questions the vital point on the US-Japanese alliance in the future.

Is Japan willing to continue alliance with the United States?

Should the United States declare abrogation of the US-Japanese alliance, what would Japan do? Why doesn’t Prime Minister Koizumi face this vital agenda without considering any countermeasures? While People call the Prime Minister “Bush’s lapdog”, he is not interested in strengthening the US-Japanese alliance at all. I wonder why he does not care about it.

Some Japanese opinion leaders criticize that Japan is becoming a “tributary state of the United States” under current transformation of US military organizations. However, Hidemi Nagao refutes their ideas flatly, and insists that the Japan can never win trust from the global community without staunch alliance with the United States. Therefore, he says that Japan must be “a trustworthy tributary state” to the United States. He rejects any kind of alternatives other than closer US-Japan partnership. His arguments are clear and insightful.

In the Introduction, Nagao refutes a commonly believed fiction among Japanese people, “Unprecedented US-Japanese Friendship between Bush and Koizumi.” Under the transformation of US forces, transfer of Okinawa troops has emerged a crucial agenda between Japan and the United States. However, he criticizes that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi cares nothing but pleasing Okinawa citizens to get Futenma airbase returned to Japan. While American side talks about basic concepts of military transformation, Japanese side is not interested in it, according to Nagao.

Surprisingly enough, Prime Minister Koizumi canceled the US-Japanese summit last September, because he was reluctant to talk on critical issues like military transformation and BSE beef problem. His attitude is questionable, because the United States was prepared for this state visit. Only “Shukan Bunshun 週刊文春” (one of weekly journals, widely circulated in Japan) took up this news among Japanese media. Also, Koizumi refused to attend the 60th memorial ceremony of VE Day in the World War Ⅱ, because Japan was a loser in this war. I feel resented to hear this. Japan would have been able to demonstrate that it shared common historical perception with the United States, and liberate itself from the postwar framework.

In Chapter 1, the author blames the media tend to exaggerate misbehavior by US soldiers. Also, he mentions widespread misunderstandings among Japanese people on the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement. In this chapter, he emphasizes that the US Forces in Japan play the key role to maintain peace and stability from East Asia to the Indian Ocean. Most importantly, he insists that Japan establish real trustworthy relations with the United States as the “most reliable tributary state.” That is, people need to be realist to admit that Japan cannot act on its own, and it is vital for Japan to keep the US-Japanese alliance as the crown jewelry in foreign policy. Of course, he does not advocate blind follwership to US policy. Japan must establish a mutual trust between the United States, based on common universal values of freedom and democracy.

From Chapter 2 to Chapter 5, the author comments on history of Japanese diplomacy, particularly US-Japanese relations and the Anglo-Japanese alliance. We can learn a lot from history, particularly how to make the alliance effective. The author says the alliance must be bilateral, not unilateral. This is why the Anglo-Japanese alliance was abolished. Since then, Japan had no defenders, and ran into a fanatic policy of building up the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Zone. I am concerned that Japanese politicians say that the alliance is necessary because Japan must be “protected by the United States.” British leaders advocate more bilateral alliance.

In Chapter 6, Nagao argues that the United Nations not a reliable peacemaker. As he comments, the United Nations does not have peacemaking capability at all. He analyses the reason for this, and suggests that Japan withdraw from the UN. He says that UN membership does not pay off for Japan, considering its budget contribution to the United Nations and its position in this organization. Rather, he says, Japan should use this money for bilateral aid or small business assistance. Furthermore, Nagao condemns China’s high-handed diplomacy in the United Nations: less budget contribution to the UN than Japan, receiving ODA from Japan, but using veto to impose its national interest through the United Nations.

What should Japan do after withdrawal from the UN? In Chapter 7, Nagao proposes to extend the US-Japanese alliance for 100 years in order to manage threats from the Chinese Empire and Russia. Britain and Australia can join this alliance to make the Far East Democracy Peacemaking Coalitions, he says.

His idea in the final chapter is controversial, but the author is consistent in his thorough realism to admit that Japan cannot enjoy peace and prosperity without the umbrella of American hegemony. I agree with him in his contempt to the United Nations and blind pacifism. Finally, it is noteworthy that the author emphasizes the importance of common universal values as the foundation of the Trans-pacific alliance. Otherwise, he says, Japanese people will live in peace and stability under the Chinese Empire. While Japanese rightists get nervous to Chinese threat, they do not care enough about common universal values between the two biggest democracies in the Asia Pacific region.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

America's Three Musketeers?: Britain, Japan, and India

I found an interesting article in “National Security Outlook December 2005”, published by the American Enterprise Institute. In the article, entitled “The Big Four Alliance: The New Bush Strategy”, Thomas Donnelly, Resident Fellow at the AEI, argues the following.

Over the past six months, the Bush administration has upgraded its budding “strategic partnerships” with Japan and India. Along with the steady “special relationship” with Great Britain, what is beginning to emerge is a global coalition system—it is too soon to call it a true alliance—for the post–Cold War world. Much work remains to be done to translate the expressions of similar political interests and values into usable military strength. Still, the prospects for expanding the number of genuine “stakeholders” in the Pax Americana are quite bright.

Certainly, the United States needs to restructure new strategic partnerships with key allies, in order to manage the post-Cold War dangers. Basically, I agree to his viewpoints, but it is necessary to examine how things are developing since then. The special relationship with Britain is likely to remain solid, but some problematic aspects must be considered when it comes to alliance with Japan and India.

First, let me review the article by Donnelly. He points out that it was not the war against Iraq but unilateralism provoked criticism to the Bush administration. In order to enhance the liberal world order in the post-Cold War era, the United States has to build new alliances of the Big 4, including the United States, Britain, Japan, and India, he says. According to Donnelly, the Big 4 share four strategic principles:

(1) Managing the dangers in the Greater Middle East, like radicalism, autocrats, and nuclear proliferation
(2) Curbing Chinese threat
(3) Promoting democracy for durable peace
(4) Recognizing the necessity of using military force (Doubtful for Japan, I think.)

In addition to common strategic objectives, three countries share geopolitical similarities as Eurasian offshore balancers: Britain to Europe, Japan to Asia, and India to the Middle East and China. Donnelly insists that the central pillar of the Big 4 be the United States. Freed from the Cold War constraints, the United States can pursue the mission to advance freedom and democracy throughout the world as stated in the Bush Doctrine. To achieve this goal, Donnelly argues that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s temporary "coalition of the willing" must be supplanted to more permanent arrangements. I agree to this policy blue print, and let me see his arguments on new strategic partnership one by one.

The most stable and reliable partner is Britain. The Anglo-American special relationship has been revitalized by the Blair administration. Prime Minister Tony Blair pressed President Bill Clinton to get involved in Balkan without UN mandate, and supports President George W. Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the special relationship is likely to remain strong after Blair, British armed forces are small albeit competent. This is the problem to sustain extensive overseas commitment. Nevertheless, Donnelly calls the Anglo-American alliance the gold standard for some countries aspiring staunch partnership with the United States, particularly Japan.

Since the “Armitage Report” was published, Japan is remodeling its alliance with the United States after the Anglo-American special relationship. The report advises that Japan reconsider its pacifist constitution. Currently, Japan faces serious threats from China and North Korea. Therefore, Japan deadly needs US presence, and develops further cooperation like the missile defense program. In addition, Japan sent troops to support US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, Japan’s Self Defense Force lacks operational experiences. Moreover, Japan’s defense spending is still within 1 % of its GDP, due to constitutional and political constraints. Therefore, Donnelly comments that Japan’s current capability is far below its potential.

India has emerged as a new strategic partner to the United States since 9-11. Indian forces are well experienced to fight against Islamic terrorists in Kashmir. Also, some American policymakers expect India to counterbalance against China. However, Donnelly points out that Indian weaponry systems are still predominantly Cold War Soviet made. This is a handicap to work closely with the United States.

Donnelly regards the Big 4 alliance more potential than real. Some strategic cooperation was initiated by the Bush administration, but it remains to be seen whether their common interests and values can make this coalition more permanent basis of the Pax Americana.

Basically, I agree with Donnelly, but he does not mention some hurdles in each country in this article. Time has passed since then, and I feel it necessary to examine the Three Musketeers one by one.

First, I comment on Britain. Tony Blair’s likely successor Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, will continue New Labour policies. However, Labour leftists may backlash, because they feel current policies deviate from Fabianism, the ideological foundation of the Labour Party. Careful observation of political process after the loss of Labour defeat in the last election is necessary.

As to Japan, there are some worrisome trends. A few years ago, a US soldier in Okinawa raped a Japanese elementary school girl. This infuriated people in Okinawa, saying that US bases are excessively concentrated there, and they have been bearing this burden for decades. Since then, some Japanese media report US bases as if they were troublemakers. Also, under the recent US-Japanese arrangement, Japan should pay for moving some Okinawa bases to Guam, US territory. These incidents provoke anti-American sentiments.

Moreover, tensions with China and Korea stimulate nationalist emotions to legitimize Japan’s wartime behavior. Apparently, this is incompatible with common values of freedom and democracy.

Regarding India, the most critical issue is the Indo-US nuclear deal. Quite a few opinion leaders warn that this arrangement will destroy current nonproliferation regime. Henry Kissinger is positive to bolster US-India strategic partnership, but he does not agree to use India a counterbalance against China, because India acts its own. Also, America must strike a balance between India and Pakistan.

Does India share common values with America? According to Freedom House index, India belongs to “free country” category, but not the top level. While the Bush administration regard India a trustworthy democracy, careful approaches to this country is necessary.

British historian Niall Ferguson, Professor at Harvard University, raised a question whether the United States has stamina for further involvement beyond regime change. I believe successful partnership with Eurasian offshore balancers is vital for this question. I would like to review these strategic partnerships individually in the forthcoming posts.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Liberals Rolling Back?: Center for American Progress

This is a year of mid-term election. One of the key focuses is whether liberals can roll back or not. According to the latest CBS/New York Times poll, the approval rate for President Bush has dropped to only 31 %, which is the lowest since he took office. At this stage, 44 % voters say they support Democrats while 33 % of them support Republicans for the mid-term election.

Opinion poll results can change easily. If liberals were to govern the United States, they must show their own policy vision to win real trust from the whole nation. Without this, they end up simply criticizing the current administration.

In 2003, John Podesta, a former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, founded a liberal think tank, called the Center for American Progress (CAP), in order to counterweight major conservative ones like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. Currently, there are virtually no major think tanks to prevail liberal agendas. The Brookings Institution has strong ties with Democrats, but not so much ideologically-oriented. Moreover, Brookings has joint a project on regulation with the AEI. Most influential policy centers, including the Council on Foreign Relations, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and so forth are nonpartisan or centrist. Some like the Project for New American Century is neoconservative, and the CATO institute is libertarian.

Readers can understand that liberals are not in a good position when it comes to policy making. Actually, Republicans are rated better than Democrats in the war on terror, betting 40 % approval over Democrats’ 35 %. Therefore, it is vital to examine whether liberals can really manage current crisis imposed on the United States and the world.

First, let me review missions of this think tank. Their motto is “Progressive ideas for a strong, just, and free America.” For this objective, the Center for American Progress conduct policy research ranging from domestic, economy, to national security issues.

In foreign policy, they state the following.

We promote the need for a strong, smart military and believe America must safeguard its homeland, fight terrorism and take on threats that know no borders. And we believe America's interests are advanced when we strengthen alliances and work with multilateral institutions that support the rule of law.

Unlike conventional think tanks, they advocate anti-Bush straightforwardly. Also, this think tank is dedicated to public education on a broad range of policy issues. Do they have feasible policy ideas? Last October, CAP published a policy brief, “COMBATING CATASTROPHIC TERROR: A SECURITY STRATEGY FOR THE NATION”, written by top experts including Madeleine K. Albright, former Secretary of State under the Clinton administration. Though this policy brief recommends withdrawal from Iraq, authors do not suggest how to manage this country after that. Quite interestingly, liberal experts share common viewpoints with the current administration that democracy promotion in the Middle East is the key to US foreign policy.

To foresee what happens in America and the world, people should not be so nearsighted to focus solely on election results. Whether Republican or Democrat, winning election is just the means, not the ends. Liberals must persuade the whole nation that they can manage current crisis more effectively. Remember that their approval rate on the war on terror is lower than that of the current administration.

Can liberals deal with critical challenges to America and the globe much better than the current administration? The key to the answer lies in their policy visions. This is the vital reason why people need to keep an eye on this progressive think tank.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Colossus in Need: America the Peacemaker

President George W. Bush welcomes Mrs. Sakie Yokota, mother of Megumi Yokota, and her son representing family members of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea to the Oval Office Friday, April 28, 2006. White House photo by Paul Morse

Those who are critical to US foreign policy need to remember that America is the colossus in need. Since the Iraq War, leftists around the world try to prevail negative images on US leadership, saying that the United States is the greatest threat to world peace. Apparently, this is wrong. The real threats are terrorists and rogue states. Imagine the world without America. Orthodox theory of international politics says US hegemony provides global public goods of liberal world order and democracy.

I have to mention two recent events. See the photo above. President Bush met Sakie Yokota, a mother of Japanese abductee to North Korea on April 28. Her daughter was kidnapped by North Korean agents nearly 30 years ago. It is estimated that hundreds of Japanese are abducted to North Korea. More South Koreans are believed to be abducted by North Korea. The Kim regime use Japanese and South Korean abdustees to train North Korean secret agents. President Bush sent a much clearer message than Japanese and South Korean leaders that he stood firmly against the North Korean autocrat. This has encouraged abductees’ families. (See the video.)

Another event is the Darfur Rally on April 30 in front of the White House. In face of Arab attack against Africans in Darfur, global civil network such as NGOs and bloggers launched a campaign to ask the President to stop genocide in this region. Since Sudan is a member of the Arab league, Arab nations are the most important stakeholders to resolve this issue. Also, the United Nations is expected to play a key role to introduce a peace agreement between Arabs and Africans. However, none of these organizations act sufficiently as a peacemaker. Therefore, bloggers and NGOs regarded a petition to the United States as the last resort.

Two examples indicate that when humanitarian problems come out in the global community, US involvement is vital. Neither international nor regional organizations can intervene effectively, because they do not have enough hard power, nor do they have strong will to bring peace.

In order to understand why American involvement is necessary for world peace and stability, let me review “Still the Colossus” by Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Washington Post, January 15, 2006). Despite the rift on Iraq, Europe is willing to cooperate with the United States on Eastern and Central Europe, Afghanistan and Iran. Japan needs US presence to deal with Chinese threats. Why does the world need America so much?

One reason is America’s strength.

The truth is, America retains enormous advantages in the international arena. Its liberal, democratic ideology remains appealing in a world that is more democratic than ever. Its potent economy remains the driving wheel of the international economy. Compared with these powerful forces, the unpopularity of recent actions will prove ephemeral, just as it did after the nadir of American Cold War popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Another reason I have to mention is international balance of power.

There are also structural reasons why American indispensability can survive even the unpopularity of recent years. The political scientist William Wohlforth argued a decade ago that the American unipolar era is durable not because of any love for the United States but because of the basic structure of the international system. The problem for any nation attempting to balance American power, even in that power's own region, is that long before it becomes strong enough to balance the United States, it may frighten its neighbors into balancing against it. Europe would be the exception to this rule were it increasing its power, but it is not. Both Russia and China face this problem as they attempt to exert greater influence even in their traditional spheres of influence.

Shortly after the fall of Baghdad, global civil movements requested US pressure on Liberia and Burma. Substantial portion of activists blamed US lead war against Iraq. Some of them even condemned the war in Afghanistan, although it was a direct response against 9-11 terrorist attack. I wonder whether they hate or love America. It seems that people all over the world have a mixed feeling to American power. Then, when do they turn toward pro-American or anti-American?

Anti-American sentiments become rampant when people feel overwhelmed by US dominance from culture, politics, and economy to security, and their identity is endangered. This is typical in the Islamic world. Another case is that when people see US foreign policy power-dependent and arrogant. The Iraq War is a notable example. Also, when people associate US image with an authoritarian regime, they turn toward anti-Americanism. In South Korea, the United States sponsored the military regime during the Cold War. This is one of the reasons why anti-Americanism is widespread among South Koreans.

On the other hand, people turn toward pro-Americanism when they face imminent humanitarian challenges, and a petition to the United States appears the last resort. Examples mentioned in this post are such cases. Also, when people are under a repressive government, they become pro-American. Student movements in Iran and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine are typical cases.

In view of such trends, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger argues that US leadership in the world will be tested whether American predominance turns into international consensus, and American norms are universally accepted. Rome and Britain succeeded in achieving these goals. (“Our Nearsighted World Vision”, Washington Post, January 10, 2000)

Yet, despite this, Kagan says as follows.

The American position in the world has not deteriorated as much as people think. America still "stands alone as the world's indispensable nation," as Clinton so humbly put it in 1997. It can resume an effective leadership role in the world in fairly short order, even during the present administration and certainly after the 2008 election, regardless of which party wins. That is a good thing, because given the growing dangers in the world, the intelligent and effective exercise of America's benevolent global hegemony is as important as ever.

Leftists and global civil societies should bear it in mind.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Attention to Darfur

These days, people talk about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran. But don’t miss Africa, particularly Darfur. The Atlantic Review and My Newz’n Ideas publishes special issues of Darfur campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic.

An extensive campaign to stop genocide and save residents was held in front of the White House on April 30.

You can join the movement through Bloggers for Darfur and Million Voices for Darfur.

Tony Blair, Paul Wolfovitz, and now, Junichiro Koizumi is getting involved in Africa. You can’t miss it!