Thursday, August 31, 2006

AEI Report on Midterm Election, Terrorism, and Iraq

The American Enterprise Institute has released a survey on the midterm election, which is scheduled this November. Let me review “AEI Political Report, September 2006.” I would like to focus on debates regarding the war on terror and Iraq.

First, the report says the general trend of this election as follows.

As we head into the home stretch of the 2006 election campaigns, anti-incumbent sentiment is unusually high. Many polls suggest that Democrats are more fired up about going to the polls this November than Republicans.

Let me see two questions to evaluate this comment.

Q1: Would like to see your member of Congress reelected?

According to the survey by PSRA/Pew Research Center, the figure has dropped from 58% in June 2002 to 51% in August 2006. Certainly, anti-incumbent is rising, but still, the majority of voters prefer current members to stay in their jobs.

Q2: Compared to previous elections, are you more enthusiastic about voting than usual?

Gallup/USA Today survey this August shows that 36% of Republicans and 46% of Democrats are more enthusiastic. True, Democrats are more willing to vote this November than Republicans. But think again. Only 46% of Democrats are more enthusiastic than usual. The Democratic Party just seizes the opportunity to attack the Bush administration’s policy on Iraq and terrorism. They need to show feasible policy ideas, in order to take control of more congressional committees in the forthcoming election.

Regarding the war on terror, the Policy Report describes the trend as below.

Americans describe the world as more dangerous than at other times in their lives, and large numbers expect another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Few Americans think the terrorists are winning what Americans believe will be a long war, but they are split over whether the United States and its allies are winning or neither side is. Americans believe that the administration has made the country safer, but the president’s marks on handling the issue have come down. Concern about civil liberties has also risen since the period immediately after 9/11. The possible explanations: a reduced fear factor, Americans’ long-held suspicions of federal government power, and/or actions by the administration.

According to Gallup/USA Today survey, 76% of Americans say that the world is more dangerous these days. This is an outrageous figure. In addition, approval rates in the Bush administration’s policy in general and on terrorism have declined sharply. Overall approval rate has dropped from 83% in January 2002 to 40% in August 2006. Meanwhile, Terrorism approval rate has dropped from 88% in January 2002 to 47% in August 2006.

However, CBS News survey this August suggests that 51% of American people see the Bush administration’s policy has made the United States safer from terrorism, while 29% of them see their country less safe from terrorism. Actually, there has never been a major terrorist attack in US homeland since 9-11. From this point, current administration’s terrorism policy deserves some credits.

As mentioned in the Report, American voters seem to have become concerned with civil rights restrictions under the name of the war on terror. Also, confidence in this war is declining. In Gallup/CNN/USA Today Survey, the percentage of people who see the US and its allies are winning the war on terror has decreased from 42% in October 2001 to 35% in August 2006. As a whole, Americans see neither side is winning.

Regarding the Iraq War, 62% regarded it as a part of the war on terror in April 2003. In August 2006, 51% say it is irrelevant to counter terrorism operations (By CBS News/New York Times).

Despite those, the majority of Americans are still willing to give up some of personal freedom in order to reduce terrorist threats. Nevertheless, the number has declined from 71% in October 2001 to 54% in May 2006, according to Fox News/Opinion Dynamics survey.

Consequently, Democrats can roll back to some extent in the November election. Some voters are exhausted with long wars in Iraq and against terrorism. But this is not a vital determinant in the election. Liberals are invigorated in New England, as witnessed in the defeat of Joseph Lieberman. Still, they have not captured the heart of the whole nation. Despite criticism to the Bush administration, some political consequences are accepted to the American public.

Which party shows more feasible policies against terrorism? This is no less important than election results.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Establishing a Formal NPO

As I mentioned in the previous post, Exploring Donation, I am looking for financial sources to develop current activity furthermore. I visited an NPO/NGO foundation consulting organization, called Minsai Center Japan.

The cousellor advised me that I establish a formal non profit organization, in order to succeed in fund rasing. Legally admitted, this advocacy activity will win more public trust, the cousellor says. For this purpose, we need a donzen of supporters.

I will look for some supporters, and then, apply for formal NPO status. More trust and more money are necessary to develop what we have done. More information on NPO and fund raising will be posted from now on.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

President Bush's Advisor Comments on Reshaping Japanese Security

Japan is at crossroads to reconsider its security and postwar pacifism. As this country faces increasing pressure from China and serious threats by North Korea, the Japanese public is turning toward self-assertive in national security. The Yasukuni problem causes dreadful trouble between Japan and its neighbors, China, South Korea and North Korea. These issues are critical agenda in Japan’s prime minister race this September, as Prime Minister Koizumi steps down.

In an interview with Foreign Policy (web exclusive, August), Michael Green, President’s Advisor on East Asia until quite recently, answers questions related to these issues. Green has extensive personal contacts in Japan’s power corridor, as he has some experiences to work in Japanese National Diet. Let me review the interview.

Question 1: Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid another visit to the Yasukuni shrine. Is it simply a public relations issue or do they really affect regional security?

Michael Green worries that the Yasukuni problem allows Chinese military to push for more hawkish policy against Japan. He says that civilian control over the People’s Liberation Army is so weak that it is difficult for Chinese leaders to soothe the military if anti-Japan sentiments become rampant. In addition, I would like to point out that the Yasukuni conflict provoke South Korea to move toward more pro-China and pro-North Korea. Currently, Seoul’s loyalty to the alliance with the United States is questionable. The war shrine problem reinforces the Sino-South Korean common front against Japan. This undermines American strategy in the Far East.

Question 2: Should the United States pressure Japanese leaders to stop the shrine visits?

Green says “No.” He says that the United States should be cautious to deal with this issue, and high-handed US policy would undermine the US-Japanese alliance. It would give an impression that America does not trust Japan. Furthermore, he says, “If it looks like the prime minister has changed course on Yasukuni because the Americans—who dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—made him do it, it’s going to create a backlash and further polarize Japanese society.”

Green is a complete realist on this issue. But it is necessary to understand his implicit message. America does not intervene the Yasukuni problem, because it needs to sustain the alliance with Japan, and consider power politics against China. He does not say that the United States should support Japan on this issue. The shrine retains prewar ideology, which is at odds with postwar regime change in Japan.

Question 3: Is it likely regional tensions on the shrine issue will escalate?

Green points out that China is dependent on Japan in trade and investment. In addition, the Chinese authority worries that students uprising against Japan may shift their focus to the Communist regime in their country. This is very important to understand the Sino-Japanese conflict.

Question 4: How would you assess the strategic balance between Japan and China?

Green mentions the following points. Japanese forces are more effective than Chinese forces. Today, it is really the first time in history that both Japan and China are great powers in international politics. In addition, there are some cold wars between both countries at sea, such as Senkaku Islands.

He talks about critical points. However, I regret that he does not mention anything about the clash of civilizations between China and Japan. I strongly believe there are many similarities between Sino-Japanese and Islam-West relations.

Question 5: What concerns Japan most about military developments in China?

China’s rapid military build-up is too well known. In addition, Green raises serious concern to China’s cyberspace warfare capability. He is right. I was terrified when anti-Japan luddites made cyber attacks to Japanese governmental organizations. They can do something to US forces like this case.

Question 6: How did the North Korean missile tests affect Japan’s security strategy?

Shinzo Abe, Koizumi’s likely successor, talks of preemptive attack on North Korea. Green comments as follows.

It is likely that there will be increasing debate about how much Japan can rely on the United States for its nuclear umbrella and how much Japan should try to have its own independent capability. I think the answer will ultimately be that Japan should rely on the extended deterrent [capability of the United States]. But the United States will have to be highly attentive to Japan’s security concerns and clear about its commitments to the alliance.

I agree with him. Also, Japan should bear it in mind that nuclear non-proliferation is a vital agenda in US foreign policy. Japanese leaders must be cautious enough not to say provocative to upset American policymakers.

Question 7: Where does the issue of amending Japan’s pacifist constitution stand?

Green says as follows.

Very few Japanese politicians would say that China should have a veto over constitutional change, but there is a broad recognition in the body politic that without more stable relations in the neighborhood, it will be hard for Japan to have this discussion in a serious way right now. It’s not likely to happen in the next few years. But I suspect that, if Abe can have a long tenure like Koizumi did, he would like to put a change in place before he leaves office.

In my view, this issue must be considered in terms of stronger US-Japanese alliance.

Michael Green’s analyses are insightful. However, I regret that this interview is excessively focused on China, Korea, and Yasukuni. Based on the US-Japanese alliance, Japan is a leading Western democracy. Global burden sharing with America and Europe is no less important for Japan than conflicts with Asian neighbors. Actually, I am disappointed that Japan’s prime minister candidates miss this point.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Anglo-American Relations over the Lebanon Crisis

A solid Anglo-American alliance has been the key to American strategy in the Middle East and Europe. Britain has been the most reliable ally for the United States to conduct wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On current crisis in Lebanon, British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared continual partnership with America, when he met US President George W. Bush in Washington DC on 28th July. However, thing are developing turbulently at Westminster, because Labour backbenchers stand against Prime Minister Blair.

At the summit meeting in Washington, British and American leaders gave a green light to Israel’s self defence against attack by Hezbollah, and objected to immediate ceasefire in Lebanon. Here again, Britain stands side by side with America. US President and British Prime Minister agreed that multinational force should be sent to lead to cessation of violence in Lebanon with UN Security Council resolution. According to President Bush, “Our goal is a Chapter 7 resolution setting out a clear framework for cessation of hostilities on an urgent basis and mandating the multinational force.” In addition, Prime Minister Blair stressed the need for Hezbollah to accept a ceasefire before a multinational force could operate. In a press conference at the White House, both leaders criticised Iran and Syria that they sponsor Hezbollah terrorism through supplying weapons and money. Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki blames that the United States and Britain are “co-defendants” of criminal behaviour by Israel.

For a solid partnership, it is noteworthy that George W. Bush apologised on 28th July to Tony Blair after Britain complained that Washington had not followed correct procedures for sending bombs to Israel via a British airport.

As Tony Blair reconfirms the common front with President Bush, Labour MPs are infuriated with this joint statement in Westminster. Some cabinet members such as Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insists that Israel should “act properly” in order to bring a peace settlement on the Lebanon issue. Even staunch Blairite, like Environmental Secretary David Miliband and Chief Whip in the Lords Lord Grocott are critical.These reflect unease within the Labour Party and the cabinet. On 8 August, leading leftists in the Labour and Liberal Democratic Parties submitted a letter to current Speaker of the House of Commons Jack Straw to discuss the Lebanon problem at the House. Led by Jon Trickett, chairman of leftwing MP group attracted the support of 200 Members of Parliament to request immediate ceasefire in Lebanon. Foreign and the Commonwealth Office is also concerned with the joint statement in Washington. Sir Stephen Wall, Former Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, describe it as follows .

Realism about an independent foreign policy is sensible, not least on the 50th anniversary of Suez. This government has taken to unprecedented lengths the view that Britain's influence on the US can be exercised only in private. It has too readily lost sight of the fact that Britain's interests and those of the US are not identical.

Tony Blair has been consistent supporter of the Bush administration since wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now in Lebanon. But it is wrong to assume that Blair is just America’s poodle. As James G. Forsyth comments in his article “Think Again: Tony Blair” in Foreign Policy May 2005, Blair is a “neoconservative” if the philosophy is defined as a commitment to make the world more democratic—using force if necessary to achieve that aim. In addition, Blair’s moral commitment to global affairs comes from the tradition of the British Empire. According to Professor Niall Ferguson at Harvard University, Victorian opinion leaders like John Stuart Mill advocated that Britain should use its power to prevail liberalism in Asia and Africa (See Chapter 3 in “Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power”). This idea has been put into practice from Lord Palmerton, Earl of Rosebery, to Winston Churchill.

On the other hand, Blair’s foreign policy has deviated from Labour tradition. In the Iraq War, Labour has lost long time supporters like civil societies. Peace activists have been solid bases for the Labour Party, and they were disillusioned with New Labour shifting away from Fabian principles. Leading cabinet members such as Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and International Development Secretary Clare Short resigned over Iraq.

If Anglo-American relations cool down, some commentators say that German Chancellor Angela Merkel supplants Britain’s role in the transatlantic alliance. A well-known blog published by Fulbright alumni in Germany, called “The Atlantic Review” takes up this issue. Certainly, Merkel has changed cold relationship with the United States since the Iraq War, and Germany has a strong influence in Mitteleuropa. This is an asset, which Britain does not have.

However, Germany cannot play the role of Britain. Even though conservative, the Merkel administration is still critical to US policy on Iraq. In addition, Britain has been sharing most advanced military technology and information with the United States for decades. There is no long sustained mutual trust like this between Germany and the United States. Even if Merkel is a wholehearted pro-American chancellor, she heads the coalition; therefore, her leadership is constrained by party politics.

Current political processes in the United Kingdom will have a significant effect on the transatlantic relationship. Successful alliance between Britain and America depends on whether Gordon Brown can continue New Labour policy and calm down radical leftists, or Tories roll back. No one can dismiss political turbulence in London.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Exploring Donation

Last Friday, I went to the Japan Foundation Center in Shinjuku, Tokyo. There are directories and data on foundations for financial assistance in academic research, cultural exchange, and civic activities.

Currently, I am engaged in advocacy activities through the blog with some fellows. However, in order to write much higher quality posts on the blog, I need more money to have an access to better information sources and personal contacts. If I were to do something more, like holding events and publishing brochures, more money is necessary. Actually, I could have attended more policy circle events, if I could stay longer on my visit to Washington DC last November.

Despite some constraints, my fellows and I have accomplished something with this blog. One of the posts was listed as a related blog in Time Online. A Japanese portal site company, Hatena, introduces Global America Discourse one of highly recommended blogs on international relations as follows.

“The writer of this blog has good academic backgrounds in international relations, and his viewpoints are close to those of hawk opinion leaders in the United States. His posts are well analyzed and insightful.”

I am delighted with these achievements. However, I need some financial assistance to develop current activities furthermore. Unfortunately, the Japan Foundation Center does not have any contacts with funding organizations for political movements. I have to explore another way for big money. Anyway, Global American Discourse will appreciate your continual support.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Attention! Japan’s Prime Minister Race Begins

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi completes his term this September. More attention to the second largest economy in the world is necessary.

Mainly, candidates discuss the following issues.

In politics and national security, the rise of revisionism is noticeable. Japanese people are beginning to reconsider postwar pacifism, and some of them even cast doubt on the regime change after World War Ⅱ. Japan faces nasty conflicts with China, South Korea, and North Korea on evaluation of wartime history. As Koizumi is likely to pray at the Yasukuni shrine on the end of World War Ⅱ Memorial Day, these problems will be critical.

In the economy, Koizumi’s neo-liberal policy has brought about the kakusa shakai (growing social and economic gaps), the rich gets richer, and the poor gets poorer. Increasing public deficit has been a long time headache. Like Germany under Bismarck and the Kaiser, Japan had been taking mercantilist until the 1990s.

However, I regret that leading candidates do not talk so much about the US-Japanese alliance, although it is at the turning point of history. It seems to me that Japanese leaders are geographically nearsighted. For Japan, the US-Japanese alliance is much more important than conflicts with China and both Koreas. The alliance is beyond bilateral strategic partnership. It provides Japan with underlying foundation of postwar regime change. Also, it enables Japan to join the club of leading Western democracies, and manage the world with America and Europe. Both aspects are the key to Japan’s position in the world.

I will write some commentaries on the election and prospects of post Koizumi politics. Everyone, keep an eye on Japan this autumn!