Monday, April 30, 2007

Step-up of the US-Japanese Alliance and a Little Turbulence

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the United States to meet President George W. Bush to strengthen mutual ties from April 26 to 28. This is Abe’s first visit to the United States since he became the prime minister. Japan is assuming more important role as a US ally, and the strategic partnership between both countries is going to evolve more global one. Regional security problem, notably North Korea, was also a critical issue. While further cooperation was discussed at Camp David, the media criticized Abe’s denial to the Korean comfort women problem. Let me tell you briefly about this summit.

Although Japanese media were concerned with negative impacts posed by Shinzo Abe’s revisionist remark on sex slaves during the wartime, the US-Japanese summit at Camp David was successful to create an atmosphere for global partnership.

In addition to Far Eastern issues, President Bush and Prime Minister Abe talked about global security issues such as Iran and Iraq affairs. According to “Bush and Abe Enforce Allies Position” in AXcess News on April 30, Abe expressed his support for US initiative against Iran. President Bush thanked Japanese contribution to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently Japan is the second largest donor to Iraq and the second largest to Afghanistan. In another article, entitled “Abe Visits US in Move to Reshape Japan’s Foreign Policy Image” in Axcess News, Dennis Wilder, Senior Director for East Asia at the National Security Council, told reporters "[Bush and Abe] will discuss our common approach to the North Korean nuclear problem, the ongoing realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, and ways to deepen our defense cooperation" on 25th.

Generally speaking, the media report this summit positively. The Washington Post was critical to Abe as to the sex slave issue in its editorial on March 24. However, articles like “Japanese Leader Aims to Rebuild Ties with Bush” and “Bush, Abe Warn of Tougher Stance on North Korea” in the Post on April 27, focus more on the future of the alliance and the threat of North Korea. Other media are the more or less the same. According to “Bush: Patience with N. Korea not Unlimited” in the Boston Globe on April 27, both Bush and Abe agreed to stand firmly against North Korean nuclear proliferation. In International Herald Tribune, I found another article, entitled “Bush and Abe End US-Japanese Summit with Show of Cooperation, on North Korea” on April 27. Just as other news sources mentions, Japan was concerned that US stance against North Korea was softening. The Joint Statement impressed that both leaders were firmly united against this common threat.

Japanese and South Korean media present slightly different viewpoints. Sankei Newspaper, one of the leading conservative media in Japan, lauds this summit for a step toward further US-Japanese partnership. Like American media, Sankei supports Abe’s idea to establish the alliance of Asia-Pacific democracies by the United States, Japan, India, and Australia. However, Sankei worries negative impacts on US-Japanese relations posed by Congressman Mike Honda’s resolution to denounce Japan’s wartime conduct. According to Sankei, Honda is considering further resolutions to demand Japanese apology for its wartime misbehavior to Asians (US-Japanese Summit, From Postwar Regime to New Regime; April 29, in Japanese).

South Korean newspaper, Joong Ang Ilbo, questions whether this summit will be a further step toward stronger US-Japanese ties or damaging the alliance. As a South Korean paper, Jong Ang Ilbo emphasizes how the dispute on comfort women ruined the US-Japanese relationship. But this paper focuses more on North Korean nuclear bombs and abduction. Koreans are more “future-oriented” than I had expected (US-Japanese Honeymoon, whether Developing or Ending?; April 27, Japanese version).

Some American media focus on the sex slave issue. Norimitsu Onishi, a leftist writer of the New York Times writes extensively on this issue. Quoting a comment by Professor Mike Mochizuki at George Washington University, Onishi says that Abe still does not admit coercion on wartime sex slaves, although he regretted this problem in the past (Sex Slave Dispute Follows Abe Even as He Bonds with Bush, April 29). Foreign Policy Blog mentions that Congressman Mike Honda still demands unequivocal apology to Shinzo Abe (Japan’s Abe Threads the Needle).

Dan Blumenthal, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, contributed an article to the Los Angels Times on April 26, and he points out small chasms between the United States and Japan. Abe’s vague attitude to the Yasukuni and wartime sex slaves perplexed American policymakers. On the other hand, Japan was troubled by softening US approaches to North Korea. Despite these difficulties, Blumenthal insists that the United States and Japan must strengthen the common front against North Korea, and President Bush should support Abe’s initiative for the alliance of Asian democracies by the United States, Japan, Australia, and India. He concludes the essay as follows.

Embedding Japan firmly in a network of Asian democracies (much as postwar West Germany was anchored in NATO) should also reassure any who might have genuine concerns about its intentions. If Beijing is really worried about resurgent Japanese militarism, rather than intent on keeping Japan isolated and off-balance, it should welcome such a development.

As current policy to North Korea seems to be ineffective, Robert Joseph, Former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security until this March, warned that the present deal helped survival of Kim Jong Il regime without any gains for non-proliferation. I will talk about his lecture at the AEI on April 24, in my forthcoming post. This could be of some help to fill the gap between Japan and the United States.

In any case, priority must be given to step-up of the US-Japanese alliance: defeating terrorists and rogue states in the Middle East, dealing with China, curbing North Korean threats, establishing new partnership with India and Australia, and so forth. Prime Minister Abe has made the wartime issue unnecessarily big as he denied coercion. Asian nationalists may continue to launch Shame Japan campaigns, but Japanese leaders should be well-aware of their policy priorities. Overreaction to those campaigns will simply make things worse for Japan. It is Japan’s national interest to assert postwar regime change, rather than to refute Asian claims regarding wartime conducts so vehemently. Don’t call unnecessary attention to such issues with provocative remarks.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Back from Computer Trouble!

Due to computer trouble, Global American Discourse stopped publishing the blog for a week. But this blog is back now!

There are too many issues, which I need to discuss on this site. Currently, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits the United States to discuss vital issues, such as the future of the US-Japanese alliance and security of the Korean Peninsula. I would like to write a post on this matter shortly afterwards. Also, I think of discussing the following affairs, including French election, British election, US nonproliferation policy against Iran and North Korea, the Iraq problem, missile defense in Europe, and so forth.

In addition, I would like to talk about history. Quite recently, I found some interesting posts on historical revisionism in Germany on the Atlantic Review. As nationalists are rising moderately in Japan, it is important to mention it on this blog. It is quite odd that people talk about World War Ⅱ in the era of the War on Terror. Chinese and Koreans are odd as well. They are still traumatized with the comfort women problem during the wartime. Well….. The War on Terror is not their primary concern.

Albion may contribute a post on East Asia. He is an MBA student now, and quite busy. But he is willing to write a commentary, and I shall appreciate your kind attention to his post.

Any way, Global American Discourse is back now! Thank you in advance for your continual interest in this blog.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Europe as a Critical Focus

I would like to introduce a blog on European affairs, entitled “Certain Ideas of Europe”, which is published by the Economist. While people pay more attention to terrorism in the Middle East and the rise of Asian powers these days, Europe is a key player in international politics. Americans and Europeans are in a position to lead liberal democracy and intellectual progress throughout the world. Japan can assume itself one of the first class world powers, because it belongs to the top players club of transatlantic nations.

Now, Europe is becoming a critical focus, as state leader elections will be held in France and Britain. The media talk much about domestic issues, but the result of both elections will have significant influence on international politics. Particularly, I pay attention to the impact on transatlantic relations.

In France, center right Nicolas Sarkozy is the front-runner, but not strong enough to win overwhelming majority. I have left the following comment to the post, entitled “What's there to the Franco-American relationship anyway?”.

Speaking of Franco-American relations, I am more interested in security issues. Can the next President of France repair the transatlantic chasm? I am asking this, because France and Germany opposed to US plan for missile defence against Russia, while Britain and New European nations accepted it. It seems to be that the gap between New Europe and old Europe appears again, as it happened over the Iraq War.

If Nicolas Sarkozy were to be elected, will he be able to fill the perception gap on security?

Quite interestingly, Sarkozy shares common backgrounds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He is a son of Greek and Hungarian parents, and Merkel is from former East Germany. Both leaders are immigrants from pro-American New Europe.

While Merkel does not manage to fill this gap, can Sarkosy succeed in doing this?

As to economic policy, you can read “What kind of socialism?” to understand agendas in this election.

Regarding Britain, I would focus on whether conservatism revives or not. It was expected that Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown would be the top candidate for the next prime minister. However, he lags behind Opposition Leader David Cameron, according to the recent poll. Moreover, the Iraq War has divided Labour Party. In the previous parliamentary debate on Trident replacement, Prime Minister Tony Blair needed Tory support in order to defeat Labour leftists who insist on denuclearization of British forces.

Cameron may be able to win the election this summer, but David Frum, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, criticize his policy in “Britain's Empty Conservatism” (National Post, October 7, 2006). Whether Brown or Cameron, the impact of election result on the Anglo-American special relationship is a significant issue for Europe and the world.

“Certain Ideas of Europe” discusses a broad range of issues. On this blog, Europe includes not only Western and Eastern Europe but also Russia and Central Asia. If you need to understand this Greater Europe easily and quickly, I would recommend this blog.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reza Pahlavi at the Hudson Institute

As widely known among the global public, Former Crown Prince of Iran Reza Pahlavi launches vigorous campaign against the theocratic regime in his country. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran has been the gravest threat to Middle Eastern security. Had there been a stable, strong, and pro-Western Iran, Saddam Hussein would never have dreamt of terrorizing his neighbors. Iran is the cause of the War on Terror and the Iraq War. Therefore, it is essential to explore a regime change in Iran to eliminate the source of further danger in the future. Let me summarize the speech.

Former Crown Prince mentioned the nuclear issue first. He points out that MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) does not work against the regime which glorifies self-destruction of martyrdom. I would say this is a critical aspect to discuss nuclear diplomacy with Iran. Non-proliferation experts agree that MAD will be less reliable as the number of nuclear-armed states increases.

While the media and some intellectuals criticize the idea of promoting regime change because of on going troubles in Iraq, Reza Pahlavi refutes their viewpoints. Mentioning the collapse of communist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Pahlavi commented as below.

President Reagan knew that he would not get behavior change from the Soviet regime unless he seemed serious about changing it. The actual change was a happy byproduct, which spelled the end of the Marxist mystique. East-European youth backpacked their way to the West to tell fellow students about the wide chasm between the deceptive promise of Marxism and its wretched reality. Long lines to take Marxist courses disappeared in Universities, from Buenos Aires to Paris.

Unlike Iraq, Pahlavi says that Iran has never been colonized, and Iranians established parliamentary system by themselves in early 20th century, when Russia was still under the czarist regime. I have to stress that widespread desire for liberal democracy is an important pre-requisite for regime change by foreign powers. Japan and Germany are successful cases of US led regime change. Prior to foreign intervention, the Taisho Democracy in Japan and the Weimar Democracy in Germany prevailed. From this perspective, regime change in Iran is more likely to succeed than that in Iraq. Pahlavi insists that Iranian journalists, intellectuals, and students get in touch with Western societies so that they can see current clerical regime critically. This is what happened in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Pahlavi criticize that the Baker-Hamilton Report shows no feasible ways to talk with Iran whose policy aims at humiliating the United States. While Iran has been isolated from the world, he points out that pressures from the United States and the global community do not have sufficient effect on this country. Current regime denies the Holocaust and tries to wipe out Israel. Also, it is acquiring nuclear weapons.

Since Iran does not have a common enemy with the United States as China did during the Cold War (the Soviet Union, of course), a Kissinger diplomacy with this country does not make sense. According to Reza Pahlavi, appeasement with Iran is not helpful to deal with current crisis.

As opposed to state-centric approaches by the State Department and the Pentagon, Pahlavi advocates that the West help civic organizations in Iran, such as women, youth, ethnic, and professional groups. Currently, pro-democracy activists in Iran have few contacts with outside. The government controls the media, and arrests bloggers even with limited readers. In order to resolve this problem, he recommends further broadcasting operations by VOA and BBC to Iranian grassroots who have some amateur satellite TV stations.

On the other hand, the Former Crown Prince objects to the war against Iran. He tells the reason as the following.

[the] Iranian people have changed their regimes many times before, when they had far less reasons to do so. He watches carefully for the signs of history repeating itself. Once he sees those signs, and only then, will he change his behavior.

Those who have keen interest in US led regime change can learn a lot from the speech by Reza Pahlavi. Unlike anti-Western leftists assume, promoting regime change in the Middle East is not belligerent. Nor, does it deny local cultural traditions to impose Western ways of tyhinking. This policy aims at empowering citizens across the Middle East. I hope those who are allergetic to the word “regime change” shed their misunderstandings to US and its key allies’ endeavor for the future.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Radical Agenda for Japanese People

In view of post Cold War uncertainties, Japanese people are reconsidering post World War Ⅱ regime. Particularly, nationalists question post war values “imposed” by American New Dealers, and trying to restore traditional Japanese values in place. It is a legitimate desire that Japan shed postwar defeatism as the Cold War is over. However, few Japanese opinion leaders—including politicians, businessmen, academics, the media, and bloggers—understand the fundamental of Japan as a modern state.

As I mentioned in the previous entitled “The Legacy of Queen Victoria in East Asian History”, Japan joined the Victorian world order on its own decision, in order to disentangle itself from dormant and Dark Age Asia. Through this way, Japan started to go through a success road after the Opium War. Contrary to popularly believed, modern Japan is an Anglo-German state rather than Asian one. Japan imported political and economic models, primarily from Britain, the United States, and Germany, and the whole nation adapted themselves to Western systems and thoughts. How could it happen?

A Dutch historian Jeroen Lamers, who is the author of “Japonius Tyrannus” (a research on 16th century ruler, Oda Nobunaga), points out that modern business rules of conduct were invented only in North Western Europe and Japan. Furthermore, he argues that people can pursue both economic development and social stability at the same time in advanced economies like Japan, Europe, and the United States, where such rules are accepted as fundamental norms of the society. This is not the case with rising economies in Asia, and economic development could trigger social instability there (News Letter of the Nagano Chamber of Commerce and Industry, June 2006). No wonder Japan is the only nation in the Far East to succeed in “becoming the West.” Actually, the Japanese share common values with Anglo-German Protestants, which is making contributions to the society through hard work.

Currently, Japan is a member of “Western”, or more precisely, “White men” Chief Executive Club to manage global affairs. Japanese should take pride in this. Prior to the St Petersburg Summit last year, US senators John Mc Cain and Joseph Lieberman cast doubt on Russia’s membership of G8, because authoritarian rule by the Putin administration as being incompatible with liberal norms of the West. To the contrary, none of policymakers in America and Europe questioned Japan’s qualification for Summit membership from the beginning. To my regret, conservatives fail to understand this, and they associate Japanese national identity with ancient myth and wartime militarism, although Japan is a modern liberal state.

No one doubts that the US-Japanese alliance is the central pillar of Japanese foreign policy. But few people understand that this is more than a regional security deal. The US-Japanese alliance guarantees Japan’s qualification for the most prestigious club of Western industrialized democracies. This is the vital reason why I feel disappointed to hear Foreign Minister Taro Aso say, “We, Japanese are yellow faced. We are in a superior position to Americans and Europeans in dealing with the Middle East peace process.”

The most importantly, those who denounce postwar regime change, as being imposed by the Allied Forces, must understand the following. Since Japan was a latecomer of modernization, the government had to force coercive enlightenment to the citizen. When the public grew mature enough to talk politics rationally, coercive enlightenment transformed into bottom-up enlightenment. The Taisho Democracy during the 1920s was driven by Japanese grassroots entirely. Unfortunately, wartime fascism interrupted this natural evolution. It was a kind of political market failure, and US led regime change just made everything on the right track. Just as Keynesian policy by Franklin Roosevelt was an economic New Deal, Allied Force rule was a political New Deal to promote the manifest destiny of everlasting enlightenment. Land, Infrastructure, and Transport Minister, Kazuo Kitagawa is utterly wrong to admire fascist policies during the wartime.

It seems to me, none of policymakers and opinion leaders have clear understanding of three key words: Japanese Success Road, Natural Evolution, and Manifest Destiny. This is quite worrisome to discuss the post-Cold War regime of Japan.