Monday, August 31, 2009


The general election in Japan yesterday is the third big election in the world this year, following those in India and Afghanistan. The Democratic Party won a landslide victory thanks to a widespread HOPE OF THE CHANGE, which is so cute as the young lady in this video or Akihabara animations. However, things are not so lovely and optimistic. First, just as American lobbyists in Tokyo raised a concern, a sheer number of newcomers have been elected, and their lobbying connections have been destroyed. Second, the advent of a center-left and pro-Asian leader Yukio Hatoyama, will have some effects on the nuances of US-Japanese and Euro-Japanese relations. Third, the Democratic Party has not shown their competence to govern the state. The market does not trust Japanese Democrats, and the stock price has fallen just after the election.

At the interview with NHK in the General Election Report yesterday, Agricultural Minister Shigeru Ishiba said that voters chose the Democratic Party over the Liberal Democratic Party, simply because they were annoyed with old politics, but do not give wholehearted trust to the Democrat manifesto.

Frankly speaking, I do not object to power rotation itself. This is parliamentary democracy. I am concerned with such an overwhelming majority of the Democratic Party, winning 308 out of 480 seats. Under a poorly balanced distribution of the seat, Japanese politics will fall into authoritarian poor governance. Quite a few newcomers are completely out of touch with politics, and some are apparently less competent than I! How can people trust the Diet like this?

The primary reason why Japanese voters allowed this sort of unprecedented victory of the Democrats is a backlash against reforms under the Koizumi administration. Business deregulations, including well known portal saving privatization, have broadened social, economic, and regional development gaps. The global recession spurred anger against the Liberal Democratic Party (“FACTBOX: Policy challenges facing Japan's next government”; Reuters; August 29, 2009).

But the new government does not seem to have the blueprint to reconstruct the economy, unlike cute voters expect. The market does not trust Democrat economic policy, which is increasing public spending, while cutting taxes and limiting the bureaucratic power. The stock price has dropped shortly after the election (“Yen Strengthens, Japanese Stocks Drop After DPJ Wins Election”; Bloomberg News; August 31, 2009).

In foreign policy, the US-Japanese alliance will continue to be the primary agenda, but some changes are likely. Hatoyama explores independence from the United States, while pursuing closer ties with Asia. In the September issue of Voice, a Japanese political journal, he says, "How should Japan maintain its political and economic independence and protect its national interest when caught between the United States, which is fighting to retain its position as the world's dominant power, and China, which is seeking ways to become dominant?" This will undermine Japan’s relationship with the United States and Europe, the Big 2 pillar of Japanese diplomacy (“Japan's Ruling Party Swept From Power in Historic Election”; ABC News; August 30, 2009). Also, the Democrat is critical to Japanese funding for US marine relocation to Guam (“Will Japanese Power Shift Change U.S. Relations?”; NPR; August 30, 2009).

On the other hand, American policymakers from the right to the left, accept this change, because a credible opposition party has emerged in Japan. The Liberal Democratic Party has contributed to build a long and stable US-Japanese partnership, but stagnant reforms to open the market and passive acceptance of US security umbrella without giving enough return have been irritating the American side for decades (“U.S. Poised for Change as Tokyo Leadership Shifts”; Wall Street Journal; August 31, 2009).

True, not everything is positive for US-Japanese relations under the rule of the LDP. Strong bureaucracy has been blocking Japan fulfilling the role on the global stage as mentioned in the article of the Wall Street Journal. Grassroots sentiment for a cute HOPE OF THE CHANGE is not necessarily bad.

I am concerned with the balance. Actually, I felt disgusted to see a swarm of poorly qualified LDP candidates elected in the Postal Saving election under the Koizumi administration. The Democtratic Party imitated the way the LDP did in the Koizumi Political Drama. If political pendulum swings rapidly from now on, without achieving satisfactory results, this will be a considerable loss for top industrialized democracies of the West, and also, for Asia-Pacific nations. The giant between the East and the West stands at a crossroads now.

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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The War and the Election in Afghanistan by US and UK Experts

Prior to the presidential election on August 20, the Brookings Institution has released special issues on Afghanistan. In the above videos, Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, talks some key points of the war and the election. He says that the Taliban is extremely strong at present. Riedel insists that the coalition can win the war through rebuilding Afghan security forces to contain, not eliminate Taliban forces. Quite importantly, Riedel points out that “the race is competitive this time, which makes the result of this election more legitimate than that of previous one." The legitimacy of the elected government is critical for the HOPE OF THE CHANGE in this war, Riedel says. Finally, Riedel argues that the United States is the only actor to intermediate mutual distrust between Afghanistan and Pakistan, regarding Taliban and Al Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistani territory.

The above video comments are concise and insightful. In Iraq, successful election and legitimate government discouraged terrorists. This election is a turning point in Afghanistan as well. Furthermore, I would like to mention two articles.

Jeremy Shapiro, Director of Studies at the Brookings Institution, says that the success of this election is a matter of domestic politics in the United States and Europe as well. American and European governments send troops to promote the value of democracy, and good achievements will enhance their domestic and international grounds (“The 2009 Afghan Elections and the Future of the International Community in Afghanistan”; Brookings Research and Commentary; August 13, 2009).

Vanda Felbab-Brown, Fellow at the Brookings Institution, warns that the United States and NATO allies not give interventionist impression to Afghan people, and respect self-motivated initiatives by Afghan leaders and citizens (“The 2009 Afghanistan Elections and the Future of Governance”; Brookings Research and Commentaries; August 13, 2009).

As the election is coming, Taliban attack is getting intensified. As I mentioned in a previous post, recent sharp rise in the number of casualties is a controversial issue in Britain. In face of bitter criticism to the Afghan policy, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said the war is winnable. Ainsworth stressed that the British forces are making progress to defeat the Taliban and help Afghanistan protect their country on their own.

The British forces started the Operation Panther’s Claw in June this year for intensive offense against the Taliban in Helmand province. Since then, the number of casualties soared dramatically, as shown in the table below.

Source: BBC

General Sir Richard Dannatt who is leaving Afghanistan, articulated that good governance in Afghanistan and Pakistan would secure the British public in the end, and appealed morale support for this war despite current difficulties (“Ainsworth defends Afghan mission”; BBC News; 17 August 2009).

The incoming head of the British Army, General Sir David Richards refuted the rumor of a 40 year stay of UK forces in Afghanistan, and defended the Defence Secretary, regarding war objectives (“General Sir David Richards backs Bob Ainsworth on Afghanistan time frame”; Times; August 17, 2009).

Shortly after the election, General Stanley McChrystal of the US Army will address a strategy assessment as the head of the coalition (“RPT-Obama to seek to rally support for Afghan war effort”; Reuters; August 17, 2009). This election is a landmark for the future of Afghanistan. The Taliban and Al Qaeda will not disappear immediately, even though the election succeeds. The post-election assessment by General McChrystal is a must to read, in order to understand the prospects of the War on Terror.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Russo-Western Tug War over Ukraine

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev postponed dispatching new Russian ambassador to Kiev, and blamed Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko for his anti-Russian policies, such as arming Georgia against Russia and pursuing NATO membership. This is a pressure on the forthcoming Ukrainian presidential election in January 2010. According to Lilia Shevtsova, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center, "It is a message to any new leader that we will deal with you only when you accept our demands." (Medvedev issues ultimatum to Ukraine leadership”; Financial Times; August 12, 2009).

In the TV speech broadcasted by Russia Today on August 10, President Medvedev explains why he sent such a hash message to Ukraine. Medvedev stressed common cultural heritage and history between Russia and Ukraine. However, he denounced Ukrainian defense policy to supply its weapons to Georgia in the war over South Ossetia. In cultural and educational policy, Medvedev blamed the Ukrainian government for excluding the Russian language at school and public organizations. In the economy, Medvedev criticizes Ukrainian restrictions on Russian businesses. On history, Medvedev blamed Ukraine for illustrating the Great Patriotic War as a battle between dictators. Considering current enthusiasm for Stalin in Russia, the Yushhenko administration has aroused Russian ire. See the video below.

Actually Russians felt critically nervous when US Vice President Joseph Biden visited Ukraine and Georgia, following the Moscow summit between President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev from July 6 to 8 to reset US Russian relations. Russia Today interviewed Ivan Eland, a political analyst at the Independent Institute, on July 20. Eland says that the United States is sending a mixed signal. As Obama told the United States wants to improve relations with Russia, while endorsing NATO expansion. In the interview, Eland soothes Russian public concern with the mixed signal, and emphasizes that Russia hosted the President while Ukraine and Georgia hosts just the Vice President. Therefore, he says that the United States will not ruin the relationship with Russia for the sake of Ukraine and Georgia. See the following video.

Both videos illustrate widespread viewpoints among Russian policymakers, regarding the advance of the Free Europe into the Former Soviet Union. In other words, Russian leaders still retain Soviet styled geopolitical instinct.

As Lilia Shevtsova told the Financial Times, President Medvedev said that the relationship with Ukraine would not be normalized until a new leader supplants current President Yushchenko (“Medvedev: No Normal Ties with Ukraine Under Current Leaders”; VOA News; 14 August 2009).

Tomas Valasek, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the Centre for European Reform, has released an insightful report to understand the tug war between Russia and the West, entitled “Why Ukraine matters to Europe” in December 2008. He points out that Ukraine has tremendously signaling power, as it is the largest country between the EU and Russia in terms of area and population. EU members in Eastern Europe want a strong and stable buffer against Russia. Once Ukraine joins the EU, this will have significant influences on from EU neighbors like Belarus and Moldova to Caucasus nations.

Quite importantly, Valasek points out that if Ukraine succeeds in developing a transparent political system and a credible market economy, it would undermine the appeal of Putin-styled state controlled capitalism. Therefore, Russia wants to slow down Europeanization of former Soviet nations beyond geopolitical considerations.

Most importantly, Valasek argues that poor governance in Ukraine dominated by corrupt oligarchs is a hurdle for the membership to the EU and NATO. Also, this provokes Russian interventionism, as Vladimir Putin said to George W. Bush, “George, Ukraine is not even a state.”

Both Western and Russian media tend to focus on geopolitical rivalry, but the Ukrainian must be reformed as well. Tomas Valasek mentions invaluable points to advance Ukrainian bid for EU and NATO membership, and read the report for detail. The West needs to help Ukrainians build good governance to fulfill the qualification for the Atlantic community and separate themselves from Soviet legacies. Once Ukraine is successfully Europeanized, things in the New Cold War between the West and the Russo-Chinese axis will be in our favor.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

General Petraeus Speaks on Iraq and Afghanistan

General David Petraeus delivered a keynote speech at the event, entitled “Striking a Balance: A New American Security” by the Center for a New American Security on June 11. General Petraeus is too well known for his success in Iraq, and currently, he is the head of the Central Command whose operational scope ranges from Kazakhstan to Kenya, and Egypt to Pakistan. In the presidential election last year, Republican candidate John McCain mentioned Petraeus the most important advisor.

See the above video, just over 1 hour. Petraeus tells how the Coalition achieved success in Iraq, and how to apply this success to Afghanistan. Also, he explains how multilateral counterterrorist policy interactions are preceded (Also, see the text).

Quite importantly, General Petraeus defined, “The overriding mission of a military force in counterinsurgency has to be to secure the people, to protect the population.” Antiwar, anti-American, or anti-Western leftists must keep these words in mind, and stop committing themselves to dubious political manipulations to help bloody terrorists and autocrats.

In Iraq, the Allied Forces moved out of the Green Zone, and decided to live close to Iraqi people so that soldiers could work together with them. In Afghanistan, coalition soldiers cannot live among people, because it is difficult to find empty houses to live in small villages and rural areas. However, Petraeus says that Western forces can behave as good partners and good neighbors by staying near the village. Simultaneously, he tells that irreconcilable bad guys must be captured and killed.

Showing a diagram of counterterrorist strategy on the slide, General David Petraeus says that the Allied Forces needed “to challenge them for popular support, go after them, attack their ideology, disrupt their command and control, cut their links to senior leaders, reduce the flow of money available to them, take away their weapons cashes and explosives, cut the flow of foreign fighters.” In Iraq, the Coalition cut the support for terrorists from safe havens in Syria through this way. In Afghanistan, similar approaches are taken to cut supports from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Baluchistan in Pakistan.

General Petraeus speaks gently, intellectually, and lucidly, with occasional humor. This video will be of some help to understand his personality, as well as the strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Yoshiki Hidaka, David Petraeus is considered as one of possible Republican presidential candidate for 2012. In my view, no other candidates, whether Republican or Democrat, are so well qualified as he is. Respectable personality is no less important than political values.

It is too early to talk about 2012, as nobody knows who runs for the election. In any case, watch this video to feel cool head, warm heart, and real action hero personality of one of the key world leaders.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Debate on British Troops in Afghanistan

Britain is considering a surge in Afghanistan to defeat Taliban and Al Qaeda guerrillas. Throughout the postwar period, Britain has been pursuing the policy of “punch above its weight” to maintain the position as one of influential powers, while struggling with shortage of military budget and manpower. In Afghanistan, British ground forces face insufficient support from the air, and they are much more disadvantaged to engage in counterterrorist operations than American forces. Prime Minister Gordon Brown decided to send withdrawn troops from Iraq to Afghanistan to defeat insurgents. This strategy has been considered since the Blair era, and now, security in Iraq has improved while things in Afghanistan is evolving increasing serious.

In view of the rise of casualties among British soldiers, Army General Sir Richard Dannatt requested more troops and equipments in Afghanistan (“Troops need more, says Army head”; BBC News; 17 July 2009). At the Westminster parliament, Conservative leader David Cameron asked Prime Minister Gordon Brown to clarify the objective of the war in Afghanistan, in order to maintain public support for it. Also, Cameron expressed serious concern with helicopter shortage, and criticized defense policy of the Brown cabinet (“PM challenged over Afghanistan”; BBC News; 16 July 2009).

The controversy on the Afghan mission is getting increasingly intensified among the public. The Conservative Party urged to send more British troops in Afghanistan in order to speed up trainings for Afghan armed forces and the police (“Conservatives to increase British troop levels in Afghanistan, David Cameron hints”; Daily Telegraph; 3 August 2009). After talks between Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, General Stanley McChrystal of the US Army said Britain would send additional 2,000 soldiers (“Britain to send 2,000 extra troops to help train Afghans”; Times; 2 August 2009).

Britain must resolve equipments and manpower problems, while maintaining global commitment. As shown in the table below, Britain shares disproportionately great burden in the Afghan mission.

Source: Economist

Currently, the British public is supportive of the mission in Afghanistan, as Britain takes pride in its military success. However, both hawkish Tory and dovish Liberal Democrat are critical to strategic troubles of the current administration. Particularly, helicopter shortage is so serious that the out-going head of British army General Dannatt needs to use an American one. The incoming head, General Sir David Richards, mentions contending viewpoints in British defense policy. British generals complain that White Hall policymakers give preference to big arsenals such as strategic nuclear weapons and war ships, but do not give sufficient consideration to land battles against insurgents (“British forces in Afghanistan: And the soldier home from the hill”; Economist; 16 July 2009). Labour MP Mike Gapes, who led to release a report by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, criticized high casualty rate of British troops, and administrative sectionalism among the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Department of International Development. Furthermore, Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague questioned who was in charge of the war in the cabinet (“Tell us why we're in Afghanistan, MPs say”; Times; 3 August 2009).

General Sir Mike Jackson told that structural reform of the Ministry of Defence was necessary to follow the recommendation in the House report led by Gapes, in order to focus on tightly defined strategic objectives. Current operations include counternarcotics missions as well as defeating insurgents (“UK troops 'given too many tasks'”; BBC News; 2 August 2009). If the allied forces were to focus on definite objectives, rapid trainings for Afghan security forces are required.

The Afghan problem is strongly related to British foreign and defense policy across the globe. Prior to the Falkland War, admirals of the Royal Navy objected to sacrificing aircraft carriers for the sake of Trident SLBMs. After the war, Prime Minister-then Margaret Thatcher decided to maintain carrier squadrons. Here again, Britain faces a dilemma between managing resource problems and maintaining global military presence.

Paul Cornish, Head of the International Security Programme, and Andrew Dorman, Associate Fellow, both at the Royal Institute for International Affairs, explore British defense policy. In 1998, the government released “The Strategic Defence Review (SDR)” to define British defense objectives: commitment to Europe, partnership with the United States, securing British economic interests, and defending British freedom. In order to fulfill the above aims, “After all, a careful strategic assessment might well reveal that the United Kingdom will need aircraft carriers and fast attack aircraft as well as ‘men on the ground’ .“ Cornish and Dorman proposes to withdraw troops from Germany and possess fewer types of fighters for maximum availability, thereby transform personnel and equipments more effective and cost-efficient (”National Defence in the Age of Austerity”; International Affairs; April 2009).

Finally I would like to mention an article on Afghanistan by Sir Adam Roberts, President of the British Academy and Professor at Oxford University. In a periodical published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Sir Adam comments that British and American forces have much lessons to learn from past counter insurgent operations, and foreign troops should not behave as eternal occupiers (“Doctrine and Reality in Afghanistan”; Survival; February 2009).

Policy discussions on Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan have profound implications to other US allies. Within limited resource, free nations need to explore maximum contributions to global security and defend their own sovereign interests. Some allies like Japan have mush to lean from British experience, in order to pursue greater presence in global politics and strengthen alliance with the United States.

Monday, August 03, 2009

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