Sunday, May 23, 2010

Re-strengthen the Trilateral Alliance of America, Europe, and Japan!

Since the publication of debates between Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Gideon Rachman, Chief Foreign Affairs Columnist of the Financial Times, the challenge posed by Russo-Chinese illiberal capitalism to Western liberal capitalism is one of my key focuses. The United States, Europe, and Japan should wake up from post Cold War daydream, and re-strengthen the trilateral alliance of top industrialized democracies, in order to manage various global challenges in this century.

The clash of capitalisms is nothing new. Shortly after the Cold War, a French businessman Michel Albert argued a rivalry between the Rhine capitalism and the Anglo Saxon capitalism in his book, “Capitalisme contre Capitalisme”. This is just a matter of economics, particularly, government-industry relations. However, the challenge of authoritarian capitalism in Russia and China is not just the matter of economics but that of political and security rivalry against the West. Kagan and Rachman agree that resurgent autocracies like Russia and China defy Western democracy, and help their fellow autocrats in the Third World to win geopolitical power game against the West.

In addition to their warning, Ian Bremmer, CEO of Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm, presents in depth analysis on the clash between state controlled capitalism and free market capitalism in his latest book "The End of The Free Market", from a businessman’s viewpoints. Bremmer says, "We are no longer in a global, free-market economy. There are now two systems out there. There is a free-market system, largely in the developed world. There is a state capitalist system in China, Russia and the Persian Gulf. The systems are mutually incompatible." In China, Western multinational corporations face unfair competition with state sponsored Chinese companies. In the long run, state controlled capitalism will fall into bureaucratic inefficiency, but in the next 5 to 10 years, free market economies will face challenges by rising state controlled capitalisms.

Why is state controlled capitalism rampant now? In the midst of savage competition of neoliberal economics at the end of the Cold War, some developing nations tried to maintain economic stability and government influence in their domestic markets. The global financial crisis has undermined the trust for free market capitalism, which bolsters authoritarian capitalism furthermore. According to Bremmer, state capitalism is not socialist central planning economy. It is a system that authoritarian bureaucracy dominates markets for their political survival, not for the well-being of citizens in their country, which leads to political conflicts with free market corporations ("The Rise Of State-Controlled Capitalism"; NPR News; May 17, 2010).

In addition to illiberal capitalism, the rise of cheap labor Asian manufactures poses another challenge to developed economies. It takes workers’ jobs away from industrialized nations, and erodes their economic supremacy over Asian tigers.

The United States, Europe, and Japan share common strength to manage the above challenges by illiberal capitalisms and rising southern economies. It is the value of freedom that makes liberal democracy capitalists far more attractive than authoritarian state capitalists. Regarding rapidly industrializing Asian economies, top developed nations have vital advantages in knowledge and education. Just before the last general election in Britain, Susan Watts, Science Editor of BBC, stressed importance of science policy (“Let's talk about science”; BBC Newsnight; 29 April 2010). This is a common agenda for all developed nations.

A closer Trilateral Alliance of the United States, Europe, and Japan, will augment the soft power of the Best and the Brightest Club. Resurgent autocracies and rising economies may be gaining relational power to impose their will on others. However, when it comes to structural power to make the system of four areas of the Susan Strange model, (production, finance, security, and knowledge), the Trilateral Alliance towers over the rest of the world. Jointly upgraded soft power of the Trilateral Alliance will bolster structural power of top democracies furthermore to counter challengers.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lessons from British Election for the US and Japan

The last general election in the United Kingdom gives some lessons to be learned for the United States and Japan, the Big 2 liberal capitalist economies. The United States will have the midterm election this November, and conservative citizens launch bitter backlashes against “socialist” Obama administration, as shown in the Tea Party Movement. In Japan, the election for the House of Councilors will be held in July. Japanese voters question the competence of the Hatoyama administration on child care benefits in the economy, the Futenma Base Dispute in national security, and the Ozawa scandal in political reform.

Quite interestingly, none of the parties won the majority in the House of Commons in the last election. This implies that no parties have captured the heart of British voters. What lessons should America and Japan learn from this election?

Michael Barone, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, points out several implications for the midterm election in the United States this November. Most importantly, voters do not support heavy government spending. Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labour government shifted leftward, and moved away from the third way of the Blair administration. Also, public support for the Liberal Democratic Party dropped just before the voting date, because Nick Clegg insisted on unrealistic policies, such as legalizing illegal immigration and joining the euro to abolish the pond sterling.

Policy agenda is not the only determinant in the election. In a time of disenchantment with politicians, the old political rules may not apply. Based on traditional uniform swings in party preference, David Cameron’s Conservative Party could have won more seats. This suggests that voters have different view points from those of Westminster insiders (“In Britain, a Cautionary Tale for U.S. Parties”; Washington Examiner; May 10, 2010).

Barone talks of the above lessons and interrelations between British and American political rhythms, as seen in the Reagan-Thatcher and the Clinton-Blair ideological duos.

The final lesson given by Barone is critical to Japan. Although drastic changes are expected due to the collapse of LDP and DPJ predominance in the diet, both old parties and new parties use old techniques to draw voters’ attention in the forthcoming election. Most of the Japanese political parties recruit candidates from TV personalities and athletes, in order to make use of their popularity to win the vote.

It is an irony that Japanese leaders failed to understand this point, although Britain has been a role model of parliamentary democracy when they explore political reform since 1980s.

Considering political rhythms mentioned by Barone, Americans will make use of implications of British election. However, it seems that Japanese political reform will be desperately a long way to go, unless political parties establish a solid recruiting system to find respectable candidates, and stop traditional bread and circus election tactics.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why Is President Obama So Hesitant to Endorse Iranian Democracy Movements?

Iran is one of the top foreign policy agendas for the Obama administration, because of threats of nuclear proliferation, influence on insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, connections with terrorists in Palestine and Lebanon, and impacts on regional security. However, when Iranian citizens stood up against fraud in the presidential election last June, President Barack Obama was very reluctant to endorse them. President Obama may not have confidence in America, as he blamed US intervention to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Dispute in 1953 to oust Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. However, it was Mossadegh’s fault to use the Soviet card at the height of the Cold War, in view of Stalin made Iran crisis in 1946.

Nile Gardiner, former foreign policy staff to Lady Margaret Thatcher, criticizes such apologetic attitude shown in the Cairo Speech. He says that the world needs robust American leadership, instead of Carter-styled modesty (“Barack Obama should stop apologising for America”; Daily Telegraph; 3 June 2009).

John Noonan, Policy Advisor at the Foreign Policy Initiative, insists that diplomatic efforts must be combined with active support for civil movements toward Iranian democracy. Otherwise, he warns that Iran will fall into another North Korea(”A Passive―Aggressive Strategy for Toppling Tehran”; Weekly Standard Blog; May 6, 2010). President Obama may be exploring to reach an agreement with Iranian theocrats without provoking civil movements in this country. But remember that Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, comments, “Today the autocrats pursue foreign policies aimed at making the world safe, if not for all autocracies, then at least for their own” (“The Return of the History and the End of Dreams”; p. 61). Therefore, I shall never agree with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, saying that "Negotiations should be conducted with logic, not with pressure. If negotiations and pressure occur at the same time there's no way these negotiations can go forward." The United States needs to use pressure in close cooperation with Iranians pursuing freedom.

Actually, Ex-Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi comments that it is the nature of current regime of Iran that matters. Pahlavi says that resentment to Shiite autocracy has come to unprecedented level among Iranian grassroots (“Pour les Iraniens, le nucléaire est secondaire”; Paris Match; 9 février 2010).

Whether agree or disagree to his policy, I have no doubt that President Obama is dedicated to tackle the Iranian nuclear problem. Even though Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama tried to discuss the Futenma Base Issue with the President during the 10 minuet talk at the last Nuclear Security Summit, most of the time was spent on Iran. However, finesse diplomacy with Russia and China is just a part of managing Iranian challenges. It is vital for the United States to endorse Iranian citizens who shares liberty values with Americans. The Obama administration needs to return to the national fundamental of the United States to strengthen the soft power. Iran is a vital case, and nuclear non-proliferation is not the only issue.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

British Election and the National Grand Design

Britain will have the general election on May 6. The rise of the Liberal Democratic Party may change long time duopoly by the Conservative and the Labour Party since the Ramsey MacDonald premiership in 1924. Currently, poll results suggest this election extremely competitive, and the Conservative Party leads slightly over rival parties (“State of the Race for 30 April”; LSE Election Blog; 30 April 2010). I would like to talk of the overview of this election, and then, focus on foreign policy and defense issues. Also, I would like to talk about some vital points missed in the TV debate by party leaders.

First, listen to the above Pod cast of the Economist on April 30. The public debate on April 29 was predominantly on the economy. Andy Miller, Political Editor of the Economist, comments that Prime Minister Gordon Brown failed to impress TV audiences across the nation with his economic policy.

As the “change” has become a big theme, Prime Minister was overshadowed by his archrival David Cameron and rising Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg (“Bagehot: The last days of Gordon Brown”; Economist; April 29, 2010).

The Prime Minister may have failed to impress voters, but it is necessary to assess achievements of the Labour cabinet led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in 13 years. Under a savage competition in the global economy, the Labour government struck a balance between economic equality and market capitalism to pursue social fairness. The minimum wage bill has saved the poor, despite criticism from the Conservative Party and the business. Inefficient public sectors, such as schools, hospitals, and job centers, have been improved through the private finance initiative. On the other hand, gross government debt has risen sharply under the Brown administration (“Labour's record: Things could only get better”; Economist; April 29, 2010).

The Iraq War spurred nationwide controversies, but Britain attacked Saddam Hussein whether governed by the Labour or the Conservative. Then, why is it the time for power transition?

First, the budget deficit has come to a tremendous level, at 11.6% of GDP. Brown has overturned Blair’s reform in public service. Despite amazing surge in the poll, the Liberal Democratic Party advocates more leftist policies than the Labour Party. In defense, the Lib Dems insists on scrapping Trident missiles, Britain’s only nuclear deterrent system. In the economy, the Lib Dems want to raise capital gains tax to 50%, which is higher than that of the Labour (“The British election: Who should govern Britain?” Economist; April 29, 2010).

It is understandable that the Economist selects David Cameron among the three. The problem is, the election debate focuses short term and daily life issues. However, long term and big picture issues are important as well, since this is the election to choose the prime minister.

Currently, Britain faces new global challenges, such as the War on Terror, proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the rise of Asian manufacturing. Therefore, it is a must to discuss foreign policy and defense more in depth. Academics of the London School of Economics leave brief comments on foreign policy debates among three candidates. Regarding the EU, Sara Hagemann, Lecturer in EU Politics, mentions gaps between Euro-skeptic Cameron and Europhile Brown and Clegg. She says that voters share Cameron’s view to Brussels bureaucracy. On the other hand, Professor Chris Brown and Research Officer Leandro Carrera talk of fundamental policy chasms between dovish Clegg and pragmatic Brown and Cameron. Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg insists on abolishing Trident missiles and drastic cut in defense budget (“Second Debate – International Affairs: What our Experts said”; LSE Election Blog; April 23, 2010).

Afghanistan is an urgent agenda of defense. Professor Christopher Coker says that the US led coalition has succeeded in ousting Taliban and helping nation building. However, NATO has not reached a consensus about the final stage of “stability enabling”, he says. As Britain is supposed to fight another War on Terror in Somalia and Yemen, Coker argues that war objectives needs to be defined more precisely. In any case, he says that it is Britain’s vital interest to impress its strength against terrorism and keep itself safe (“The Conflict in Afghanistan”; LSE Election Blog; April 20, 2010). The trans-Atlantic Alliance needs to be considered from this point.

Foreign and defense issues are not the only agenda, regarding Britain’s grand design. Susan Watts, Science editor of BBC, points out that the candidates failed to address science policies in the debate. Quoting a comment by Richard Pike, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, she says that science will be the key to promote economic growth, and improve health and environmental levels of the country (“Let's talk about science”; BBC――Newsnight; 29 April 2010).

I agree with Watts, because arts and sciences are the vital area in which developed nations enjoy towering advantages over rapidly growing Asian economies. Also, nations like Britain, the United States, and Japan are assumed to take leadership for global public interest.

Does David Cameron, the most likely next prime minister, have a real grand design for Britain? Some critical issues are not discussed in the public debate. Attention to the next leader of the United Kingdom.