Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Indo-Japanese Nuclear Deal: A Landmark of Japanese Foreign Policy?

During the era of the Fukuda administration, I wrote a post on Japan’s position between the US-Indian nuclear deal and domestic anti-nuclear sentiment. While the Bush administration pursued closer nuclear energy cooperation with India, the Japanese government in those days was hesitant, because this country is not an NPT member. However, supposedly more liberal DPJ administration has overturned the policy, and decided to reach a nuclear accord with India. Considering deep rooted postwar pacifism, this is a drastic change of Japanese foreign and national security policy. Strangely enough, the nuclear deal was not a key agenda in the national election for the House of Councilors on July 11 this year. The media needs to pay much more attention to this nuclear deal, in order to provoke nationwide debates on Japanese nuclear non-proliferation policy. Does the Indo-Japanese deal imply that Japan will declare a farewell to postwar pacifism, and explore active commitment on the global stage?

To begin with, let me present an overview of this issue. Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said it was a tough decision, but Japan could not go against the global trend. Ever since Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a nuclear accord with US President George W. Bush, many countries have followed, including France, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Argentina and Namibia. Also, Britain has signed a joint declaration on peaceful uses of nuclear energy and finalized a bilateral pact with India. So did Canada late this June. Furthermore, South Korea has begun to explore nuclear deals with India (“Japan relents, to start Nuclear deal talks with India”; Pakistan Defence; June 25, 2010). Although India is out of NPT and CTBT, this rapidly growing market attracts considerable attention from businessmen around the globe. In addition, as the Bush administration said, India, as the largest English speaking democracy, is a new strategic partner in the War on Terror. It is understandable that Foreign Minister Okada says that Japan cannot go against the global trend.

The problem is, Japan has not launched any foreign policy initiatives to renew postwar pacifism, but simply responded to strong request by the United States and France. Both General Electric of the US and Areva of France use Japanese equipments and appliances to build their nuclear reactors. Also, Hitachi and Toshiba are concerned that they will lose competitions in prospective Indian market (“U.S., France press for Japan-India nuclear deal – Nikkei”; Reuters; June 9, 2010).

Business opportunity is not the only reason for endorsing Japanese commitment to civilian nuclear projects in India. Currently, 50% of Indian electricity comes from coal, and it is a critical problem to lower greenhouse gas emission (“India Needs Civil Nuclear Energy: The Case for Dynamic Business”; Nikkei ECO JAPAN; June 16, 2010). In any case, center left Kan administration moved rightward, regarding India.

Professor Yasuhiko Yoshida of Osaka University of Economics and Law insists that Japan should not be obsessed with NPT, and seize this opportunity to deepen relations with India to build a Greater East Asian Community. Also, he points out that India has not proliferated nuclear weapons, unlike Pakistan did through the Khan network (“The Case for the Indo-Japanese Nuclear Deal”; Professor Y. Yoshida’s Website; July 1, 2007).

However, Japanese public opinion is not so lenient to India as Yoshida. The Nagasaki Global Citizens' Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, an anti-nuclear NGO, sent a letter of protest to Foreign Minister Okada, as India is out of global non-proliferation regime (“Nagasaki NGO Blames Indo-Japanese Nuclear Deal”; Mainichi Shimbun; July 10, 2010). Both liberal Asahi and conservative Yomiuri are concerned that a double standard will provoke Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea to claim their right for nuclear possession (“Does Japan Have Non-proliferation Strategy?”; Asahi Shimbun; June 28, 2010 and “Demand Nuclear Arms Cut and Non-Proliferation As Well”; Yomiuri Shimbun; June 30, 2010).

The bilateral talk began when Japanese Prime Minister-then Yukio Hatoyama visited India to talk with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 29 last year. Although Hatoyama was reluctant to start civil nuclear cooperation, negotiations for the nuclear deal proceeded through 2+2 talks by foreign and defense deputy ministers of both countries (Indo-Japan civil nuclear cooperation deal on”; Himalayan Times; July 6, 2010). The nuclear deal will be finalized in November or December when Prime Minister Singh visits Tokyo, along with agreements on other issues including counterterrorism and anti-piracy (“India, Japan to fast-track n-deal”; India Vision; July 7, 2010).

I do not oppose the deal itself, as India is a key strategic partner, prospective market, and the largest English speaking democracy. Also, it is a possible counterbalance against China. The problem is, the nuclear deal provoke a power game in South Asia. Barack Obama did not like to help India’s nuclear ambition through the nuclear deal signed by George W. Bush, as he dreams of a world without nuclear weapons. Having balanced the relations with India and his lofty dream, Obama accepted the Bush endorsed deal, and decided not to help Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan turned to China for help in building nuclear reactors. This will lead Indo-Pakistani rivalry to get intensified (“Pakistan, India and the anti-nuclear rules: Clouds of hypocrisy”; Economist; June 24, 2010). This implies that China does not respect Obama’s dream cited in the Prague speech at all.

In parallel with the nuclear deal with India, the Japanese government must explore new non proliferation regime in South Asia along with other NSG members, in order to stop Indo-Pakistani nuclear competition. This deal is a fundamental change of Japanese foreign policy, in view of postwar pacifism and anti-nuclear sentiment. Will Japan move beyond the Hiroshima-Nagasaki trauma? In the last election, none of the candidates talked of such a vital agenda. This is not just a matter of relations with India. It is a matter of Japan’s national identity in the new century and standpoint on the global stage.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Less Safe World under Obama’s America

As the midterm election is coming in November this year, it is vital to assess foreign policy of the Obama administration. Shortly after his inauguration, President Barack Obama delivered controversial speeches in Cairo and Prague to impress benevolence to the Islamic world, apology to past power diplomacy, and determination for a nuclear free world. Also, Obama tries to reset relations with Russia and China. Those who denounced the Bush administration’s cowboy diplomacy bowed down and praised the Prague and the Cairo Speeches. However, I have been critical to his apology to American foreign policy and receptiveness to the rise of authoritarian challengers. Therefore, it is vital to explore foreign policy direction under the Obama administration, and examine how much different from those of previous administrations.

In order to understand US foreign policy under the Obama administration, let me show you a video of a panel discussion, moderated by BBC Radio Caster Robin Lustig at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on January 14 this year. At the event, continuity and changes in US foreign policy was examined. Liberals evaluates highly of foreign policy changes by the Obama administration, because they think America’s position in global political interactions has become worse by “high handed unilateralism” under the Bush administration.

Jessica Mathews, President of the Carnegie Endowment, commented such viewpoints on behalf of liberal experts on US foreign policy. She was critical to the Iraq War and the regime change policy under the Bush administration. Mathews deplored that the word of “democracy promotion” had provoked a fear of military intervention, which undermined the legitimacy of American idealism. As Mathews was one of the candidates for Secretary of State and National Security Advisor for the Obama team, it is nothing so special that she applauds Obama foreign policy. In her article, Mathews insists that Obama must reverse a worldwide distrust to US foreign policy caused by the Bush administration. She says that Obama succeeded in improving the public image of America through speeches in Prague and Cairo, and the Noruz message to Iran (“Solid and Promising”; American Interest; January-February 2010). I agree that the United States faces diversified challenges and multilateral effort is necessary. However, as Nile Gardiner at the Heritage Foundation says, should Obama apologize for America just in order to placate nationalists in autocratic nations and far leftists across the globe? Though she mentions worldwide opinion polls on public images to America, I doubt the validity of those results because global public opinion includes those who believe in the ideology of hated, who are inherent antagonists to the ideology of freedom.

What surprises me in this event is an audio comment by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Former National Security Advisor under the Carter administration. Infatuated with Obama, Brzezinski says Obama deserves Nobel Peace Prize simply because he improved global public image to America damaged by Bush foreign policy. It sounds quite Quixotic. Even Ruth Marcus, a liberal columnist of the Washington Post, was appalled to hear this news (“A Nobel for a Good Two Weeks?”; Washington Post---Post Partisan; October 9, 2009). Usually, Don Quixote us a man of reason and prudence, when it comes to chivalry spirit, Quixote turns to be completely Quixotic. A cool headed Brzezinski turns into Quixotic like thus way, when talking of Obama.

Certainly, President Obama has some sort of distinctive charm that infatuates people across the globe. But does it help US foreign policy? It is his widely perceived un-Americaness that pleased global leftists. But now, President Obama has to act as the US President. He must be steadfast to defeat terrorists in the Afghan War, stop nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, and manage increasingly self assertive Russia and China. While liberal commentators praise the Obama change, Robert Kagan, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment, said that John McCain tried to overturn some policies under the Bush administration, such as the Guantánamo Prison. Apparently, liberals were obsessed with attacking Republicans and over-evaluated Obama. Therefore, a fair assessment on Obama foreign policy is required.

Let me speak specific issues at the event. At the beginning of the event, foreign policy renewal by Obama was discussed. While Mathews and Brzezinski were deeply impressed with the Prague and the Cairo speeches, Robert Kagan said that Obama had not departed from moralistic and idealistic tradition of American foreign policy. The problem that I would like to point out is, Obama's idealism is very Wilsonian-Carterian.

The primary issue at the panel discussion was security in the Middle East, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Palestine. Former Finance Minister of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani pointed out that misalignment between military agencies and socio-economic agencies impeded the progress in counterinsurgency operations. He said that USAID was not well suited for economic reconstruction, as it was a contract management organization. Also, terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan make things increasingly complicated. Liberals such as Mathews insist that Obama lower the target and redefine the victory, but neoconservatives like Kagan argue that the war is winnable through right strategy. In any case, the success in this war depends on President Obama’s leadership. This event was before the McChrystal case that posed a critical question to Obama’s competence as the commander in chief.

Another big issue in the Middle East was Iran. In view of the June 12 movement for democracy last year, the United States needs to reconsider whether continual talks on nuclear proliferation is useful or not. The priority may be helping the rise of a new regime by Iranian citizens, which is more well-prepared for constructive talks on nuclear issues.

The relationship with China is delicate. Although both the United States and China explore further cooperation to manage the world economy after the financial crisis, issues like human rights Tibet, and Taiwan are still hurdle to improve bilateral relations. Quoting a comment by Professor Steve Tsang at Oxford University, moderator Lustig said that the Chinese government found it more difficult to understand Obama’ s China policy than that of Bush. In reply to this, Douglas Paal, Vice President at the Carnegie Endowment, said that Obama decided to build up his China policy based on Bush‘s foundation. However, he was puzzled that China saw Obama’s stance unclear. His concern is understandable, because China may be tempted to provoke America to see whether Obama is weak or not. The Carnegie-BBC event presents vital viewpoints to understand impending challenges to US national security.

Regarding nuclear non-proliferation, President Obama hosted the 1st Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on April 12 and 13, which has drawn considerable attention by the media and intellectuals. Some of them praise Obama a savior toward a nuclear free world. George Perkovich, Vice President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, points out that both right and left misunderstand the core idea of the Prague speech (“The Obama Nuclear Agenda: One Year after Prague”; Carnegie Policy Outlook; March 31, 2010). Perkovich says that three points are important, that is, a nuclear free world is much safer, it is difficult to achieve this goal, and the United States will keep nuclear deterrence to defend its homeland and allies as long as nuclear weapons exist in the world.

President Obama simply recruited NGOs and celebrities to sign the “Global Zero” accord, but he does not mention the feasibility and timelines for multinational negotiations to eliminate nuclear weapons. Left wingers interpret the Obama initiative a brave breakthrough to sacrifice US self interest. On the other hand, critics assume that Obama takes a unilateral step toward nuclear disarmament. Former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger (“Why We Don’t Want a Nuclear-Free World: The Former Defense Secretary on the U.S. Deterrent and the Terrorist Threat”; Wall Street Journal; July 13, 2009), Senator John Kyl, and Richard Perle (“Our Decaying Nuclear Deterrent. The Less Credible the U.S. Deterrent, the More Likely Other States Are to Seek Weapons”; Wall Street Journal; June 30, 2009), attack the Obama initiative utopian. In fact, Obama tries to found a new non-proliferation regime including all 47 nations at the April summit. In the policy outlook, George Perkovich concludes that misinterpretation of Obama’s agenda may preclude other leaders from joining his non-proliferation initiative, and lead to higher risks for nuclear explosion. As in the case of other issues, I would stress that it is a fake image of Obama the Savior among leftists around the world that risks the security of the US and free allies.

The defense of US homeland is vital as well. In February this year, there was a bitter argument between Former Vice President Dick Cheney and Former Secretary of State Colin Powell about Obama's national security policy. Cheney blamed Obama for closing the Guantánamo Prison, and charging a Nigerian terrorist Khalid Sheik Mohammed who plotted the Christmas bombing in Detroit as a civilian criminal. He says Obama foreign policy leaves America less safe (“Cheney criticizes Obama on national security policy, and Biden fires back”; Washington Post; February 15, 2010). Furthermore, his daughter Liz Cheney denounced Vice President Joseph Biden for attacking Dick Cheney. She argues that the Obama administration belittles the threat of Al Qaeda’s acquisition of nuclear and bio-chemical weapons (“Liz Cheney: Biden, Obama Administration Ignoring Al Qaeda Pursuit of WMD”; FOX News; February 15, 2010). Appearing in “Face the Nation” of CBS, Colin Powell said that Bush founded agencies still work under the Obama administration, and America was not less safe ("Powell: We Are Not Less Safe under Obama”; CBS News; February 21, 2010). In any case Powell just said that US national security had not been worsened but did not say that things had been improved when he argued against Dick Cheney.

How should we evaluate the Obama administration’s performance in foreign policy? Robert Kagan comments cautiously to liberal over-evaluation to Obama foreign policy. Obama has made fatal errors to deviate from post Cold War policy. Barack Obama may be a “pragmatic realist” as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel compares Obama to Bush Sr. The problem is, Obama believes that America can achieve its national interest through working with autocratic regimes (“George H.W. Obama?”; Foreign Policy Interview; April 14, 2010). The Obama administration is willing to accommodate the “post American” world, rather than reversing such a dangerous atmosphere (Obama's Year One”; World Affairs; January/February 2010). While Obama explores “win-win” deals with challengers to our liberal world order, they respond to us in “zero-sum” principles, as typically seen in geopolitical power games posed by Russia in the former Soviet Union and China in the Asia-Pacific region (“The Perils of Wishful Thinking”; American Interest; January/February 2010). From the theory of hegemonic stability viewpoint, Obama’s pacifism will make the world less and less safe. He needs to understand that Pax Americana is global public goods to strengthen a liberal world order.

The Russian spy case is one of wake-up calls to reconsider Obama foreign policy. It is ironical that this case happened in a reset atmosphere of the Obama-Medvedev meeting during G8 and G20 Summit. Foreign policy experts agree that the US-Russian thaw needs to be reconsidered (“What the Russian Spy Case Reveals”; Council on Foreign Relations; July 12, 2010). Believing in win-win deals with Russia, the Obama administration courts Russia to manage the Iranian nuclear problem. However, Russian simply joined verbal attack to Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons, but did not agree to impose comprehensive arms embargo on the Tehran theocracy. Russians sold S300 surface to air missiles to Iran. Also, Obama’s soft-liner policy has left East European and former Soviet nations vulnerable to Kremlin revisionism (“A Hollow 'Reset' With Russia”; Washington Post; May 25, 2010).

Though there are many points to be criticized in overall performance, Robert Kagan gives credits to some foreign policy success of the Obama administration. Despite lukewarm concessions with Russia and China on Iran, that discredited the joint initiatives by Turkey and Brazil. In addition, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama resigned due to Obama’s strong pressure on the Futenma Base issue, and new prime minister Naoto Kan reaffirms the alliance with America the core of Japanese and Asia-Pacific security (Obama's 5 Foreign-Policy Victories”; Washington Post; June 29, 2010).

I have talked about a broad range of issues in US foreign policy. The most important point is, whether President Obama will act as the president of the United States. On one hand, Obama is just a lukewarm pragmatist, rather than the savior praised by leftists around the world. On the other hand, though Obama is a Wilsonian-Caterian idealist, he is too self critical to American power and values. The midterm election is a good opportunity to question whether President Obama really believes in “Americanness”, both in foreign and domestic policies.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Critical Review of an Overgrown Summit

Shortly after the Toyako Summit in 2008, I asked some questions about the Summit, because it has diverged from the foundation ideal by Valery Giscard d’Estaing. Originally, it was a conference of free discussions among leaders of top industrialized democracies without bureaucratic interference. Today, the Summit has become overgrown, and a tremendous amount of money and manpower is spent for conference preparation and security. In face of vehement criticism by global left wingers, the Summit has expanded from G8 to G20 to include rising economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America. However, I have a critical concern that an expanded Summit makes it increasingly difficult to reach a binding consensus. Also, a large scale international meeting imposes substantial burden on the host city. Even though current Summit includes members of the South, it does not soothe leftist vandalism, and citizens living in the host city are imperiled with violence. Therefore, it is necessary to make the Summit more coherent, more efficient, and smaller.

During the Muskoka G8 and the Toronto G20 Summit this June, a Canadian journalist James Travers said that G20 act beyond the premier forum for global economic cooperation and launch common strategic initiatives for world security. As he argues, “managing 21st century risks such as terrorism, climate change, poverty and financial chaos, requires coordinated communal responses.” That means, G20 assumes more legitimacy over G8 to manage the world economy. But, it also implies that the bigger does not necessarily mean the better (“Will bigger club make for better planet?”; Toronto Star; June 26, 2010).

In the following video by Russia Today on June 25, Ella Kokotis of the G8 Research Group at the University of Toronto says that there is a division of roles between G8 and G 20. G8 focuses on political security like nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, African development, and climate change. On the other hand, G20 focuses on governance of the world economy.

It may be necessary to include rising economies to manage the world economy since the financial crisis. The problem is, they have relational power to make others accept their demands, but not structural power to manage diversified and complicated global issues. They cannot use their influence to make the system of global politics. An expanded Summit can make this annual event a Summit for the Summit. In order to make it more coherent, more efficient, and smaller, I would suggest that the annual Summit be restricted to either G7 or G8 (I agree with Senator John McCain and Senator Joseph Lieberman that Russia’s membership for G8 is questionable.), while hosting G20 Summit on ad hoc basis. This will reduce the burden to the host city and bureaucratic interference to the conference. Whether expanded or restricted, leftist complainers will complain.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The McChrystal Question: Can Obama Command the Afghan War?

President Barack Obama’s decision to fire General Stanley McChrystal shocked the public keenly aware of the War on Terror in Afghanistan. Shortly after the presidential election in 2008, I mentioned that the military preferred John McCain over Barack Obama, because Obama had little experience in national security. A Japanese journalist Yoshiki Hidaka, currently Visiting Fellow at the Hudson Institute, comments in his book “America Has Chosen a Misfortune” that Obama is an exceptional president in history, because he is one of the least competent American politicians as the commander in chief. It is likely that General McChrystal’s criticism to the Obama administration in Rolling Stone is related to this deep-rooted background. Therefore, it is vital to explore the impact of this incident on the Afghan War and US national security policy as a whole.

First, let me review the controversial article, which led General McChrystal to resign the Afghan War commander. Last September, I published three posts on Obama’s attitude to McChrystal’s request for surge (See 1, 2, and 3). In addition, I mentioned that British Defence Secretary-then Bob Ainsworth was frustrated with Obama’s indecisiveness to help the British army in Helmand and Kandahar. President Obama’s competence to command the Afghan War has been critically questioned from the beginning.

In an interview with Michael Hastings, General Stanley McChrystal mentioned this initial split with the Obama administration. McChrystal emphasized that it was he who has the best relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to make his administration credible for counterinsurgency operations, not Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke. Also, he criticized the Defense Department for delaying to deploy troops for counterinsurgent attack this summer (“The Runaway General”; Rolling Stone; June 22, 2010).

Shortly after firing General Stanley McChrystal, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen held a press conference to ease the shock among the public, as shown in the video below. Both Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen stressed that the strategy in Afghanistan would not change despite the Rolling Stone incident. However, the media questioned President Obama’s leadership in the war, because a Four Star General criticized a civilian chief executive of the government so carelessly.

While Afghan media worry negative effects of this shock on US and NATO forces mission, Pakistani media are concerned with erosion of credibility of US-led operations (McChrystal fired: Reaction from Afghanistan and beyond”; BBC News; 25 June 2010).

Retired Colonel Oliver North of US Marine Corps criticizes President Obama for his “I am in charge” attitude to appeal his left-wing base. Also, North points out that newly appointed General David Petraeus will face difficulty in dealing with the Obama administration, because “In Baghdad, he had a close working relationship with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the respect of other coalition leaders, a supportive, united White House and backing from a bipartisan coalition in Congress. The command in Kabul offers few of these advantages, for the O-Team is nearly incapacitated by internal rivalries and enormous egos” (“General Madness”; FOX News; June 25, 2010).

However, the problem is not who is in charge, but how to define the victory. Though it is necessary to intensify counterinsurgent attacks, US officials explore some compromise with the Taliban, as the Karzai administration fails to improve governance as the West expects(Obama's Afghan Problem: Not a General, But a War Strategy”; Time; June 25, 2010).

The problem is not the nature of this war but the command structure within current administration. Thomas Donnelly, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, points out that “the team of rivals” undermines ISAF effort in this war. Vice President Joseph Biden rejected vital points of the McChrystal strategy, which was long term commitments to counterinsurgency operations and deployment of further troops (“Is Obama Committed to Victory in Afghanistan?”; AOL News; June 23, 2010). Regarding “the rivals”, Danielle Pletka, Vice President of the AEI, argues that Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry go as well, because they tried to discredit General McChrystal, instead of closely working with international forces on the ground (“The Effects of the Change in Command”: Washington Post; June 28, 2010).

As opposed to dismal outlook stated in Time Magazine, Frederick Kagan, Resident Fellow at the AEI, and Kimberly Kagan, President of the Institute for the Study of War, comment that ISAF has made substantial progress under General Stanley McChrystal. Both experts insist that close partnership with local actors is essential even though they do not always meet Western expectation for good governance. They say ISAF will have to refocus its efforts at every level away from a binary choice between removing and empowering the malign actors, and toward the kind of nuanced approach that was successful in Iraq, appropriately modified” (“A Winnable War”; Weekly Standard; July 5, 2010).

The war is not easy, but there is a strategy for victory. General David Petraeus understands how to fight against insurgents as shown in Iraq. It is President Barack Obama’s leadership that really matters. His incompetence to manage the team disappointed General Stanley McChrystal, which led to the Rolling Stone criticism. Can Obama really command this war? That is the question.