Thursday, September 26, 2019

The trans-Atlantic Chasm Undermines the US-Japanese Alliance

It is commonly assumed that the US-Japanese alliance is a security partnership in the Pacific region, but I would like to see this strategic linchpin from the Atlantic side. For this purpose, I would like to mention Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s address at the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, when he attended NATO foreign Ministers Meeting last December. His Trumpian speech dismayed Europeans. He flatly denied world peace by multilateralism and regional cooperation, which saved Europe from antagonistic great power rivalries before World War II. Moreover, he stated that the EU was a polity of multinational bureaucracy, at the expense of sovereign nations and citizens (“Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo at the German Marshall Fund, Brussels, Belgium”; US Missions to International Organizations in Vienna; December 4, 2018). Pompeo’s remark is widening the trans-Atlantic chasm so critically that the foundation of the liberal world order is increasingly at risk today.

The Brussels speech is graded negatively among American foreign policy experts as well. Robert Kagan at the Brookings Institution, comments that Pompeo’s speech resonates with Israeli far right scholar Yoram Hazony, as he said democracy was based on nationalism, not liberalism (“The strongmen strike back”; Brookings Institution; March 2019). Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations criticizes his “principled realism” more harshly. While Pompeo attacked multilateral organizations that the United States has endorsed or created, like the EU, the UN, the World Bank, and the IMF, he did not mention how much the Trump administration had eroded America’s reputation among allies. Contrary to Pompeo’s understanding that multilateralism has augmented excessive burden of bureaucratic procedures, and restricted sovereign actions of US diplomacy, Patrick argues that multilateral cooperation has been mutually beneficial, and helped American supremacy on the global stage. Regarding the EU, he refutes Pompeo’s poorly founded view about national sovereignty, because member states have the most powerful leverage in the decision making of the Union. Likewise, Pompeo is wrong about other international organizations. More importantly, unlike Pompeo defends, Trump shows no interest in defending the world order and US leadership, but he alienates America’s long standing allies (“Tilting at Straw Men: Secretary Pompeo’s Ridiculous Brussels Speech”; CFR Blog; December 4, 2018). This is typically shown in his scornful remark, “Our allies take advantage of us far greater than our enemies”, prior to the G7 Biarritz (“Trump heading to G-7 summit after insulting allied world leaders”; CBS News; August 23, 2019).

The EU won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, because of "the successful struggle for peace and reconciliation, and for democracy and human rights". Not only has it deepened multilateral cooperation in Western Europe, but also promoted freedom values in Eastern Europe in the post-communist era. Europe defends the common values of the trans-Atlantic community, while Trump’s America is shedding them. Seen from the Atlantic side, the US-Japanese alliance is growing increasingly fragile. In of view this, it is time to review a US-Japanese joint policy brief, “Stronger than Ever but More Challenged than ever: The US-Japan Alliance in the Trump-Abe era” by the JFIR (Japan Forum on International Relations), along with the National Defense University and the Atlantic Council. Since it was published in April last year, Trumpification of American foreign policy staff has advanced. Adults in the room, notably James Mattis and H. R. McMaster, were replaced by more nationalist and loyalist Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. Even Bolton was fired now, and American diplomacy has become more susceptible to Trump’s whimsical temperament.

Despite Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from the TPP, not so profound ideological discrepancies are shown between Japan and the United States, compared with Europe and America. As mentioned in the JFIR policy brief, both nations were forming a built-in-stabilizer to manage growing threats in the Indo-Pacific area, notably China and North Korea, and defend democratic values in this region. This was supposed to save the alliance from unpredictable populism in American domestic politics. But actually, as stated in the brief, it was the adults in the room like Secretary of State-then Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense-then James Mattis, who confirmed America's continual commitment to the liberal world order and multilateral cooperation in Asia. However, it is questionable whether Pompeo is committed to regional stability as much as they were. Though he addresses for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, Uyghur, and so forth, the meaning of these words and his intention seems to be more “principled realist” or even Hazonian nationalist, rather than Wilsonian idealist. His contemptuous views about multilateral diplomacy are starkly in contrast with those of Mattis, who emphasizes close policy coordinations with allies from the battlefield to UN corridors (“Jim Mattis: Duty, Democracy and the Threat of Tribalism”; Wall Street Journal; August 28, 2019). Unlike Mattis, Pompeo’s power bases are the Tea Party and evangelicals, not military élites, though he was a captain of the US army. Therefore, the US-Japanese alliance is turning weaker again, after the departure of the adults in the room.

It was revealed that Japan is in a difficult position between Europe and Trump’s America at the G7 Charlevoix and Biarritz. Since Europe and America bicker too much over the Paris Accord and Russian readmission to G7 membership, critical security problems in Asia, such as China and North Korea are sidelined (“Japan’s Disappointing G7 Summit”; Diplomat; August 28, 2019). Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had an ambition to act as a connecting bridge between Europe and America through his relatively good personal ties with Trump, to boost Japan’s global standings. But the trans-Atlantic chasm is too wide and deep. Currently, Iran is a critical issue between the United States and democratic allies. While Pompeo calls for allies to join the coalition of the willing to defend the Hormuz Strait, Europeans do not see imminent threats there, and Trump’s intention over Iran is unclear (”Trump’s coalition of one”; Politico; August 2, 2019). Regarding the Saudi Arabian oil field attack, François Heisbourg, Senior Advisor for the IISS, is cautious to accept Trump’s claim that Iran did it, and some American experts agree with him. Japan is also reluctant to join Trump’s coalition against Iran. The trans-Atlantic chasm in the Trump era is undermining Japan’s diplomacy that takes “a panoramic perspective of the world map”.