Red Sun, Narrowed Eyes

Obama’s “diplomacy of deference” is producing a Japan That Can Say Go Away.

The erratic diplomacy of the Obama administration is already bearing unsavory fruit in a quarter Americans have long thought of as relatively stable:  our relations with Japan.  Notwithstanding the president’s unseemly bow to Emperor Akihito in November, the alliance is more strained in late 2009 than at any time since 1945.  Asian editorialists discern strategic implications in a flurry of visits between Japan and China in the last month.  And Team Obama, along with the Western media, has been largely silent on the visit to Japan of Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, during Christmas week.

The major point of contention between the US and Japan, the Marine Corps air base at Futenma, on Okinawa, involves legitimate concerns on both sides. Continue reading “Red Sun, Narrowed Eyes”

It Ain’t All That

Obama’s negotiating posture with Iran is weak in multiple ways.

The Western media are dutifully plumping for President Obama’s Qom Gambit, unveiled this week in company with Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Angela Merkel, who was reportedly there in spirit for the Pittsburgh revelation.

Even The Washington Times has mounted the bandwagon and proclaimed Obama’s timing to be both premeditated and, in effect, preternatural.  It is, of course, an interesting study in contrasts, to see how the left and right react differently to the proposition that “Obama knew about this all along.”  The left:  impressed by his maintenance of a poker face.  The right:  disgusted by it.  What has gotten short shrift in political commentary is the objective nature of the card Obama is playing, and what his overall situation is.  When the Qom Gambit is put in realistic context, it doesn’t look nearly as clever.  What it will not do is galvanize or unify the world in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Continue reading “It Ain’t All That”

An Interesting Reader Exchange

A reader exchange regarding the US-Japan security treaty.

For readers who may not check the “About” section again, I append below a most interesting exchange with long-time Japanese blogger Yuichi Yamamoto, who maintains the Tokyo Free Press blog (also linked from my blogroll).

Mr. Yamamoto has been the source of many lively exchanges at Gordon Chang’s posts in the Commentary “contentions” blog.  I encourage readers to check out the link he provides to his latest post on the trend of Japanese society, and its relation to Japan’s security treaty with the United States.  See what you think – and feel free to add your own comments.

————————-

Dear J.E. Dyer:
I encountered you on Gordon Chang’s Contentions blog. I’ve also learned there that you launched this blog lately.
I’ve always been interested in knowing your down-to-earth and well-informed views about America’s allies and foes.
I’ve been divided with Gordon over the U.S.-Japanese security treaty. And perhaps you and I, too, have different opnions on this issue. But I believe you are a person that values differences. I opine that exchanging views with one who shares the same opinions with me is a sheer waste of time. (I can’t afford such time because I’m 73.)
It will be great if you take a peek at my most recent blog entry:
http://www.tokyofreepress.com/article.php?story=20090212085024373
I’m also the owner of a “cyber museum” which commemorates my late father who was a prominent aeronautic engineer.
http://www.yamafami.com/cm/
Yu Yamamoto
Yokohama

————–

Dear Yuichi Yamamoto,

Thank you for the link to your blog. I have actually visited it since seeing a link to it from Gordon Chang’s blog at Contentions. I hope others here will take the time to check it out for some very interesting content.

I was unable to register as a new user at the post you link to (the site says new registration is disabled). But I do want to comment on your argument about the lion pushing the cub out of the den, as a metaphor for America and Japan.

I should note first that I had no idea Mr. Aso’s IQ was 80. That seems remarkable.

I understand why your American interlocutors almost all prefer to maintain the security treaty between us as it is now. It makes us feel more secure! Having been stationed in Japan during my military career (in Yokosuka, very enjoyable), I know that Japan carries much of the costs of basing American forces in her country. She has not been the “money pit” ally some of our European friends have been.

What I fear, however, is that the demise of our security treaty will not be a matter of American initiative, but of Japan eventually deciding that her alliance with us is no longer the best guarantee of her own security. I would hate to see that day come, because of the implications about America’s choices, and our care of our allies, and respect for their interests.

Japan, as a great trading nation, needs access to foreign trade on her terms; she needs free access to the world’s waterways — especially the ones in East Asia; and she needs access to fossil fuels, and the liberty to make her own decisions about her future energy needs. There are nations like Russia and China that would hold these needs hostage, if they could, to win concessions from Japan. America’s role, in the last few decades, has been to keep them from being in the position to hold Japan hostage in such a way.

I believe Japan has the human resources to be fully capable of standing up for her own strategic needs, although I defer to your better knowledge of how long it would take the citizenry of today to “cowboy up,” as we say, to that obligation. The pain in my mind is from the inevitability of this fact: if Japan believes that she NEEDS to pursue that course, it will be because America is losing our effectiveness as a great power. It will be because we are no longer the most useful ally another nation can have.

I have an axiom by which I analyze international relations, which goes like this: You don’t have allies because you need them — you have allies because they need you. In my view, America’s course must be to remain the kind of nation others need as their ally.

America also sought Japan as an ally because we need her. I don’t think that has changed. Both geographically and culturally, Japan is a nation we must either have as an ally, or live in perpetual tension with. I would be open to renegotiating our current security treaty, as long as the basic idea was to remain allies, if perhaps on a new footing. I would be gravely alarmed if the US and Japan did not share enough common interests to remain in alliance with each other.

So that is the basic position from which I view your proposal. I think it would be terrible for America to lose Japan as an ally. But the particular terms of our existing security treaty need not be carved in stone for the rest of time. Both Americans and Japanes are likely to see renegotiation as too much of a headache, I suspect, until some outside event — maybe aggression by Russia or China — makes us reevaluate our situation.

I hope to engage in more such interesting dialogue, and look forward to better acquaintance with you and your blog.