Thursday, January 13, 2011

Talking Strategy with Japan

The Council of Foreign Relations published an article written by Sheila Smith. The first sentence of this article was, “What a difference a year makes.” A year ago, Gates displayed an arrogant and demanding posture during his visit to Japan. But a year later, according to Smith, Gates acted completely differently. As an example of this change, she cited his position on the relocation of Futenma. During this last visit, Gates told Kitazawa that America would allow Japan to take the lead on this issue. As for why Gates acted differently this time, according to Smith, U.S. policymakers had undergone a “difficult learning process” during 2010. Based on that experience, they decided to take a different approach in 2011. Apparently, America did not enjoy the New Diplomacy.

“This past year suggests that past alliance management practices have blinded both governments to the shifting foundations of the U.S.-Japan security relationship,” said Smith.

In this statement, she seems to imply that, in 2010, America tried her same old tricks, namely, gaiatsu. But it didn’t work. And it didn’t work because something had changed. The foundations of the alliance had shifted. Smith does not explain what that means. But presumably, she was referring to the changes caused by the rise of China. Now that China had emerged as a major force in world affairs, perhaps Japan no longer needed America. Perhaps America had been taking Japan for granted.

Perhaps many of the problems of 2010 could have been avoided had Japan and America been more honest with each other. I imagine Smith would agree with this view. In fact, in her article, she argued that America and Japan needed to be more honest with each other about how they saw the world.1 And she faulted the DPJ for refusing to explain the security doctrine which guided their actions. Had America known how the DPJ thought, perhaps 2010 wouldn’t have been such a disaster. Of course, the problem with this idea is the DPJ had no security doctrine to begin with. Remember, the foundations of the alliance had shifted, meaning that we needed to come up with a new security doctrine for America and Japan. And so in the coming year, according to Smith, Japan and America would focus on engaging in “a serious and sustained strategic dialogue.”

Smith said this dialogue must reflect “the quickening pace of events.” She did not specify what these events were. Presumably, she was referring to the coming upheaval in the Middle East. If so, this implies that Smith knew that the Middle East would come apart when she wrote this article (which was in the middle of January). I can’t think of any other events that she could have been referring to.

As for the dialogue itself, Smith said that America and Japan needed to explain to each other how they wanted this dialogue to occur.2 Here, she was probably referring to whether or not Japan wanted me to be involved and to what extent Japan wanted to use the Internet.

At the end of her article, Smith said the following, “Learning and adjusting on both sides of the Pacific is underway.”

The events of 2011, however, would prove her wrong.

After I read her article, my government “put” the following thought into my mind, “There is no future for Japan without China.” Presumably, Japan convinced my government to “tell” me that. Later on, I would find out that this sentence was part of something that Sun Yat-sen once said. He was right.

And here’s another true statement. There is no future for the alliance between Japan and America unless someone has the courage to tell the world the truth.


1 Smith said this in an obfuscated way. She actually said that U.S. and Japanese officials needed “to be more adept” at “sharing in a meaningful way respective assessments of emerging regional and global environments.

2 Smith actually said that U.S. and Japanese officials needed to have a “closer understanding of mutual expectations of how to collaborate.”

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