Saturday, February 26, 2011

Three op-eds from the Asahi Shimbun

I wrote the following in “East vs West.”
The Asahi Shimbun published three op-eds offering different views of what Japan should do next. Christopher Hughes, a professor at Warwick University, wrote one of the articles. His article was pretty much a confusing, steaming pile of shit. He said it would be a mistake for Japan to adopt the LDP doctrine of reluctant realism, but he never really defined what that policy was. After failing to define what reluctant realism was, he gave a confusing and meaningless argument as to why Japan shouldn’t do that. Hughes wanted Japan to adopt a policy of realistic realism. He doesn’t really define this policy either. All he says is that Japan should maintain its alliance with America but it should stand up to America when it goes astray. I’m not sure how realistic realism is different from reluctant realism. I guess it has something to do with standing up to America. But if Japan hasn’t been standing up to America, then why have there been so many problems in the relationship? At least Hughes ended his article by saying that Japan should work on its East Asian Community project.

Jitsuo Tsuchiyama, the vice president of Aoyama Gakuin University, wrote the second article. He said that Asia would remain unstable without a new regional order and to determine that regional order, Japan needed to decide what kind of relationship it wanted to have with China. He said Japan had a considerable amount of assets but it lacked a national objective, philosophy, and a sense of idealism. He said that Minshuto shouldn’t have merely decided whether the secret agreements existed but it should have determined whether or not they were necessary. More to the point, I think they should have said why Japan made those agreements. As for whether or not they were necessary, you could only argue they were unnecessary if you could think up a better solution for the problems that Japan had faced at the time. Tsuchiyama said that Minshuto didn’t understand that international politics was a form of power struggle. As far as I’m concerned, Japanese politicians don’t understand much of anything, but Japanese policymakers – whoever they are – do understand that international politics is a form of power struggle. He said that now was a perfect time for Japan to share its experiences of the past. I agree with pretty much everything Tsuchiyama said up until the end of his article, when he said that the alliance with America was indispensable, that the Futenma issue must be solved, and that to solve the issue Japan needs to talk about why the alliance was important.

Haruo Nishihara, the former president of Waseda University, wrote the last article. Unlike the other two authors, he didn’t even mention America in his article. Nishihara argued that Japan should determine where history is headed, imagine the future it desires, and figure out how to get there. According to his reading of history, he believed that regional integration will occur in East Asia. He said that tariffs in the region should eventually be eliminated and the countries of the region should work together to solve their problems. He wanted East Asia to have a common set of rules for certain issues. I can’t really disagree with anything Nishihara said.

The real reason why East Asia is having a hard time with America and Europe is because America and Europe are in decline in relative terms as compared to East Asia. America and Europe are now lashing out at the rest of the world in a desperate attempt to maintain their position but they are only making things worse for themselves and everyone else. Solving Futenma will not change the fact that the West is in relative decline to the rest of the world. Okay, it may change it slightly if the new arrangement allows America to reduce its military spending and invest more in itself. But a good solution to Futenma won’t reverse the broader trend.

It would be insane for Japan to prioritize its alliance with America over its relations with East Asia. America is determined to force Japan to choose America at the expense of East Asia, but America doesn’t seem willing to provide Japan with anything in return. On the contrary, America wants to knock Japan down as well as the rest of East Asia. How could Japan possibly choose America over East Asia? By the way, this same logic applies to Europe as well. If Japan were to choose the West over East Asia, it would be throwing away a century’s worth of efforts to modernize and improve the lives of people in East Asia. By choosing East Asia, Japan will also help the people who live in the West. A fast growing economy in East Asia will increase the demand for goods and services manufactured in the West and will improve the economic situation worldwide.

Maintaining the alliance with America in words only will not make things better. We need real transparency and real accountability. Jitsuo Tsuchiyama was exactly right when he said that now was a perfect time for Japan to talk about its past experiences. The only way to make things better is for someone to tell the truth about history and to tell the truth about what is going on in the world today. But the primary benefit from this discussion won’t be in improving decision making in East Asia, though I do think it could help out a great deal.

The primary benefit would be in changing policymaking in the West. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past year or so, it is that the trash insists on defending their reputation at all costs. But they have no reputation to defend. Losing this reputation will prove devastating to them, both because of the scorn they will receive and because others will decide that they are trash and should not be listened to. It should also lead to criminal liability for some of them which should effectively remove them from doing more harm. That should provide an effective deterrent that should stop the trash from acting in the way they do.

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