Comment: Gates, the DJP and the semi-sovereign state, The Nelson Report, 23 October 2009

Comment: Gates, the DJP and the semi-sovereign state, The Nelson Report, 23 October 2009

A considerably more acerbic view from Down Under, a new Loyal Reader, Prof. Richard Tanter, reacting to last night’s Report courtesy of his Nautilus colleague, Peter Hayes. Note especially Tanter’s point that it might have been expected that Obama would want to support a new government in Japan which, for the first time in far-too-many years, actually has some promise of real performance, and whose success, in any event, the US needs as badly as the Japanese people:

“The Obamaristas are making an incredible mess of Japan over the Futenma/Marines issue. Clearly they have listened to the those in Washington who got themselves in a knot about ‘momentus changes’ and even threats to alliance interests under the DPJ. There is no strategic issue of great moment at stake about Futenma, and a great deal to be lost for the US in Japan behaving like this. And as Nelson’s piece shows, there is room for argument within the US about the Futenma relocation procedure.

But the astonishing thing is the visibility of the arrogance of the US over alliance matters with Japan in a way they would not dream of being vis-a-vis Germany. They are just behaving as if nothing has changed in Japan since they handed back Okinawa in 1972, and that a new govt of a sovereign country matters not at all. A semi-sovereign state indeed.

I had assumed that they would respond to the minimal shared hope of all DPJ pollies, of whatever stripe – and there are many – for a new tone of respect and a discourse based on a presumption of equality. – even if not substantive equality in a hurry.

Imagine what Ozawa Ichiro – the architect of the new govt over fifteen years of maneuvering – must be thinking. He’s a very conservative, slightly (complicatedly)  nationalist, slightly dovish, former LDP secgen. He drove the opposition to the renewal of the Indian Ocean MSDF mission (very successfully) on the basis of its auspicing by the US rather than the UN.

He’s not at all anti-American, but doesn’t like being bossed around, and sensibly thinks that in Japan, UN command sells better and is more strategically sensible for Japan than US command of o/s missons. Remember it was Ozawa who brought the phrase ‘Japan as a normal country’ from the extreme right into the pol mainstream.

Ozawa’s real longterm goal has been to reform Japanese politics by breaking the power of the mandarins and forcing elected pollies to take responsibility. He points out that the old Japan Inc is broken and can’t be fixed without serious pol reform.

I assumed that the US would work out that its real interest in Japan is getting a sustainable government that will have the capacity, skills and will to tackle the real issues that matter – climate change and finance and global alliance presence. On that basis, you would go a fair way to help them out of political difficulties in their first month in office, and not cut them off at the knees the first time they show signs of being anything less than servile.

This of course will play appallingly in Okinawa. But in the main islands, this will be almost as bad.

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