Friday, April 25, 2014
Japan: After Obama
Just for a little parallel, remember how excited everyone was when President Obama named Caroline Kennedy the U.S. Ambassador to Japan? Sure, she didn’t have any diplomatic experience, had never lived in Japan and has no understanding of the Japanese language but, it’s CAROLINE KENNEDY! Her dad was President! Remember all the crowds cheering and waving when she arrived, all the excited people singing “Sweet Caroline” as she went to the Imperial Palace to present her credentials? Yes, that was fun, but how did that work out? Ambassador Kennedy said her top priority was to promote more feminism in Japan because there are not enough women serving in the Japanese government (and trust me, she did not mean that she wished Madame Yuko Tojo had been elected) as if that is any of her business and as if her job was not to represent the President of the United States in Japan but to spread American-style feminist “equality” amongst the less “progressive” Japanese! But that was just the beginning. She then went on to be the first U.S. Ambassador to express “disappointment” at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, again, as if it is any of her business or that of her country or any other country where the political leader of Japan goes to pray. Later she stuck her nose in local matters again by calling the traditional dolphin hunt in Taiji as an example of “inhumaneness” and later still she had her embassy staff release an official statement condemning the comments made by the new governors of the NHK. What do all of these have in common? They all were none of her business and had nothing to do with the United States or American-Japanese relations, yet she decided to sit in judgment of the people of Japan on every one of them.
I bring this up not to cast doubt on Japanese-American friendship, that is the last thing I would want to do. In a survey last year, 81% of Americans had a positive view of Japan and 69% of Japanese people have a favorable view of the United States (which is considerable given that foreign countries as well as elements on both the far-left and right in Japan often try to spread division between Japan and America). The two countries have a good relationship and I want that to continue. I bring this up only because one must take politics into consideration and differentiate between the American people and the American government (something difficult for all peoples around the world to do most of the time) and because I don’t want Japan to get too carried away by any reassurances of support from President Obama. Just because Obama said that the Senkaku Islands are included in the Japan-US security pact does not mean that Japan should not continue to persevere in the campaign to amend Article 9. The American public (if not the government) is leaning more and more heavily these days back in the direction of isolation and the best thing Japan can do for the sake of security is to be grateful and appreciative for any American support but to strengthen itself and build-up the Japanese Self-Defense forces as if no such agreement existed. In the event of any trouble, I hope the United States would be there to help and it probably will be but one should always hope for the best and prepare for the worst and no country should depend exclusively on the protection of another. Governments change, politicians come and go and what one administration does, another can un-do.
Again, it was better than nothing, but the statement could have been much stronger and less ambiguous. Americans, and particularly the men and women of the American military, should be much more upset by this. Look at it from their perspective; their commander-in-chief just said that they might be called upon to fight and die for a cause that he will not even take a solid stand on! When Obama says he takes no side in the sovereignty dispute, one would not be unjustified in asking how on earth he could expect the military to put their lives on the line for the issue. What he is saying is that, Japan might be right but then again China might be right too. That seems a pretty flimsy position to potentially go to war over and I am surprised the reaction to this sort of double-talk has not been stronger. As I have covered before, in my opinion there should be no dispute at all, the islands clearly belong to Japan and the United States government should come out and say that with no equivocation. If troubles do arise, with the treaty in place and generally good relations prevailing between Washington and Tokyo, I trust that the United States would be prepared to assist. My ideal scenario, however, would be for Japan to be strong enough and assertive enough to tell America in such a crisis, “Thanks, but we got this”.