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June 02, 2007
April 10, 2007
ad historical jokes are like a bad penny or soul draining colleague. They always turn up. You know, “The Cold War is over, and Japan won.” The Iraq ones write themselves by the hour, tragically.
very once in a while, one of the jokes rings piercingly true. James Mann's latest is one of them. His mordant observation that China won the Iraq war (not Tehran) is undeniable.
He is the Mann of “Rise of Vulcans” fame and turned out a very timely book earlier this year that the Stiftung is just turning to now. Benjamen Shobert writes a concise review for Asia Times here
In a nutshell, his point is it is not the economic model that challenges Washington's failures, but the viability of a dictatorial political regime deliverying the goods and keeping the populace largely quiescenet (or afraid, in alliance with Google, Yahoo, etc.) Elites can be subborned as the Nomenklatura showed with cars and apartments. Much of what drives Putin's policies we believe can be gleaned from making this choice.
You can read Shobert's review for the details, about how Mann goes on to explain how Dubya helped the rise of the China model. A failed militarized foreign policy of freedom by force. Ding. And the government has managed to survive and control the Internets and communications. So it may not apply to Mush sitting there raging at the Indians, dumb Americans and his unreliable tribal chiefs. But it may well work elsewhere.
Mann calls for an end to the American religious devotional that trade and wealth equal democracy will go no where. (Something the Japan Lobby successfully obscure easily and cheaply for over half a century). Statecraft of that sort is beyond our reach at the moment. Perhaps after 2008. Even then we have doubts. Our Republic is likely entering new waters under new stars.
Remember the toss off line about jokes above? Even Al Gore can be right too, in his latest book title. A nation preocuppied by men petting Tyrannosaurs in museums, installing bibles in science classes, turning national politics into celebration of fetus power. All the while watching male Catholics becoming unhinged on TV raging that their long denied admission to the power club is allegedly finally threatened by surging brown people after the WASP club fell apart.
, James Mann
, Benjamn Shobert
March 05, 2007
hen would you, Dear Reader, say that Great Britain ceased to be the pre-eminent Power? 1870 and its immediate aftermath? JP Morgan's line of credit? The Dawes Plan? Or was it 1940 and bankruptcy?
And what of today? When “kinetic” military power against nation states increasingly encounters 4th Generation actors, who really is the pre-eminent Power? The U.S. moves feebly to rebuff its creditor, China, by threatening WTO sanctions on . . . wait for it . . . glossy paper.
Also, in a separate dispute, the White House takes a stand for the hated liberal subversive Hollywood
and its intellectual property rights.
he U.S. has virtually no real hand to play with China and would lose any 'trade war' much as it lost Iraq: badly. Apparently, the Administration believes it can play brinksmanship as foreshadowed this way:
Beijing's growing dollar hoard represents the most dangerous imbalance in today's global economy. The United States is both importing heavily from China and borrowing heavily from the country to finance those purchases, pushing the dollar down and putting the two economic superpowers on a collision course. Washington politicians demand that Beijing raise the value of the yuan against the dollar, and Chinese officials have hinted that if pushed too hard they might shift their near-trillion-dollar reserve out of U.S. Treasury bonds, which could trigger a U.S. and global recession. The main thing preventing this confrontation is the fact that both sides have too much to lose. Former U.S. Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers once called this “the balance of financial terror.” What has gone widely unremarked is that, increasingly, this balance is threatening China as much as the United States.
he one thing going for the Administration is that the Chinese are more astute at managing national power than they are. But we can count on that only for so long. What's really needed? A long term non-military national strategy to revitalize and restore American industrial, manufacturing and wealth accumulation. Far more urgent than any Neocon-inspired plans to use American transient military power to safeguard the Realm. Such an approach, by necessity, would alter the distortive and corruptive incentive skews in American life toward consumption and debt accumulation. Many established ideologies will have to be overthrown, such as unthinking globalist/Adam Smith pablum. Moreover, even Walter Isaacson can be right once in a while, as he is today hawking his Einsten book
Einstein has come to personify the perception that modern physics is something ordinary folks can't try to appreciate. Indeed, scientific illiteracy is sometimes worn as a badge of pride. Most educated people would be ashamed to admit they didn't know the difference between Hamlet and King Lear, but they might jovially brag that they don't know a gene from a chromosome or relativity theory from the uncertainty principle.
here will any possible impetus come from to salvage a future for us and posterity? First, let's concede that “free market” faith-based canonical thought largely describes most of the Republican base. They understand economic theory, Hecksher Olin curves and all the rest about as well as they do science. On top of that, we happen to believe that Gary Wills' excellent “Country Ruled By Faith” is accurate mostly because we saw it first hand ourselves
. Note that Wills reports on “faith based Justice Department” here in Nov. 2006, long before Gonzogate. The Executive Branch is now riddled with such personnel at all levels from GS-5s to 16s and supergrades. Post Bush, we must understand that a significant portion of America remains anti-Enlightenment and committed to magical thinking, Faith and irrationality. And that may prove to be the biggest dead weight on America's future in the 21st century.
January 25, 2007
ne shouldn't be surprised that hardline conservative Japanese Prime Minister Abe is rejecting moves in the U.S. Congress calling on Japan to apologize for its misuse of over 200,000 foreign women
during WW II. Abe's commitment to revive the most reactionary sentiments of Japanese nationalism is well known. In fact, the current political leadership's sentiment to re-arm and revive nationalist ideology has roots back to 1952
, if not earlier. Abe's gandfather, Kishi Nobusuke, himself a prime minister, tried to repeal the famous Article 9 (the Peace article) of the Japanese Constitution in the early 1950s as well. We've written about it before here
Specifically, regarding the wartime abuse of foreign women:
[T]here are widespread concerns that Mr. Abe and other conservative Japanese lawmakers may try to water down or reverse such public admissions of guilt [of misuse of foreign women], as part of a broader push to change the way the nation regards its wartime history.
Speaking in Japan’s parliament, Mr. Abe reiterated the position of conservative scholars here that Japanese soldiers and government officials had no hand in forcing women into brothels during the war; they say that private contractors hired by the Japan’s military were to blame.
But by insisting that the coercion in the military brothels was not the work of officials or the military, Mr. Abe is effectively dismissing as liars the aging women who have come forward with tearful testimony about their ordeals — a stance with public-relations risks of its own.
One of the women is Lee Yong-soo, 78, a South Korean who testified in the House last month that she had been kidnapped by Japanese soldiers at the age of 16 and had been raped repeatedly at an army brothel. In a news conference last week in Tokyo, she said Japanese soldiers dragged her from her home with her mouth covered so that she could not call to her mother for help. “I want Japan and the Japanese prime minister to apologize,” she said. “As a victim who was forcibly taken, as someone who lived through those events, I’m a living witness.”
laming private contractors and not the military per se
will likely be a meme Americans will become familiar with in the decades ahead. But in the Japanese case, the refusal to acknowledge the past isn't limited to “comfort women” or even refusal to acknowledge the sack of Nanjing. Abe recently pushed through revisions to the “Fundamental Law of Education of 1947” to require Japanese schools to foster “civic-mindedness [to contribute to the development of society]” and “an attitude that respects tradition and culture and love of the nation that fostered them.” Whitewashing the past as law and curriculum.
Western minds are bombarded with reminders of German atrocities 1939-45. Yet few realize the Japanese perhaps surpassed those crimes. The following article details Unit 731 and its activities in China. Even that doesn't cover the scope of what occurred. Evidence slowly emerges now 1/2 a century later only in faint remorse.
Akira Makino is a frail widower living near Osaka in Japan. His only unusual habit is to regularly visit an obscure little town in the southern Philippines, where he gives clothes to poor children and has set up war memorials.
Mr Makino was stationed there during the war. What he never told anybody, including his wife, was that during the four months before Japan's defeat in March 1945, he dissected ten Filipino prisoners of war, including two teenage girls. He cut out their livers, kidneys and wombs while they were still alive. Only when he cut open their hearts did they finally perish.
These barbaric acts were, he said this week, “educational”, to improve his knowledge of anatomy. “We removed some of the organs and amputated legs and arms. Two of the victims were young women, 18 or 19 years old. I hesitate to say it but we opened up their wombs to show the younger soldiers. They knew very little about women - it was sex education.”
apan's refusal to acknowledge the past is important because the Japanese have decided that to maintain its diplomatic and political relevance to Washington in an age of Chinese ascendancy, they must remilitarize and develop substantial force projection capabilities. Rightly or wrongly, the Japanese have concluded that this is the path that matters to a still preponderant superpower committed to force over diplomacy in international relations
To be an ally of consequence, Japan needs to remilitarize when that superpower has sidelined diplomacy to a means of last resort to solve international disputes. The US-led “global war on terrorism” is a shoot first, ask questions later operation in which multilateral diplomacy begins only when war fails, as the current situation in Iraq demonstrates. Japan's aspiration to be again a player of consequence in international affairs requires it to develop credible force-projection capability. As Japan moves to imitate US neo-liberalism in economics, it moves also to echo US militarism in international relations.
tragic development. We happen to agree with this analysis. All should all remember it wasn't just Cheney, DoD, Green, the Neocons, et al. Don't forget. Armitage and the General Jello crew also urged Japan to dump Article 9 from its Constitution and re-arm.
, Article 9
, Prime Minister Abe
, Comfort Women
January 12, 2007
entral glorious people's united country, supra
. China's test of a medium-range anti-satellite ballistic missile (ASAT) created a furor in the Imperial City. Barbara Economy, CFR's Director of Asian Studies, had a slightly bellicose reaction in the WaPo
China's successful anti-satellite missile test has sparked a political firestorm, as analysts have tried to ascertain who in China knew what when and to what end. Were China's diplomats in the dark about the missile strike? Was it all a gambit to force a reluctant United States to the negotiating table for a ban on space-based weapons? While interesting to China watchers and nonproliferation experts, this discussion risks obscuring the real message of the test: Chinese rhetoric notwithstanding, China's rise will be as disruptive and difficult as that of any other global power . . .
If this is the reality of China's rise, then the United States has work to do, the most important being to change the way it does business. If we want China to be a responsible world power on issues such as energy security, climate change, human rights and even space-based weapons, we need to step up and lead. We can and should condemn China for not respecting the international rules governing these issues or negatively affecting other countries' well-being, but we must be prepared to play by the same rules. While other powers may have granted American exceptionalism in the past, China is not inclined to do so. Indeed, China is more likely to seek its own “exceptional” status.
ine and good. We've heard similar analysis. We even share some of it.
Self Indulgent Weakness
o one explains exaclty how a more confrontational U.S. policy towards Beijing will work in practice. (Confrontational herein including divergent approaches such as outright containment/encirclement to mixed strategic coopetition to Economy's more balanced rhetorical flourishes.) No one wants to state the obvious — the U.S. is already subject to the growing power imbalances in favor of China. We are hard pressed to find one example in history when an alleged preponderant hegemon (now in a global economy, no less) was (i) a massive financial debtor to its rising rival with the viability of its currency in the hands of its rival; and (ii) increasingly dependent on its rising rival for the basic goods of its economy and increasingly high technology as well.
Read more »
January 08, 2007
ime Magazine shows us the same foresight, insight and journalisic chops that brought you, um, “you” as Person of the Year. Now in 2007 they let us in a deep secret. We are in “The China Century.”
“Blink for a moment and you can imagine that--as many Chinese would tell the tale--after nearly 200 years of foreign humiliation, invasion, civil war, revolution and unspeakable horrors, China is preparing for a date with destiny. ”The Chinese wouldn't put it this way themselves,“ says Lieberthal. ”But in their hearts I think they believe that the 21st century is China's century.“
OK, we can get down the that, as the kids say. So it is no surprise that Israeli Prime Miniser Olmert is wrapping up a visit to Beijing now
, where he received full military honors. His trip to the capitals of the permanent members of the UN Security Council continues while Kadima continues to plummet in Israeli polls due to scandal and lingering resentment over Israeli defeats in 2006. The Israelis are asking for greater Chinese support for holding Iranian nuclear ambitions in check. Naturally, what the Chinese say and what they do, of course, remain two different things. But there are reasons to suspect that China might well support a containment of Iran — although not an American/Likudnik provoked regional war.
The Chinese can not be blind to what Global Paradigms noted as the next Surge by Bush Administration/Likudiniks, seeking to engineer war with Iran
. Like even the intensely torn Pat Buchanan (eager to blame Democrats for a war they had no role in, crazed in his defense of unfettered Executive Authority, and burning with anti-Neocon rage), the Chinese can not have missed the obvious implications about the Warlord's forlorn speech the other day for Iran and Syria
There is little doubt that Beijing has much if any confidence in the Administration's strategic judgment. Nor are Chinese interests advanced by Likudnik/Administration plans to bootstrap a wider regional war with Iran and Syria.
But, having said that, we do happen to agree with this piece in Asia Times noting that China might well be prepared to support an active containment of Iran.
As noted, China recently rebuffed Iran in Beijing which asked China to reject recent UN resolutions as ”scraps of paper“. Iran misplayed its hand with both Russia and China recently. A current Latin American visit by Ahmadinejad does little to convince Beijing of Iranian political judgment or stability. The Chinese calculations balance Iranian interests with Western/American relations and other regionl players — and the importance of the Saudi point of view is underscored thusly:
But the most important factor in Chinese thinking will be the strategic considerations of its relationship with Saudi Arabia. The exchange of visits by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud and Hu to each other's capitals within a four-month period early last year greatly cemented Saudi-Chinese political equations.
The crucial Saudi role in the proposed buildup of China's strategic oil reserves should not be underestimated. China is planning to build four strategic reserve bases at Zhenhai, Daishan, Xingang and Huangdao, which when completed next year will be able to hold the equivalent of one month's national oil imports. Beijing plans to expand the reserves to the equivalent of three months' net oil imports by 2015.
Saudi Arabia's credentials for helping China fulfill its target are far more credible than Iran's. Apart from supplying 17% of China's total oil imports currently and making multi-billion-dollar investments in China's petrochemical sector, Saudi Arabia, as a ”swing producer", has unique capability to produce oil significantly above its Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries quota. The expert estimation is that if Saudi Arabia chose to produce for the next three-year period an extra half-million barrels of oil a day for Beijing, that alone would bring China's strategic oil reserve to three months' supply. That is why China has offered extraordinary privileges to Saudi Arabia in the collaboration over the setting-up of the strategic oil reserve.
f there is to be a brake on the Administration/Likudnik drive for a wider regional conflagration, one major source could be the Middle Kingdom. Despite Time's breathless restatement of the obvious, it is too soon in the Chinese Century and the evolution of its geopolitical position to deploy its financial power overtly viz-a-viz Dubya/the Likudniks and force a back down ala a Suez moment.
A more focused Chinese policy aligning with Saudi Arabia and the U.S., however could well offer something effective and less catastrophically ill-conceived as regional war: hard headed and robust containment of Tehran. Of course, such a policy by China would have to balance Iranian adventurism and the determined efforts by portions of the Administration to create provocations (such as sending troops to invade Iranian consolates (considered foreign sovereign territory — if you recall 1979, etc. ). A key concern on the minds of many in Beijing and elsewhere must remain: how determined are the Administration and its Likudniks here and abroad to fabricate a casus belli
, Saudi Arabia
July 05, 2006
wo short items before we return to Imperial Court doings.
proves the value of 5,000 years of Chinese culture and its related insights. Chinese Journalists Tire of Thomas Friedman.
Does anyone doubt this obvious insight? And marvel at its utter lack here in the States among people who should know better?
When he interviews people, he opens us [sic] his big Dell notebook computer and type in the other party's response, nodding occasionally. No other big-name reporter in the world will conduct interviews this way, because it clearly does not leave time to listen to others and think about the answers. But Friedman does not need to record the entire interview accurately. What he needs is an interesting quotation from the government official or CEO in front of him, so that he can suitably cite it in the column that he has already thought out . . .
iting various other Chinese blogs, the piece concludes with this zen-like epiphany from The Flying Pig
Is Mr Friedman a really good thinker? Maybe yes. Maybe not. This is something that can not be showed sufficiently within one day. How do you think if after one year you can still hear that he repeatedly and invariably cites his representative phrase:”Oh My God! The world is flattened! The world is flat!”? ...
... Whether from his book “The World is Flat” or his speech during the two days, it is not an easy job for negligent people like me to find some hints. What I learned at that day is the numerous way to express “Oh My God!”
et another reason for Big Russ to toss his little tyke into a trash bin and beat it like a cheap tin drum
. (As an aside, one time we should share a story re Tom Barnett boasting about his reception in Beijing — completely oblivious to the elaborate status refinements and irony imposed upon him — Chinese are very good at deflating barbarians without them even guessing it).
item speaks more broadly to the potential erosion of American soft power and cultural impact across the globe, in this case our number 2 market, Japan
. “According to the motion picture association, 28 Japanese films earned more than one billion yen (8.42 million dollars) in box-office revenue in 2006 while only 21 non-Japanese films — all from Hollywood — cleared the level. ”In addition, the way Hollywood movies attract audiences, such as noisily destroying things from cars to the earth, is getting old and no longer entertains people." The item notes that American films still do well. But Japan itself has become an exporter of soft power across Asia and to the U.S. — from movies, video game aesthetics, etc. It is a remarkable sign of confidence and change in racial attitudes that Korean pop and movie stars can be embraced by mass audiences in Japan so openly now.
The rise of a more nationalistic and even militaristic Japan is underway
. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution looks headed for repeal in 2007. The Japanese also have upgraded the Self Defense Forces from an agency to a full Ministry --symbolism not lost on Greater Asia. They are budgeting for first strike weapons for the first tme since 1945. And the new government is also openly resurrecting some of the more nationalistic pedagogical materials for school children from the 1930s. We have misgivings about alot of this, not only from geopolitical analytical points of view but from more personal perspectives as well. But there is no denying what is unfolding.
Appropos of this particular post, however, it will be curious to see how the spread and impact of Japanese soft power fares under these circumstances
. A more confident and assertive Japan need not follow the American militaristic trap. The Sovietization of American Power under Dubya may take a generation to undo. And nature abhors a vacuum. Japanese social and political integrative history suggests rather a melding of this newer, in many ways more Bushian attitude with the layers and strata of culture and affinities of the 1955 System and before. Were we betting, we would add some chips on Japanese softpower and let it ride. At least for the next few years.
Tags: Tom Friedman
April 27, 2006
orth Korea's acting out yesterday poses a risk to the region, but not for reasons you will hear on MSNBCNNFOX et al. Here's why:
1). As Strategy Page reminds us
, the North Korean economy continues to nose dive. Pyongyang recently resorted to stealing the Chinese aid trains themselves arriving from China, kicking the Chinese crews back across the border. The regime totters on the brink more every month. There is almost no more elasticity to be gained by offloading food and other shortages on to the civilian population — to the point of mass starvation — while preserving the military and regime. This growing potential social implosion only heightens unpredictability.
2). We disagree usually with the revanchism of of “The Korea Liberator” group blog
. Their blog is, however, a reliable window to what certain Non-Neocons-But-Neocon-Influenced circles advocate. (The Korea Liberator folks have taken the Neocon liberation memes at face value, alas for them).
Their particular analysis yesterday of why the North launched is not too far off the mark. (Yet they omit two vital missing ingredients in the bid for attention — North Korea can not be credibly tied to a threat to Israel and they lack oil.) But otherwise the blog offers the predictable Bolton-esque responses. Here's their wish list for a U.S. non-military response.
3). Quite sensibly, the Chinese, the South Koreans and even the Russians are likely to focus on 1)., supra
and ignore this “wish list”. Further “liberation” theology from the U.S. will not avert either a desperation military option from the North or a social implosion. Their strategic priority — as literal next door neighbors — is to seek policies fostering a soft landing for the regime.
For the South Koreans, the specter only slightly less alarming than military adventurism is an Egon Krenz — a regime that disintegrates in the North, flooding the South with millions of refugees, etc. The South Koreans can only look at the German experience to see the political and economic costs of rapid (and forced, by default) integration. The Japanese, also not connected by a common border (and with imperial history as well) are in the U.S. camp.
4). The real winner in all of this are the Korea Liberators, Boltons, etc. And Rumsfeld et al. in OSD. The psychological costs of the test failure was a double plus bonus. Politically, the Administration will push for more sanctions unilaterally and at the hated (from their point of view) UN
. Over at OSD, expect the Missile Defense Agency to get higher visibility and more money for a system of dubious operational viability. If you are a shareholder on the prime or subcontractors for the Alaskan or sea based missile defense subcontractors, your equity position just went up.
(We will post some more thoughts on Hamdan
, war crimes and Addington in a bit).
March 23, 2006
e Americans are famous for solopsism. It's only natural that the Hu debacle in Washington be discussed largely through our American filters.
But how did it go down in “Greater China” and elsewhere?
The official Chinese media apparently tried to present the best face on things. But the blogosphere in China and elsewhere is less kind to the Administration. The interesting blog EastSouthWestNorth has a terrific summary of regional reactions
. Blogs devoted to China delved into American incompetence beyond the obvious. For example, apparently the American mistakes went so far as significant errors in the simultaneous translation of Bush's comments into Chinese. Apparently, the White House refused to provide the Chinese with an advance copy of Bush's remarks, while the Chinese provided to the Americans an advance text Hu's remarks.
Together with the already noted errors and gaffes, it seems the regional impression is one of incompetence rather than malice. (Who says technology does not bring the world closer together?) To become a laughing stock on the street is beyond even the 'paper tiger' state-sponsored nostrums of the Maoist era. Tough news for a coterie that relished its street cred over pre-emption and 'decisive action'. While not a scientific survey because of its small sample size, EastWestSouthNorth includes this poll of Hong Kong residents: (image from EastSouthWestNorth)
Issue #1: The White House master of ceremony announced the playing of the national anthem of the Republic of China.
- 33% said that the American goverment deliberately set this up to insult China
- 21% said that the American government was of poor quality
- 23% said that it was an unintentional mistake
- 19% said that it could be either intentional or unintentional
Issue #2: When the female FLG member disrupted Hu Jintao's speech, she was allowed to go on for almost three minutes before the secret service agents removed her.
- 79% said that the American government should apologize
- 9% said that the American government should not apologize
Issue #3: How should China protest against what occurred?
- 43% said that China should demand an apology from the American government
- 22% said that China should lodge a diplomatic protest
- 6% said that China should cancel the recently signed purchase contracts
- 19% said that the United States does not need to apologize
Issue #4: Do you think that the United States is a trustworthy partner?
- 17% said that USA is a trustworthy partner
- 62% said that USA is not a trustworthy partner
Issue #5: Will this incident affect Sino-American relationships?
- 6% Serious influence
- 62% Mild influence
- 29% No influence
eanwhile, over at SepiaMutiny
, an amusing scorecard compares Hu's error-filled visit with India's Manmohan Singh's treatment at the hands of Bush.
Got a state lunch. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Got a state dinner.
Says Iran not a threat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Joined U.S. in censuring Iran
Sold Iran nuke tech . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Will Buy U.S. nuke tech
Fallon Gong heckler . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . One Track Uncle
Criticized by Dubya for human rights . . . . .Dubya praises its democracy
Mistakenly called Taiwan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dubya no longer confusing with Indiana
Bill Gates bought dinner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Gates gave country $2 billion
Left with vague promises . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Left with nuclear energy deal
Ordered some Boeings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Ordered 1/2 world's new airliners
Stock index just hit 1,400 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Stock index just hit 12,000
Leads world in executing the poor . . . . . . . . .Leads e world in poor execution
Leader wore a suit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Leader wore a turban and a Nehru collar
hat seems like a pretty apt snap shot. The most salient fact, however, is missing: China, not India, is the U.S. creditor.
February 24, 2006
ot to be outdone by Bush's trip to India, Putin traveled on a state visit to Beijing March 21-22. This trip follows Putin's recent glowing statements of a “strategic partnership”
between Russia and China. The summit already marks a step back for the Administration's drum beat on Iran.
The Russians and the Chinese rejected Western drafts on Iran at the UN that they claimed opened the way for sanctions or military action.
The two powers apparently were not moved by Rice's declaration that the U.S. “would not tolerate”
stalling on Iran. So much for that threat. The Beijing summit highlights two other geopolitical shifts that will test Washington.
First, the general background to and purpuse of the trip. Putin naturally seeks to offset Bush's trip to India with his own two step dance with Beijing. He has added incentive as the West increasingly speaks out against his soft rollback of democracy. Putin is aided by Asia's resistance (so far) to recreating the bi-polar rigidities of the Cold War — despite the American effort to create that framework. The Pentagon/Neocon vision of China as the new strategic threat — the vaunted (and much desired) 'peer competitor'-- requiring containment is not shared widely in Asia (except for pockets in Japan). Everyone else still wants to talk to everyone, keeping options open.
utin comes to China bearing gifts. His poker hand is lean. He doesn't have the strategic largesse of prestige and possibility offered by Bush in New Dehli. But perhaps he may play the hand all the wiser and economy of resources focuses the mind. In addition to military technology transfer and strategic cooperation, Putin is prepared to concede and even encourage Chinese pre-eminence in the Russian market.
In Moscow people talk of trippling Chinese trade with Russia from the current $20 billion level. China would be Russia's single largest trading partner.
China appreciates both the economics and geopolitics. Russian help for Chinese efforts to buffer American ambitions to contain them allows them to outflank the encirclement without derailing Chinese growing economic power and access to global markets.
Read more »
February 10, 2006
The President's visit to Southeast Asia may be noteworthy for what is not accomplished as much as anything. As one astute Indian observer of the South Asia scene observed in Washington before the
Imperial entourage President left
, the issues of importance on the ground in South Asia are simply not on Washington policy radar.
Whenever there is a discussion on Mr. Bush's forthcoming visit to India and Pakistan, the questions that are raised are not concerning the kind of agreements he should sign in New Delhi to convince the skeptics in the Indian public that Dr. Manmohan Singh's overtures to the US and his ill-concealed support to Washington DC on the Iran nuclear issue have been worthwhile. They are concerning Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
While it is true that a former RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) officer (Indian Intelligence) will naturally focus on the local rivalry with Pakistan, the point above nonetheless has merit. The American policy making community remains locked in the tired and hollow GWOT (tm) rut even now. A metropole cannot expect to exert influence across the globe for long if it remains oblivious to rising agendas, trends and future capacities at the increasingly dynamic periphery.
And the Indian concern about Musharaff is not completely misplaced. Even factoring in the local rivalry issue, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned about betting all chips
on Musharaff. But of even more immediate concern is whether the Indian government will survive the Bush visit. As UPI's Martin Walker reports this morning
, the Administration has pushed the Indian government into an overt crisis:
President George W. Bush's India visit next week is threatened with disaster after a revolt by Indian nuclear scientists, senior officials and politicians against the Indo-American nuclear cooperation agreement that Bush plans to sign in New Delhi.
After angry scenes in the Indian parliament Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been warned by the left-wing parties in his ruling coalition that they will bring down his government by voting with the opposition against the nuclear agreement with the United States.
The hostility to the agreement has brought together an unprecedented alliance of critics who say that it is deeply damaging to Indian national interests, and will in effect curtail the future of India's independent nuclear deterrent.
Nicholas Burns, negotiating the deal in New Dehli in advance of the President's visit, apparently was caught flatfooted by the furor. At issue was the American attempt to separate Indian civilian nuclear activities from their military infrastructure and seek civilian compliance with IAEA verification frameworks. Until that is done, American commercial and technological benefits under the treaty will be withheld.
Frankly, verification and Indian participation are good policy choices, but it appears this bifurcation strategy of the Administraton was not an overt negotiation position from the start. Thus, Burns and company are perceived to have inserted this requirement as a near fait accompli
on the eve of the state visit. The IAEA issue is not a simple question of verification or not. Key sensitivities are involved, such as Indian desires to protect their research and development into thorium as an alternative to uraninium, etc. The American negotiations unfolded in a manner that allowed a broad political spectrum in India to unite and threaten to topple the government. Their claim that American furtiveness demonstrates the Administration is determined not to treat India as an equal partner resonates. Walker closes by noting:
It is difficult to exaggerate the depth of feeling among senior Indian officials who oppose the deal. They are suspicious of American motives, and they are now starting to question the goodwill that President Bush insists he is bringing to the long-term strategic partnership. “We have been promised a great deal by President Bush in cooperation on space technology and on access to dual-use technology but so far we have seen zero from the American side,” complained another senior official.
The evolution of American recognition of Indian strategic importance since even 2002 has been remarkable and encouraging. It was not that long ago that India was viewed in the strategic competitor/threat category by important voices in the Administration. Now, from questions on Iran, Iraq, China, energy and technology, Indian importance and contributions are recognized. Not only within the framework of the GWOT (tm) canard, but also regarding the future of the overall Eurasian balance of power.
Is verification a goal worth negotiating for? Undoubtedly. Is balancing Indian concerns with Pakistani non-compliance with IAEA, etc. tricky? Absolutely. Tough calls for a Leader and a team 'that doesn't do nuance.'
January 22, 2006
Rumsfeld and Condi, take note: your Imperial fantasies may not be shared by current friends across the Pacific.
In his first public speech since retiring in 2002
, Australia's Admiral Chris Barrie, former Australian defence force chief, said that China's growing influence will force Australia to form stronger ties with Beijing
over the next decades and likely distance itself from Australia's traditional ally the United States and the Anzus alliance.
Barrie noted that Australia's small population — it will be only 28 million in 2050 — would render it a “relatively insignificant country in the Asia Pacific region”.
Barrie further predicted that as Australia grows closer to China, Australians likely will feel “resentful and untrusting” of traditional alliances, including ANZUS (Australia-New Zealand-United States), leading to its possible fracture. One key tension that could destroy Anzus is the issue of Taiwan. .
He said, “And I can see a day when Australians will say to themselves, 'You know we've got to balance what we do with the United States with what we do with China'. It's not enough to say, all the way with the United States.”
The Stiftung would only note that the current hyper-militarization of American foreign policy overall, and across the Pacific Rim especially, (paralleled by our domestic society) will only strengthen the likelihood that Barrie's projection will come to pass. U.S. presence and influence in the region is sustainable over the long haul by our economic, cultural and diplomatic viability. Oh well
Given this stunning erosion of our financial and economic position since 2001 — trillion dollar surpluses squandered — and nothing to show for it, how unrealistic is it to foresee both India and China begin playing the U.S. off each other as the 'Sick Man of the Pacific', albeit still armed to the teeth.
Sadly, the Administration has bet all our chips on black — force and coercion. Yet the game has changed. They have mortgaged our soft power assets heavily for their bet. And the table will only be red. We still have time to mitigate some of their recklessness, although alot of capital has been lost and can not be recouped.
January 20, 2006
If 'ordinary country' (futsu no kuni
) is a charged expression, the word 'Yamato', now extremely prevalent in Japan 2006 is equally significiant. 'Yamato' operates on several different levels.
First, the Yamato Damashi
or the 'Spirit of Yamato' is a phrase used colloquially by Nationalists and Rightists in Japan to speak in nostalgic ways about a a vague 'Golden Age' of Japanese culture. In this mythical imagining, life was simple and people allegedly were honest and worked hard.
The Yamato Empire had the concept of the state as led by a powerful singular leader (Emperor or Tenno
). That was the idealized state, of course. In Japanese feudal times, the military caste, that included the bushi and the samurai, were organized in strict military forms and had a unified single headquarters-like structure, the Shogunate. The Shogun represented civil and political power. As is well known, the Shogunate ruled Japan in various forms from 1192-1868.
Second, Yamato refers to Nara Prefecture. Here, Japanese history indicates that the first political efforts of unifying Japan began in the Nara Basin from the third century until the fourth century. Thus, at the dawn of Japanese history Yamato was clearly the political center of Japan.
Which brings us to the battleship Yamato. Famous along with her sister ship Musashi as being the largest battleships ever built
, the battleship Yamato embodies the mythos of the above, symbolized by the Imperial (teikoku
) chrysanthemum crest on her bow. She was and is more than just a battleship.
The Yamato and its role in Japanese popular culture post 1945 have long been a barometer and proxy for Japanese nationalist and conservative efforts to portray the Pacific War. When in 1974 it was featured in an animated TV series (and later movies) Uchuu Senkan Yamato
(Space Battleship Yamato), it was widely and correctly seen as a replay of the Pacific War in the 'safe' mode of space battles with aliens.
Now in January 2006, the Yamato has made the jump to the wide screen. She is the star of a live action movie
that portrays her death ride in 'Operation Ten-Go'
as a heroic and noble sacrifice. It is the number one movie in Tokyo in December 2005 -January 2006. Here, Haruki Kadowkawa, the film's producer explains:
Losing is the ultimate eye-opener. Japan is no longer moving forward — it relies too much on rails that have already been laid and has forgotten how to make new types of progress. What is going to save us — our sense of duty? Or are we going to finally wake up? We are hoping for someone to lead the way, someone who has a fresh outlook for Japan. That is a motif of the film. When you lose you wake up — and Japan needs to wake up.
In other words, the core audience for this film is young people. I find it really interesting that the group I most want to see the film is the group that most wants to see it. That age group knows that Japan and America fought, but not much more. Some will ask you who won the war. (laughs) It's not hard to understand — looking at Japan today, it's hard to believe we lost.
In addition to the Yamato movie, there is now a full time Yamato Museum
in the naval city of Kure. And the set of the movie has itself become a tourist attraction. The Yamato today exerts enormous impact on the contemporary Japanese psyche.
And as Japan seeks to discover its identity and purpose in a 21st Century of Chinese ascendancy and U.S. strategic incompetence and hyper militarization, the Yamato and imaginings of the Yamato will have an important role.
Which is all very interesting and overly abstract to non-Japanese perhaps. Except yesterday the Stiftung was wandering through the blight of strip malls that litter the Imperial City environs. And what did we stumble across? Yes, Dear Reader, for our little boys and girls:
As Japanese soft power waxes and drives much of U.S. popular culture for those under 50 years old - either through toys above, videogames, animation/manga, or movies — it will be interesting to see how Yamato and the Imperial project emerges in the U.S. mind. Perhaps in the end, she and her crew will actually prevail. And Okinawa was not the end but merely the beginning.
January 19, 2006
Few innocuous sounding phrases are as fraught with latent implications as 'Japan as ordinary country'. Popularized by perennial power political player Ichiro Ozawa
and his book of the same name, the phrase unifies decades of work by conservative politicians such as former PM Yasuhiro Nakasone.
Nakasone, Ozawa and others seek to jettison the legal, political and psychological constraints on Japanese re-armament.
Parallels between radicalization of American foreign policy post 9-11 and Japanese developments are noteworthy. And hardly accidental. Japanese conservatives and nationalists have used the American radicalization of the international environment to push through transforming Japanese military activities and changing internal consensus on Japan's role in the world.
Under Koizumi's government, Japan now speculates on owning nuclear weapons to oppose China, is launching military surveillance satellites
to give Japan real time intelligence, and has deployed troops to Iraq. Four Japanese troops were claimed to be killed in January 2006.
The Japanese Defense Agency included in the 2006 defense program the introduction of cruise missiles and light aircraft carriers for a pre-emptive attack on enemy missile bases.
The Japanese conservatives have not fully reconciled internal Japanese attitudes to all this. Koizumi's drive to make Japan 'an ordinary country' and active military ally of the United States, while accepted still raise eyebrows now and then. Opinion over Koizumi's commitment to “the victory of the American cause” in Iraq fluctuates sharply. Moreover, a Fukuoka court ruled last year that Koizumi's visits to Yakusuni Shrine (a practice begun by Nakasone), the controversial site which honors Japanese war dead, were illegal. Koizumi's response? His reaction appalled everyone — “I don't understand what the court means at all.”
Koizumi is required to step down this year. These elections might seem like an important test case on Japan's course. But in fact only two political parties will be major players. And both are essentially conservative nationalist.
Besides Koizumi's moribund Liberal Democratic Party (he won by his personal charisma, not by party affiliation), the political party which was the most successful in 2005 elections is ''The Democratic Party' , even more committed than Koizumi to the return of militarization of Japan. The party is another of Ozawa's machinations, a coalition of different factions united only in their ambition to take power. The DPJ and Ozawa want even more “force transformation” by strengthening Japanese special counter-terrorist corps, massively increasing Self Defense Forces, upgrading military technology, and further strengthening Japan's integration with American missile defense.
Upcoming Major Political Confrontation Impending
Over the Japanese Constitution
“Article 9 of the Constitution had become an impediment to strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance.”
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to LDP leader Nakagawa
Whoever succeeds Koizumi will lead a major political confrontation in Japanese politics to the amendment of the 1946 Constitution, particularly on the revision of its pacifist clause, Article 9.
What is astonishing is that in 2006, powerful political momentum has already been created in order to change the constitution. Opposition to such a change now looks anachronistic. All of the major pro-revision actors are politically visible on the Japanese stage. When Armitage told Nakagawa quoted above, he made the comments in the context of Washington's support for Tokyo's moves to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Armitage argued logically that any nation with that status must be ready to deploy military force in the interests of the international community.
The media campaign is already underway — the Yomiuri Shimbun
, Japan's largest newspaper with a circulation of 10 million, started a campaign to change the constitution by publishing its first draft constitution in 2000. In 2005, on May 3, the memorial day for the proclamation of the current constitution, the same newspaper published its third version. It and other major media organs are pushing for an acceleration of the revision process.
Japanese polls are all over the place. Some polls indicate that around 60% of the Japanese people are against changing Article 9. So one can expect that mobilization of the threat (Chinese and terrorist) will be amped up accordingly to 'mobilize' public opinion in favor.
January 05, 2006
Was it a dream? The post-1945 Japanese holiday from national assertion and full participation in the international arena continues to wind down. In addition to the symbolic troop presence in Iraq (operationally less significant than the Luftwaffe
out of country operations in the Balkins) comes this from the DoD Press Service. This marks the first time Japanese troops have ever trained in CONUS - something not likely missed in Beijing and elsewhere.
Today begins the first in an anticipated series of posts this coming week. The Stiftung will explore the role and image of the United States in the Japanese psyche as they seek to recapture a warrior ethos and confidence deliberately repressed for 50 years. More to come shortly.
Marines School Japanese Soldiers in Amphibious Warfare
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
NAVAL AMPHIBIOUS BASE CORONADO, Calif., Jan. 18, 2006 - Boating around San Diego Bay may sound relaxing, but members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force training with U.S. Marines here have found it to be just the opposite.
Roughly 200 Japanese forces have been training here since Jan. 9.
Read more »
From The Other Times across the Pond
Hollywood's appeal to the Japanese advert business is fading as national confidence grows
Japanese people, say the top media analysts, no longer look up to American and British film stars, so it does not help a product much when they are called in to hawk it.
Sophia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation, in which Bill Murray plays an actor who is paid millions to tout whisky in a Japanese commercial, will look like an historical period piece within a year or so, the chairman of Japan’s biggest advertising watchdog predicts . . . Japanese stars now exclusively dominate the top 20 adverts of last year, and in the course of 2005 Mr Sasamoto has cast five Koreans and a Taiwanese — something that he says would never have happened two years ago. [Emphasis added]