Meanwhile The World Goes On

The world can be remorseless. Immune to wall-to-wall artificial bonhomie and treacly theme-music ‘special reports.’ While we endure yet more cable news producers’ wet dream narratives this weekend maybe we might see in the ‘crawl’ the historic collapse of Japan’s (American crafted) permanent 53 year old one party rule.

By next week the opposition Democratic Party of Japan will have overthrown the American-sponsored collage of rightist parties that governed Japan as a one party state since 1955 (with one brief hiccup in the 1990s) as the Liberal Democratic Party. The revolution is as much psychological as well as political. Sure, the U.S. will finally have milked the last drops from Camelot’s bloated absurdity. Japan? She will enter her first days of her post-post-war future.


As is usual throughout history, the political lags behind the social. Japanese since the 1980s increasingly became confident about their own popular culture, from the initially underground (and subversive) anime from garage studios to popular music and ‘tech’ culture. And thereby created a pop culture export juggernaut.

As we discussed at length at STSOZ 1.0 Americans remain clueless how Japanese soft power eclipsed them across the Pacific Rim. Teenagers in Malaysia to the Korean peninsula take their cues from the Tokyo Shibuya kids, not California. Obama can’t change that. Most American parents are oblivious that most of what passes for American non-‘urban’ youth mall pop culture today is similarly derivative whether it’s movies to video games to tv shows, etc. (You may not know Disney stole ‘The Lion (Lyin’) King’ from Japan as well).

Given the Warlord’s catastrophic misreign it’s remarkable that the Japanese ‘velvet revolution’ waited until August 2009. Testimony to the inertia characteristic of the 1955 System itself. One could wonder at the patience before Japan began her turn away from the demonstrably incompetent, bankrupt and depleted ‘Older Brother’ (or sempai). Take a minute and imagine if the roles were reversed. And you thought this August was pregnant with latent tension.

The opposition state upfront that they intend to jettison the subordinate (subservient?) role to American security interests. The Chinese are right to be optimistic.

So far, the Administration correctly is playing things low key. It began by sending Democratic fundraiser John Roos to Tokyo. Who you ask? Precisely. Previously, this slot was reserved for the most prominent Americans of that time to show the importance of the alliance. Some, such as Mike Mansfield, went native and became Japan’s ambassador to the State Department. Nonetheless, Asia can read er, the Roos tea leaves. Obama’s eyes are on Beijing. Inviting the walking political corpse Prime Minister Aso as first foreign visitor to the White House this Spring fooled no one.

Most commentary about the elections will focus on the usual suspects of U.S.-Japanese relations: what will the new Democratic Party government do regarding transitioning Marines to Guam from Okinawa (Japan is paying for a majority of it)?; will it continue to help refuel U.S. ships in the Indian Ocean (scheduled to expire in January)? Etc., etc.

The conventional wisdom in Washington is that the new Tokyo will serve up hot rhetoric and tinker at the margins. And the Administration will simply overlook it, to the satisfaction of both.

We doubt it. The crucial geo-political reality is the U.S. Asian alliance system is crumbling. Even as HRC announces to ASEAN that ‘we’re back’. The U.S., like its former kohaiTokyo, and all the rest of the periphery for practical economic and political reasons are forced to court Beijing. The Middle Kingdom naturally welcomes this competition. If only to savor psychological notions of cultural ascendancy.

Put that in a MSNBCNNFOX crawl.