Friday, June 11, 2010

With Friends Like Us

the title of a new article by R. Taggart Murphy in The New Republic.

Having tied their fortunes so tightly to the United States—or, more generously, having had them tied by history and circumstance—Japan's power-holders in the LDP and the bureaucracy, in business, finance, media, and academia have, since the 1950s, built an elaborate and sophisticated infrastructure of relationships and institutions in the United States capable of detecting and acting on the most subtle shifts in American opinion where Japan is concerned—and, when necessary, influencing it...

...But until last August, these “agents of influence,” as the title of a controversial book on the subject put it, were deployed to achieve Japanese government objectives. Now they were brought out to undermine them. Any American seen able to influence Washington's Japan policy was fed a predictable line: Hatoyama was “weak and vacillating,” the DPJ was filled with “amateurs,” and, most damning, Ozawa was “anti-American.” The New Republic.

Murphy writes that Okinawa has "now been radicalized" and that the only way the agreement can be implemented is by "brute force." Should he be right, Kan (and ultimately, Obama) is in for a huge surprise. There is no way that he can fulfill his supposed promise to Obama to implement it.

8:50: Edited


  1. The final paragraph is interesting and not completely inconsequential. That said, I suspect that if Japan was to seek an "alternative" to the US alliance, I suspect it would be more likely to pour its energies into a "concert of middle powers" in order to manage superpower competition and China's rise than search for a similar relationship with China. I think this is more likely the sensible strategic thing to do, and equally importantly, much more in line with Japanese foreign policy identity. In fact, it may be heading that way anyway - I guess how well the US-Japan relationship goes will dictate whether this is a long-term evolution over decades or a revolution over the course of something less than one decade.

  2. I would agree. I think Murphy's "if Tokyo is forced to settle for vassalage to one of the two great powers with which its future is inextricably linked" is not very likely since there are, as you mention, alternatives other than vassalage to either.