Obama surrogates strike again: Ozawa, Futenma, and American hubris

09-14-2010 Saidani

Uncle SamIt should come as no surprise anymore that when someone in Japan questions the basis of the Japan/US relationship, Obama surrogates at the Washington Post will step up to smear, denigrate, and embarrass the Japanese in order to affect US desires.  In this case, the election of the Japanese Prime Minister.

The choice facing Japan on Tuesday makes the election particularly consequential for the United States. Incumbent Prime Minister Naoto Kan is being challenged by Ichiro Ozawa, a longtime backroom power broker who has dreamed and schemed for decades in hopes of becoming the out-front leader. Exactly what governing philosophy Mr. Ozawa would bring to the job is hard to say, because his professed ideologies have mutated over the years. But in his current incarnation he is less friendly to the U.S.-Japan alliance, and more attracted to China’s dictatorship, than most Japanese leaders — and, according to polls, than most Japanese.

The key for the Post editors – and the Obama administration – is the “less friendly to the US-Japan alliance” concern.  Having a Japan that is not captured by US dominance is not something that the US wants to have to deal with. Since the end of the second world war, Japan has been led around by the nose by influential interests in the US government and business community.  To have anyone of authority in Japan seek a more equal status for Japan strikes at US Asian political and economic interests and has little to do – in the minds of the US officials – with Japanese security.

For decades, the public has been told that the security agreement between Japan and the US was crucial for Japan.  This was the justification for Japan hosting the US military throughout Japan, especially the bases in Okinawa.  There is ample reason to debate whether the arrangement benefits the US more than Japan.  It certainly seems to cause an adverse reaction by the US whenever anyone tries to have that debate.  As we have already seen, the debate is off limits as far as the US is concerned.

By far the biggest loser of the extravaganza was the hapless and (in the opinion of some Obama administration officials) increasingly loopy Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. He reportedly requested but got no bilat. The only consolation prize was that he got an “unofficial” meeting during Monday night’s working dinner. Maybe somewhere between the main course and dessert?

A rich man’s son, Hatoyama has impressed Obama administration officials with his unreliability on a major issue dividing Japan and the United States: the future of a Marine Corps air station in Okinawa. Hatoyama promised Obama twice that he’d solve the issue. According to a long-standing agreement with Japan, the Futenma air base is supposed to be moved to an isolated part of Okinawa. (It now sits in the middle of a city of more than 80,000.)

But Hatoyama’s party, the Democratic Party of Japan, said it wanted to reexamine the agreement and to propose a different plan. It is supposed to do that by May. So far, nothing has come in over the transom. Uh, Yukio, you’re supposed to be an ally, remember? Saved you countless billions with that expensive U.S. nuclear umbrella? Still buy Toyotas and such?

Ah, the vaunted “nuclear umbrella”.  Of course, there are not supposed to be any nuclear weapons at any of the US bases in Japan.  So this means that the US will not protect Japan – keep Japan under its nuclear security umbrella – unless Japan accedes to US demands?  Still support US military activities all of over the world?  Still pay most of the costs of hosting the bases?  Still support the US in the UN?

Of course, the internal pressure on Hatoyama led to his resignation weeks later.  Now the attention has turned to Mr Ozawa.

Mr. Ozawa recently referred to Americans as “somewhat monocellular.” We couldn’t tell you exactly what that means, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t a compliment, especially since he added, “When I talk with Americans, I often wonder why they are so simple-minded.” Perhaps more important than his prejudices, Mr. Ozawa also said he would reopen negotiations with the United States over realignment of U.S. forces in Okinawa — an issue that fruitlessly preoccupied and ultimately helped doom Mr. Kan’s predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama. Allowing the U.S.-Japanese relationship again to be consumed by the base realignment — which Japan has now agreed to, twice — would set back any hopes for the countries to make progress on other important issues.

One should forget about the comments that Ozawa made about Americans.  It is a strawman in the issue to lend credence to the hatchet job.  The focus should remain on the bases.

We question why the base issue is so important to the US.  The US left the Philippines (we can only suppose that the Philippines are no longer under the US “nuclear umbrella”) after it was apparent that they were no longer welcome but, for some reason, the Japanese are not allowed to make the same choice.  The twice-agreed upon realignment that the editorial uses to sweep away any discussion seems to have some arrangements that have been hidden from the Japanese public, by both US and Japanese officials.  The most offensive is the proposed deployment of the V-22 Osprey aircraft.  This one deception is enough to scrap the entire agreement and start all over, up to and including a major realignment between the two countries.  The US should understand its part in the deception and allow Japan the right to its own sovereignty.

Instead, the Obama administration is using the tactic of attacking its adversary in Japan, Mr Ozawa, in the same way they attacked Mr Hatoyama, hoping to drive public and political opinion against Mr Ozawa.  The Washington Post has shown its willingness to help the administration in the Hatoyama incident so it is natural for them to stick their collective noses into Japanese affairs again.  To the extent it want to makes the issue personal, the editorial leaves the reader – and the DPJ – with this admonition.

We hope DPJ officials take a multicellular view as they consider their choice.

Even without Japan, the US has a military presence in East Asia on the Korean peninsula.  So why is Japan so important to the US interests.  We believe that the US, its military, State Department, banking interests, and business community have been entrenched in the Japanese bureaucracy, banking, and business community since the end of the war.  It is this relationship, publicly signified by the presence of the bases, that is so dear to the US.  As the hack job editorial on Ozawa indicates, the concern is that the Chinese might fill any void left vacant by the US.

This view is not complimentary to the values of the Japanese people.  More importantly to the Japanese people who may be influenced by US thought, it is indicative of the hubris of the US leaders who feel, despite its constant wars, the growing rift in its society, an unregulated banking system that was the root of the current recession, and an economy that is heading for a Japanese-style “lost decade” of its own, that they know what is best for Japan.

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