Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tadae Takubo

【#487】Friendly, Objective Study Required for Ally

Tadae Takubo / 2017.12.27 (Wed)

December 25, 2017

     This year’s international situation featured North Korea’s reckless nuclear and missile tests, China’s unhesitant, dangerous rise and U.S. President Donald Trump’s unpredictable words and actions. While studies in Japan on North Korea and China have made considerable progress, those on the Trump administration of Japan’s familiar ally have been insufficient. The characteristics of the Trump administration have yet to be precisely analyzed. Complicated changes that cannot be judged by pro- or anti-Trump standards have been occurring in the United States and Europe.

Brzezinski’s warning
     Two decades ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. presidential national security adviser, authored a book titled “The Grand Chessboard,” warning that the world would find itself in a dangerous situation unless China outside democratic rules is blocked from dominating the Eurasian continent. At the same time, he branded Japan as a de facto U.S. protectorate that must consult with the United States on diplomatic and military affairs. Such branding, though irritating, represents a truth. However, I doubt if Brzezinski could predict various frictions accompanying the Trump administration’s birth in the United States and its “America First” initiative.
     In the international order before the emergence of President Trump, purposes and means had been clearer. For the two purposes of helping postwar reconstruction in Europe and other parts of the world and countering communism that had already been showing claws and fangs, then Secretary of State Dean Acheson under President Harry Truman liberalized trade and expanded Western democracy. The free flow of people, goods and money has naturally brought about globalization, while communism has collapsed.

What is the intention of the U.S. administration?
     Saying no to globalization first was Europe. None can tolerate the free flow of terrorism along with the free flow of people. Opposition to illegal immigration, refugees and globalization emerged in Europe before leading to the election of President Trump in the United States. Liberal media have described the new movement as far right and populist. I suspect such description may miss an essential point. If President Trump is populist, he may not continue to shout “America First.”
     The only document that can be used to know the true intention of the Trump administration is its National Security Strategy published on December 18. After U.S. friends and foes remained unclarified, I was relieved to see the strategy identified transnational actors (including jihadists), revisionist powers (China and Russia) and rogue dictatorships (Iran and North Korea) as U.S. competitors and asserted “peace through strength.” In the economic area, however, the NSS strongly insisted “America First.” The United States and its allies are thus destined to cooperate in security and conflict over trade.
     I would like to take a friendly, objective attitude in studying Japan’s ally.

Tadae Takubo is Vice President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals