Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Chalmers Johnson on US-China-Japan relations

No Longer the "Lone" Superpower: Coming to Terms with China

Johnson rightly focuses on the tensions building around the Taiwan strait, and notes that the US is pushing Japan into a dangerous military role in the region.

[ Let me make clear that in East Asia we are not talking about a little regime-change war of the sort that Bush and Cheney advocate. After all, the most salient characteristic of international relations during the last century was the inability of the rich, established powers -- Great Britain and the United States -- to adjust peacefully to the emergence of new centers of power in Germany, Japan, and Russia. The result was two exceedingly bloody world wars, a forty-five-year-long Cold War between Russia and the "West," and innumerable wars of national liberation (such as the quarter-century long one in Vietnam) against the arrogance and racism of European, American, and Japanese imperialism and colonialism.

...The Bush administration is unwisely threatening China by urging Japan to rearm and by promising Taiwan that, should China use force to prevent a Taiwanese declaration of independence, the U.S. will go to war on its behalf. It is hard to imagine more shortsighted, irresponsible policies, but in light of the Bush administration's Alice-in-Wonderland war in Iraq, the acute anti-Americanism it has generated globally, and the politicization of America's intelligence services, it seems possible that the U.S. and Japan might actually precipitate a war with China over Taiwan.

Japan Rearms

...Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, the United States has repeatedly pressured Japan to revise article nine of its Constitution (renouncing the use of force except as a matter of self-defense) and become what American officials call a "normal nation." For example, on August 13, 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated baldly in Tokyo that if Japan ever hoped to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council it would first have to get rid of its pacifist Constitution...

America's intention is to turn Japan into what Washington neo-conservatives like to call the "Britain of the Far East" -- and then use it as a proxy in checkmating North Korea and balancing China... Japan has so far not resisted this American pressure since it complements a renewed nationalism among Japanese voters and a fear that a burgeoning capitalist China threatens Japan's established position as the leading economic power in East Asia...

    Japan's remilitarization worries a segment of the Japanese public and is opposed throughout East Asia by all the nations Japan victimized during World War II, including China, both Koreas, and even Australia. As a result, the Japanese government has launched a stealth program of incremental rearmament. Since 1992, it has enacted 21 major pieces of security-related legislation, 9 in 2004 alone.

    A New Nuclear Giant in the Making?

    Koizumi has appointed to his various cabinets hard-line anti-Chinese, pro-Taiwanese politicians. Phil Deans, director of the Contemporary China Institute in the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, observes, "There has been a remarkable growth of pro-Taiwan sentiment in Japan. There is not one pro-China figure in the Koizumi Cabinet."

...Bush and Koizumi have developed elaborate plans for military cooperation between their two countries. Crucial to such plans is the scrapping of the Japanese Constitution of 1947. If nothing gets in the way, Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) intends to introduce a new constitution on the occasion of the party's fiftieth anniversary in November 2005. This has been deemed appropriate because the LDP's founding charter of 1955 set as a basic party goal the "establishment of Japan's own Constitution" -- a reference to the fact that General Douglas MacArthur's post-World War II occupation headquarters actually drafted the current Constitution. The original LDP policy statement also called for "the eventual removal of U.S. troops from Japanese territory," which may be one of the hidden purposes behind Japan's urge to rearm.

    A major goal of the Americans is to gain Japan's active participation in their massively expensive missile defense program. The Bush administration is seeking, among other things, an end to Japan's ban on the export of military technology, since it wants Japanese engineers to help solve some of the technical problems of its so far failing Star Wars system. The United States has also been actively negotiating with Japan to relocate the Army's 1st Corps from Fort Lewis, Washington, to Camp Zama, southwest of Tokyo in the densely populated prefecture of Kanagawa, whose capital is Yokohama. These U.S. forces in Japan would then be placed under the command of a four-star general, who would be on a par with regional commanders like Centcom commander John Abizaid, who lords it over Iraq and South Asia. The new command would be in charge of all Army "force projection" operations beyond East Asia and would inevitably implicate Japan in the daily military operations of the American empire. Garrisoning even a small headquarters, much less the whole 1st Corps made up of an estimated 40,000 soldiers, in a sophisticated and centrally located prefecture like Kanagawa is also guaranteed to generate intense public opposition as well as rapes, fights, car accidents and other incidents similar to the ones that occur daily in Okinawa.

    Meanwhile, Japan intends to upgrade its Defense Agency (Boeicho) into a ministry and possibly develop its own nuclear weapons capability. Goading the Japanese government to assert itself militarily may well cause the country to go nuclear in order to "deter" China and North Korea, while freeing Japan from its dependency on the American "nuclear umbrella." ]


Anonymous said...

Right on, Steve!

The current administration ignores history, which is dangerous. The previous administrations, both Bush I and Clinton, were a lot more nuanced when it came to China and N Korea, even if the latter (Clinton) started off being somewhat simplistic.

I think Americans generally ignore history. This can be extremely positive: they are not busy mulling over the past and focus on the future, unlike a lot of other countries where they are busy endlessly rediscussing the past and fighting over it.

But this can also be very dangerous in the foreign policy arena, as it then leads too simplistic a view of the world: the "good guys" vs the "bad guys". And everything is seen through the prism of pre-Second World War (Anglo view at that) of "appeasement". This is extremely simplistic, at least when it comes to Asia and the Middle East, where the past is living with the present, so to speak. Plus, there are traditions, like showing respect to elders and ancestors, that is alien to American culture. And things are never the way they seem to be in those parts of the world ("communism with Chinese characteristics", or see Juan Cole's blog to get a sense of the enormous complexity, like shifting alliances, of the Middle East).

The Europeans, on the other hand, have a somewhat better sense of the complexities of the region. As someone said (Benjamin Disreali?) "There are no permanent friends, only permanent interests".


Anonymous said...

Excellent post and comment. Again, much to think about though I agree all too much.


Anonymous said...

China is not and has not ever been a peaceful nation. They are a communist dictatorship which will soon be the biggest threat on the globe to western civilization. Try reading a little bit about the balance of powers in past europe and which has been built into our own government to keep power in check. If we and the rest of the world remain on the current ignorant path in the way we treat China, there will be no-one on the Asian continent(including europe and the middle east) which will be able to keep the self-centered Chinese Government at bay.


Anonymous said...

Chalmers Johnson, forty years on, is still writing to his tired agenda.

Blog Archive