Japan from the inside out

Yankee come home

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, October 28, 2009

IT COMES AS NO SURPRISE that Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute–as isolationist as the rest of the Capital L Libertarians–would call for an end to the current military arrangements between Japan and the United States. But he is also perceptive enough to realize that:

America’s alliance with Japan — like most U.S. defense relationships — is outdated…Americans should support a transformation of the alliance…The current relationship remains trapped in a world that no longer exists.

Mr. Bandow therefore concludes:

There should be no more troops based on Japanese soil. No more military units tasked for Japan’s defense. No more security guarantee for Japan.

His suggestion that wealthy allies should foot the bill for their own defense makes sense. He includes South Korea and Europe as well as Japan in that category.

Japan has the world’s second (or third, based on purchasing power parity) largest economy, yet Tokyo remains dependent on America for its security, a minor military player despite having global economic and political interests.


The Marine Expeditionary Force stationed on Okinawa is primarily intended to back up America’s commitment to South Korea. Yet, the South has some 40 times the GDP of North Korea. Seoul should take over responsibility for its own defense….Even more so the Europeans, who possess more than 10 times Russia’s GDP. If they don’t feel at risk, there’s no reason for an American defense guarantee. If they do feel at risk, there’s no reason for them not to do more — a lot more.

He also employs economic considerations in his argument:

The U.S. essentially is borrowing money from China for use to defend Japan from China.

Yet he seems oddly naive about the current state of affairs in East Asia. Another possibility is that he knows exactly what the story is, but his isolationist viewpoint means that he doesn’t care. For example:

There are historical reasons for Tokyo’s stunted international role, but it is time for East Asian countries to work together to dispel the remaining ghosts of Japan’s imperialist past rather than to expect America to continue acting as the defender of the last resort.

In addition to the historical reasons, there is also the messy business of a pacifist constitution that the United States largely wrote. And those remaining ghosts exist only because the governments of Japan’s East Asian neighbors periodically load their populations onto the carnival ride and drive them through the Haunted House again.

Those are also current relationships that remain trapped in a world that no longer exists.

Tokyo should spend whatever it believes to be necessary on its so-called “Self-Defense Force.” Better relations with China and reform in North Korea would lower that number. Japan should assess the risks and act accordingly.

Now he’s just playing games. Japan has bestowed enormous amounts of ODA on China over the years and assiduously built strong business and economic ties with the country. Tokyo hasn’t been a military threat to Beijing for decades. Meanwhile, if the Chinese have no intention of recreating their East Asian hegemony, they’re certainly doing a good imitation of it. Better relations with China depend on China–not new Japanese priorities.

And yes, reform in North Korea would lower that number, and if I hit it big on the winning number of the lottery, I could spend every winter in the Caribbean. Neither is likely to happen anytime soon.

The entire article, which has already appeared in the Korea Times, is here.

6 Responses to “Yankee come home”

  1. bender said

    I’m sure he’ll be very disappointed if China and Japan do actually forge a close relationship.

  2. James A said

    Japan and Cuba already have close trading ties. Lots of coffee comes from there, plus there are Cohiba cigar bars in Tokyo.

  3. Mac said

    I wrote this before. I think it stands as true.

    I have met with ex-US servicemen from Aomori and elsewhere. Not grunts but on the intelligence/communications side. Ditto, ex-US servicemen aligning themselves with the anti-war Article 9-ers.

    I asked them a simple question, what would America do if China attacked Japan. Their answers were both quick and simple. The US would withdraw. It would not be drawn into an engagement with China

    So what is Japan paying for?

    Let’s face, despite all the breast beating the chances of Korea attacking Japan are nil. The two countries are actually too close and it would be in neither’s interest … so who else is there? If Russia was to spent some of it out of date munitions, sure it would take the easier route West. There are not even that many pirates left in the Japan Sea these days. So what is the US protecting Japan from?

    The simple answer is, it is not. The US has its policy of hegemonic dominance over the Asian-Pacific region. The purpose of that domination is to protect economic interests, not military, and it is all about the USA’s interest, not Japan anything. Japan provides a handy aircraft carrier more parked defensively offshore. Japan, Inc bows to the bigger doggie of the Yankee protection racket and the Japanese people bow to the bigger doggie of Japan, Inc.

    So to suggest the US is “protecting” Japan is a joke. It has always been, since the 1870s onwards, about American corporate interests and keep Japan weak and dependent.

    Who is stopping to question all this … who is big and brave enough to voice an opinion … how likely is it to have any effect whatsoever when Washington’s ears are block by “sneaky, vicious Japs” ear wax and “marauding communists” propaganda (e.g. Japan is a handy place for listen to Russia and flying AWACs off of)? No one. What a joke …

    And what is the alternative either? Tax payers are screwed paying for something they don’t need and wont do them anything either way.

    And so what is the alternative? A move towards the Swiss based model?

  4. bender said

    The musekinin system of Japan makes it difficult to halt any inertia.

    By the way, I might be missing something, but I hardly hear anything coming from major American media outlets about the Japan-U.S. security pact in jeopardy, while such talks are rather vocal in Japan, especially among conservatives. Maybe it is the Japanese, or at least their conservative half, that really wants American military presence.

  5. […] Is it time for the US to retreat from Japan? […]

  6. Trapped in Brazil said

    America is there only to keep Japan in a leash (political and economical). The USA likes to meddle with the rest of the World´s affairs, but don´t want to help it when problems arise (or when they cause the problems, like in Georgia or Israel).

    Also, I think Japan wants the USA out because they did everything that the USA demanded, while China did everything that is listed as evil on the “Saint America´s book” and it´s all hugs and kisses with China. I say, it´s because China is doing “rapport” with America (I say “good”, but I do “naughty”).

    Hillary canceled her trip to Japan, but Obama also refused to meet the Dalai Lama…. then I think that Japan is with the good guys as we get the same cold shoulder as His Holiness.

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