Saturday, June 26, 2010

Circling the Alliance

Turkey vultures are ugly, nasty creatures. They eat the dead and decaying. In flight, however, they are quite magnificent. Over the past two days, I watched a number of their kettles soar outside my room overlooking the Catskill mountains.

While I watched these scavengers, the US House of Representatives passed nearly unanimously (only Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich voted no) Resolution 1464 commemorating a successful 50 years of the US-Japan Treat of Mutual Cooperation and Security.

It is a peculiar Resolution.

First, it originated from the Republican side of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and not the majority Democrats or the Obama Administration. It was written, I understand, quietly without the advice or prose of any Alliance Manager or the White House.

Minus the usual and unavoidable pomposity about the Alliance being the unshakeable cornerstone of US security interests in the Asia Pacific, upholder of shared values, and the over-emphasis on North Korea, the Resolution was more sensitive to Japan than the usual conservative Republican pro-Alliance rhetoric.

At some points there were even hints of empathy and hope.

To be sure, there was no praise for Japan’s support at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen or its efforts in the developing world to deal with the inevitable challenges that climate change will bring to the disadvantaged. This is an area that both Japan and the State Department like to emphasize as examples of Japanese global leadership.

The Resolution’s sponsor, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtenin, does not believe in climate change. And she would not accept such a clause.

The Resolution did praise Japan for its “rapid and self- less humanitarian aid to the Republic of Haiti, including sending a Japan Self Defense Force unit.” [emphasis added] This slight exaggeration quietly highlighted a flaw in Japan’s aid policy while raising congressional expectations of Japan.

Mention of Japan’s first-time participation in the US Navy’s Pacific Partnership bringing medical aid to Vietnam and Cambodia further raised expectations. It is unfortunate that the US Government has not made more of the significance of this mission.

Further, the Resolution reminded Tokyo that the Alliance “ encouraged Japan to play a larger role on the world stage and make important contributions to stability around the world.” This seems as much a reminder as it is another marker of expectations. “Do more,” the Resolution says. This is no small matter, as the Japanese people consistently reply to surveys that they do not think Japan can or should exert leadership in the world. 

Most important, the Resolution recognizes the contributions, and by implication the sacrifices, of the average Japanese citizen. The Resolution resolves to recognize “that the broad support and understanding of the Japanese people are indispensable for the stationing of the United States Armed Forces in Japan.”

It recognizes that is not the government of Japan, the Alliance Managers, or the Gaijin Handlers, but the people, the voters, the citizens of Japan that matter for the continuation of the US-Japan relationship. The resolution speaks directly to the Japanese people.

H. Res 1464 has the US House of Representatives express “its appreciation to the people of Japan, and especially on Okinawa, for their continued hosting of the United States Armed Forces.” [emphasis added]

The Okinawans matter to the members of the US Congress. Reducing the burden on Okinawa is a sincere objective. Here there is an expectation for the Japanese people to have of the United States.

As the Resolution states: “the Roadmap [May 1, 2006, the United States-Japan Roadmap for Realignment Implementation] will lead to a new phase in alliance cooperation and reduce the burden on local communities, especially those on Okinawa, thereby providing the basis for enhanced public support for the United States-Japan alliance.” [emphasis added]

There are lots of expectations in this Resolutions. However, expectations need to be based on correct assumptions and facts. And the assumption here is that the Japanese people can be won over to support a security relationship with the United States that is referred to as a military Alliance.

Another assumption is that the powers on both sides of the Pacific still support an Alliance.

It leaves me mystified why the Administration did not encourage a joint congressional resolution supporting the “Alliance” on the Security Treaty’s anniversary. There was so much whining in Washington these past months on how Tokyo needed to honor its agreements.
Maybe the most peculiar thing about Resolution are the members of congress who were the Resolution’s original 10 co-sponsors: Ros-Lehtinen, Manzullo, Poe, Gallegly, Bachmann, Djou, Inglis. Faleomavaega, Bordallo, and Watson. Another resolution, on the same day supporting the US friendship with Columbia, had 32 co-sponsors.
None of the co-sponsors are noted for their influence, intelligence, or reliability. The majority is Republican and of the three Democrats, two do not have the privilege of floor votes.
Like the turkey vultures, they all were making the best of a picked apart carcass—the Alliance. No wonder the Administration left it alone.

1 comment:

  1. And Diane Watson (the third D) is retiring. I'm surprised Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) wasn't a sponsor.


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