Friday, June 29, 2007

Neither nor

Just a thought in passing...

The reason why the fundamental principles of Japan's security alliance with the United States must undergo change is not the rise of China, the Revolution in Military Affairs, the transformation of the technological base of terrorism (or as Thomas Friedman put it so many years ago, the rise of the Superempowered Angry Young Man) or even the rebirth of nationalism in Japan/East Asia (Where did it go? When did it leave?).

It is that the fundamental security tradeoff has not functioned since at least 1991.

Under the Yoshida Doctrine, Japan would forego becoming a normal nation-state, giving up the ability to defend its own territory. Freed of the burdens of defense, Japan would run circles around the rest of the world in terms of the pace of its economic development.

Oh, on occasion Japan would have to pull out its checkbook and pay for something: a hydroelectric project here, a liberation of Kuwait there. For the most part, however, Japan would stay out of the military power racket and would instead concentrate on becoming rich.

The qualified syllogism promised the Japanese people was:

If virtually no military expenditures in Japan, then no international dignity. However, economic prosperity.

Somehow through long years of the Lost Decade in Japan and the Clinton prosperity the breakdown of the syllogism seems to have passed unnoticed (If somebody can prove otherwise, please send me the reference - MTC).

But the syllogism clearly no longer held...because it was not guns or butter. In the 1990s and even now, the Americans could have guns AND respect AND butter--lots of butter, 4% annual GDP growth with low inflation butter.

In Japan, by contrast, it was NO guns and NO respect and NO butter--year after year after year.

Where was the prosperity? If the Yoshida Doctrine were a viable description of reality, after a short dip due to that unfortunate bout of over-investment in 1986-89, Japan's economy should have continues its Vogelian march to hypremacy.

Instead, Japan became the world's economic anorexic--and the United States, a hyperpower.

Yet even now, sixteen years down the line, the Yoshida tradeoff rules as the master narrative underpinning all discussion of Japan's security options.


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