Gaiatsu revisited

After reading this post by Matt Dioguardi at Liberal Japan. and reading that MTC was “not thrilled” with yesterday’s admittedly dyspeptic post about gaiatsu and constitution revision, I feel that it is necessary to clarify about what the US should do over the coming years as Japan debates constitution revision.

Pace Matt Dioguardi, gaiatsu is not simply a matter of the US government communicating to Japan what it would prefer Japan to be able to do in the alliance. In the case cited by Dioguardi, this article in the Japan Times, Secretary Gates telling Defense Minister Kyuma that the US would like Japan to be able to exercise its right of collective self-defense so that it would be able to shoot down, hypothetically, a missile fired in the direction of the US is simply a restatement of a long-standing US position — as is telling Japan that if it did not try to shoot down a missile in that scenario, it would have serious repercussions for the alliance. That’s not a threat; that’s a fact.

Can you imagine how quickly the phrase “free rider” would be on the lips of every single member of Congress if that were to happen?

It seems that Gates was simply taking a page from the 2000 Armitage-Nye Report, which said:

Japan’s prohibition against collective self-defense is a constraint on alliance cooperation. Lifting this prohibition would allow for closer and more efficient security cooperation. This is a decision that only the Japanese people can make. The United States has respected the domestic decisions that form the character of Japanese security policies and should continue to do so. But Washington must make clear that it welcomes a Japan that is willing to make a greater contribution and to become a more equal alliance partner.

That also happens to be my position on what the US can do. The prohibition on the right of collective self-defense is the most significant obstacle to further alliance cooperation, but the days of press-ganging allies must end. (Isn’t that the meaning of coalitions of the willing?)

The US can make its desires known through bilateral diplomatic channels, but gaiatsu — which involves actively supporting advocates of policies desired by the US in domestic policy debates — should not be used. While that may seem like a fine line, statements by Secretary Gates and Ambassador Schieffer on what the US would like Japan to be able to do fall within the realm of diplomacy.

But that’s it. The US should communicate its desires, but it should not use its power to bend Japan to its will, lest any new settlement on the constitution and the alliance be as tainted as the old. I am thinking, of course, of the demonstrations surrounding the passage the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan; while Japan and the US will not be drafting a new treaty, the potential changes resulting from the reinterpretation of the prohibition on the right of collective self-defense and constitution revision could be of the same importance as the treaty. They must be — or be perceived — as the result of decisions made by the Japanese people, not decisions made or perceived to be made as a result of collusion between Japanese politicians and the US.

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