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How to be a Good Ally of the United States? Just Smile

"The rise of external threats to our allies has concentrated their minds on the need for the American connection," says Charles Krauthammer, whose Washington Post column takes issue with the claims by Democratic presidential candidates that US allies are alienated and that alliances need to be rebuild.

Krauthammer seems to be very impressed by the nice things European leaders say about the United States and ignores that the new crop of European leaders has not increased support for US led missions: While the US has send additional troops to Iraq (and Afghanistan, I believe), Britain has withdrawn many troops. And the new and supposedly pro-American governments in France and Germany are not sending more troops to Afghanistan etc. And NATO can't get together its planned Rapid Reaction Force.

It seems Krauthammer does not expect much from allies. All they (we) got to do is to say nice things about the United States. Military contributions would be nice, but are not so important. Smiling is more important.

The one thing a loyal ally should never do is to express public criticism of US policies and the president. If we manage that, then folks like Krauthammer will love us. If we manage to smile and be as polite as Japanese politicians, then we could even get US support for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. The German government's calls for a permanent German seat on the Security Council fly in the face of reality and I understand why the US is not supporting the German ambitions. But why is the US supporting the Japanese ambitions in this regard? How many Japanese troops are taking risks in Afghanistan, Timor Leste, Iraq, Kosovo or Sudan? The difference to Germany is that Japan, usually agrees with US policies. Apparently Washington has a soft spot for compliments and moral support... And yes, of course, Europe is overrepresented on the Security Council, while Asia is not.

Related Atlantic Review post: Better Transatlantic Relations in Style, not Substance

Related op-ed on Atlantic Community by Nikolas K. Gvosdev, editor-in-chief of The National Interest: Time for Frank Talk on US-EU Relations.

ENDNOTE: I read that "How To"-posts are extremely popular in the blogosphere. Therefore I chose this headline. ;-) If you indeed like this post, please recommend it at Reddit and Stumble Upon. If you have not registered at these social bookmarking services yet, then you can sign up in a few seconds at Reddit; no email adress needed. Stumble Upon is pretty cool as well.
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UPDATE: Great comment by Parcivale on Reddit: "Six years ago the message to the world was 'you're with us or you're against us' now it's 'well, so long as you're not against us...'"

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SC on :

"I understand why the US is not supporting the German ambitions. But why is the US supporting the Japanese ambitions in this regard?" Joerg, The usual reasons I read or heard cite the size of the Japanese economy, its importance in trade world-wide and with the US particularly, the perceived general compatibility of interests with the US, and not least as a matter of regional balance with the PRC currently having the lone Asian permanent seat.

Anonymous on :

The UN Security Council is dealing with military issues, not economic issues. Japan has spending a lot of money for its military, but is not using it abroad very much - for historical reasons and because Japan prefers to make business deals with as many countries as possible rather than getting its soldiers killed.

SC on :

Military matters yes. But more broadly issues involving security. Because any member can raise an issue of concern and can use a veto to protect its own interests or the interests of others - sanctions, for example - a permanent seat is certainly a politically desirable thing. Coupled with the increased defense spending you note, Japan has become a bit more assertive militarily. Perhaps a permanent seat on the Council would encourage both trends.

David on :

I highly recommend reading the 250 comments to this column on the Washington Post Web site. My personal favorite is by reader W.: "Krauthammer, You disingenuous idiot." Krauthammer is delusional, as always. Our so-called allies have become the "coaltion of the unwilling", with Britain, Poland, and now Australia pulling troops from Iraq. The pathetic attempt at diplomacy this week in Annapolis only underscores the weakness of the US. But Krauthammer remains the American right wing's [url=http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/400rhqav.asp?pg=1] most articulate apologist for torture[/url].

VinceTN on :

Japan is also the second biggest contributor to the UN isn't it? Shouldn't paying for everything have some weight? As for responding to nice diplomatic talk from Europe, its been lacking for so long anything looks like a dramatic turn around. Americans still want to believe we've earned some trust for all that we have done in the past and disagreements don't need to be as venomous as they've been about this war. If France and Britain were worth so much sacrifice, I don't see why any other people aren't worth at least 1% of the effort of times past. Its not like Europe has been troubled about it.

Anonymous on :

"Japan is also the second biggest contributor to the UN isn't it? " And Germany is the third biggest contributor, but much smaller contributors like China, Russia, France and UK have permanent seats. Japan is economically powerful, but that's it. They just make business deals with all kinds of awful regimes. They are hugely dependend on ME oil.

Anonymous on :

"Americans still want to believe we've earned some trust for all that we have done in the past" Trust regarding what? We should trust you re the dangers from Iran and support another war in the ME?

VinceTN on :

Should you trust your leadership in light of Iran's nuclear (possible) buildup? How about Darfur? Venezuala? Zimbabwe? What does Europe actually do all day? When are Europe and Canada going to seize the reigns with their soft power and solve international problems and finally shame the US and prove to us how much better things would be without American violence and ignorance?

Anonymous on :

"What does Europe actually do all day?" We mind our own business. We work all day on making the EU more efficient and more powerful. Not an easy task. What has Japan ever done for the United States to be deemed worthy of a permanent US seat?

Sue on :

It's not what they've done, it's what they might do. The US doesn't care that much about Europe anymore strategically, only emotionally. Even if Russia starts getting horrible again, that's Europe's problem and it's not likely to affect the US too much. China is a different matter and Japan can be a counterbalance to China in Asia.

Pat Patterson on :

Right off the bat Japan has shouldered its Pacific Ocean responsibilities by constructing a navy that is over twice the size, weight and range of the Germnas. While Germany continues to plan and sometimes construct ships that are only capable of coastal defense and is still utterly reliant on the US, France and Great Britain for blue water operations. Inviting Japan to join the Security Council as a member with the same status of the current five may or may not be a good idea. But inviting Germany reminds me of all the recreational leagues for children that hand out "Good Participant" medals to all including the one-legged kid who gets in with 30 seconds left to go when the outcome is already decided. Germany could reverse this situation but has simply refused to do any more than the minimum.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

> Right off the bat Japan has shouldered its Pacific Ocean > responsibilities by constructing a navy that is over twice > the size, weight and range of the Germnas. Well, if Germany were an island in the Pacific and would need to get all its oil via dangerous SE Asian sea lanes... > While Germany > continues to plan and sometimes construct ships that are only > capable of coastal defense The German military is supposed to defend Germany. Whenever the Russians get greedy... > and is still utterly reliant on > the US, France and Great Britain for blue water operations. Of course, I see benefits of policing the sea lines, since a lot of trade and energy is transported on the oceans, but we are not yet again in an age of pirates. I understand that the evil Hollywood empire is filming one Johnny Depp pirate movie after the other to convince us poor Germans to spend more money on the navy and police the sea lanes. And I do seriously understand the problems of piracy in South East Asia. But hey, did not you say that Japan is shouldering its responsibility in the Pacific Ocean? Why don't they stop the pirates then? Question: Why would Germany need to be able to conduct blue water operations without US, France, Britain? [b]What kind of operations do you consider necessary for European security? What kind of these operations Germany cannot contribute sufficiently to in cooperation with EU allies?[/b] I don't know much about blue water stuff, but I have heard from several sources that German submarines are pretty good and that they were undetected by the US in various training exercises. Well, that might not have been so difficult since the Chinese submarines managed to surprise the US as well recently, when a sub popped up in a middle of a US battlegroup, if I remember correctly an article from a few weeks ago. The trade between Europe and the Americas does not need protection. The Mediterranean is pretty safe as well... And no Stoertebeker is stealing anything in the North Sea and Baltic Sea. I agree with your last paragraphs on permanent seats for Japan and Germany. I would not vote for a German permanent seat either. But I also wouldn't vote for a Japanese one. [b]Ideally, the EU gets one permanent seat with veto power. [/b]This, of course, won't happen in the next ten years, because France and UK don't want to give up that power. Japan, India, Brazil, South Africa should not get a permanent seat, but get some more weight in the Security Council: Perhaps membership every other year, but no veto power. First, however, these countries have to achieve something good internationally in order to prove that they can pull their weight. Hoping that Japan will be more constructive is not enough. South Africa should first pull Zimbabwe and Sudan in the right direction for instance. India should make peace with Pakistan, then it gets more weight at the SC. Japan should first seek real reconciliation with all the countries it attacked in WWII rather than visiting that damn shrine and rewriting history and portraying itself as a victim because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Germany has pretty good relations with all the nations it has invaded, murdered etc. Japan has not done that. Plenty of resentment left in South Korea, China, Indonesia, Burma etc.

SC on :

Ok. You've presented a case for not granting Security Council membership to Japan. But you raised the question "Why does the US support permanent Council membership for Japan?" What do you believe are the benefits that the US sees in advancing this proposal? Or, do you believe that the policy is inherently narcissistic, as your reaction to Krauthammer's suggests? This thread is a small testament to the political importance that attaches to permanent membership in the Council. One can assert, as you have, that support for Japanese permanent membership is gratuitous. One can assert that the policy of support is unwise; though that case should be made. But the policy of support is not without merit. My own view is that US support is largely contingent on a desire to enhance the standing of a north Asian nation whose interests are largely seen to be compatible with those of the US and by doing so enhance the political standing of an Asian counterweight to Russian ambition but more importantly the growing influence of the PRC: Balance of Power, anyone?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

I agree with your counter-balance argument. I think the US supports Japan's ambitions for a permanent seat because of [b]US geostrategic interests in NE Asia [/b](China, North Korea, Russia) rather than because of Japan's military contributions to [i]international[/i] security. Germany's lack of military contributions to [i]international[/i] security are held against Germany. And that makes sense, because the Security Council deals with world security rather than with security in just Western Europe or just NE Asia. But Japan's lack of contributions are not held against Japan, although Japan is only interested in its own security and in energy resources. Japan is not going to send significant numbers of peacekeepers or combat troops to Darfur, Zimbabwe, Congo, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, when it gets a permanent seat at the SC.

SC on :

As a matter of law, Japan can not participate in combat operations except in defense of the homeland. You can thank the US-written postwar constitution for that. In fact I think they are constitutionally forbidden to have an army, navy, or air force. Of course they do as part of their Self Defense Force which is strictly limited in its use. While there has been movement toward a rethinking of that part of their constitution in recent years, a significant part of the Japanese public apparently remains a little skittish at the thought of a resurgent militarism - but there is movement and public discussion. So, it might be a bit unfair to highlight only the "free rider" problem you cite. Having said that, you are right to say that Japan, at present, is held to a different standard than Germany. However, Germany has passed over the threshold from a state unwilling to act beyond the narrow confines of self-defense to something more. So naturally more is going to be expected now of Germany. By the way, what exactly are the UN sponsored combat or peacekeeping duties that occupy Russia and the PRC? Indeed the US is looking to its geostrategic interests by promoting Japanese aspirations: quid pro quo. From the US perspective the Japanese make a tremendous contribution to worldwide - not just US - security by hosting a very large US military presence; and one which I think has exceeded that based in central Europe for a long time now, and one which has not always been welcome. You may disagree with this characterization, but I suspect the importance of this is held high in Washington. What I wonder is this: Knowing that more is likely to be expected of them, why does Japan desire a permanent seat on the Security Council?

SC on :

Well, I stand corrected on the US overseas force totals for central Europe vs Japan. According to the Jan 30, 2007 CRS report ( http://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS20649.pdf ) the US has the following distribution of forces: Europe and Former Soviet Union: 97,658 East Asia and Pacific: 78,369 And according to Wikepedia there are 33,453 now stationed in Japan alone. So, signficantly fewer in Japan proper, which if I had thought for a moment before typing would have been pretty clear.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Great comments. Thanks for looking up those numbers. Under the new Pentagon plans for Europe: 40,000 US troops will stay in Germany. "Knowing that more is likely to be expected of them, why does Japan desire a permanent seat on the Security Council?" I am interested in any answers as well.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

I agree with you that Japan's "interests are largely seen to be compatible with those of the US." I think you have put an emphasis on "seen to be" with good reason. I think this caution is necessary. Many Americans, including policy makers, tend to be very optimistic and also believe that US interests are compatible with those of allies, because the US is in favor of promoting the free world etc. The US only wants the best for the good guys, thus it is assumed that the good guys agree with the US. I am not an expert on Japan and the Pacific region. Perhaps Japanese and US interests are the largely same. But then the question still remains: [b]Do the US and Japan agree on a common policy to pursue those interests or do they disagree about the right strategy?[/b] Perhaps Japan wants to pursue these interests differently than the US? Perhaps Japan is more in favor of soft power, bribing and negotiations with China, North Korea and Russia... [b]What is actually Japan's policy on Taiwan?[/b] The US seems to have some strategic ambiguity towards Taiwan in order to make the Chinese believe that the US would defend Taiwan... Question: Would Japan support the US in such a war??? Another question: The US is putting a lot of pressure on Germany re trade with Iran. I approve of this pressure. But what about Japan? Isn't Japan getting a lot of oil from Iran and is also investing there heavily? How is Japan reacting to US pressures? And in general: What has been Japan's biggest military contribution to US security?

SC on :

Joerg, Well, I did something wrong. My response to this post is contained in #10 below.

Anonymous on :

I think any objective assessment of Japan post-WW II vis-a-vis Germany would prefer Japan a seat instead of Germany. Germany's economy apex was in the 20/30s and it has essentially been capitalizing on its pre-existing advantages post '49. This is not to belittle the great strides that German companies have made in the globalized economy since then, but they have been concentrated in traditionally strong industries. Discounting SAP, what great German companies exist outside of the automative, industrial or beery industries? There is nothing similar to the explosion of radically variant industries like 'tendo, Sony, Toyota, 3G applications, amongst others. There is a distinct lack of innovation and adventurism that Japan currently enjoys. Factor in the growth market of SE Asia and China and Japan clearly will remain a global factor, while the German economy is somewhat suspect.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Why does economic power matter in this regard? Germany has a bigger economy than France and the UK, but that is not sufficient reason to give Germany a permanent seat.

Reid of America on :

Japan has the worlds #2 navy today. Over the past 20 years the Russian navy has collapsed. The British navy has been downsized and there are plans for a massive downsizing over the next 30 years. Japan has been expanding their navy during that time period. Japan has the worlds #2 defense budget. Some say China spends more but accurate figures are not available on China. The country that most deserves a seat on the security council will never get it. That is Israel. If it is true that Israel is the greatest threat to world peace and is also a nuclear power than it belongs on the security council. The security council was founded to bypass the international democracy of the general assembly so the power players could deal with each other directly. Israel is certainly more important today than either Germany, Japan or India when it comes to international military affairs and the prospects for world peace. Whoever gets a deat on the UN Security Council doesn't matter that much. It is the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"Japan has the worlds #2 navy today." So what? How is Japan using that power? Is Japan patrolling the Horn of Africa as part of OEF as Germany does? Is Japan patrolling in the Mediterranean as part of UNIFIL as Japan does since last year's Israel/Hezbullah war? What is Japan doing with its mighty navy to get rid of pirates in SE Asia? Is Japan bording any ships from North Korean ports that might transport arms shipments? With all due respect, I consider these questions more important than the amount of defense spending. "Israel is certainly more important today than either Germany, Japan or India when it comes to international military affairs and the prospects for world peace." How many Israeli troops do you count in Afhganistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Timor Leste, Congo, Sudan, etc?

Reid of America on :

I agree that Japan does not project it's naval and air power. But neither does Germany project military power. German contribution to Afhganistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Timor Leste, Congo, Sudan, etc. are minor and half-hearted. If the Germans pulled out all of their forces from these areas it would hardly be noticed militarily. What is the purpose of the security council? It is obvious that the Security Council is completely incapable of maintaining world peace. It was created in the heady days after WW II. The world has changed but the security council hasn't. If the security council were changed to reflect todays world only the US would have veto power. The security council is political theater. The only time the security council matters is when the US agrees to use force to enforce it's rulings. Hence, only the US should have veto power.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"I agree that Japan does not project it's naval and air power. But neither does Germany project military power." I agree. That's why neither Germany nor Japan should get a permanent UN SC seat. "It is obvious that the Security Council is completely incapable of maintaining world peace." There is no alternative. NATO can't maintain world peace either. Giuliani and others want to globalize NATO, i.e. include Japan and others. Such a globalized NATO will not be able to maintain world peace either. To the contrary: A globalized NATO would motivate the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to increase its cooperation as a counter-balance to the West. "Hence, only the US should have veto power." You probably also think that Reid of America should be the King of America, or the Emperor of the World or Master of the Universe ;-)

Reid of America on :

India and Israel are the only 2 additional countries that belong on the Security Council. India is a nuclear power with a large military. A navy with aircraft carriers and expeditionary capability. Israel belongs because it is a nuclear power with the worlds #2 air force. It is the only nuclear power that has been threatened with extermination by numerous belligerents. Israel is a military power player in world security matters yet it is not at the power player table. This means Israel has a veto over Security Council resolutions regarding the middle east even if they aren't represented there. This is one of the reasons the Security Council is more theater than substance.

Zyme on :

I don´t know whether I really liked the idea of americans approving a german seat in the council. Whenever we are peaceful and don´t invest much into our military to invade our neighbours, we do not deserve a seat. A whenever americans would have counted us to the top5 military powers in the world, they also wanted our death.

SC on :

Many good questions! And being less expert than you, in this regard, I can only offer semi-informed opinion in answer to some of them. You're right to note my hedging a bit regarding expectations and reality. "Do the US and Japan agree on a common policy to pursue those interests or do they disagree about the right strategy?" On security matters involving the Asia generally, but the north Pacific specifically, the impression I've had is that of little wiggle room between the two. This was much on display during the recent six party talks over the PDRK's nuclear weapons program. On economic matters - and this has to be considered when considering security, I think - while there has often been disagreement, agreement seems more often the case. Outside that region, Japan when and if it has been helpful certainly has been quiet about it. ;) "What is actually Japan's policy on Taiwan?" Well, they have large commercial ties and want the peace maintained and their interests undisturbed; hence the status quo suits them well, I suppose. The question you might be hinting at concerns what would they do in the event of hostilities between the US and the PRC over Taiwan. Which segues into . . . "What has been Japan's biggest military contribution to US security?" I don't think one overstate the importance alone of the basing agreements the US has with Japan since the closure of the Philippine bases. A US military presence in and around the Korean peninsula and as far south as Taiwan would be made more difficult and dangerous without the Japanese bases as they currently exist. I don't think Guam, Australia, and the Aleutians would make up for their loss.

A D M I N on :

Please note that by default the comments in this blog are threaded rather than linear, i.e. some of the latest responses to comments are not at the bottom, but in the middle of the thread right behind the comment they respond to. At the top of the comments section you have the option to change the view from threaded to linear (=chronological), which enables you to see the latest comments at the end of the thread.

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