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America's Grand Strategy Needs Japan

The Japanese are on to their sixth prime minister in five years. The FT calls it the “PM revolving door”, and says the newest leader, Yoshihiko Noda, will be lucky to get a meeting with President Obama at the White House.

In public, the White House welcomed Mr Noda’s appointment. “The relationship between the US and Japan is based on common interests and common values, and I look forward to working with prime minister Noda to tackle the broad range of economic and security issues that require our attention,” Mr Obama said on Tuesday.But privately, officials are rolling their eyes over yet another leadership change in Japan.

The Japanese are struggling. Twenty years of economic stagnation against the background of a population in decline and a culture that copes very poorly with immigration.  Now add the earthquake, the tsunami and then the ongoing crisis over nuclear reactors and the strategic problems of the nuclear industry in a seismically active country that has no alternative power source.  Japan’s political leaders are stumped.

That matters to America.  For 200 years the United States has had a simple grand strategy in Asia: we want to see a stable balance of power in Asia that keeps any single country from dominating the region and we want Asian economies to grow and remain open to the world as Asian societies modernize and move toward democracy.  We think that protects our security interests, serves our economic interests and is a decent and humane vision for the region that Asians as well as Americans can support.

That grand strategy does best when and if Japan does well.  Via Meadia wishes the new Japanese prime minister more success than his predecessor had; most of all, Via Meadia hopes that democratic and peaceful Japan finds a way to recapture the dynamism that in the not so distant past made the Japanese economy the wonder of the world.

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  • Jack

    The hope that Japan might recapture its past dynamism is rather faint.

    As Mark Steyn asserted a few years ago, it’s the demography, stupid. Japanese women don’t have children anymore and Japan has the highest median age (44.6) of any country on the planet, except Monaco. Japan’s median age will rise higher in years to come.

    The Japanese economic boom of the 1970s had little to do with dynamism and a lot to do with demographics. Japan had a lot of energetic and productive 20 and 30 somethings working in the 1970s. Japan has few such young, productive workers today. Essentially the same sort of demographic transition explains the Italian economic miracle of the 1950s and subsequent Italian stagnation.

    A country whose women stop having children has a bleak future – socially, culturally and economically.

  • Luke Lea

    I think it is more a case of Japan needing the United States. At the very least — and maybe the most — we should keep their sea lanes open.

    But, then, what do I know? In matters of Asia I’m just a common sense philosopher.

  • Luke Lea

    For centuries Great Britain did what it took to keep any one nation from dominating European mainland. But that was only because she knew if that happened the way would be open for a full-scale invasion of her island fortress across the Channel.

    Thankfully we don’t have that to worry about. And hopefully we won’t be fool enough to follow the military strategy Mead seems to favor. It’s called imperialism and a lot of influential people in this country think it is the way to go, but it will destroy us — our republican institutions that is — just as surely as it did with Rome.

    Really, if it is Israel’s security a lot of these hawks are worried about there are better ways. For one, concentrate on that part of the world where Israel is, not the other side of the globe.

  • Maddog

    It is the demographics, stupid! And the Japanese do not seem to understand. But Japan does have a double secret probation plan – that is to repopulate with robots. They are already anticipating the human collapse with robotic innovations of all kinds including robots to perform most functions even to the extent of sex robots. This period in Japanese history will conclude once the sex robots need sex robots.

    At that point America can safely find in Japan the strong partner we had in the past. Until then the residual humans will only muck up the works.

    Mark Sherman

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Having spent 6 months in Japan in the 90’s when I worked for Toyota, I can tell you the Keynesian fools, will never get out of their depression (20+ years). Until they start paying off their debt (200% of GDP) and thereby flooding the fuel tank of job creating investment capital. The Japanese like the Democrats, are like medieval barbers if the bleeding doesn’t help, then bleed the patient some more (The beatings will continue until moral improves). They have had 8 huge stimulus spending programs, which has given them a Government Debt of 200% of GDP. It’s the definition of insanity, to keep doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result each time.

  • Hoboken

    “a culture that copes very poorly with immigration”
    I’d say they cope with it quite well – they’ve thought about it and decided it’s not for them.

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