American Credibility in Asia in the Wake of Iraq
Published on: January 30, 2007
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  • Travis Whetsell

    Perhaps the credibility gap between the US and Japan with respect to a perceived decline in US nuclear deterrence against Chinese aggression can be partially explained in this way. First, US military adventures in general have lost their credibility among the US citizenry relative to the cold war era. The Soviet Union provided a tangible immediate threat to the US. As that threat no longer exists, and Al-Qaeda hardly seems an adequate replacement to total nuclear annihilation, the people of the US are no longer motivated by the same organizing themes of military deterrence and regional hegemony. Second, our current dilemma in greater southwest Asia has served to further demobilize popular support for future military adventures, having the unintended effect of creating a pervasive cynicism among us. Aside from the messianic evangelical/fundamentalist movements of the religious right who emphasize confronting Iran, not China, the people of the US seem to be losing confidence in military might and nuclear deterrence as a necessary component for securing American interests. Third, as Mearsheimer has noted, ground invasions are necessary for subduing great powers. And, conventional wars can still be fought by great powers amidst the prospect of a nuclear confrontation, but they increase the prospects for a nuclear change when one side becomes desperate. Japanese policy makers probably grasp these dynamics, concluding that the US would be highly resistant to fighting a conventional war much less using its nukes against China to preserve an East Asian balance which the US people largely do not understand nor seem concerned with. Thus, Japan feels compelled to re-militarize and acquire its own nuclear deterrent against China.

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