Friday, 25 March 2011

'Everybodys worried about World War 3': Joseph Nye and Okinawa

Goin' back down to Okinawa
Sorry, baby, but I can't take you
You better stay at home in California
There's nothing over there that you can do

Goin' back down to Okinawa
Ain't gonna do me like you've done before
They treat me like a king down in Okinawa
And I may never come back no more

It's just an island floating in the sun
Everybody is having so much fun
Pretty mamas laying in the sand
Sure to know how to treat your man
Okinawian baby, won't you come by me ?
Sun going down in the China Sea
Making love on the beach all night
Okinawa moon is shining so bright

Folks in Okinawa sure have fun
They get together when the working day is done
Drinking cheap wine. and making romance
While some old man's doing the Okina dance

Back in the days of World War II
Fought against the Japanese like me and you
Everybody's worried âbout World War III
Okinawa's just the place where I'm gonna be

Going back to Okinawa
Sorry, but I can't take you
Never coming back no more, baby
Ry Cooder, Going Back to Okinawa [ Lyrics from: ]

In 1995 Joseph Nye produced a strategic  document for the East-Asia Pacific region for President Clinton. This proposed a halt to former President G.H.Bush's measured troop reductions and whacked up the troop numbers to 100,000 ( similar to Cold War numbers) in Japan and South Korea with those countries expected to contribute from their own forces. This was to enable, in Nye's words, a place at the Asian table and 'to protect our interests'. Okinawa was one of these places where troop numbers would be sustained at high levels (at between 30,000 to 50,000). The Governor of Okinawa, Ota Masahide, rightly took exception to this arrogant assumption of ownership as if it was a US fiefdom.  The residents of Okinawa having been humiliated in 1952  when mainland Japan offered the island as a base in return for its sovereignty had hoped for a withdrawal of troop numbers. Months later protests reached fever pitch with the news of  US military personnel inflicting a vicious sexual assault on a pre-teen girl. In 1996 Clinton agreed to move the marines out of Futenma whilst the construction of another base was completed. However, the mainland Japanese authorities offered the US a harbour port with a coral reef of sensitive environmental importance. To the US the coral was a nuisance and they had tried to blow it up previously. Money not defence became the driving force. It is ironic that Japan's first instinct after reconstruction was to make sure that economics replaced an absent military strength and that this would in turn help in terms of leveraging a better position and more equal status with the US. (G.Austin & S.Harris,2001) Community leaders decried the Japanese and US willingness to act as if it were Okinawa's drug dealer. 'It is as if the Japanese government has made Okinawa a drug addict, and the US government takes full advantage of the addiction, in order to maintain its military presence'. (Miyazato Seigen) The proposed development was estimated to cost $16 billion and it has been keenly contested at every stage by the Okinawans. In  2008 Nye returned to the fray in style by saying that any changes to his proposals would be seen as that scarily worn-out old chestnut (my words); 'anti-american'.

In Japan the ruling Democratic Party which had won in 2009 caved in and morphed into a pale copy of the previous Liberal Democrat government effectively pledging blind allegiance to Washington. Obama was happy to give Prime Minister Kan a photo shoot at the Toronto G20 and so was Kan. The outcome has the warming effect of giving the US hawks Japans highly effective 240,000 forces under its broad wings. The new Henoko base is thus a trivial arrangement in comparison but not to Okinawans. In early 2010  90,000 islanders protested demanding the closure of Futenma and the halting of work on the proposed base at Futenma. In one poll 84% opposed the new base.

Japan is effectively a client state of the US; 'One that enjoys the formal trappings of a Westphalian sovereignty and independence, and is therefore neither a colony nor a puppet state.' (McCormack)Japan has ended up paying the US for the privelige of letting them occupy Okinawa and dominating the Meiji era elite who have ruled Japan. Somehow because of their submissiveness to the US the Japanese have signed up to the G.W.Bush's globally created 'war on terror' even though Islam is and never has been a threat to Japan. Meanwhile Japan has no independent foreign policy of its own and the protests in Henoko continue.

Meanwhile, China having got used to 6 decades of neighbourly stability, have started to be concerned with the US presence in Japan. Senior Chinese leaders have often voiced their opposition to the idea of foreign military occupation such as in Okinawa. The US-Japan alliance effectively dictates how China and Japan see each other in military terms. Japan in turn has not been afraid to stand up to China and has often voiced its concerns over China's 'missile diplomacy' with Taiwan and its objections to China's nuclear testing. (G. Austin & S.Harris, 2001)

In conclusion it is evident that there is a total absence of public diplomacy or soft power initiatives alongside Nye's diktats and very little noticeable cultural diplomatic effort to win the Okinawans over. One wonders what exactly Joseph Nye would call his strategic aims in academic terms but they are in fact unmistakeably Neo-Con Imperialist in my view.  'Over exposure with regard to the internal affairs of another country.... is liable to produce an unintended public diplomacy consequence which can be corrosive to the legitimacy of the actors.'
This quote referred in its original form to the relationship between Pakistan and the US and it should act as pre-cautionary principle. The situation in Okinawa discredits both actors; Japan and the US .

'The successful diplomat is part analyst, part advocate, part policy-maker and part communications strategist.'
The 'successful diplomat' across the region covered by Nye's strategic document will struggle to persuade even in 'soft' terms that there is anything in it of comfort to a Ryukyuan fisherman whose village, harbour and local atoll is about to be bombed and filled in with concrete in the interests of US hegemony in the Far East. In this respect 90,000 protesting Okinawans could make life very hard for the US on the beach when the moon shines bright. Never mind World War Three!

It would also help if the Japanese government reviewed its policy of following the US on the 'war on terror' which serves no purpose for Japan in the short term but could do real damage to it in the long term in Islamic countries where their public and cultural diplomacy has up until now been valued or been seen as neutral. 'The ecology of public diplomacy can be characterised as a series of contests of competitive credibility, as Joseph Nye put it, where success is measured by ‘whose story wins’.' (1)Or alternatively, and in simple layman terms, whose strategic document is pro-American enough to win.
Gavan McCormack 'Obama v Okinawa' New Left Review Issue 64 July/Aug 2010
G. Austin  & S. Harris, (2001) Japan and Greater China, C. Hurst & Co, London
Open University:

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