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[ 21 ] roundtable • a new stage for the u.s.-japan alliance? Alliance Endangered? Challenges from the Changing Political-Economic Context of U.S.-Japan Relations Kent E. Calder This anniversary year of the revised U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty of 1960 is justifiably a time of celebration. An alliance that endures for fifty years is historically unusual, although not unprecedented. And this particular alliance has undeniable strategic significance as a cornerstone of the United States’ political-military position in the Pacific, not to mention Japan’s global diplomacy. Yet the unusual durability of Washington-Tokyo security ties in the past should not lead us to wallow today in the dangerous swamp of selfcongratulation . The alliance may continue to have a compelling strategic logic, but it is embedded in a broader political, economic, and social support base that has long been fragile, has often complicated optimal bilateral defense cooperation in the past, and is even now dangerously eroding. Supporters of the alliance in this celebratory year need look no further than the protracted Futenma mess, ongoing for nearly fifteen years, oblivious to a solemn 1996 summit-level agreement, to realize that all is not well on the political side of trans-Pacific security relations. What exactly is wrong? From the outset, one should stress that the problem does not lie primarily with the technical capabilities of the traditional alliance managers—professional diplomats and defense personnel. They are, in general, committed, discreet, and intelligent. So too are most of the professional defense analysts beyond the U.S. and Japanese governments themselves who monitor the U.S.-Japan relationship. The problem lies instead in the vitally important interface between the defense community in each country and the broader society in which each is embedded, with the difficulties being especially complex and intractable on the Japanese side. Due to the traumas of World War II, the ensuing occupation, the “no-war” constitution, and the way the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) emerged as a police-reserve force, ostensibly to preserve domestic order during the Korean War, Japan’s military has long had a serious legitimacy problem. Such limited domestic political support as it enjoyed kent calderis Director of the Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at SAIS/Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Pacific Alliance: Reviving U.S.-Japan Relations (2009), as well as seven other books, and served as Special Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to Japan (1997–2001). He can be reached at . [ 22 ] asia policy flowed partly from the backing given by the United States, an indispensable protector and economic partner of Japan. The alliance itself, by extension, also had a legitimacy problem with many Japanese, although at the same time it was broadly recognized as a necessary quid pro quo for the diplomatic and economic support that war-torn Japan desperately needed to revive its economy and rejoin international society during the 1950s. The alliance of the early postwar period was embedded, in short, in the “San Francisco system” of trans-Pacific political-economic relations. Under this arrangement, Japan provided military bases, and from the late 1970s also host-nation support, to the U.S. military based in Japan, under the bilateral Mutual Security Treaty, in return for broad access to the American market and diplomatic support for Japan’s inclusion in a wide range of multilateral economic institutions.1 When the arrangement was conceived by John Foster Dulles in the early 1950s, as the political-economic underpinning of the San Francisco Peace Treaty ending World War II in the Pacific, the United States generated close to half of global GDP, and Japan only about 3%. The huge asymmetries, and the closed character of much of the world economy outside the United States, made this system attractive for Japan, reinforcing the Cold War security commitment on which Washington adamantly insisted. What I call the “world that Dulles built” amid the turbulence of the Korean War has persisted to a remarkable degree over the ensuing half century.2 U.S. bases remain in Japan, and the military alliance endures. Yet the international political-economic context of the alliance and the domestic context in both nations have changed...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2960
Print ISSN
1559-0968
Pages
pp. 21-27
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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