Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Open government

Amidst all the changes introduced by the Hatoyama government since it took office in September, it is easy to forget what may be the most revolutionary change of all: transparent government.

The most visible example thus far is the Government Revitalization Unit's comprehensive review of government spending programs, ably chronicled by Michael Cucek here and here. As Cucek notes, for the first time bureaucrats are being forced to account for programs for which they are responsible — and in Cucek's opinion, the bureaucrats' responses have been notable mostly for their lack of enthusiasm. He concludes that "the GRU proceedings have reinforced the DPJ's image as the party that cares about how tax revenues get spent."

He may be understating the significance of what the Hatoyama government is doing.

One of the major themes of the DPJ's 2009 election manifesto and earlier party documents was the importance of transparency and accountability for democracy. Simply put, Japanese democracy was rotten precisely because the authorities in Tokyo did not see fit to trust the public with information about how tax revenue was being spent and who was making national policy. Protected by a press that did not venture beyond press clubs in search of stories, stories that might reveal how policy emerged from opaque negotiations among bureaucrats and LDP fixers, LDP rule was shrouded in a cloud. As a result, public confidence eroded not just in the LDP but in Japan's government more generally. It is little surprise that public opinion polls during the months leading up to the general election showed that voters were skeptical about the DPJ even if they were willing to vote for the party: after years of LDP rule, during which the only thing that was clear was that the government was failing the public, what reason did voters have to be confident that any group of politicians could follow through on its promises? After the devastation wrought by the LDP, skepticism (to the say the least) towards the political system was and is a healthy response.

But little by little the DPJ is chipping away at the years of much-merited cynicism and disgust that have emerged among the Japanese people. Publicizing the GRU's hearings was an important first step. Opening up the press clubs could be another important step. The finance ministry's decision to publicize the budget compilation process piece by piece should help too.

The savings secured by the GRU have thus far been small, totaling just over 1 trillion yen. But the GRU hearings could prove much more consequential for the government if they restore the public's trust in the government, especially when it comes to spending taxpayer money. A Sankei/FNN poll found that the public is nearly unanimous in its support for the hearings. 88.7% of respondents said that the hearings have been useful for eliminating administrative waste. 85.2% said that the hearings should be held annually. Nearly 80% said that they were interested in the contents of the hearings. Most extraordinarily, 77.5% of self-declared LDP supporters said that they saw the hearings as useful.

I do not think that it is mere coincidence that a recent Yomiuri poll found that 61% of respondents said that they view a consumption tax increase to raise revenue for social security as unavoidable. This is just a theory, but I wonder whether the Japanese public had a problem not with consumption tax increases but rather with consumption tax increases carried out by a ruling party with such a dismal record when it came to using the public's money wisely. Why should the public have supported paying for money into coffers controlled by the spendthrift LDP? By taking its duties as the duly elected government of the people seriously in reviewing how public money is spent, it is conceivable that voters will be more understanding if and when a DPJ government seeks public approval for a tax increase, especially if it is explicit about how it will use the additional revenue.

Transparency is inextricably linked with accountability. By being open about how public money is spent, the DPJ will enable voters to assess how the government has performed come election time. This is central to the new policymaking system the DPJ is building today. The 1955 system was effectively premised on the idea that the LDP and therefore the government could take the time to craft a consensus, often working in secret and making various side payments to make it stick. Getting the distribution of benefits right was more important to the LDP than provide a full accounting of its activities to voters. The DPJ's nascent system, on the other hand, is based on Westminster and implicitly recognizes that since the ruling party could lose in competitive elections, transparency is on average is preferable as it enables the government to promote its achievements (while trying to spin away the failings). Without transparency, the ruling party cannot be held accountable by the public for its achievements. I recognize that the LDP did not build the 1955 system with these principles in mind — although I think that the DPJ's leaders are thinking along these lines — but I think this stylized story is useful for thinking about how LDP rule functioned.

So while the DPJ may be conducting a sort of fiscal truth and reconciliation commission through the GRU — a useful political maneuver as the DPJ consolidates its power — the hearings as much about the future as they are about the past.

And openness has as much to do with foreign policy as with fiscal policy. With Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya announcing that the government will proceed with unveiling the "secret" agreement between the US and Japan that permitted the "introduction" of US nuclear weapons into Japan despite the three non-nuclear principles prohibiting such actions, the push for open government also includes an indictment of how the LDP conducted the US-Japan alliance for decades. It could not be otherwise. For too long the US was happy to manage the alliance in the shadows and work with a host of unsavory characters if doing so served the interests of the alliance. While the end of the cold war likely meant the end of the more sordid dimensions of US-Japan cooperation, the US government nevertheless continued to enjoy deep ties with an LDP that essentially governed behind a veil of secrecy. Just as the DPJ is seeking to air the truth of LDP rule at home, so too will it air the secrets of LDP rule in foreign policy, starting with the nuclear pact that has been an open secret for decades. The DPJ's approach to the Indian Ocean refueling mission and the 2006 Okinawa agreement on realignment similarly cannot be understood without reference to the DPJ's emphasis on transparency.

Make no mistake: the DPJ is conducting a revolution in Japanese politics. It may not look like a revolution, because there are few guarantees that the DPJ will deliver sweeping policy changes, but it is important to recognize that a procedural revolution is still a revolution. And for the first time in decades the Japanese people may be able to trust their government to work on behalf of the public interest in full view of the public, so that they may be able to judge the government's progress.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Obama pays a visit to his country's banker

I think Saturday Night Live captures the worst fears of many Japanese elites in this sketch.

But, then again, as John Maynard Keynes is supposed to have said, "If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem. But if you owe a million, it has."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tamogami, Palin, and populist conservatisms

It has been just over a year since General Tamogami Toshio (ASDF-ret.), then the chief of staff of Japan's Air Self-Defense Forces, was drummed out of the service after he was awarded the top prize in an essay contest sponsored by the APA Group for his essay "Was Japan an Aggressor Nation?"

In the year since he became a household name, Tamogami has become a leading figure of the Japanese right, as I expected following his appearance before the House of Councillors foreign and defense affairs committee. According to his website, by year's end he will have given more than seventy lectures across Japan. He has made at least seven TV appearances, and has his name on twelve books (aside from a number of them being transcripts of conversations with other right-wing figures, it is unlikely that Tamogami has written much of what his name is attached to). And he has been the subject of a fawning special issue of WiLL, which features his writings, including autobiographical writings, conversations between Tamogami and Ishihara Shintaro and Kobayashi Yoshinori, and contributions from right-wingers like Sakurai Yoshiko (whose "work" Tamogami cited in his essay), Watanabe Shoichi (the Sophia University emeritus professor who chaired the selection committee for the APA contest), Nishimura Shingo, an outspoken Diet member, and Kyoto University's Nakanichi Terumasa, among other regular contributors to WiLL and similar publications.

Tamogami Toshio: Japan's Sarah Palin.

The comparison is not without merit. Like Palin, Tamogami claims to be speaking the truth to power, in both cases left-wing elites who they claim have stifled the expression of the country's true identity. (The WiLL issue is full of complaints about double standards aimed at the Asahi Shimbun especially, complaints about free speech only for those who speak ill of Japan.) While Tamogami and other revisionist conservatives claim to care only about revealing the noble truth of Japan's wartime past and its beautiful history and seek to promote policies that will enable the Japanese people to be proud of their country again, the revisionist right's program is less a program than an aesthetic appeal, a collection of slogans about pride and greatness, about reclaiming Japan's past from the anti-Japan Japanese left and escaping the postwar regime.

And so with Mrs. Palin. As far as I can tell from the reviews, her book is long on right-wing platitudes, extremely short on policy substance. And like her Japanese counterpart, Mrs. Palin sees the "lamestream" media as the enemy within. Like Tamogami, Palin is the voice of a defensive, populist conservatism mobilized to defend traditions seen as under siege by left-wing elites who want to weaken the resolve of their respective countries in the face of threats at home and abroad.

Both have found considerable success as private citizens, finding it easier to speak truth to power when not in a position of authority. Not surprisingly Tamogami has, according to Asahi, rejected LDP overtures to run as a candidate on the LDP's proportional representation list in next summer's House of Councillors election. Why would Tamogami want to trade the lecture circuit for a seat in the upper house, in which he would have to wait his turn to speak, obey certain rules of decorum, and be only one of 242? He has far more freedom to attack the DPJ government now than he would as a representative from a marginalized LDP.

Meanwhile, the similarities between Japan's revisionist right and America's populist right will be in full view next year when Tamogami visits New York City to give a speech and appear at a dinner cruise. Sharing the stage with him will be Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who posed a surprisingly formidable challenger for John McCain in the race for the 2008 Republican Party presidential nomination. While Huckabee has crafted a kinder, gentler image than the moose-hunting, media-scorning Palin (he has been a regular on Comedy Central, after all), he occupies a similar space in the post-2008 conservative movement, a populist evangelical Christian who has railed against the powers that be not just on cultural grounds but on economic grounds (alienating some Republicans in the process). Some polls show him as a front runner for the Republican nomination in 2012.

I hope someone will ask Huckabee why he has agreed to share the stage with Tamogami, who you may recall believes that the US went to war against Japan because Franklin Roosevelt was manipulated by Stalin (through the influence of Harry Dexter White). Perhaps some journalist will ask Huckabee what he thinks about Tamogami's thoughts on the humanitarianism of the Japanese empire or Japan's war of self-defense against China or his opposition to the corrupting influence of America upon Japanese culture or his calls for a Japanese nuclear arsenal.

I have a hard time seeing how someone viewed as a serious contender for the nomination of a major party could associate himself with Tamogami and still be taken seriously.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time for the US to accept new realities

According to Helene Cooper of the New York Times, "President Obama will arrive in Tokyo on Friday, at a time when America’s relations with Japan are at their most contentious since the trade wars of the 1990s."

Cooper then proceeds to list the ways in which the transition to the DPJ has made for a "more contentious relationship."

The bill of particulars includes the Hatoyama government's decision to withdraw MSDF refueling ships from the Indian Ocean, the decision to revisit the roadmap on the realignment of US forces in Japan, the loss of "shyness about publicly sparring with American officials," and plans to revisit the bilateral Status-of-Forces agreement (SOFA). In addition to all that, she implicitly criticizes Prime Minister Hatoyama for failing at his "kiss-and-make-up session" while visiting New York and Pittsburgh, when he "responded with the usual diplomatic niceties" but was the last to arrive at a dinner for G20 leaders in Pittsburgh.

Reading this article one gets the impression that the US-Japan alliance was in perfect shape right up until the DPJ took power in September. The onus is apparently entirely on the DPJ for being disagreeable and contentious, for sparring with American officials when they try to dictate what the Japanese government should and should not be doing. The article only hints that there might be structural forces tugging at the alliance beyond the drama involving the senior officials of both countries, beyond Hatoyama's late arrival or Gates's "snubbing" the defense ministry when in Tokyo.

The current tension — if tension is the right word for it — is the product of structural change in two areas, neither of which works in favor of the US.

First, that the DPJ is in power is alone an indicator of profound changes occurring within Japan. For all the speculation by analysts about whether the public favors this proposal or that proposal in the DPJ's manifesto and about whether the public actually expects the Hatoyama government to be able to deliver, the DPJ's victory spelled the end of the old system of government. While the new system is still coalescing, I think it is already safe to say that there will be no going back to the old regime of cozy ties among LDP backbenchers and bureaucrats. The old system meant that the alliance rested in the hands of a small number of LDP alliance managers and MOFA and more recently JDA/MOD officials. As analysts like the Washington Post's Jim Hoagland, who rushed to the defense of Japan's bureaucrats after the August election, realized, the US benefited greatly from this system. Alliance cooperation was predictable, even if the US government would have preferred that Japan contribute more.

This system, however, made it difficult for the Japanese government to secure the approval of the Japanese people when it came to things like sweeping changes in the configuration of US forces in Japan. Indeed, after the fiasco of the 1960 treaty revision, the Japanese people and their representatives were rarely consulted when it came to alliance cooperation with the US. And the US government had little reason to object to this — indeed, while the Obama administration may have forgotten or may not appreciate the role the US played in propping up the LDP and its 1955 system, the DPJ and the Japanese public has not.

The old system was also poorly configured for introducing sweeping changes into the nature of the alliance. The alliance managers on both sides certainly tried after 1996, when they thought they could turn the alliance into a global security partnership without having to consult with the Japanese people about whether they wanted their Self-Defense forces participating in US-led wars far from Japanese shores. When the people were finally consulted, it turns out that they had no interest in the "Japan as the Britain of Asia" model. The public had no interest in a robust military bolstered by bigger defense budgets, or in constitution revision, which some officials on both sides thought would be the inevitable product of greater US-Japan defense cooperation. It turns out that if given a choice between maintaining the constitution and cooperating with the US abroad, the Japanese people would prefer the former. The DPJ's victory, while not directly a result of foreign policy, was a product of public dissatisfaction of the LDP's government behind closed doors in which the Japanese people were consulted as an afterthought — including and especially on the alliance.

With the option of a more robust global security partnership foreclosed, the discussion is now turning to what the alliance should be instead, a discussion that is long overdue and might have happened sooner if the two governments had been more honest with each other. What Cooper sees as the signs of tension stemming from the DPJ's coming to power I see as the first stirrings of an honest dialogue between the two governments. Okinawa is just one manifestation of this process. The US was the beneficiary of an arrangement by which the LDP made its life easier politically by foisting the bulk of US forces in Japan to distant Okinawa. It is now paying the price, as the DPJ tries to get the best deal possible for the people of Okinawa.

Of course, that the DPJ wants to reconsider the alliance with the US is shaped by another structural change, the transformation of East Asia. To a certain extent the 1996 vision of the alliance was undone precisely because the two governments were unable to decide what role the alliance could and should play in a region in which growing Chinese influence (and interdependence) was an inescapable fact. The answer provided by the Bush administration and the Koizumi and Abe governments was "shared values" and cooperation among democracies, an approach that did not survive the Abe government. And values diplomacy notwithstanding, even Abe Shinzo recognized that jabbing the Yasukuni stick in China's eye was a poor substitute for a China policy. Arguably Japan was already shifting in the direction of an Asia-centered foreign policy after Koizumi, but — with the notable exception of Fukuda Yasuo — its prime ministers were less explicit about the changes underfoot. They dutifully recited the mantras while reorienting Japan away from a security-centered US-Japan alliance. As I've argued previously, what's changed with the Hatoyama government is that it has for the most part discarded with the alliance boilerplate and is actually trying to articulate what Japanese foreign policy should look like in an age characterized by a rising China, a still strong but struggling US, and a region populated with countries facing the same dilemma as Japan.

As Hatoyama's frenetic Asia diplomacy suggests, his government is obsessed with carving out a leadership role for Japan. Devin Stewart is right to suggest that Japan cannot neglect the US dimension of its new realism. But I think Stewart is mistaken when he suggests "the path toward a more 'independent' foreign policy for Japan is not by weakening its alliance with the world's strongest military power." On the contrary, I think Japan's credibility as a leader in the region is enhanced to the extent to which the Hatoyama government is able to show that its foreign policy is not dominated by its alliance with the world's strongest military power. Which is precisely what Fukuda tried to achieve when he stressed that security cooperation would take a back seat — and what some in the US are coming to appreciate. The DPJ still has work to do answering the question of precisely what kind of security relationship it wants with the US, of course, which is why it is good that the Hatoyama government decided not to rush the National Defense Program Guidelines that were originally supposed to be issued in December. Instead the US and Japan will be conducting a bilateral review of the alliance at the same time that the DPJ-led government is conducting an internal review of defense policy going forward.

Meanwhile the Japanese people are sensitive to the need for an Asia-centered approach in Japanese foreign policy. The public had little interest in Koizumi's approach to China. Whatever concerns Japanese citizens have about China, they have little interest in policies in provoking China. Indeed, the remarkable thing is that despite, in Stewart's words, a "bellicose North Korea and an increasingly powerful China," the public does not support a dramatic increase in Japan's military capabilities, an expansion of the roles open to the JSDF, and ever closer defense cooperation with the US. At the same time there is little support for ending the alliance entirely.

Both the US and Japan have considerable room for maneuver within these structural constraints. Indeed, the US is by no means powerless in the face of Japan's push to reorient its foreign policy. For starters, the Obama administration can reverse course on trade policy in Asia, a region which Daniel Drezner contends "has simply bypassed Washington." Instead of viewing the DPJ's initiatives in the region as leaving the US behind, the Obama administration should view it as a spur to join the game.

Moreover, the Obama administration ought to reconcile itself to the DPJ's message. Thus far Washington has mishandled the transition to the DPJ, in what arguably counts as an open-source intelligence failure. Washington did not take the DPJ seriously until far too late, and even when analysts in Washington began listening to the DPJ they still thought that the DPJ was bluffing — or was trying to appease its left-wing members and the Social Democrats — when it talked about the alliance and Okinawa. The DPJ means exactly what it says. Of the examples cited by Cooper, all were articulated by the DPJ well before it won the August election, and articulated not because of the DPJ's left but because there is a broad consensus within the party on the need to reconsider the alliance and recenter Japanese foreign policy on Asia.

It is unlikely that President Obama will use this weekend to begin engineering a shift in how the US responds to the structural forces that have brought the US-Japan relationship to this juncture. As Michael Cucek trenchantly observes, there will be altogether too much left unsaid when Hatoyama and Obama meet Friday evening. But it is time for the administration to realize that the current difficulties are not simply the product of the DPJ, its leaders, and its coalition partners, and that it is not too late for the US to revitalize its Asia policy and its alliance with Japan.

Preview of Obama's visit

My thoughts on President Barack Obama's impending visit to Japan can be found at the website of the Macarthur Foundation's Asia Security Initiative, here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Waking up to a new alliance

The day of Barack Obama's first visit to Japan is approaching rapidly and the focus of the allies remains on the future of Futenma and the US-Japan agreement on the realignment of US forces in Japan.

The Hatoyama government is still weighing its options — and Prime Minister Hatoyama has said on more than one occasion that his government will not be treating Obama's visit as a firm deadline for coming up with an alternative to the status quo agreement. Okada Katsuya, the foreign minister, is pushing hard for the Kadena option, which he made clear in response to questioning in the upper house last week is for the moment his personal preference and not the policy of the government. On the other side of the debate is Kitazawa Toshimi, the defense minister, who has emerged as the cabinet's advocate for upholding the current agreement. Last month he stated that he thinks relocating the Marine helicopters at Futenma to the air force base at Kadena is "extremely difficult," and he subsequently suggested that it would not violate the DPJ's election manifesto if the government were to uphold the agreement to build a replacement facility at Camp Schwab.

The US government, not surprisingly, also sees Kadena as a non-starter. Following Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's statement, General Edward Rice, commander of US forces in Japan, told Asahi that Kadena would not work as an alternative. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell is due in Tokyo Thursday for talks, but on Tuesday State Department spokesman Ian Kelly stressed that "it’s up to Japan to decide what kind of relationship they want to have." In other words, the US government has no interest in renegotiating, and the Japanese government can take it (and suffer the political costs at home) or leave it (and embitter the Obama administration towards the new government).

Okada is also under fire from Okinawans, including Okinawa governor Nakaima Hirokazu, who sees the Kadena option as doing nothing to relieve the burden on Okinawa's citizens.

In other words, the Hatoyama government is no closer to having a proposal to present to the US.

While the conventional wisdom says the Hatoyama government's deliberate pace is a cause for alarm for the alliance — see this Jiji article for example — I am still convinced that the complaints about the public disagreements between Hatoyama's ministers are more a product of observers being unaccustomed to the cabinet actually making policy as opposed to genuine disorder in the government. This is normal government. Indeed, this debate over the alliance lies at the nexus of the DPJ's plans to normalize Japan's foreign and domestic policies, as it shows the cabinet shining light on its deliberations — removing alliance management from the shadows of Kasumigaseki — while also not being bullied by Washington into rushing its decision. In other words, the DPJ is doing exactly what it said it would do. Rather than treating the US with "deference" (remember that word?), the Hatoyama government is weighing its options. It has not ruled out the status quo, but it will not be pressured into accepting the status quo for its own sake either.

Nevertheless, some in Washington seem to feel that the Hatoyama government was in need of — in Michael Green's phrase — a "smackdown." [Although, to be fair, it's possible that he did not choose that unfortunate word for the title of his post.] Upon reading his post at Foreign Policy's Shadow Government one could be excused for thinking that he was discussing the relationship between an empire and its satrap and not two sovereign governments. In addition to his use of the word "smackdown," he calls Hatoyama "defiant" (as opposed to Hatoyama patiently weighing his government's options); Gates's stance, he writes, "sent shudders" through the DPJ; and the DPJ has been "slapping around" the US (instead of articulating a policy approach that happened to differ from its predecessor's).

In a single post Green managed to illustrate why the DPJ's approach to the alliance is merited. During the "golden age" — Green appears to have taken the rhetoric from days of George and Jun and (briefly) George and Shinzo seriously — the US government did not need to deliver "smackdowns," it seems, because Tokyo followed along nicely (which, given the frustrations endured by US negotiators during the Defense Policy Review Initiative talks, was a convenient facade for what was actually a fairly contentious period for the alliance). The difference seems to be that LDP governments kept their disagreements private. The difficulties of the Koizumi years wash away and we're left with talk of a golden age.

The US government is now paying the price for believing that the post-1996 decade was a golden age for the alliance, for believing that pocketing cooperation from the Koizumi and Abe governments meant that it enjoyed the support of the Japanese people as a whole. Green can tell himself that the alliance is popularity among three quarters of the Japanese — which may be true (although the latest figure is actually 68.9% favorable, a seven-point drop from the previous year's poll), but the alliance's overall approval rating says very little about what the Japanese public thinks about specific pieces of the alliance's agenda in recent years. Voters may not have had the alliance and foreign policy at the top of the list of reasons to vote for the DPJ, but it is difficult to say that they were voting for the status quo on the alliance. It strikes me as odd that voters would be open to the DPJ's promises of sweeping changes in how their government functions (easily the most popular portion of the DPJ's agenda) but would demand that the government cling resolutely to the status quo in foreign policy. As the DPJ is illustrating, it is entirely possible to support the maintenance of the alliance while demanding changes in how it operates.

And, meanwhile, a recent report based on a series of discussions among US and Japanese experts convened by the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) and drafted by Michael Finnegan and exposes Green's argument about a "golden age" as a myth. Premised on the idea of "unmet expectations" — expectations that were unmet well before the DPJ took power — Finnegan concludes "despite public statements about strength, the alliance is actually quite brittle precisely at a time when both allies are perhaps depending on it more than ever." The idea of mismatched expectations from the alliance is not a new one, but Finnegan provides a frank assessment of the state of the alliance and shows despite the apparently close relationship between President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi, the relationship among the national leaders did not translate into a frank and realistic discussion of whether the alliance is headed.

What does Finnegan see as the mismatched expectations? He sums of each country's expectations in two words: for the US, "Do More," and for Japan, "Meet Commitments." It is difficult to say whether the report's assessment of Japan's expectations for the alliance continue to hold under the DPJ government, but "Do More" pretty much sums up US expectations going back decades. The irony was that the advent of unipolarity ratcheted US expectations of Japan and its other allies to unprecedented levels — despite (or because of) the US was unchallenged by a rival superpower and towering over all rivals even during the peace divided 1990s, the US decided to bear more burdens than ever, which meant more demands for burden-sharing with its allies. Accordingly, after 1996 the US came to expect greater operational cooperation with Japan and greater Japanese involvement in providing security far from Japanese shores. The failure to strengthen bilateral cooperation for the defense of Japan is particularly glaring, and it falls on the Japanese government's shoulders. This failure raises an obvious question: if the LDP was such a faithful friend of the alliance, why is Finnegan able to provide such a lengthy list of operational deficiencies short of the major sticking point of the ban on the exercise of Japan's right of collective self-defense?

Finnegan concludes the report by offering a list of options available to each government going forward, and proposing that the allies scale back their expectations so to acknowledge political constraints in Japan and refocus the alliance on the core mission of defending Japan. He writes: "The new bargain suggested here would establish a laser-like focus on the core expectation of the alliance, the defense of Japan. Such a recalibrated or tempered arrangement would forgo out-of-area missions, instead recognizing a division of labor within the alliance. On the one hand, Japan would assume primacy in the defense of Japan, focusing all of its defense efforts and resources on this singular mission. Japan would be its own 'first line of defense' for the first time in the postwar period." Having argued for precisely this model of the alliance in the past, I fully agree with this proposal and am glad that Finnegan and the NBR study group managed to flesh out what it means in concrete terms. (Indeed, I argued for precisely this kind of discussion on the occasion of a previous Gates visit to Japan, when the secretary was working for a different president.)

The greatest virtue of the NBR report is that it recognizes that whether or not it was possible to create the expansive global alliance desired by some Japan hands after 1996, it is not possible today. Even before the DPJ took power Japan's leaders recognized that the challenge for the coming decades is carving out a role for Japan as China solidified its position as a regional superpower. Even Hatoyama's LDP predecessors recognized that they could no longer get away with antagonizing China over Yasukuni and other history questions. Neither of Abe's LDP successors saw it worthwhile to talk about the values shared by the US and Japan and to expend political capital deepening cooperation among the region's democracies. The challenge for the US and Japan is to build an alliance based on the notion that Japan has little choice but to be deeply engaged in regional cooperation, whatever form it ends up taking. Hatoyama, Okada, and other DPJ leaders do not believe they have to choose between Asia and the US, but they do believe that the alliance as it was conceived by alliance managers in the 1990s and early 2000s forces them to pick a side and constrains Japan's freedom of action.

As difficult as the Futenma dispute is, I am still fairly sanguine over the ability of the Obama administration to manage the shift to a deep but narrow security partnership, in which security cooperation is focused almost exclusively on the defense of Japan and embedded in a broader partnership in which the allies cooperate closely in areas other than security outside of East Asia and are free to pursue independent initiatives as necessary within the region. At the very least, an alliance based on Yokosuka and Kadena can still be valuable to the US.

It is time, however, for US officials (and former officials) to stop acting surprised that the DPJ is doing precisely what it promised it would do — and to wake up and recognize that the early 2000s were not a golden age and that there are more points of continuity between the LDP post-Koizumi and the DPJ than most are willing to admit. I am truly dismayed by how Washington — inside and outside of government — has handled the transition to DPJ rule. While the Obama administration deserves credit for having Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meet with Ozawa Ichiro when she visited Japan back in February, the administration seems taken aback by the Hatoyama government's following through on its promises to manage the alliance differently from the LDP. It is time for commentators in Washington to stop clinging to the notion that the DPJ is "badly divided internally" on foreign policy. While the Hatoyama government may be debating how best to resolve the Futenma issue, it is anything but divided when it comes to changing how the alliance is managed and where the alliance should fit in Japan's foreign policy. The Hatoyama government is entirely serious, and it will be running the government in Tokyo for the foreseeable future.

It is time for Washington to wake up to the reality of DPJ rule. The NBR report is an excellent step in the right direction.