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If you are right, i.e. that it just boils down to an American sense of entitlement to hold onto its territories in Japan, then the Japanese need to grow some serious hairy ones and just tell the U.S. to sod off.

But I find it hard to subscribe to that interpretation of the situation for two reasons.

First, Obama is not one to embrace an imperial sense of entitlement; that is a noxious legacy he has been working to overcome from the last administration (forgive me: I am an American liberal, I know it's not fashionable to have a positive regard for Obama these days).  He is analytical, and would want substantive reasons for putting the screws on Hatoyama the way he did about the bases in Okinawa.  (Are there any other reasons for suspecting him of being anti-Japanese, he who bowed to Emperor Akihito last fall to the outrage of philistines across America?)

Second, it just doesn't make sense that successive Japanese governments would continually debase themselves and cave in to hectoring U.S. demands for no reason except they want to be seen to "be on good terms" with the Americans.  The Americans must have something on them, especially Hatoyama.  After all, he won by a landslide basically on a populist anti-American campaign with promises to get rid of the U.S. military in Okinawa.  Just as Obama is the last president to bully tier 1 U.S. allies for no reason except U.S. entitlement to territorial holdings, Hatoyama was extremely unlikely to do an about-face with respect to Okinawa just to make nice with the White House.

Or am I utterly underestimating the lack of dignity that the Japanese ruling classes have descended to, even in someone as "progressive" and "revolutionary" (in the Japanese context) as Hatoyama.

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.

by marco on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 12:38:29 AM EST
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Obama is not the imperialist legacy type, I agree. But the way he dealt with Hatoyama does not appear policy-based; it seems to represent something personal (arrogance maybe). Also, he relies too much on Gates, from Afghanistan to DADT, Gtmo, etc. Gates seems one of those Americans who love tough talks.

You are absolutely right. It is the question of dignity. Quite a few mainstream Japanese individuals have a strong sense of dignity, only towards Chinese, and Koreans. To Americans, only the people of Okinawa have it. Let me give you an example. In 2003, I kept fighting rightwing Republicans over the Iraq war on Slate. When I talked about it with friends in the government, they were appalled, "How dare you say such a thing to Americans?!"

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 01:38:24 AM EST
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tuasfait: When I talked about it with friends in the government, they were appalled, "How dare you say such a thing to Americans?!"

Extraordinary.  Hasn't this class of people evolved at all in the last fifty years?  They need to start taking pointers from their Chinese counterparts.

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.

by marco on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 01:44:49 AM EST
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Hasn't this class of people evolved at all in the last fifty years?

Yes, actually. They used to have some backbone 38 years ago. Otherwise, Okinawa would have never come back to us in 1972.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 02:09:14 AM EST
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tuasfait: They used to have some backbone 38 years ago. Otherwise, Okinawa would have never come back to us in 1972.

Yes, but at the cost of betraying the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, as well as honesty with their own people.  I guess whatever backbone they had has continued to degenerate since then.

If you can't pay the bills, it's not sustainable.

by marco on Thu Jun 3rd, 2010 at 03:19:22 AM EST
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it just doesn't make sense that successive Japanese governments would continually debase themselves and cave in to hectoring U.S. demands for no reason except they want to be seen to "be on good terms" with the Americans

Uh, what? Replace "Japanese" with just about any European country and you have a fair description of the public debate on foreign policy...

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 5th, 2010 at 02:56:06 PM EST
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