Bush to Asia: Freedom is More than Markets (Dan Blumenthal, Thomas Donnelly, November 28, 2005, Washington Post)
Obscured by the unblinking spotlight on Iraq, the most significant strategic development of President Bush’s second term is occurring in the shadows. If it can overcome the well-entrenched yet outdated policies of the past, the Bush Doctrine may be coming to East Asia, and the mere possibility is making foreign policy realists run the way the citizens of celluloid Tokyo used to run from Godzilla or the giant winged Mothra.
The president’s just-concluded Asian trip bore signs that his devotion to democracy is beginning to shape American strategy beyond the “greater Middle East,” calling into question the policy of economic engagement and the belief in the democratizing power of free trade that Washington has followed up until now. And military preparations are underway to give substance to the rhetoric of liberty. [...]
The rhetoric and the realignment have alarmed some traditional Asian hands, who have invested decades in a policy of engagement. A recent New York Times editorial reflected the concern, fretting that the “Bush administration has been going out of its way to build up its military ties with countries surrounding China.” Leaving aside the editorial’s assertion that the “two most troubling” examples of Bush’s alliance-building are the region’s two most powerful democracies–Japan and India–what is the alternative? Would the engagement crowd favor a unilateral approach to counterbalancing China’s power? Does anyone really mean we should move out of the way and let authoritarian China become the dominant power in Asia?
Many foreign policy realists and Asia hands take China’s view that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is worrisomely nationalistic. But in Bush’s view, Koizumi is a longtime ally with “common values, common interests, and a common commitment to freedom,” as he said in his Kyoto speech. These are the same words Bush used this past July in a summit with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which Bush’s critics also faulted. Never mind the potential for a broad strategic partnership, the critics said, India is not committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Yes, but like Japan, India is more likely part of the solution in Asia, rather than the problem.
A reshaping of the U.S. defense relationship with Japan has been in the works for more than a decade. The United States will reposition its forces and base a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in a Japanese port when the non-nuclear USS Kitty Hawk is retired from active service. The United States and Japan will also work together more closely on common security concerns.
This new combination of Bush Doctrine rhetoric and military reposturing represents more than a hedge against the traditional American approach to the region, particularly when it comes to dealing with Beijing.
While China’s inevitably going to arrive at the End of History, it would be irresponsible not to be prepared to squash them in the meantime and un-American not to keep pushing them in the right direction.