Republicans and Japan: The Significance of the 2012 GOP Race to the Land of the Rising Sun

Back in 2008, many had faith in Obama’s promise of change. “Change has come to America!” he openly declared. Americans cheered as the first black president promised to increase American energy independence, decrease lobbyist influence, provide universal healthcare and withdraw troops from Iraq. It seemed like the Harvard Law School graduate could (and would) live up to his word.

It has been three years since the President rose to power. The Keystone Pipeline, a project intended to increase energy independence, has been delayed and faces potential cancellation. The Obama campaign has taken donations from quasi-lobbyists. And though he has kept his promise of withdrawing troops from Iraq, the United States continues to maintain a significant presence in the region with 16 000 diplomatic personnel and over 5000 private security contractors still in the Middle Eastern country. Coupled with high unemployment, low consumer confidence, rising national debt levels, Obama leaves a track record of broken promises and weak leadership going into the federal elections of 2012.

As remote as it may seem, domestic affairs of the United States and the competence of its president are, in fact, crucial to the economic health of Japan. The United States is Japan’s second largest import/export partner, from whom Japan sources much of its supply of wheat and soybeans. Japan is also home to 35 000 American troops, strategically positioned to assert American influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Any indication of socioeconomic instability in the United States may strain its relationship with Japan.

With Obama floundering on both social and economic issues, the United States may well get the socioeconomic instability it has tried so hard to avoid. We are already seeing the effects of his failed fiscal policy: just three days ago, Obama signed a bill that would effectively cut funding from transferring military personnel from Okinawa to Guam in an effort to cut “wasteful spending” notwithstanding an existing agreement to relocate the base (never mind the fact that maintaining an overseas base costs billions of dollars).

Are there any better alternatives than Obama? If they do exist, what would these alternatives mean in the context of US-Japanese relations?

Rick Santorum, the runner up in the Iowa caucus, is not the way to go. Listen to what he says at 4:00 in the following clip when asked about pulling troops out of Okinawa and in bases elsewhere around the world:

“I’m not too sure it’s a wise idea that we should remilitarize Germany and Japan. If there’s something we learned from history it’s that we’re not sure we should go down that road again.”

Right. Now let’s hear from one of Rick Perry’s most ardent supporters, Christian televangelist Charles Peter Wagner:

“Japan, as a nation, is one of the nations of the world which has consciously, openly invited national demonization. The Sun Goddess visits him in person and has sexual intercourse with the Emperor. It’s a very, very powerful thing…that’s an invitation for the Sun Goddess to continue to demonize the whole nation. Since the night that the present emperor slept with the sun goddess, the stock market in Japan has gone down. It’s never gone up since.”

What does that tell you about a person, if his biggest fan believes that the Japanese emperor having sex with a sun goddess is directly correlated to Japan’s economic recession?

Mitt Romney does not have much of a record on Japan, and all we have on Newt Gingrich on Japan-US relations at this point is a minor gaffe made when he compared his failure to make the ballot to Pearl Harbour. Ron Paul has, on many occasions, called for a US withdrawal from Japan; given that 85 percent of all Okinawans oppose the American military presence, that may just be the right thing for the Americans to do.

Economic policy, however, is just as important to the Land of the Rising Sun; if Japan’s second largest trade partner goes down, Japan is going down with it. Having a candidate with sound economic sense, then, is critical to maintaining the economic health of both America and Japan. Nevertheless, deciding the best economic policy platform among the GOP candidates is a difficult choice – all of them have their flaws. Rick Perry wants to introduce the option of a 20 percent flat tax for individuals currently paying more than a 20 percent income tax, a move that favours the wealthy in society. Rick Santorum favours a similar move that lowers taxes only on the rich. Gingrich wants to loosen regulation on the financial industry by repealing Dodd-Frank. Romney’s economic policy is a mixed bag and is oftentimes compared to Obama’s economic record, while Ron Paul wants to do away with the Federal Reserve. At present, their stances on the economy seem kind of sketchy to me.

For the sake of the Japanese economy, better US-Japan relations and global fiscal health as a whole, we can only hope that America picks the right choice in 2012. Ideally, one who doesn’t believe that the emperor has sex with the sun goddess.

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