This chapter will discuss the legacy of the Obama administration of 2009–17 for US–Japan relations. It will highlight elements of change and continuity that characterised the Obama years in the realms of security and economic policy, as well as the significance of historical memory and the processes of reconciliation between the two countries. It will also discuss policy shifts promoted by the administration of President Donald Trump at around the halfway mark of his 2017–21 presidential term in office. The Trump presidency, it is argued, has
experienced this, and some have dared to describe this blindness. One was Jack
London, the famous American writer sent to Korea to cover the Russo-Japanese war in
1904, who wrote, confused, of ‘black moving specks’, the
‘hubbub’, in short, ‘a war of ghosts’ (quoted in Audouin-Rouzeau, 2008 : 244). And when
Le Figaro sent special correspondent Tanguy Berthemet to
Sévaré (Mali) as France began its 2013 military operation (Operation
Serval), he reported: ‘There is a war in
appears humane. Technology then is not anti-human. It is the only thing that might save us. A point made by the scientist Richard Gatling, who, trying to justify his invention of the gun, noted: ‘If war was made more terrible, it would have a tendency to keep peace among the nations of the earth.’ The same redemptive narrative would be promulgated by those responsible for the atrocious nuclear assault on Japan, in 1945.
The tragedy, however, is that the more we seek to regulate or civilise violence by giving ourselves over to the technological account of human
Matthew Hunt, Sharon O’Brien, Patrick Cadwell, and Dónal P. O’Mathúna
Technologies in Disaster Settings: The Case of the 2011 Great
East Japan Earthquake ’, in
Conflict and Communication: A Changing Asia in a Globalising
World ( New York :
Nova Science Publishers ),
169 – 94 .
Cadwell , P
force planted in the middle of a divided Germany.
Security depended heavily on the Americans. Europeans lacked the geopolitical leisure or resources for a big independent role in Asia. With the
Americans occupying and protecting Japan, East Asia’s postwar political
climate was set by its own Cold War – by the antipathies between the United
States, China and Russia. China, isolated and paranoid, was left to the
domestic preoccupations of its Revolution.
The end of the Cold War saw this postwar geopolitical situation radically
changed. All parties
the region (of which China disapproved), and helped tighten the security relationship between the Republic of South Korea (ROK) and Japan. Frustrations in Washington over North Korea intensified towards the end of Obama’s second administration as bipartisan support for a more assertive or aggressive policy grew. Obama therefore set the stage for a more aggressive American stance for his successor to the White House, yet no one anticipated the intensity of the rhetoric which President Donald Trump would employ as he threatened ‘fire and fury’ and total annihilation
This edited volume explores the political, economic and security legacies former
US President Barack Obama leaves across Asia and the Pacific, following two
terms in office between 2009 and 2017. The aim is to advance our understanding
of Obama’s style, influence and impact by interrogating the nature and contours
of US engagement throughout the region, and the footprint he leaves behind.
Moreover, it is to inform upon the endurance of, and prospects for, the legacies
Obama leaves in a region increasingly reimaged in Washington as the
Indo-Pacific. Contributors to the volume examine these questions in early 2019,
at around the halfway point of the 2017–2021 Presidency of Donald Trump, as his
administration opens a new and potentially divergent chapter of American
internationalism. The volume uniquely explores the contours and dimensions of US
relations and interactions with key Indo-Pacific states including China, India,
Japan, North Korea and Australia; multilateral institutions and organisations
such the East Asia Summit and ASEAN; and salient issue areas such as regional
security, politics and diplomacy, and the economy. It does so with contributions
from high-profile scholars and policy practitioners, including Michael
Mastanduno, Bruce Cumings, Maryanne Kelton, Robert Sutter and Sumit Ganguly. The
volume will be of interest to students and scholars of the international
relations of Asia and the Pacific, broadly defined; US foreign policy and global
engagement; the record and legacies of former President Barack Obama; and the
foreign policies of the administration of President Donald Trump.
rewards inherent in such an approach.
While American abandonment of multilateralism may allow striking favourable new bilateral deals in the region – China, North Korea and Japan seem to be high on the list – the riskiness of the approach poses potentially catastrophic risk for Asia as a whole, if not the world. Win or lose, it risks changing for the worse the perceived character of the United States in the eyes of its allies and confirms the claims of its enemies and adversaries that America is a predatory force. This approach – coming at a time and in a region which
the Obama administration. A US–Japan joint statement from 2014 stated that ‘the two countries view the East Asia Summit as the premier political and security forum in the region’. 7 A joint statement from the United States and India in 2015 went further, asserting that ‘we commit to strengthening the East Asia Summit … to promote regional dialogue on key political and security issues, and to work harder to strengthen it’. 8
The Obama administration’s interest and subsequent commitment to the EAS and the ADMM+ process went beyond simply joining and showing up. The
interactions with US power and influence experienced by China, the Philippines and Australia, to name just three – including at various points throughout their own histories – make single, uniform designations such as empire or hegemony analytically problematic. With its devastating defeat and occupation by the United States in 1945 and the subsequent rewriting of its constitution by American officials, for example, Japan has been more exposed to violently imperialistic dimensions of American military and political power than almost anywhere else. Yet Japan formally retained