TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DEVOID OF TRADITIONAL VALUES AND STRATEGIES
On July 19, the office of Senator John McCain announced he had been diagnosed with brain cancer. That the American media reported on his condition widely made me freshly aware of the great influence the senator from Arizona exercises on American politics.
Wounded during the Vietnam War, McCain was detained and tortured by the North Vietnamese for five years before finally being sent home in 1973. He had several chances of obtaining a release for himself but refused to leave behind his comrades in arms in his Hanoi prison.
His commitment as a politician to speaking his mind even to his own party, coupled with his dramatic military career, has won him bipartisan praise as one of America’s most credible and respected political leaders.
In an interview carried in the June 18 edition of the Wall Street Journal, McCain had this to say about traditional American values: “If we abandon our advocacy for human rights, we are no different than any other nation that rises and falls throughout history.
“You can’t change human beings. They want freedom. They want human rights, and they look to us as the role model and inspiration.”
Clearly, McCain had President Trump in mind when he made these remarks. Trump chose the Middle East for his first foreign visit as president May 19-27. In his talks with leaders of Saudi Arabia, his first stopover and a country commonly viewed as falling precariously behind in women’s rights, Trump made absolutely no reference to human rights. In this vein, McCain noted:
“America is a unique nation in history, with all the errors and failings and mistakes we’ve made…We have stood up for people. We have to stand up for what we believe in, or we’re no different.”
The American media reported on McCain’s remarks as a “blistering criticism” of Trump. But Trump himself has since been as indifferent as ever to the world’s human rights issues. Take, for instance, Trump’s remarks on July 17, the day Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo (61) died. Trump was holding a summit with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
Asked about China during a joint news conference, Trump extolled Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping: “He is a great leader. He is a very talented man. I think he is a very good man.” Trump failed to mention anything about Liu, who was the spiritual pillar of the pro-democracy movement in China.
Trump Singing Praises of Xi and Putin
Trump’s obvious indifference to Liu’s tragic death drew sharp criticism immediately, obliging the White House to issue presidential condolences. But his words were perfunctory, devoid of any indication of an American leader ready to exert influence in promoting the freedom and rights of oppressed people around the world.
Superior military and economic might alone did not make America the superpower it is today. America has achieved its greatness because, as McCain succinctly points out, it has adhered to its principles, steadfastly striving to safeguard its universal human values.
Looking back over American history, it can be said the Civil War was a crucial point in its path towards its future as a superpower. The pivotal element in the bitterly fought battle was a belief advocating the liberation of black slaves as a fulfillment of universal human values. The victory of the northern states meant that America had begun to awaken to those values.
Over the 150 years since then, and particularly since World War, the US has grown in power both economically and militarily, replacing Great Britain as the world’s strongest nation.
After World War II, the US founded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to defend Greece, Turkey, and western Europe from the threat of the Soviet Union. Concurrently, it implemented the Marshall Plan to help rehabilitate war-torn Asia and Europe.
As the leader of the “Free World,” the US resolutely did battle with the communist and socialist camps on the firm foundation of universal values that all would agree to—democracy, freedom, and the relief of the socially vulnerable.
There have been specific US policies that I have not been happy with. As a Japanese, this is especially true of those pertaining to the American occupation of Japan. And yet, I feel the strategy the US employed to cope with the global threat of Soviet communism and socialism was undoubtedly the right one.
I believe these two factors—its global strategy and the universal values on which it based its strategy—elevated the US to superpower status.
But now, I am afraid America’s commitment is waning to both its global strategy and its values. Because of this lack of commitment, Trump has called NATO “old-fashioned” while at the same time singing the praises of Vladimir Putin, the leader of the undemocratic country that has long been positioned as America’s archrival.
Trump’s Interest in Immediate Gains
The cover of the July 24 Time magazine featured a facial image of Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., with excerpts from emails he has made public imposed on the photo. The title of the feature—“Red Handed” in vivid yellow—was markedly noticeable.
During Trump’s election campaign, Trump Jr. met a female Russian lawyer at Trump Tower after being informed by his Russian contacts that she could provide incriminating information on Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. had this to say about the meeting on a Fox News Channel television program July 12:
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. (But) her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. It was such a nothing (meeting), there was nothing to tell. It was literally a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.”
But the real problem with Trump Jr. meeting the Russian is that he obviously sought to collaborate with the Russians in trying to help his father win the White House. One doesn’t need Time magazine to point that out. Common sense dictates that the problem lay in his contriving to obtain his goal as a campaign manager by colluding with the Russians and that, in the first place, he readily took the offer for the meeting at its face value when the Russian side approached him. Unfortunately, President Trump himself and his team of advisors do not appear to clearly recognize this blunder.
Time magazine lamented: “Maybe this is what it means to elect a billionaire dealmaker to the White House.” Perhaps so, but in another sense, I take this as a warning about the danger of having a leader at the helm who is interested only in immediate gains, unable to tell friends from foes.
As America’s unrivaled ally, Japan is heavily dependent on a US quite capable of drifting aimlessly with Trump at the helm. One cannot but feel a sense of helplessness about America’s tenuous hold on its position as the respected leader of the free world.
Under such circumstances, the Diet is currently wasting a ridiculous amount of time on the so-called “Kake Gakuen” affair. While ostensibly the scandal is about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe using his influence to gain approval for a friend of an application for a new veterinary school, it in fact is a challenge to Abe from Education Ministry bureaucrats fearful of being deprived of their post-retirement landing spots. Simultaneously, it is a challenge from the nation’s liberal mass media out to block Abe’s goal of revising Japan’s postwar constitution.
Under such adverse conditions, I believe we have no choice but to support Abe in his campaign to revise the constitution at an early date. We must have these revisions in order to meet the challenges of our increasingly unstable world. As much as its vital Pacific ally, Japan needs a firm underpinning of solid strategies and universal values for its own survival. I wonder why the liberal camp in this country is incapable of coming to grips with that.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 764 in the August 3, 2017 issue of The Weekly Shincho)