Koizumi’s Japan in Bush’s World: After 9/11

1. The “Trustworthy Ally”


Half a century ago, General Douglas MacArthur, proconsul in the US occupation, was acclaimed as a benevolent liberator even while patronizing the Japanese people, whom he described soon after leaving Japan as “12-year old children.” Today, proconsuls from Washington fly regularly in to Tokyo to inspect and instruct, as if Japan were a peripheral dependency, even though its economy now is roughly equal in scale to those of Germany, France and Britain combined. Japan‘s leadership basks in the glow of such patronage, seemingly satisfied with the role of satrap, for all the world like the one-time leaders of East European satellite states in the Soviet empire.


At the first meeting, in June 2001, between Koizumi and US President George W. Bush, Koizumi could be seen grinning with delight from his seat on the presidential golf cart. In May 2003 he became only the fifth national leader (following Russia, Britain, Australia and Spain) to be honored with an overnight visit to the presidential ranch in Crawford, Texas, and at the 2004 Sea Island G8 summit he is to be seen standing at Bush’s right hand. Japanese commentators remark that not since the days of “Ron-Yasu” familiarity between Ronald Reagan and Nakasone Yasuhiro has the relationship between the leaders of the two countries been so close. If one thing seems certain about Koizumi’s politics it is that he would never risk offending Bush’s Washington by taking a “French” or “German” stance on major issues. Yet neither does he seek or expect to be taken into Washington‘s councils in the manner of Blair. It may well be that nowhere in the world, including London, does Bush have so faithful a follower.


Although the relationship is close, that does not necessarily mean that Koizumi, or Japan, really wanted to go to war against Iraq or that it supports the US position on Palestine; for