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Fraternity, Multipolarity, Co-Prosperity

11:09 AM, Aug 28, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Yukio Hatoyama, the man who would be sworn in as Japan's next prime minister should his Democratic party overcome the country's long-ruling Liberal Democratic party in elections this Sunday, penned an extremely provocative, borderline anti-American, and just plain creepy op-ed in the New York Times earlier this week. Perhaps the only mitigating factor is that, per the byline, the article was originally published, in a somewhat longer form, in the Japanese journal Voice. Otherwise, for a politician on the precipice of becoming the leader of a major world power and close American ally to so arrogantly criticize American policy and America's prospects in the pages of an American newspaper is inexplicable.

Hatoyama writes that we must recognize globalization as a failure and "return to the idea of fraternity":

The financial crisis has suggested to many that the era of U.S. unilateralism may come to an end. It has also raised doubts about the permanence of the dollar as the key global currency.

I also feel that as a result of the failure of the Iraq war and the financial crisis, the era of U.S.-led globalism is coming to an end and that we are moving toward an era of multipolarity. But at present no one country is ready to replace the United States as the dominant country. Nor is there a currency ready to replace the dollar as the world's key currency. Although the influence of the U.S. is declining, it will remain the world's leading military and economic power for the next two to three decades.

For Hatoyama to raise doubts about the dollar as a global currency -- as legitimate as those doubts may be -- in an American paper can only antagonize the Obama administration. It's diplomatically irresponsible and does not bode well for relations between a Hatoyama administration and Obama's. On the other hand, Hatoyama's blame America views will surely warm the hearts of many in the White House, and talking about a post-American world shows Hatoyama is at least on the same page as Obama.

Perhaps the most galling line, however, is Hatoyama's assertion that the Iraq war has been a failure. By what right does a Japanese politician presume to judge for American readers the success or failure of U.S. military operations? It's offensive. The American left doesn't even call the Iraq war a failure anymore, but even if they did -- a Japanese PM ought to focus his energies on apologizing for Japan's own history of military failure, not castigating other nations for imaginary defeats.

Hatoyama also says that "another national goal that emerges from the concept of fraternity is the creation of an East Asian community." To have a Japanese leader state that one of his country's national goals is the creation of an East Asian community, co-prosperity sphere, or any other type of union grates on my ear. We can be glad Obama sent one of his top donors over there as ambassador to keep an eye on things though.