Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

US Presidential Election and Diplomacy
MURATA Koji / Associate Professor, Doshisha University

December 13, 2004
It was another tough battle. This time, Ohio was the point of contention instead of Florida. And problems inherent in the existing system of Presidential elections resurfaced. However, it was fortunate that unlike four years’ ago, confusion was avoided in the wake of the elections. This enables the administration of President George Bush to start its second term without doubts concerning its legitimacy hanging over it.

The Democratic Party seized the East and West Coasts, while the Republican Party captured the Midwest and the South, resulting in lively media debate on a ‘divided America’ and the ‘two Americas.’ This is understandable. The polarization of American politics over issues such as same-sex marriages, abortion and gun control poses serious problems for domestic politics. A rift at home could even influence foreign policy.

However, we should spend more time and exercise caution in analyzing the possible influence a ‘divided America’ or the ‘two Americas’ may have on U.S. foreign policy.

To begin with, any debate on a ‘divided America’ or the ‘two Americas’ by definition presupposes a ‘unified America’ or a ‘single America.’ Suffice it to say that the latter is an exception in American history rather than the norm. Furthermore, policy lines that lean towards international cooperation and one that leans towards unilateralism are similarly present within both the Republican and Democratic parties. In that sense, there are ‘four’ Americas instead of ‘two.’ In any case, the coexistence of multiple policy lines on foreign affairs is perhaps healthier than a ‘single America.’

Bush’s reelection may have a positive effect on foreign policy. First of all, it creates a smaller policy vacuum for an administration burdened with an agenda that includes Iraq and North Korea. Second, since the Republicans have the majority in both Houses, the administration need not worry about elections – except for midterm elections that take place two years from now – and this should bring stability to policy-making. Additionally, in his second term President Bush will no doubt be strongly conscious of his place in history. ‘The President that recklessly launched the Iraq War and ended up in a quagmire’ – such recognition must surely be avoided at all cost. In certain respects, the right wing has traditionally found it easier to engineer a reversal in foreign policy. In the past it was Richard Nixon the ‘anti-Communist champion’ who paid a visit to Beijing, and likewise Ronald Reagan, who once called the Soviet Union the ‘Evil Empire,’ who made peace with Gorbachev.

There is ample possibility the Bush administration will attempt to keep face while reversing its policy in a gradual shift to avoid irritating the right wing at home. Nevertheless, that would only be a matter of extent and possibility. Neither pessimism nor optimism is called for here. The reality is that we must coexist with this administration for another four years. And while there is frequent discussion about America not exercising enough ‘soft power,’ the international community on its part must also combine its wisdom and exercise ‘soft power’ to guide the Bush administration towards international cooperation. We must not neglect personal exchanges with the defeated Democratic Party either.

The writer is Associate Professor of Faculty of Law at Doshisha University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

村田晃嗣 / 同志社大学助教授

2004年 12月 13日






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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > US Presidential Election and Diplomacy