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

Reflections on “America Alone-ism” – From Major League Baseball to President Trump
UENO Kagefumi / Civilizational Thinker

October 23, 2018
We are now days away from the World Series, an event eagerly awaited by Major League Baseball fans. The championship – widely known in Japan thanks to public broadcaster NHK – is somehow never referred to as the “U.S. Series.” Why not? Because when it comes to baseball, Americans believe that being “No.1 in the U.S.” is synonymous with being “No.1 in the world.” This is underlined by their perception that professional baseball in other countries, such as Japan or Taiwan, is a lower-ranked version of the sport; theirs is not genuine baseball, real baseball can only be found in the U.S. For all they know, professional baseball does not exist beyond American shores. This is what we call “America Alone-ism.” And this is why Americans confer the title “Rookie of the Year” even to top players with distinguished careers in leagues outside the U.S. They gave the title to Ichiro Suzuki, and could do so again to Ohtani Shohei of LA Angels . While that may be a welcome decision for some in Japan, it simply indicates neglect of Japanese professional baseball, which is quite outrageous.

This kind of treatment is unheard of in European soccer leagues. England’s Premier League, Spain’s LaLiga and other national leagues recognize each other. Thus, a player who transfers to the Premier League after playing in LaLiga would never be considered a “newcomer.” Meanwhile, “America Alone-ism” lies at the heart of the Academy Awards as well, in stark contrast with the “internationalism” of film festivals held in Cannes or Berlin, which are open to the entire world.

This “my country alone-ism” is founded on ignoring the existence of other countries, and while it is not unusual throughout the United States, one person who starkly stands out as the epitome of this mindset is none other than President Donald Trump himself. The President is said to be a champion of “America First.” But is this really true? In placing your own country “first,” you are suggesting there is another country that comes in “second.” In other words, you are presupposing the existence of “others.” And that is why the emphasis is on maximizing your national interests through negotiation with other parties.

In contrast, “my country alone-ism” works by ignoring the existence of all others, and thereby leads a country to take abrupt one-sided actions without prior negotiation. Judging from the way he has pulled out of the TPP talks, the Paris Agreement and the nuclear agreement with Iran, and from the way he has slapped trade sanctions against China, President Trump is quite evidently not practicing “America First,” but “America Alone”. In short, compared to “my country first-ism,” “my country alone-ism” is markedly more self-centered and aggressive when dealing with the outside world. And while “my country first-ism” is found not only in the U.S., but in countries around the world, including China, the United Kingdom and Japan, “my country alone-ism” is a uniquely American phenomenon.

Why then is it so conspicuous in the United States? Perhaps the answer is rooted in the fact that U.S. society exists as a self-contained “mini-world,” where there is a widely held belief that the outside world has nothing to offer, and very little interest in events overseas. It could be that Mr. Trump is simply displaying this American brand of unilateralism in its pure – or blatant – form. And since his behavior is merely a reflection of this cultural DNA, we should expect the mindset to be handed down to the next generation in the post-Trump era – though it is hoped that it will take a less crude form in future.

It worries me that President Trump’s mind set has become more radical of late. For example, since he walked out of the nuclear agreement with tougher sanctions against Iran, Mr. Trump has gone on to cast his net of sanctions wider to include European and Japanese companies, telling them that they are to be subject to whatever the U.S. decides. Behaving like the judge, or the emperor, of the international community – such a radical style of “America Alone” is a major deviation from the rules of the international community. I find it frustrating that the governments in Europe and Japan are unable to fight back.

Yet, radicalized “America Alone-ism ” may not be the worst. It could be even more serious should Trump’s ideology begin to shift into isolationism; after all, “my country alone-ism” and isolationism are two sides of the same coin. So far, there are no signs of this, but an isolationist America is a prospect Japan and Europe should take the lead to avoid. And in doing so, we should employ all means at our disposal, from offering lavish compliments and sweet talk to delivering a “ketaguri” – the sumo technique of sweeping the opponent’s leg.

UENO Kagefumi is former Ambassador to the Holy See.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

米国「一国主義」考 (大リーグからトランプまで)
上野 景文 / 文明論考家

2018年 10月 23日



このトランプ流「一国主義」、最近どぎつくなっていることが気になる。 たとえば、核合意を離脱して対イラン制裁を強化したトランプ氏は、欧州や日本の企業にも制裁の網をかぶせた。「日欧企業も米国の決定に従え」と言っている訳だ。「国際社会のジャッジ」ないし「帝王」の如く振る舞うこの拡張主義的「一国主義」、国際社会の掟から大きく逸脱している。欧州や日本の政府が、これに対抗出来ないことがもどかしい。


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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Reflections on “America Alone-ism” – From Major League Baseball to President Trump