Very senior Turnbull ministers talk of the ‘Thucydides trap’, the risk that countries allow themselves to be manipulated into war. Could they be referring to the risk of Japan drawing us, together with the US and China, into war. If ministers were seriously worried about this prospect it didn’t seem to influence the Defence White Paper which clearly aligns Australia with Japan and the US against China. I have reposted below an article from 6 May last year on the risk of the ‘Thucydides trap’. Neither Athens nor Sparta sought war, but war came because of pressure from a third state. John Menadue.
Prime Minister Abe continues to show his antagonism particularly towards China and also towards the Republic of Korea, two countries that still have unfortunate memories of Japanese invasion of their countries before and during WWII. Prime Minister Abe’s reinterpretation of Japan’s role is described by him as ‘pro-active pacificism’! This has involved a new interpretation of the constitution to provide for collective defence. He has been trying to draw Australia, US and India into an ‘Asian democratic security diamond’ to safeguard the ‘maritime commons’. Guess who that is directed against!
With his senior colleagues, he visited Yasukuni Shrine in 2013, refused to honestly apologise to comfort women and in general avoids acknowledging Japan’s aggression in WWII. Even the Emperor and the Crown Prince have had to step in and remind the Japanese people about the dangerous path that Japan took which led to WWII.
In pursuing his dangerous nationalist course PM Abe has embarked on a ruthless campaign against his critics particularly in the media. The national broadcaster NHK is under intense intimidation.
A large part of this manoeuvring of Prime Minister Abe to win over the US is directed at the country that he fears, or is most concerned about, China, which will challenge in the very near future America’s sole superpower status.
Unfortunately President Obama seems to be cooperating, or perhaps misunderstanding what Prime Minister Abe is really about.
The US continues to affirm Japanese claims to the disputed islands of Senkaku/Diaoyi. President Obama speaks of ‘containing China’ rather than accommodating a rival superpower in the making. He made his intentions clear recently when he said ‘We don’t want China to use its size to muscle other countries in the region around rules that disadvantage us’. Many people would have thought that for over a century the US has been using its muscle in Central America to do just that.
President Obama has just signed a revision of the 1997 Security Pacts with Japan that is designed to promote US strategy in pivoting to the Asia and Pacific region. In return for this support, Prime Minister Abe looks to be very supportive of the US initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership which will ensure substantial benefits for US multinational companies around the world.
Whilst the prospect of war between America and China may seem remote, we need to be careful that the US is not being manipulated by Japan into conflict with China.
This possibility has been raised in a recent article by Jared McKinney which was published in The Diplomat on 10 April 2015. The article is headed ‘China-US; avoiding the Improbable War’. See link: http://thediplomat.com/2015/04/china-us-avoiding-the-improbable-war/.
What struck me in this article was the way that Athens and Sparta were manipulated by their lesser allies into war. McKinney says:
“The actual lesson of (historian) Thucydides is: Do not allow your state to be manipulated into war. This accords with the story Thucydides actually tells: Neither Athens nor Sparta sought war, but somehow war came. Athens was convinced by another city-state, Corcyra, to protect it from the interference of a Spartan ally, Corinth. The Corinthians then convinced the Spartans to intervene on their side against the rapacious Athenians, and thus a “war like no other” began. A shift in power may or may not have been a necessary condition for the Peloponnesian War. But the way in which Athens and Sparta were manipulated by their lesser allies surely was.”
Is the US being manipulated into conflict with China by its lesser ally Japan?