Shortly after the revolt in Kyrgyzstan, there was the obligatory spat of commentary about how awful realism is because making deals with autocratic governments never ends well. James Kirchick wrote:
Nonetheless, the most important lesson to be learned from the events in Kyrgyzstan this past week is that supporting authoritarianism, no matter how valid the excuses, comes with a cost. This is something that everyone, especially "realists" who say that regime type should be irrelevant in the determination of foreign policy, ought to acknowledge. Soft-pedaling criticism of dictators who assist this or that American foreign policy objective, whether it be hosting a military base or supplying us with oil, may bring promised "stability," but it is always illusory. As the behavior of Kurmanbek Bakiyev demonstrated, authoritarians are by their nature irrational and unpredictable. Worse, when an authoritarian regime falls, the people who take over naturally feel resentment toward anyone who supported those who oppressed them.
So how are things going in democratic Japan? The New York Times reports on the on-going battle over the relocation of a Marine Corps air base:
Mr. Hatoyama is now scrambling to put together a modified version of the 2006 agreement, which called for relocating the Futenma base from the center of the crowded city of Ginowan to Camp Schwab in Okinawaâ??s less populated north. He is now considering options, including building a smaller air field at Camp Schwab, government officials said. Mr. Hatoyama also wants to lessen Okinawaâ??s burden by moving training activities and up to 1,000 of Futenmaâ??s 2,500 Marines to Tokunoshima, said Takeshi Tokuda, Tokunoshimaâ??s Lower House representative, who was briefed on the plan.
Mr. Tokuda said he firmly opposes the move.
â??Prime Minister Hatoyama is just trying to save face at our expense,â? said Mr. Tokuda.
The mood on the island is now overwhelmingly against the plan. The main road along the coast of this mountainous island is now lined with hand-painted signs saying â??No Base!â? The mayors of the islandâ??s three towns agreed on Saturday to meet with the prime minister, but only to express their opposition to his face, they say.
Hatoyama's approval ratings are in the pits, but it's not like a potential successor government is going to find Okinawans any more open to the idea of hosting the base. So... what to do? Bow to the wishes of the Japanese people, scrap U.S. relocation plans and start from scratch? Wait for the Hatoyama government to fall and hope that its successor will run roughshod over local wishes in the service of a larger strategic partnership? It's a genuinely thorny problem that would likely bedevil realists and neoncons alike.