The American Strike on Syria was a Spectacular Move

Seiji Fuji

Aiming for re-election, Trump is switching to a pragmatic approach

 American President Donald J. Trump was elected because he stirred up the media with his campaign pledges that can be described as reckless remarks. Thinking of his re-election four years from now, in his first 100 days he is working to show the American people that he is making great efforts to fulfill his campaign promises, regardless of what the actual results are. Perhaps for that reason, he rapidly signed a series of executive orders to alter established policy, including the Mexican border wall, limiting immigration from Muslim countries, withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, repealing Obamacare, and revising existing climate policies. However, I figured he would change course to a more pragmatic approach after the 100-day mark. The ruling Republican Party holds both the House and Senate, but in March Trump pulled a bill to replace Obamacare because senators could not be convinced to support the bill, which obviously would not be passed. This clearly demonstrated that he cannot pass any bills without backing from the main Republican faction, which left him no choice but to explore a more pragmatic policy line.
 The United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase on the morning of April 7 (JST). The media reported on this as a “return to power diplomacy,” but Trump’s action actually declared that he will move forward pragmatically – starting in the realm of diplomacy – while fully expressing how he differs from Barack Obama. Nearly 100 regular Syrian citizens were killed in a gas attack in a rebel-held area on April 4. The general view espouses the high potential that the Bashar al-Assad administration used chemical weapons to commit this attack, and the American strike on Syria was a punishment for this. However, Trump ordered this air strike right before a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Miami, and he told Xi Jinping about the attack during their talk. Apparently, Xi Jinping was struck silent. In 2013, Obama stated his willingness to consider military intervention if the Assad administration used chemical weapons, yet when the usage of such weapons was confirmed, Obama hesitated and no airstrikes took place. He also declared that the U.S. is no longer the world’s policeman, which portrayed him as a weak president incapable of making decisions and lost him the support of the people. This also allowed China’s expansion. It seems safe to say this is one major factor for why Hillary Clinton, a Democrat just like Obama, lost the election. Trump displayed a stance of approving the continuance of the Assad administration, so his decision to conduct the strike is highly significant and was also at the perfect timing.

The top priority for American diplomacy is removing the North Korean threat

 Trump did not launch these cruise missiles merely to punish Syria; an overhead view of global affairs shows he was definitely trying to restrain North Korea. While Obama did nothing to deal with this issue, North Korea tried to create smaller nuclear weapons and worked vigorously to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that can reach the U.S. Some say that North Korea is close to accomplishing both of these. Its frequent ballistic missile launches of recent days are a major threat to its neighboring countries. With this military strike, Trump unequivocally told North Korea that the U.S. will respond differently from the Obama era and that matters cannot continue on in this way. It was also significant as a warning to China, which has permitted North Korea’s actions while building military bases on reclaimed land in the South China Sea to gain maritime hegemony there. Xi Jinping must have been quite shocked when he heard of the American strike on Syria from Trump during their meeting, when he couldn’t do anything to object. Both the U.S. and China praised the meeting as being very meaningful, but the regular joint press conference was not even held afterwards. I think Xi Jinping must have returned home in an unpleasant mood. It is highly likely that Trump will visit China before the end of the year, and I suspect Xi Jinping is racking his brains to figure out how to respond to this surprise and maintain his dignity as the “core leader.” Moreover, this strike also involves rethinking the American relationship with Russia, an ally of Syria. Amidst allegations of Russian meddling in the American election, it was an opportunity for Trump – who must have wanted to dispel the image that he is close to Vladimir Putin – to indicate that he is not giving favorable treatment only to Russia. In other words, the military strike was an extremely wise move by Trump that killed four birds with one stone; in addition to Syria, it also served to restrain North Korea, China, and Russia. Most countries other than Russia and Iran have voiced their support for the strike, and a CBS TV survey released on April 10 said that 57% of Americans were also in favor of striking Syria. I think that Trump’s slumping approval rating might rise rapidly in the future.
 Trump’s main interest was not whether poison gas was used in a rebel-held region of Syria, which has no direct relationship to the American people. Rather, he was concerned with how to stop the rash behavior of North Korea, which may soon be able to directly launch nuclear weapons at the U.S. After his inauguration, Trump spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on the telephone, and he also questioned the necessity of the U.S. abiding by the “One China” policy. However, in February he made an about-face during a telephone call with Xi Jinping and said the U.S. will respect this policy. Behind the scenes, I think there may be an agreement for China to give tacit consent to the American use of military force to remove the threat of North Korea. Trump then attacked Syria as a warning, which was a sign showing that the U.S. could do the same thing in North Korea. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said “all options are on the table” to deal with North Korea. I think, if North Korea ignores the American warning given in Syria, military operations will be started against North Korea. Footage shows that Kim Jong-un is always close by when a ballistic missile is launched. American spy satellites have incredibly good cameras and are said to be able to identify humans, such as by the shadows cast on the ground as they walk. The U.S. could probably detect a North Korean ballistic missile launch ahead of time and fire a pinpoint ballistic missile attack right at the nearby Kim Jong-un. If it launched Tomahawks from 150 kilometers off the coast of North Korea, they would reach their targets in a little over 10 minutes. Of course, Kim Jong-un would probably move around frequently to protect himself, but this certainly would place significant pressure on him. Nuclear weapon and missile development could also be hindered with cyber attacks, like when the U.S. used malware to destroy Iranian nuclear centrifuges in 2008. This may even be the reason for the recent failed ballistic missile launch test. Kim Jong-un is afraid of direct strikes by the U.S., so he has not ordered the sixth nuclear test that is probably ready to go. He assassinated Kim Jong-nam, his half-brother, with a VX nerve agent in Malaysia out of fear that China would install Kim Jong-nam after Kim Jong-un was killed and then carry out a military invasion.
 North Korea is an important buffer zone for China, the U.S., and Russia. In particular, even if the U.S. permitted nuclear ballistic missiles that can reach China or Japan, it should have no objection to Kim Jong-un’s continuing reign as long as there was no threat of direct ICBM attacks that can reach the U.S. or nuclear proliferation by terrorists. That said, right now there is the possibility of a limited American attack on a missile test site or similar location – to the degree that won’t lead to all-out war between the U.S. and North Korea, which are currently playing a game of chicken – and a resulting bombardment of South Korean territory.
 The U.S. must use all possible means to stop the development of North Korean nuclear ICBMs that can reach America. Trump chose this limited offensive on Syria as a way to return to power diplomacy and indicate that he is different from Obama as a means to better his approval rating and win re-election. This tactic of killing four birds with one stone certainly sullied the smile on the face of Xi Jinping during their meeting and betrayed the hopes of Syria and Russia, which wanted to maintain the Assad administration. I am very interested to see what Trump will do in the future, and will attentively watch how he handles this situation.

Additional Edition of Theoretical Modern History

  An updated edition of my book Theoretical Modern History, which drew public attention when APA Hotel was criticized by the Chinese government, was released by Fusosha Publishing on April 13 and is on sale at bookstores across Japan. Commenting on this incident in his YouTube program, Tsuneyasu Takeda said, “China chose the wrong person to fight with. If you pick a fight with Toshio Motoya, he’ll accept that challenge.” Those words are printed on the paper strip that adorns Additional Edition of Theoretical Modern History. This book has the same cover as the previous version. The opening page includes photographs that serve as proof regarding three historical truths I believe are the most important in modern Japanese history. The prevailing theory about the June 4, 1928 Huanggutun Incident, regarded as the start of Japan’s invasion of China, is that it was perpetrated by Colonel Daisaku Komoto of the Kwantung Army. However, two reports by the Far East bureau of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence – which were released to the public in 2007 – say the blasting powder used was made in the Soviet Union and point the finger for the explosion at the Soviet secret service. If you look at the photograph of the blast site in my book, you will see that the train car’s roof was destroyed, but the car was not derailed. If the explosion had been an external one as Komoto testified, the car should have been blown off the tracks. Accordingly, the explosion was clearly inside the train car.
 There was no reason for the Japanese Army to kill Zhang Zuolin, a pro-Japanese warlord. In fact, Zhang Zuolin was in fierce confrontation with the Soviet Union at that time, and the Soviet secret service even unsuccessfully tried to assassinate him in 1926, two years before the Huanggutun Incident, for which the Chinese authorities arrested multiple Soviets. Afterwards, Zhang Zuolin was expressly hostile to the Soviet Union – he raided the Soviet consulate general, captured a Soviet steamship, and arrested huge numbers of Chinese Communist Party members in 1927, for which the Soviet Union had sufficient motivation to assassinate him. Russian historical author Dmitri Prokhorov determined that the Soviet Union was behind the Huanggutun Incident by comprehensively analyzing these historical facts and materials such as official documents released after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
 Regarding the so-called “Nanking Massacre” of December 1937, I included a photograph of the many posters hanging in Nanking that read, “Kill the Chinese traitors (pro-Japanese).” Before Nanking fell, Chiang Kai-shek’s National Revolutionary Army hunted down traitors and executed as many as thousands in one day, and the Nanking Massacre story was fabricated to conceal this atrocity. The photograph of the posters is a shot from Nanking, a documentary film by Toho Cinema that was shot behind the war front over the six weeks from the conquest of Nanking – the period when the Nanking Massacre was determined as having taken place at the Tokyo Trials. We can regard this movie as conclusive proof that the Nanking Massacre never happened. The film itself was supposedly lost in Japan, possibly due to air raids, but I think somebody hid it purposefully. Afterwards, it was discovered in Beijing in 1995 and is now available on YouTube. For example, Nanking shows many Chinese citizens of the city right after it fell to the Japanese army. They look quite calm, and there is absolutely nothing that suggests a massacre took place.
 The origin of the comfort women issue was extensive reporting by The Asahi Shimbun on Seiji Yoshida’s false testimony that he forcibly transported women on Jeju Island according to military command. However, in 1944 the Keijo Nippo ran an advertisement (a photograph of which is printed in my book) that proves the women working in military brothels were actually high-paid prostitutes. It lists monthly wages of 300 yen or more (around 3,000,000 yen in today’s currency), which was an exceptionally high salary considering that army generals were paid 500 yen per month. The comfort women were certainly not sex slaves. People who view these three photographs will find their historical views changing. At first the publishing company strongly opposed their inclusion at the beginning of the book, but I insisted and said that I would self-publish if they were excluded, which is how I finally got permission.

Japan should lead Asia towards peace and economic growth

 At the end of my book, I write as follows about the significance of studying true history,:

People who learn historical truths are freed from the masochistic view of history and regain their pride, which is the first step to making Japan into a nation capable of independent self-defense. First, we must foment a strong will that states citizens must protect their own country, which was forgotten due to the self-tormenting view of history. The nuclear states of China, Russia, and North Korea exist in East Asia, where peace is maintained by a delicate balance of power. Japan must prepare for emergencies, yet absolutely no earnest discussions on national security took place in the media or National Diet in 2015 at the time of the security bills. This is unacceptable. Nonaggressive defense is not a valid military theory; a country needs both offensive abilities and deterrence to safeguard its people. Thinking realistically, Japan should revise the constitution and create a national defense army with sufficient offensive abilities – which would deter war – to protect its people and assets. To gain nuclear deterrence, Japan should take part in nuclear sharing with the U.S. like Germany and Italy (other defeated countries from World War II) as well as Belgium and the Netherlands. Moreover, Japan should leverage its cutting-edge sciences and technologies to develop original, highly cost-effective weapons as an offset strategy to negate military threats from other countries. Looking back on history, there are only three types of peace: the peace of ruling, the peace of being ruled, and the peace brought about by a balance of power. Now that the U.S. is withdrawing from East Asia and leaving behind a power vacuum, Japan should enhance its military strength to maintain peace with a balance of power. If not, Japan will experience the peace of being ruled by China. China has somehow sustained its economy with an infrastructure investment bubble through official demand, but it is only a matter of time before it collapses. When that happens, it is very probable that China will take an unyielding stance against Japan because it needs an external enemy to calm internal discord. I believe the Chinese leaders might actually want Japan to strengthen its military power to reduce the momentum towards war, which is fanned by the Chinese citizens and media.

 True history shows the great contributions made by Japan in helping gain independence for Asian countries that were Western colonies, as well as their economic prosperity after independence. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Japan developed China and South Korea in particular. So Japan can once again contribute to Asian peace and prosperity, it must establish an autonomous constitution that allows for independent self-defense, change the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty into a bilateral treaty, increase deterrence against China with a strong alliance with the U.S., and become the Asian economic leader to build a regionally-rooted economic community. The only country that can create a community of multiple ethnicities and religions, and achieve harmony and co-prosperity, is not the U.S. or China – it is Japan.

April 20 (Thursday), 12:00