A Relationship Grows More Skewed : Japan: It must build genuine bonds of brotherhood here if Americans are to die for its oil.

<i> Steven C. Clemons is executive director of Japan America Society of Southern California. This is from an article published in the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun</i>

The grass-roots American feels different, sometimes conflicting, emotions about Japan and the Japanese. In some ways, there is greater interest in Japan’s culture. NOCAL ran a Rose Bowl Parade float depicting Kabuki theater, and increasingly, Japanese culture and characters are making their way into American movies.

However, the greatest issue on the minds of most Americans now is the gulf crisis. If war breaks out, two things will happen. The failure of economic sanctions will mean the failure of collective security, the basic underlying principle of the United Nations. Second, the American public--already in convulsions about the personal and economic costs of the gulf effort--will become isolationist and demand withdrawal of U.S. forces overseas.

The post-gulf crisis world would be devoid of security guarantors. Americans resent being in this unenviable position alone, and although Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and others have provided assistance, none have provided it in the relative proportion that the United States has. The resentment toward Japan that had been previously focused on such acquisitions as the Riviera Country Club and Rockefeller Center has been seemingly transferred to resentment about Japan’s dismal response to the invasion of Kuwait.

Despite Japanese claims that it was the first to join the U.S. embargo against Iraq and the first to commit financial support to U.N. forces as well as being the leading donor other than the United States in the effort, the “feeling” of most Americans is that Japan’s contribution is paltry.


The gulf crisis has highlighted the fact that there are negligible social bonds between Japanese and Americans; there exists no social contract, little mutual cultural appreciation, no feeling of brotherhood between these two countries.

American frustrations have hit new highs regarding the Japanese presence in the United States, not because the Japanese are buying too much here but because the pace of economic bonding has far outstripped social bonding. Americans are infuriated when they see a Japanese corporation shell out nearly $7 billion for an entertainment company and fun park while the Japanese government promises (as yet unreceived) only $4 billion to an effort in which American lives are at stake. Although these two high-profile initiatives derive from different sectors, the American public does not care about such distinctions. What comes to mind is that many young Americans might die protecting, in part, Japan’s oil supply.

The integration of the Japanese and American economies is occurring at breakneck speed, faster than most Americans and Japanese can comprehend. Social integration is dead in the water, stagnant. If we do not slow down the pace of economic integration and/or speed up the pace of social bonding, the U.S.-Japan relationship will suffer tragic consequences.

In 1991 most Americans care less about the issue of whether Japan is buying too much real estate than they do about a higher principle: Americans have committed to fight and possibly die in defense of Japanese interests but the Japanese have not convinced Americans of their willingness to make such sacrifices for them.