A United States president plans to visit a rising power in Asia, but vast student demonstrations protesting his presence on their sacred soil lead to cancellation of the trip. Is this the latest media melodrama sparked by U.S. President Donald “Turmoil” Trump?
No, the frustrated visitor was President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the aborted trip was to have been to Japan in 1960. He usually was remarkable for capacity to capture the wider public. A December 1959 India visit generated gigantic warm welcoming crowds, despite bitter Cold War policy differences between New Delhi and Washington D.C. Nevertheless, even Ike ran into trouble.
This history bears directly on the extremely important election held in Japan in September, largely neglected by our media. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has won office again. Despite persistent economic sluggishness over many years, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party continues in power. A fractured opposition contributes to success.
Additionally, Abe provides a reassuring presence in uncertain times for a country totally devastated by war in the 20th century. Comparable history helps explain the equally impressive long tenure of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. Assuming Abe completes his latest four-year term, he will be the longest serving prime minister in post-war Japan history.
There is no shortage of problems domestic and international to occupy Tokyo, including the vexed economy. The substantial military buildup by China rightly receives global attention and concern, and involves a wider regional arms race plus ongoing maritime disputes. North Korea’s violent apocalyptic rhetoric, combined with nuclear weapons development, make that country a particularly dangerous wild card.
Last December, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visited Japan, by careful design his last major overseas trip during the Obama administration. A highlight was touring the new Izumo, Japan’s largest military ship since World War II. On Dec. 7, Secretary Carter visited the defense ministry for sustained detailed discussions with defense minister Tomomi Inada.
Forces from Japan have been in the Indian Ocean in support of the NATO and United Nations military and economic missions in Afghanistan. This is the first time warships flying the Japanese flag have appeared in that part of the world since 1945.
Last February, Japan Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the United States underscored the vital importance of the strong alliance between our two nations. Military defense and economic integration intertwine.
Today, free markets, and global trade and investment, gradually encourage stability and the rule of law in Asia and elsewhere in the world. At the same time, the continuing arms expansion in the Pacific region requires sustained monitoring and countermeasures. Japan-U.S. military cooperation is now imperative. Diplomacy and strength join.
Since World War II, Eisenhower has been highly regarded by the American people. That resonated in two enormous vote majorities in the presidential elections of 1952 and 1956. Slowly but steadily, academics and journalists have come to share the esteem instinctively expressed by the average woman and man.
Ike’s talents include remarkable capacity for sheer hard work, on demanding projects that resulted in success. The highest-stakes was the Normandy Invasion of June 6, 1944. Others include military occupations of Lebanon to forestall revolution and Little Rock, Arkansas, to ensure school integration.
We should look for leaders with that sort of disciplined, determined approach to getting the job done rather than spending their time on rhetoric, posturing and media spin. Ike’s instructive example continues to be timely.
— Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of “After the Cold War.” Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.