The Cable

Kyl warns about the war on American sovereignty

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) warned an audience of foreign policy hands on Tuesday evening about the threat of "lawfare" on U.S. sovereignty, lashing out at the State Department, American law schools, the European Union, and the "so-called international community."

"First of all, it is important to recognize that the campaign against national sovereignty... is not going to go away anytime soon," Kyl said, as he accepted the distinguished service award at the annual gala event of the Center for the National Interest, which as of Tuesday is the new name of the Nixon Center.

The lavish event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel featured short and almost universally upbeat speeches by notable foreign policy figures, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, retired Gen. Chuck Boyd, center President Dimitri Simes, and fellow award recipient Julie Nixon Eisenhower.

But Kyl's acceptance speech turned into a 25-minute diatribe about the risk of the United States slipping unwittingly into an undemocratic system of international laws that would result in the loss of U.S. legal sovereignty. A large portion of the speech was directed at the State Department's top lawyer Harold Koh and the administration's announcement on Monday that it would honor two additional protocols to the Geneva Convention.

"Some Americans, including many leading academics and some high-level government officials, view sovereignty as an outmoded notion," Kyl said. "They want the United States to accept the authority of so-called transnational legal norms."

"In certain American intellectual circles, sovereignty is viewed not as a principle to be upheld, but a problem to be remedied. That view, with roots that reach back decades, is particularly strong among some faculty members at our prestigious law schools."

Kyl said that Koh, a former dean of Yale Law School, was a strong advocate of adopting certain elements of international law. Kyl said that Koh's philosophy was "not consistent with how laws are supposed to be made in our constitutional democracy."

The State Department announced on Monday that it would work to ratify Additional Protocol II of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which mandates stricter enforcement measures to guarantee the humane treatment of prisoners, and that the United States would voluntarily adhere to the norms established under Article 75 of Protocol I in international armed conflicts, which also prohibits inhumane treatment of prisoners.

"The Additional Protocol would permit terrorist groups to receive POW privileges even if they hide among civilian populations and do not reveal themselves until just before an attack. This would give terrorists advantages over conventional forces," Kyl said. "If the United States adopted it, Protocol 1 would hamper American combat operations, increasing risks for U.S. soldiers, as well as for civilians in combat zones."

Kyl then went on to criticize the joining of sovereign legal systems in the European Union and said that the changes in Europe ran counter to democratic principles.

"Many of our friends in Europe believe that national sovereignty itself, including the sovereignty of democratic states, is problematic. They view international agreements as a means to advance progressive ‘norms' that have little support among democratic publics. And, some view it as a way to constrain U.S. power," Kyl said.

"In Europe there never was a sustained, serious, popular debate about the loss of sovereignty and democratic accountability. It just happened."

Several European ambassadors were present at the event. One of them, a critic of the EU, said to The Cable of Kyl's speech, "That was a lot of Europe bashing, even for me."

McCain's speech, by contrast, was light and self-deprecating.

"I must again ask for your sympathy for the families in the state of Arizona, because Barry Goldwater from Arizona ran for president of the United States, Mo Udall of Arizona ran for president of the United States, Bruce Babbitt of Arizona ran for president of the United States, I from Arizona ran for president of the United States," McCain said.

"Arizona might be the only state in America where mothers don't tell their children they can grow up to be president."

Other notables in attendance included freshman Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), former Congresswoman Jane Harman, former AIT Chairman Hank Greenberg, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle, Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, the center's executive director Paul Saunders, emcee Steve Clemons, and of course, your humble Cable guy.

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The Cable

State Department Japan hand loses post as Campbell goes on Tokyo apology tour

What seemed like a routine visit to the State Department by a group of college students last December has now become a thorn in the side of the U.S.-Japan relationship and cost the State Department's Japan desk director his job.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell just happened to be landing in Tokyo on Wednesday as the controversy over remarks about Okinawa allegedly made by Director of Japan Affairs Kevin Maher to a visiting group of American University students reached a fever pitch across Japan. Campbell's apology as he stepped off the plane was only the first of several he's going to be making about the controversy while in Tokyo.

"I will, in all of my meetings, offer deep apologies for the developments in Okinawa and for the misunderstandings that have taken place. I think as you all know, the alleged statements in no way reflect U.S. government policy, or indeed the deep feelings of the American people towards the people of Okinawa," Campbell said. "We are deeply saddened by these recent developments and I will in all of my meetings express deep regret for the misunderstandings that have taken place. These statements not only reflect my own personal attitudes, but the attitudes of the American government."

Campbell was referring to the controversy over a December meeting at the State Department between Maher and a group of students who asked for a briefing before taking a trip to Okinawa. One of the students gave the Japanese press a memo of notes from the meeting, which stated that Maher said that the Okinawan people were masters of "manipulation" and "extortion" when dealing with U.S.-Japanese plans to relocate the Marine Corps' Futenma air base to another part of the main Okinawan island.

"By pretending to seek consensus, people try to get as much money as possible. Okinawans are masters of ‘manipulation' and ‘extortion' of Tokyo," Maher allegedly said, according to the memo of the off-the-record briefing. The memo also accuses Maher of calling Okinawan politicians liars and saying the Okinawan people are lazy, have social problems, and often drive drunk.

Maher told Japan's Kyodo news that the memo was not accurate and contained several misrepresentations about what he said. Nevertheless, a State Department official confirmed to The Cable that Maher will step down from his job as head of the Japan desk immediately and be given another role at the State Department, as a result of the national uproar in Japan about the alleged remarks.

What Maher didn't know at the time of his meeting was that this was no ordinary group of American University students. One leader of the group was a Japanese activist who works hard to build opposition to any U.S. basing on Okinawa. That activist, Sayo Saruta,  was one of two student leaders for the group of mostly American AU students and participated in the meeting at the State Department. Maher didn't know that the group was led by an anti-base activist until the memo was leaked this week.

The State Department could have known Saruta's agenda had they just done a little research. She is a very public critic of U.S. military bases in Japan. The website for the students' Japan trip identifies her as "the leader of the Network for Okinawa, an organization calling for the closure of bases in Okinawa."

Saruta also works with the website, which is run with help from the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal foreign policy think tank in Washington, DC. John Feffer, who works at IPS and is co-director of their Foreign Policy in Focus project, told The Cable that the purpose of the Network for Okinawa "was to have a U.S. counterpart for the activists in Okinawa."

Feffer said he didn't know if Maher's remarks were reported accurately but he said that if they were, they were an "expression of frustration among U.S. government officials about the consistent opposition by Okinawans to any plan to relocate the Futenma base on Okinawa and frustration with the Japanese government for not moving more quickly."

The original idea to relocate the base was agreed to in 1996 and the plan to do it was signed by both governments in 2006. Since then, the Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled Japan since World War II, fell to a government led by the Democratic Party of Japan, which hasn't been able or willing to confront local Okinawan politicians on the issue.

"For the most part the U.S. government hasn't really cared what the politics are in Okinawa. They've worked through Tokyo and expect the Tokyo government to take care of the situation, which hasn't happened," Feffer said.

The Obama administration came in hoping to work with the DPJ on the Futenma issue, but cooperation and top-level relations broke down in late 2009 when then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama promised the Japanese he would move the base off of Okinawa and then reversed himself.

"There is always some level of opposition to U.S.-Japan proposals for realigning bases on Okinawa. It is much worse now because Hatoyama raised and then dashed expectations in a way that made a difficult problem even harder," said Michael Green, who was the NSC's senior director for Asia during the Bush administration. He defended Maher, who was the head consular official in Okinawa from 2006 to 2009.

"Maher is a veteran Japan hand who knows the politics of Okinawa better than just about anyone. It sounds like this was an ambush and his comments were selectively distorted to suit the agenda of the event organizers, though perhaps he should have seen that coming given the audience," said Green. "In any case, the real fault is with the Japanese press for trying to manufacture a crisis out of an off-the-record discussion with students."

Japan expert Mindy Kotler, who directs the organization Asia Policy Point, said that both sides are to blame. U.S. officials often talk insensitively about the Okinawan objections to the base and Okinawans often blow such comments widely out of proportion.

Nevertheless, the incident illustrates that the small cadre of U.S. government officials and experts who have been dealing with Japan for years is not tuned in to the rising level of frustration in Japan about American policy and the growing momentum of the anti-base movement both in Japan and around the world, she said.

"There's no reason that Maher should have gone into that room thinking this was just another group of average college kids," Kotler said.

"Instead of getting upset of what he did or did not say we should focus on where the frustration comes from. The alliance managers have not done enough to try to understand what's behind the changing politics in Japan and how to adapt."

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