That the Hatoyama government is searching so hard for alternatives — including alternatives within Okinawa — is evidence of its desire to maintain a constructive relationship with the US….not evidence of its desire to undermine the relationship
If Hatoyama was decisive about the issue in an “anti-American” way (or more appropriately for Japan “standing up to the bully” kind of fashion), the very same people who currently are having misgivings about the damage to the US-Japan relationship from a purely calculating point of view might have found some satisfaction in the identity/symbolic politics of this, which has its own kind of benefits.
Basically, the public might have been willing to “sell” off a bit of short-term good will in terms of the US-Japan relationship in order to buy a little bit of long-term “realism” to base the relationship on in terms of communicating to the US the rules of engagement for the development of the relationship in the future. This battle may well have to be fought another day – possibly in less US friendly terms.
That Hatoyama has not indulged in this kind of politics has been to his own detriment – he may well be appearing to be compromising the relationship for no “good” reason.
Which we can connect to another point Mr Harris makes about Hatoyama being boxed in by the US on this issue and the US escalating the issue. Here I have to wonder, overall, how much damage long-term this may do to the US-Japan relationship – to the detriment of the US more than Japan perhaps. Hatoyama’s own deficiencies on this will be patently obvious to the public (which is detailed well in the post) but the public is probably also fully aware of the role US influence has played in this. This perception, especially if an out-of-Okinawa solution fails, will be fodder for symbolic politics for any subsequent cabinet/government.
Furthermore, if the US is seen to be “hard to work with” on these kind of issues, does this not provide an incentive for future Japanese politicians to avoid taking the “good faith” angle? The case and the fate of the curious Hatoyama Yukio may well be a textbook example for future budding Japanese politicians.