Greg Scoblete dismisses the idea that Romney’s reference to Japanese “decline” reflects his attitude towards the alliance with Japan:
Obviously, U.S. officials should speak respectfully about American allies in public or on the record, but the fetishization of the alliance system is a partisan absurdity – one that Romney himself is now putting to bed.
Like Scoblete, I don’t believe that Romney’s reference to Japan’s “lost decade” tells us anything about his views of the U.S.-Japanese alliance. Romney is using Japan in those remarks as a foil just as he routinely bashes Europe for what it is supposed to be represent to American voters (i.e., the imagined socialist wasteland that America is in danger of becoming). Those remarks are just more of the usual American greatness rhetoric that Romney uses all the time. It is understandable that they don’t please a Japanese audience, just as Romney’s Europe-bashing wins him no friends in Europe, but they don’t reflect any distancing from Japan on Romney’s part.
Romney opened himself up to criticism along these lines by applying an impossible standard for criticism of allied and friendly states: disagreement and criticism must never be made in public. Of course, Romney invented this unworkable standard solely for the sake of complaining about Obama’s public restatement of longstanding U.S. policy on Israeli settlements in occupied territory. It is doubtful that Romney would or could adhere to the standard he has created, but what should be more troubling is that Romney wants everyone to think that this is the way that U.S. relationships with allies and clients should be conducted.
The funny thing about Romney’s obsession with protecting allied and friendly governments against the least offense is that he doesn’t have very much to say about most U.S. allies one way or the other. If one reviews his campaign website, one finds that Japan is one of the very few treaty allies that receives any mention, but even the references to Japan and South Korea in that section are perfunctory and tell us almost nothing.