Saturday, March 28, 2009

Alliance Managers Meet

If you are reading this you are clearly not a manager of the Japan-US alliance.

If you were, you would be in San Francisco at the 15th Annual Japan-US Security Seminar hosted by CSIS’s Pacific Forum and MOFA’s Japan Institute of International Affairs. This is a long weekend of presentations, discussions, and meals with a carefully selected group of mostly white men and honorary white men. It is all very serious business for those selected to manage the Japan-US relationship.

An invitation—and you can only go with an invitation—ensures your designation as an official Japan-US alliance/relationship manager. Note that the relationship is only defined by security and military interactions thus excluding many Japan experts familiar with contemporary Japanese society.

There are also serious and not so serious invitations. The serious invitations come with all expenses paid. If you are invited and not offered funding, you are not expected to attend, but to understand that they don’t want to get on your bad side.

Also invited (and funded) are a “young leaders” group of up and coming alliance managers. These young men (few are women) are nurtured and watched to ensure that they know how to talk the talk and walk the walk. They will be able to go back to their schools and think tanks and say, “the Gaimusho (showing off your Japanese) North American Bureau chief told me at the bar…” or “sharing the limo to the airport with Amb…”

Before these seminars had a formal designation, they were sponsored by the Okazaki Institute with a loose relationship with the Government of Japan. They served as the intellectual genesis of the Armitage Report. The Institute’s funding of research and meetings created a cadre of like-minded relationship managers in both the US and Japan. Amb. Hisahiko Okazaki is a quintessential conservative nationalist. He believes that Japan needs a “robust” military and that the peace Constitution remains because of Japan’s masochistic history. He has lots of friends in Washington.

It appears that the Okazaki Institute is fading like its aging namesake. From its list of sponsors you can surmise that its major funder was the Sasakawa family of foundations. It tends to be a pattern that one or multiple Sasakawa-backed foundations experiment with various foreign policy-oriented projects until these efforts are either deemed successful or not. I suspect it has something to do with deniable accountability. Once projects are successful, they are institutionalized and handed over to a more explicitly Japanese government-affiliated organization.

The Okazaki experiments nurtured the entire generation of Bush Administration Japan managers and weeded out those who disagreed. The result was the 7-page Armitage Report that set the "intellectual" foundation for emphasizing the military relationship with Japan. Thus, MOFA now funds and runs these annual gatherings on Japan-US security (note that Japan comes first in the title, this word order is nearly unheard of in programs in the US, no matter the funder).

In addition, after the Bush Administration’s Japan officials all left the government it was likely thought unseemly to reward these folks with money from a minor, albeit successful relationship-building project, such as the Okazaki’s. Tying up their time with meaningless research on essentially the same topic over and over and holding resort-sited conferences of now-senior, seasoned relationship managers needs more money and more prestigious funding sources such as corporations and government institutes.

But MOFA funding is not enough. The Pacific Forum took advantage in February of Harvard Professor Joe Nye’s (pictured above) putative nomination as Ambassador to Japan (this has yet to happen). Their Board of Governors dinner in Hawaii featured a speech by Nye and face-time with him. The dinner was to honor former assistant secretary of State Jim Kelley and to establish a Korean studies fellowship in his name.

Since no one is really sure if Mr. Kelley is breathing or not, he was not the highlight of the fundraiser. Indeed, an “anonymous” donor pledged a million dollars if a million was raised. I do not know if the goal was achieved. It is possible the Korean focus might have undercut some fundraising potentialities.

Anyway, I am not in San Francisco. When I asked some folks on the Hill why they were not there, they said they were too busy. When I asked a leading scholar on Japanese security why he was not even invited, he responded he would not have gone even if he were.

Updated 3/28/09


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