Monday, April 20, 2009

Abe Shinzo Returns

Asahi Shimbun's Washington reporter Yoichi Kato clapped enthusiastically along with Sankei Shimbun's Washington eminence grise Yoshihisa Komori. They joined the others in the packed auditorium at Brookings applauding Shinzo Abe's speech, A New Era Requires a New Political Will.

Surely, the former prime minister knows a lot about "political will." 

Strobe Talbot, Brookings' president, introduced Abe as a "statesman of great stature" and a "voice of experience and wisdom."

Abe then said all the things an Alliance manager yearned to hear (or wrote to be read aloud). He was decidedly internationalist and emphasized how Japan was working to be a responsible international partner. Japan would learn from its past mistakes, appreciate what has been done for it, and contribute more to the global community.

He began his speech with an appreciation of the work of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was contrite about Japan having not listened to American's financial advice during Japan's 'Lost Decade.'

He touted his accomplishments with better relations with China, with promoting the environment, and emphasizing innovation for tomorrow's Japan. He was all about "I." He was the innovator and risk taker; he was the one who knew what needed to be done:

I was the one who made a fence-mending trip from Japan to China. Indeed, Beijing was the destination I chose to visit first as Prime Minister. I can now admit it was fun to disappoint those pundits who had argued for some time, that Shinzo Abe, as Prime Minister, would damage Japan-China relations. On the contrary, my trip laid the foundation for a bilateral relationship that is win-win for both sides. The Japanese and the Chinese are now enriching what we call our "mutually-beneficial strategic relationship." I think that I did a job that was vital because as I said just now, China must work with us. 

And he spoke, as he always has, of the importance of statesmen who had the will to transcend the people's short term comforts for a greater vision:
In democracies, statesmen are a critical part of the system. They hear the vox populi, and do what ought to be done, though it may be bitter, rather than easy to digest. Therefore, the strong wills of the statesmen count most. That is what I tell myself, every day when I wake up
So ended Abe's speech. He took questions and showed a bit more of his dogmatic side when talking about the abductees or China's military build up.

In all, Abe left the crowd wondering if the failed prince was running for prime minister again. If so, why is the campaign starting in Washington? Would his gracious carefully choreographed reception by Americans help impress the voters back home? 


NB: If I can find the time I will relate more on the rest of Abe's week.


  1. A fine man, Shinzo. Wonder if it could not be arranged for him to remain in D.C. permanently in a post befitting him? Something like a think tank related to the Hollow Earth theory or something similar?

  2. >If so, why is the campaign starting in Washington?

    Because if he tried to start it in Japan, talking about his statesmanlike morning routine, he would be laughed right out of the room. In the presence of Washington's alliance managers, he is safe.

  3. Dear Anon,
    True, but the room was full of Japanese. Only Japanese TV covered the talk. And it was the Japanese who were clapping so enthusiastically. I was very out of place sitting there in stunned silence. ...then again I am out of place wherever I go.


If I am unamused, your comment will not be posted.