Thursday, June 18, 2009

Japan's Changing Role?

Next Thursday, at 10:00 am, the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing on Japan.

Titled, Japan's Changing Role, the hearing will feature Professor Joseph Nye from Harvard, Dr. Adam Posen from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and Dr. Mike Green from CSIS (he had to rearrange his schedule). Professor Kent Calder from Johns Hopkins SAIS is likely to be added.  

First, what kind of question is that? Japan's role has not changed for years. It is the land of America's forward bases in Asia and passive aggressive acceptance of this situation. Japan's success at avoiding its responsibilities as an ally and as an Asian power are engrained deep in Japanese politics.

That said, it is merely wishful if not wistful thinking by Team Armitage to believe in change. And the change they desire--an effective Japanese fighting force supporting US foreign policy--is not the same change as desired by the majority of Japanese. 

Next, why is Team Armitage testifying? All, except Calder are Team members*. They are all critics of Obama's nascent Japan policy and appalled that Joe Nye was not made US Ambassador to Japan. They remain defensive and proud of their failed Japan policy. It is foolish to assume that Nye might say something interesting now that he is no longer campaigning for the ambassadorship. He is more political than scholarly, thus he is always marketing himself. Soft Power indeed.

Adam Posen is an monetary policy expert who has seen Japan from the back of a limousine and often predicted the collapse of its economy. None of his analysis on Japan is based reality nor has it ever been correct and he has not focused on Japan recently. He will be leaving the Peterson Institute this summer to join the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee. They can have him.

Finally, the House of Representatives is supposedly controlled by the Democrats. Thus, I am at a loss as to why the House Committee on Foreign Affairs finds it beneficial to attack the Democratic Administration. The hearing as structured can be interpreted as nothing else. It certainly is not going to introduce any new ideas. Unlike the North Korea hearing mentioned below, there are no expectations for Chairman Eni Faleomavaega to hold a thoughtful discussion. But still, to challenge the Administration on Japan at a delicate time in Asia seems foolish, at best.

Anyway, the hearing will be webcast for you to judge yourself.

*Calder does not agree with many of Armitage's premises about Japan. Armitage is also a competitor for consulting contracts and Tokyo's affections.

1 comment:

  1. Now I got it, the Armitage boys want a nuke Japan. That'll go down well with the Hiroshima peace industry here. Hmm. Armitage? That reminds Our Man, the urinals in his favourite pubs in England were emblazoned with the maker's name: "Armitage Shanks". Any relation?


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