Saturday, November 14, 2009


Appalled, amazed, and bewildered seemed to be the feelings of the small group of Japan experts gathered at the Japanese Embassy. Mike Green was speaking about the success of the US-Japan relations under the Bush Administration and how much Japan was involved in the war on terror. He had been Asia director at the National Security Council in the White House.

I am afraid I do not remember the date or the exact topic, or even much of what he said. The evening talk was shortly after he left the Bush Administration. He began by highlighting the new strength of the relationship with three stories, each of which featured himself: in the oval office with President Bush talking to Koizumi, greeting Japanese troops after being dropped off in Kuwait by President who was on his way to Afghanistan, and visiting the Khyber Pass with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage only to find an intrepid Japanese aid mission.

Gosh, there was so much name-dropping going on in the first five minutes of that presentation is is near impossible to remember whatever else he said. Indeed, in the Washington "game" whoever can say he advised a sitting President wins. The player no longer has to name drop as the game has been won, hands down.

He then went on about how Japan was beginning to live up to its military responsibilities, that China was hegemonistic , and North Korea duplicitous. In all, he sung the praises of Bush Administration foreign policy and its close association with Japan's conservative LDP. The political costs of an "alliance" not welcomed among the Japanese people was never fathomed.

More important, the feisty, patronizing young conservative had put his elders in the audience on edge. Mike had been in Washington a long time. He was no Ivy-Leaguer and had gotten his PhD from Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington. Everyone had seen him grow up.

Finally, Ayako Doi, a seasoned journalist, got up and asked the question on everyone's mind, but did not dare ask this now clearly powerful Alliance Manager. She stammered a bit and said that so much of what he had just said was so different from what he used to say. Before, he seemed to be more liberal, more open-minded, and more critical. "Mike," she said, "I thought we knew you....why have you changed so much?"

I swear everyone held their breath.

His answer was a broad smile, a laugh, and the comment "well, I drank the Kool-aide"!

Appalled, amazed, and bewildered everyone remained.

Today, November 18th, is the 31st anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre from which that political term is derived. As I tell my interns, it means that you have been so brain-washed, so weak-willed, so without independent thought that you believe your leaders so uncritically that you are willing to drink poison for their cause.

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