Sunday, September 20, 2009

F-22s But Again

As reported in The Cable, one of Washington's best foreign policy reads, Senator Dan Inouye (D-HI) holds onto the idea that Japan should be allowed to purchase F-22 Raptors, the American fifth generation fighter plane.

The Cable has a nice review of the issue and how just about every Obama official has made it clear that no more Raptors are going into production and that no foreign country will be allowed access to its technology.

I guess Senator Inouye did not get the memos that the F-22 is not for sale and that there has been a change of government in Japan with a political leadership now uninterested in offensive weapons. Or maybe the congressional affairs minister in the Japanese Embassy in Washington has not received them as well.

The Cable, the "inside baseball" report on Washington's foreign policy movers and shakers, is now edited by the very able Josh Rogin a Japan hand. Gambatte!

Friday, September 18, 2009

"For many years I was out of power"


Press Availability at U.S. Embassy Tokyo Auditorium

Kurt M. Campbell
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Tokyo, Japan
September 18, 2009

QUESTION: Do you have…(inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CAMPBELL: Yes. But I also think we have a new team in place. I've been fortunate over the course of the last several years. For many years I was out of power. The Democrats in Japan have been out of power. So we got to know each other, and so it’s been good. Many of these relationships for us are not new ones. We’ve had dialogue over many years, and I think we will see a range of discussion taking place at the political level and also at the Foreign Ministry. I will say that you will see over the course of the next several weeks very intensive discussions with Americans coming to Tokyo and also Japanese interlocutors coming to the United States. I think that's important, and I think it will be valuable to make sure that we are in the closest possible consultations.

[Now please understand, my inbox just filled up with this. For a moment I thought it was spam.]

Happy New Year - 5770

Ida Kohlmeyer (American, 1912-1997)
Memories of My Youth, 1983
Oil on canvas; 48 x 47 1/2 in. (121.9 x 120.7 cm)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Apology, But Not Sorry

In today's Dallas Morning News there was a surprising article on the lingering affects of torture and how hard it is to forgive the torturers.

It is not, however, about the terrorist suspects tortured by American agents. Instead, was about the few remaining survivors of the infamous 1942 Bataan Death March on the Philippines. This horrific trek was followed by Hell Ships and years of suffering as POWs of Japan mainly as slave laborers for private Japanese companies.

Only this May did the Ambassador from Japan offer an apology. Even then it was only a reconstructed Murayama war apology statement reworded to include the Bataan Death March. Corregidor, and POWs from "other places."

Interestingly, the Ambassador's statement was never published in English or Japanese by the Japanese government. The Embassy has also refused to clarify what Japanese word was intended when the English "apologize" was used. The nuances in Japan's apology words make a difference.

The Dallas journalist asked the men, all in their 90s, how they felt about the May apology and the possibility of being finally included in a peace and reconciliation program for POWs. Since 1995, a Peace, Friendship, and Exchange Initiative program invited Allied POWs and their families to Japan. The program also funded limited research on the topic.

The survivors quoted in the article had remained bitter and unforgiving. The brutality and inhumanity of their captors was beyond civil comprehension. The risk taken by the Japanese Ambassador was unappreciated.

For all of the men, the apology was seen as "a little late." There were too few left to hear it.

The possible invitation program, as they understood it, just seemed hypocritical. There are not many 90-year olds who can travel to Japan. As one said, "It just doesn't make any sense for us to go over there now." Others said they have no interest in reliving the painful memories of captivity.

"To me, it's a sick joke," said Bill Adair, a 92-year-old retired Army major from Dallas. "Why in the hell are they just getting around to apologizing now?

The answer is really quite simple. No one before this past year had coordinated American politicians with Japanese politicians in an effort to seek an apology for the POWs. It is significant that there is now political interest and effort in Japan to resolve lingering history issues.

To be sure, this interest is not supported by the conservative, ruling LDP. But they are on their way out, something the Japanese Foreign Ministry had long been cognizant of if not preparing for. It will be the DPJ that will be working with a bi-partisan group of American congressmen and senators.

It also helped that Japan's departing prime minister, Taro Aso, comes from a family that used Allied POWs in its mines. For years Mr. Aso denied that this happened. Only this year was he forced to admit it, which helped highlight the issue internationally.

The task, now left, is for the Obama Administration to put its weight behind encouraging Japan to do the right thing toward members of America's greatest generation. Thus far, the issue has been a nuisance and tepidly received. The Alliance Managers continue to maintain a rigid understanding of the elements of the U.S.-Japan Alliance.

And lastly, the Japanese Foreign Ministry needs to consult with the veterans and scholars as to what would actually be an appropriate Peace, Friendship and Exchange Initiative for remembering the American POWs. Simply inviting the few ambulatory old men to Japan is cynical.

The Initiative is an incredible opportunity to initiate the long-delayed dialogue on the Pacific War between the U.S. and Japan. A program that includes families, scholars, NGOs, political actors, researchers, and public programs can ensure that the dialogue is broad and constructive. Most important, it can put the "sorry" in Japan's apology.

N.B.: I had absolutely nothing to do with this article, was not interviewed for it, and was surprised that it was published. So don't blame me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Observation on a DPJ Government

I have been inspired by Our Man in Abiko's effort to explain the DPJ victory. He is not generally known for sober analysis; but that is what makes it worth reading.

As I am not allowed yet to drink, I fear the observations below will not be as interesting. You will have to do the drinking yourself, first.

It should not have been a surprise to anyone that the DPJ won the August 30th Lower House election. By this summer, all the polls showed that the voters had simply no faith whatsoever in the too-long ruling LDP. The Japanese called them for what they were: out-of-touch, corrupt nincompoops.

Yes, the Japanese people are skeptical of the DPJ and they should be. But the vote finally reflected the values and opinions of the average Japanese, as gauged by myriad social and political surveys over the past 15 years. None of these polls ever showed an affinity to the LDP’s proto-nationalist, glorious history, military-security agenda. None showed any interest in foreign policy, changing the constitution, or strengthening any alliance with the U.S. And certainly no one wanted to go back to Tokugawa feudalism or Showa’s police state.

It is not that Japan has suddenly changed. It has not. Japan’s money politics and back-room wheeling and dealing is not over. For a while, however, a few ideals will guide the new policymakers. The desire to have the people’s will reflected in bureaucrat’s decisions is democracy in its purest form. It is difficult to attain and more difficult to maintain.

The record 54 women now in the Diet are no fluke or merely manipulative male politics. This election was an election on “women’s issues.” The focus was home, health, and family. This is how the Japanese people have identified their insecurities and defined security. National prestige and threat-based military power—the LDP’s measurements of security--fell flat with the voters. Japan is looking inward.

The Japanese people have long mistrusted, resisted, and even undermined the U.S. The failure to move Futenma, the wavering faith in America’s nuclear umbrella, and the demise of the U.S. auto industry are reflective of these feelings. Surveys show a positive albeit fast dropping confidence in the U.S. No matter who is in power in Japan, the U.S. is destined for a great deal of obstructionism on foreign policy and trade.

The DPJ is likely to focus it foreign policy on defusing regional tensions in Asia. They will not do it, however, through the misuse of history, threats of nuclear armament, or building any sort of security architecture. They plan to approach Asia at its most fundamental, essential emotive level. The DPJ will hopefully and finally make the appropriate apologies and compensation for Imperial Japan’s Pacific War. The DPJ will dial down its rhetoric with North Korea, untangle the Abductees issue from the Rightists’ agenda, and focus on denuclearization. And whatever the DPJ means about making the U.S.-Japan alliance “equal” it is foremost about taking on new responsibilities, not merely about shedding old ones.

The task Obama’s White House has with Japan is the same it has worldwide: rebuilding trust and confidence in America’s words and deeds. For now too many DPJ foreign policy bigwigs believe that 9/11 was a conspiracy and discount American security requests as self-serving. As Obama’s Japan team has found with the LDP, a lot of work needs to go into reassurance and confidence building. The DPJ’s supposed anti-globalization tack also reflects larger, global distrust of the uncertainties of international economic interdependence. Again, Japan is turning inward.

With the new DPJ government more work and creativity needs to go into defining what responsibilities Washington expects Tokyo to assume. It was disheartening earlier this month when well-known Alliance Managers brushed off declarations by visiting DPJ members that they were going to work to resolve the history issues. It was equally disconcerting that the Administration’s strongest public statement to the newly elected DPJ was a list of things Washington would not consider or negotiate. There is much to encourage among the DPJ’s aspirations; and to not do so will certainly undermine any alliance.

Maybe the real surprise in the election it is that official Washington has been so resistant and uncomfortable with change in Japan. The new Japanese government was met with reprimand and hesitancy. The U.S.-Japan Alliance is due in for some reexamination. Democracy is messy.

New York Times Online Today

Hatoyama's Japan

Published: September 9, 2009, The New York Times, Letter to the Editor

Yukio Hatoyama (“A new path for Japan,” Views, Aug. 27) indicated a desire to move Japan closer to Asia and an intention to adjust the U.S.-Japan relationship to that of two equals.

Implicit in this shift is Mr. Hatoyama’s desire for Japan to play a large role in building a more cohesive and influential Asia. But Japan is still a country burdened heavily with debts from the past.

As Mr. Hatoyama, who is likely to become the next prime minister of Japan, navigates through the rivalry between the United States and China, he should keep in mind that no matter how hard Japan may want to play a meaningful role in Asia, to the eyes of so many Asians, Japan’s leaders too often look back to its imperialistic past with considerable nostalgia.

In order to bring Asia together, Japan must first correct this.

Sung-Chull Junn, Seoul

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Political Humor

Bulletin News is a Washington publisher of several popular, expensive insider reports on the White House, Congress, and the political media. As a public service, the company also publishes every weekday morning a free email bulletin highlighting the hot political news of the day.

At the end of each report, it lists some of the better jokes by American late night comedians. This small section help makes the day more bearable. You can sign up for this bulletin HERE.


David Letterman: "There's rumors that Dick Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney, may run for president in 2012. 2012. No, no. That's his cholesterol."

David Letterman: "I remember when the Obamas first moved in and the Bush girls were given the Obama girls a tour of the White House. And the little girls got scared because they heard the organ music coming from Dick Cheney's underground dungeon."

Conan O'Brien: "Earlier today, President Obama delivered a speech to America's schoolchildren. And he encouraged them to work hard and study hard. ... Yeah, then he said if that doesn't work, grab the seat next to the Asian kid."

Conan O' Brien: President Obama "told them, this is a quote, 'Be careful what you post on facebook.' That's what he said. Obama then told them about bad things that could happen, like the time he accidentally friended Joe Biden."

Craig Ferguson: "Some Republicans were so mad" about Obama's speech to schoolchildren, "they had Dick Cheney give a rebuttal. He showed kids the proper way to stuff a geek into a locker."

Jimmy Fallon: "The President also said that kids -- he told them if they study hard, the United States will continue to prosper. Then he added, 'But just to be safe, bone up on your Chinese.'"

Monday, September 7, 2009


In late August, the New York Times ran an article in its Business Section on criticism. Not surprisingly, the experts observed that "people take criticism a lot better if their boss (or spouse or parent) isn’t too stingy with positive feedback."

In the middle of the article, Shinobu Kitayama, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, identified clear differences in the reaction to criticism in the American and Japanese cultures.

“In general, it seems as if criticism is very hard to take in contemporary American culture,” Professor Kitayama said. “It’s seen as a threat or an attack on self-esteem or as violating social rules. In Japanese culture, self-esteem is important, but more important is improving yourself.”

Another scholar noted that "failure feedback is motivating for Japanese while success feedback is motivating for Americans."

With this in mind, I read Washington Post editor Jim Hoagland's Sunday, September 6th op ed "Change They Can't Believe In."

He was critical of political change in Japan and wary of the expected challenges it would pose to American security goals. As he writes:

But Japan's upheaval also presents Obama with a significant challenge in Asia. The president will have to walk a fine line in correctly identifying and strengthening the moderates in the new government while containing the coalition's left- and right-wing extremists.

And the president has done himself no favor at this moment by choosing John Roos, a California lawyer and a mega-fundraiser for Obama in 2008, as his ambassador to Tokyo. Over time, Obama's complicity with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in stuffing the most important U.S. embassies with campaign bagmen instead of experienced foreign policy professionals will come back to haunt this White House -- nowhere more so than in Japan.

The complaint that a non-Japan hand is U.S. Ambassador is ironic. Recent ambassadors who have been, such as Armin H. Meyer (1969-1972) and Michael Armacost (1989-1993) , were reportedly greatly disliked by the Japanese government and found their efforts obstructed at every turn.

Hoagland was also skeptical that the DPJ would temper its rhetoric, as

that assumption neglects political reality: Elections for the Diet's upper house are only a year away. The Democrats need to win a clear majority to consolidate their power, and they are unlikely to risk being caught abandoning campaign promises before then.

He continues by doubting the new government's commitment to the U.S.-Japan alliance and again the new American ambassador's ability to manage the change. Hoagland assumes (incorrectly I might add) that the Hatoyama Administration will not have an alternative to the refueling mission for supporting coalition (not just American) troops in Afghanistan.

Chances are slim to none of the Diet renewing Japanese refueling operations that support U.S. forces in Afghanistan. That decision, due in January, could open a difficult passage in America's most important bilateral relationship in Asia. Let's hope that Ambassador Roos is wise enough to let the experienced Asia team Obama has assembled in Washington steer the policy ship.

And Hoagland concludes by echoing the speakers at the CSIS Japan event mentioned below who emphasized that the bureaucrats were essential to managing the Alliance. They should be appreciated not cast aside, as

Among them are individuals who have served their country honorably while being faithful U.S. friends. For official American words or acts to undercut or discredit them would diminish one of the great diplomatic successes of the 20th century and gain Obama nothing lasting with the new bosses in Tokyo.

It seems to me, that by taking cause with Japan's career officials, Hoagland and others are criticizing the DPJ politician's ability to make informed governing decisions. And by praising the ties with these "permanent" government managers, Hoagland is warning that the DPJ is not destined to last long.

This is maybe just the kind of criticism the DPJ needs to become motivated, if you believe the Times.

A Voice Heard

There has been much speculation and research on how an abridged translation of Yukio Hatoyama's now controversial VOICE article ended up being syndicated to the Tribune Media Services who distributed it to the Christian Science Monitor, the Huffington Post, and the International Herald Tribune, among others. Because the International Herald Tribune (no relation to Tribune Media Services) does not have its own website, the translation appeared on its parent company's website (not print edition) that just so happened to be the New York Times.

Appearing in the Times was an accident of technology not an editorial choice.

There has also been speculation as to whom in Mr. Hatoyama's office authorized the translation and its distribution. This remains unclear. However, the source of the translation has been discovered. It was reportedly done by a Christian missionary group, Frontier Labourers for Christ.

Maybe that explains a lot.

Later: One of my commentators believes that the translation company FLC was actually, GlobalLink FLC. This makes more sense. I will ask again.

Later Later: My source is now frankly not sure if the translation company was GlobalLink FLC or Freud Co., Ltd. Now, it appears that the Frontier Labourers for Christ are off the hook.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Question

MR. SCHIEFFER: Ambassador Paul Wolfowitz is over here.

Q: Hi. Paul Wolfowitz, AEI. This has sort of been addressed, I guess, with the last question, but I’m curious whether any of you think that the desire to improve relations with China might push Japan to do something more than just fewer visits to Yasukuni Shrine. It’s striking, when you compare Japan and Germany, what a great job the Germans have done in addressing their past and what a poor job the Japanese have done. And they talk about improving relations with China and yet, this always comes up as an issue with China. Do you think there’s any possibility, with all the other issues they have to address, that they might do something more than, just, not too many visits to Yasukuni?

MR. GREEN: Joe Nye said, in the early ’70s, that this history issue would take at least three generations to reconcile. And I’ve never known how long a generation is, but I don’t think we’re there yet.

MR. CAMPBELL: Twenty years.

MR. CLEMONS: Twenty years.

MR. GREEN: Twenty years? Well, not too long from now. The difference, obviously, I think between Japan and China and France and Germany is that the Chinese have not done what France obviously could do, which is internal reconciliation about their own history and the history of the Communist Party. And in my view, until China can reconcile internally, it won’t happen with Japan – not to put all of the burden on China, but that’s one big obstacle. On the Japanese side, the more taboos fade and the more debate there is, the harder it is to keep people quiet and the more voices will come out on history issues that make it difficult. But as I was saying earlier, I think we are entering a period where, at least, there will be some thawing, and maybe we’ll sort of ratchet it down for the longer term. Or maybe we’ll be in for a roller coaster a little while.

The above question was offered at the CSIS program on September 2nd examining the Japanese election. There is so much wrong and discouraging with the above one does event know where to begin.

The exchange begins bizarrely with a question from a man who has his own issues with war responsibility. Maybe, Amb Wolfowitz can be interviewed on the issue of shame vs. guilt?

Generations? Well, most scholars who study Japan's history issues believe that the critical change for Germany to confront its history was the shift from the conservative Christian Democrats to the more liberal Social Democrats. This now appears to have finally happened in Japan. Is a Hatoyama kniefall next? On the technical issue of what is a generation, scholars generally say it is about 30 years.

France has reconciled with its own history? Since when? It has only been essentially within the last decade that the French have admitted that not everyone was a noble resistance fighter. And the infamous Holocaust transit station Camp des Milles is only now being restored as a museum and research center. A major contributor to this is the building materials giant LaFarge. This is the same company that now owns most of Aso Mining and the mines which employed Chinese and POW slave labor.

China has to confront its own history? Well, sure, but since when does that have to happen before there is a frank and honest discussion in a Japan that is supposedly an open, free, and democratic country. Green's statement is a near quote from so many Japanese ultra-rightist polemicists. These are the same guys who think the U.S. tricked Japan into the war, believe the Rape of Nanking never happened, and threaten people with bodily harm if they disagree. But these are the same Japanese who work with American administrations to secure the alliance, advocate for a strong military, and keep a hostile attitude toward China.

The fact is, the DPJ understands that if it is to move closer to Asia it needs to reconcile with Asia. The equivocal responses and defensive denials no longer are effective. The stock 1995 Murayama apology is stale and can be stretched only so far. It is my understanding that the DPJ leadership wants to make right by everyone: the slave labors, the comfort women, the Korean prison guards, and many others who were harmed by Imperial Japan's aggression and democratic Japan's denials.

It is sad, even alarming, that American Alliance Managers cannot see their way toward encouraging the DPJ in its promised efforts of war reconciliation. Cementing the peace is the prelude toward regional cooperation. Keeping Japan hostile-looking and slightly irrational seems counter-productive, if not a bit too cold waresque.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

In Memoriam

There has been much sadness in Washington of late for the passing of great men. To leave this life having improved the lives of others is a privilege few allow themselves.

Ken Bacon, president of Refugees International, was one of these decent people. As a journalist, a Defense Department press spokesman, and advocate for the dispossessed he was always a passionate spokesman for the most voiceless people in the world. He died on on August 15th at 63 of melanoma. The memorial service for Ken will be held at 11:00am on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at the Washington National Cathedral.

He possessed all the qualities that our high school tried to instill in us. We were blessed with strong bodies and extraordinary minds and the dons (teacher does not quite convey the power they had) every day demanded the best from us for the best, they said, was what the world needed. Our talents were not to be focused only on self-improvement or aggrandizement. We were to stick close to the school motto: Non Sibi [not for oneself].

Ken and I were friends. I often found him on the bus to Dupont Circle and we would discuss Japan's contributions to refugee issues. I had know him since the 1980s when I accidently became president of our high school's Washington alumni association.

This was a position that mainly entailed managing the annual dinner, explaining to the executive committee that no we could not hold events at the Cosmos Club because I and other alumnae refused to go in the back door (at the time women could not be members and were restricted to certain rooms), and attending funerals. The latter I would go to with one of my classmates who had a Porsche and who liked to demonstrate its performance capabilities; I always was grateful to return home alive.

My friendship with Ken was cemented when he came to my rescue.

In the late 1980s, I wrote an article for an obscure and now defunct journal on Japanese lobbying in Washington. In it I mentioned the curious history of the Japanese Embassy-sponsored Japan Economic Institute (JEI). The Institute played a particularly interesting role in the textile row in the early 1970s. Their unregistered lobbying persuaded prominent members of Congress like Wilbur Mills, who was considering a run against then President Richard Nixon. Mills apparently cut and announced a deal with Japan on the textile dumping problem. Unfortunately, Nixon was not informed of it. His vengeance is legend and it certainly was in this case. The results were the famous Nixon Shocks and the IRS coming down hard on JEI and Mills.*

Well, the JEI of the late 1980s was a very different place than the 1960s and early 70s. It was an extremely valuable resource and had an excellent library, which I often used. About a month after the article was published, I happened to attend a meeting at JEI. When the meeting ended the new executive director called me into her office and started screaming at me. She was very annoyed with the article of which JEI only took up two paragraphs. I asked if I reported anything wrong or inaccurate. No, she said, it just did not needed to be brought up again. And she ended by declaring that I was banned from ever coming in JEI again.

Needless to say I was in tears (and so was my friend who worked at JEI). I first sobbed to a friend who was an actual Japan lobbyist. He thought the incident funny and said it would blow over. Then I collected myself and did what any graduate of one of the most connected high schools in America would: pick up the phone and call alums. Thus I told the story to the president of the Washington Post, a Senate staffer, and Ken Bacon who was then with the Wall Street Journal.

Ken was most amused by the incident and quickly dried my tears. He said he probably would not write about it, but he would make a call. A school boy mischievousness floated in his voice. The next day he called me back. He reported that he had phoned JEI and had asked the director "how long have they had this practice of banning people?"

I can only say he died way too young; there was so much more good for him to do. I will miss him very much.

Requiescat in pace et in amore

*The Textile Wrangle by I.M. Destler is a good history of this incident. After the textile debacle Wilbur Wills was in over his head with Japan and he, as chair of the Japan Society, was tasked with accepting the first check from Japan (Sumitomo Heavy) to influence the policy discussion on Japan. The check for $1 million was originally intended to go to Brookings, but President Kermit Gordon was old school (like Ken Bacon) and refused to accept funds from the countries the Institution studied. The deal was then to give it to the Japan Society and most of it to go back down to Brookings. There is a wonderful picture in the Japan Society annual report of Mills accepting the check from the Chair of Sumitomo Heavy.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thank You Mom

One of my favorite museums and one that I have visited all my life, is the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. MOMA does not just try to show how artists makes sense and order of the modern world. It also celebrates how artists can make the modern world a better place. Their exhibits of contemporary design have always been my favorite.

Until September 7th, MOMA is featuring an exhibit of the contents of a Chinese home. As is noted on the website:
Beijing-based artist Song Dong (b. 1966) explores notions of transience and impermanence with installations that combine aspects of performance, video, photography, and sculpture. Projects 90, his first solo U.S. museum show, presents his recent work Waste Not. A collaboration first conceived of with the artist's mother, the installation consists of the complete contents of her home, amassed over fifty years during which the Chinese concept of wu jin qi yong, or "waste not," was a prerequisite for survival. The assembled materials, ranging from pots and basins to blankets, oil flasks, and legless dolls, form a miniature cityscape that viewers can navigate around and through.
Gee, thanks mom for giving me an art career! Was my first reaction. But there is more to it, especially if you are interested in understanding your Chinese colleagues. How is their modern material universe different from yours? What do you really find when you open your home for all to see? You can find photos, videos (like the one above), and essays on the installation HERE.

As I noted, an important feature of MOMA is to promote good design for everyday use. To this end, MOMA provides e-cards to send and has a wonderful shop.

If you join the museum, there is a 20% off sale at the shop September 9-13, which features items from Muji as well as household items and clothing from Japan and Korea made exclusively for MOMA exhibitions. As you can imagine, I am a big fan of the sale!

One fall, in flipping through the catalog I was taken by an Adam Frank shadow-projecting lamp. As the lamp's flame flickers, a shadow of a pine tree projects on the wall. I thought about a friend in Tokyo who was estranged from his children and working hard on weekends. His greatest joy, besides his children, was hiking in Japan's woods. Stuck in grey Tokyo, I thought how much he might appreciate having the forest come inside his apartment.

So it was ordered and given to friend to hand deliver for Christmas.

But this story has a post-modern ending. I don't know if it was appreciated as it was never acknowledged. And neither was that or subsequent new years, my publications, my birthday, or my illness.

I suspect, unlike Song Dong's mother's house, it still sits in a box somewhere, unexamined.

Later: The NY Times review HERE.

It is at once a record of a life, a history of a half-century of Chinese vernacular culture and a symbolic archive of impermanence.

Although new Chinese art has a reputation for brash iconoclasm, loss is really its big subject. Political Pop painting may be big at auctions, but much of the most interesting new work is less about attacking the powers that be than about regretting the diminishment of the powers that were, or might have been: familial cohesion, social stability and spiritual certainty. In this respect, China’s new art is very much on a continuum with its old art, specifically with the tradition of landscape painting with reiterated motifs of changing seasons, parting friends and dreams of a golden age.

One Fine Fall Day

As I am still struggling to put a complete thought together, I will follow Our Man in Abiko’s strategy of borrowing content. In fact, I am going to borrow from him.

Frankly, all the things I have been storing up to say are really best summed up in two of his recent posts. There is indeed something to his belief that all that selective use of the facts by self-promoting pundits is bollocks (yeah, I had to look it up too).

Amusingly, the speakers at the September 2nd CSIS Japan event referred to themselves as pundits! Washington has media personalities, not scholars or experts.

Anyway, nothing better summarizes the rough start of the DPJ era and its icy reception by the Obama Alliance Manager than this video.

It should be noted that I have sat through many a school concert that sounded like that. I did feign pride.

If there is harmony in the US-Japan relationship is mainly among Washington’s Alliance Managers. They are downright, visibly worried about the DPJ coming to power. They are fearful of change. They see their rolodexes, contracts, and air of exclusivity evaporating.

The initially curt White House and State Department spokesman’s statements welcoming Hatoyama were followed by nearly shrill--no, never, ever, nada, not gonna do it, don’t make me bitch slap ya--declarations that the US will most certainly not reconsider or renegotiate security-related agreements.

To add to this lack of imagination, Asst. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell
at the CSIS program made an astonishing (i.e., desperate) point of emphasizing that European allies of the US were pressing the DPJ to appreciate the importance of the Alliance. I am sure everyone involved was delighted with their roles in that one.

Hey guys, democracy has come the Japan. Maybe you should lighten up and hear what these politicians have to say.

Fortunately, albeit long after other heads of state had contacted Mr. Hatoyama, someone came to his senses and advised President Obama call the new leader of Japan. Soon after, U.S. Ambassador Roos rushed to meet with the presumptive prime minister, wedging himself in before the Russian ambassador. I guess someone remembered that the grandpa Hatoyama had a soft spot for the Russkies while thumbing his nose at Americans.

Now, all is good…that is until the next CSIS briefing trashing the DPJ. The program was all about doubt—doubt that this unproven, unknown group could fall in line with the U.S.

For a summary of the CSIS program see New Government in Japan—implication for US-Japan relations by Stimson’s Yuki Tatsumi. Although it looks like analysis, it is only a review of the conventional thinking aired in meeting albeit without quotes and attribution.

Tatsumi aptly ends her summary with a nod to CSIS’s Japan Chair Mike Green’s slip that the DPJ government might only last six months. As you will note on page 14 of the transcript, Mike says in a bit too animated a manner (hey I was there):

Kurt makes a very good point about where they’re going to focus their political capital. And I think, as Kurt suggests, they’re going to focus on changing the domestic political economy. Because the reality is, we’re all excited about this big change, but it’s possible that in three months or six months, these guys will be gone – that some crisis or some mismanagement could cause realignment. They have to win in the upper house election next summer.

You can watch the video or get the transcript HERE.

Another theme of CSIS meeting was a warning to the DPJ to better value the bureaucrats. The speakers sang their praises, especially Dr. Campbell. I can imagine how hard it is to lose such long-cultivated contacts. This did produce one of Green’s rare good jokes, “I’m thinking now of the headline from this panel, which is “Former and Current Bureaucrats and Staffers Tell Japan Be Good to Bureaucrats and Staffers.”

And since I have gone this far, I might as well mention the third speaker, Steve Clemons of the New American Foundation. As usual he was charming, affable and unmemorable. He was a bit more sympathetic to the DPJ and tried to note how much Japan has to offer the world. It is that leadership thing. Unfortunately, one of his examples was the Japanese head of UNESCO, who was raked over the coals this week by Le Monde in both French and English.

For analysis actually written the hard way, before the CSIS briefing, see what Our Man has to say HERE about the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Bruce Klingner’s New York Post op ed, America’s New Japan Challenge.

Our Man found it a bit tedious, at best. I suspect finding someone called “Bruce” was simply too much temptation for Our Man. As a Brit, he likely associates “Bruces” with Australians and Brits somehow feel superior to them.

Our Man is spot on. It was a plodding and contradictory piece. Yet, Bruce did try to provide some original analysis and draw some conclusions. Although he echoed all the angst and confusion of the established Alliance Managers, he still tried to think through the possibilities. This process of thinking, of course, exposed some contradictions that he could not resolve if he was to continue to bow to the Alliance Managers.

Bruce is a truly decent guy who is burdened with coming from the analytical side of the intelligence community. This has made him cautious, knowledgeable, thoughtful, soft spoken, and colorless. The in-crowd Alliance Managers rarely think to include him in their games even though he tries hard to toe their line. Part of the problem is that Bruce is a Korea expert and Heritage has not mattered in Washington since the first term of the Bush II Administration (and we all know how well that worked out).

This is all too bad. Maybe they should be a bit more afraid of him. After all, he is active in Korean martial arts and has attained third degree black belt in tae kwon do and first degree black belt in hapkido and teuk kong moo sool.

Later: What about the AEI program held just before the CSIS event that featured second tier Alliance Manager, you ask? Well, they had cookies and CSIS did not.