Thursday, April 15, 2010

Call me

He looked back from the elevator. The Japanese reporters’ gaggle was still blocking the hallway. He was clearly weary of the repeated questioning of the reaction to the Hatoyama Administration's proposals.

But now the camera's were off and the questions had been parried. He gave the current standard that the US was waiting for a concrete proposal and one that reflected the wishes of the Japanese people. I suspect he found the basement of CSIS as stifling as everyone else.

Away from the reporters, he tried to catch the eye of his old friend and former business partner. He shouted “Mike, Mike,” and then raised his hand to his ear gesturing as if it were a telephone handset while saying “Call Me.” Then he disappeared into the elevator.

There you have it, the Obama Administration’s Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Kurt Campbell had just asked the Bush Administration’s Japan National Security Council Japan manager and CSIS Toyota Japan Chair Michael Green to call him.

No wonder the Hatoyama Administration is failing so miserably. They have no friends in Washington. The same old Alliance Managers are consulting with the same old Alliance Managers. These men still wallow in the illusions and money created by generations of gaijin handlers. Their believed their select Japanese friends that the US and Japan were moving toward a working military Alliance. 

Stripped of their gaijin handling intermediaries, the Managers are adrift when confronted with the reality that the Japanese are not keen on the Alliance or the United States. In an understated essay, Weston Konishi (who of course cannot find a permanent position in Washington) found that US-Japan relations were not "as rosy" as they are said to be. His analysis of public opinion data finds "Barring a removal of Marines outside of Japan, it is reasonable to assume that the United States will take a PR hit in Japan no matter what course is taken on Futenma, furtherweakening America’s standing amongst the Japanese public."

Adding to the confusion, is the added reality that American Alliance Managers have few skills in understanding or working with Japanese who actually act Japanese, as do Mr. Hatoyama and his populist followers.

The result seems to be a constant, condescending assault on Japanese sensibilities. American impatience has manifested itself as bullying and punishing the Hatoyama government. A new strategy is emerging, which is simply to embarrass publicly the prime minister, whether by denying him a private meeting with the President or leaking the following to the most-read writer in the Washington Post--the gossip columist Al Kamen:
By far the biggest loser of the extravaganza was the hapless and (in the opinion of some Obama administration officials) increasingly loopy Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. He reportedly requested but got no bilat. The only consolation prize was that he got an "unofficial" meeting during Monday night's working dinner. Maybe somewhere between the main course and dessert?

A rich man's son, Hatoyama has impressed Obama administration officials with his unreliability on a major issue dividing Japan and the United States: the future of a Marine Corps air station in Okinawa. Hatoyama promised Obama twice that he'd solve the issue. According to a long-standing agreement with Japan, the Futenma air base is supposed to be moved to an isolated part of Okinawa. (It now sits in the middle of a city of more than 80,000.)

But Hatoyama's party, the Democratic Party of Japan, said it wanted to reexamine the agreement and to propose a different plan. It is supposed to do that by May. So far, nothing has come in over the transom. Uh, Yukio, you're supposed to be an ally, remember? Saved you countless billions with that expensive U.S. nuclear umbrella? Still buy Toyotas and such?

Meanwhile, who did give Hatoyama some love at the nuclear summit? Hu did. Yes, China's president met privately with the Japanese prime minister on Monday.

For whatever reasons, by intent or ignorance, the Obama Administration Alliance Managers are feeding into the forces that wish to discredit and destabilize the Hatoyama Administration. Whether members of the DPJ's Seven Magistrates or the ultra-right spin off of the LDP, The Sunrise Party, they are old onsen friends of the American Alliances managers.

It is indeed as Lady Gaga sings in Bad Romance: 'Cause you're a criminal; As long as your mine; I want your love...

N.B.: In case you are wondering, Mike Green and Kurt Campbell were together again in the basement conference room of CSIS scoring points with their next clients, the Malaysians. Once an Alliance Manager, you can become an expert on any Asian country. The new Malaysian government has hired expensive advocates in Washington. One result was the Prime Minister meeting with Obama, another a lunch with Congressional leadership, and a perfunctory conference at CSIS. Grateful for the fresh cash and the smell of more, Green showed off his old friend now the Assistant Secretary to a sleepy group of maybe 30 people interested in US-Malaysian relations. It was not the usual CSIS crowd, too many people only marginally employed. But it must have made money for CSIS as there was no food or drink, no substance, no coherence, and no handouts. To be sure, it is hard in these situations to judge if this was mismanagement, cheapness, or just condescension to the audience.

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