Sunday, June 20, 2010

Requiem for the Alliance

From the afternoon of Thursday June 17 until late into the evening of Friday June 18th, Washington's Alliance Managers and their Japanese cohorts reassured themselves that a US-Japan Alliance existed and will continue to be necessary.  They praised the hapless former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama as helping bring about a discussion that ended, they believe, in ensuring the importance of the "alliance."

New to their rationales for the Alliance is that it is a "common good" from which all the Asia-Pacific benefits. The "pillars", "lynchpins", and "cornerstones"--the architectures of the Alliance--are giving way to some sort of cosmic public good. A newbie to the dialogue, Daniel Twining from the German Marshall Fund of all places, emphasized what he said was Mike Green's "bumper sticker" of an "ideal-ational balance"in Asia. Common values, ideals will shape the Alliance.

In a long, plodding series of seminar-style talks, nearly every one of Japan's handful of security-interested English speakers(Yukio Okamoto was strangely missing) talked the language of military security. They teamed with all the American Alliance promotors old and new. Missing here were Michael Auslin from AEI and Shelia Smith from CFR who are generally the new spokesmodels of the Alliance.

Of the 39 speakers, only two were women. National Defense Academy Professor Takako Hikotani was a last minute addition to the panel on Global Commons and Yuriko Koike, LDP deputy party head and fleeting Defense Minister. Koike gave a snarky anti-DPJ dinner keynote, confirming that the LDP really got nothing and that she did not even succeed at sleeping her way to the middle.

The only members of the DPJ were keynote speakers Parliamentary Vice Minister of Defense Akihisa Nagashima and Acting DPJ General Secretary Goshi Hosono. It was frankly difficult to discern above the dim of bro-mance in room from their extraordinarily direct, muscular pro-military talks if these men were on or off the DPJ reservation. Tall, handsome, and English-speaking these were the kind of Japanese white men could easily relate to and white women might actually consider sleeping with (the holy grail, I am told for Japanese men).

Center for New American Security's Patrick Cronin was the only voice of reflection. As the last speaker of the last panel at nearly 7pm on a Friday night, he warned the few gathered that maybe they should not be so sanguine about what looked like a revived Alliance. After all, he noted, there was no one from Okinawa in the room. The US needed to get to know the DPJ. He emphasized that it was most important to "respect those who were not in the room" that day.

Despite the brief downer, it was a self-congratulatory two days of "we made it through the crisis and the Alliance is back." The ultra-conservative Sasakawa family of foundations was the funder: Nippon Foundation, Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Tokyo Foundation, and the Ocean Policy Research Foundation. Yohei Sasakawa, himself, opened up the conference.

Unlike the previous conferences hosted on the Alliance by these foundations in Washington, this one was not at CSIS. CNAS was the American host. Apparently, there are more formerly CNAS members in the Administration than from CSIS.

I will write more on the gathering, but I have already written too much. I was inspired to write by how the Nippon Foundation succinctly entitled the meeting on its website. Program documents say 150 Years of Amity and 50 Years of Alliance: Adopting an Enhanced Agenda for the U.S.-Japan Partnership.

However, the Nippon Foundation gave it a more fitting heading: Memorial Symposium for the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in Washington. In English, one has a "memorial" for something that is dead.


  1. Some of the Japanese media are getting it at least. In the words of one enterprising reporter after the proceedings, "There is no news here."

    My feeling was that on several occasions, the Japanese participants were hinting that the "crisis" was a bigger deal than the American managers were making out, and that significant problems lay ahead. The most direct were Hikotani and Yoshimasa Hayashi. The latter is from the LDP, and his criticism can probably be written off as partisanship. The former is a good example of why you don't invite chicks to a boys slumber party, unless they will make out with everyone.

  2. Most women would rather eat paint off the side of a house than spend more time than necessary with the sorry array of manhood present at the assembly.


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