Showing posts with label blogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blogs. Show all posts

Friday, July 2, 2010

The men's room

More kudos for Steven Clemons and his blog The Washington Note. According to one of Steve's blast emails, Time Magazine cited his blog as one of their ten favorite.

They admired his inside reporting on the Washington foreign policy scene. It is true, his access sometimes seems incomparable. And he is always somewhere, especially places women dare not go. He also seems to spend as much time in airports as Tyler Brûlé and he isn't even Canadian.

The blog is very amusing, especially on the rare times he actually writes for it. Most of the serious posts are from guest bloggers. Otherwise, Steve aggregates or appropriates others' ideas and accomplishments. He organizes, moderates, and comments on policy issue programs. He is at the table.

Mostly, he talks about himself on his blog. There are lots of pictures of him and his dogs; and loads of description of the latest important sounding conference or person he is attending [sic].

He has big dogs.
My favorite post was during the 2008 Republican National Convention that he was purportedly blogging on, though the resulting posts were few and short on substance. He reports:

I've been having chats with quite a few hard core Republicans about this and that, including the Sarah Palin choice. In fact, I stood at a urinal next to Tom DeLay today at the St. Paul Hotel as we, well, you know. . .into a bunch of ice. He lamented how ice had sort of disappeared from most urinals and had become old-fashioned. We didn't get to Palin.

Yeah, like most women, she was not all that interesting anyway.

Steve is very popular in Washington. He got his start in Washington by helping Chalmers Johnson and a very brief stint at the Nixon Center. He is one of the "acceptable" Japan experts. The men of The Alliance Managers haul him out when they want someone to appear to disagree.

But Steve is the master of all and none. His foreign policy interests are only as deep and long as the topic is in the news. The don of this sort of self promotion is Richard Holbrooke who used to be a China hand. He is now the Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan who General Stanley McChrystal described to be "like a wounded animal." Holbrooke's immediate retort to this observation has everyone in DC pulling up their lawn chairs to watch the drama and probable demise.

 Steve has been observed also following Holbrooke into the men's room.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Michael J Green's Blog

This post was going to analyze the dearth of analysis and reporting on Secretary Robert Gates' visit to Tokyo last week. In the process of researching this piece, I stumbled across Michael J Green's Blog! This is much more fun.

This was a surprise as I did not think he even read blogs, let alone respected anything said on them. He is, after all, the Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an associate professor at Georgetown University, Vice Chair of the Japan-US Friendship Commission and involved in any and everything Japan in Washington. He is part of the Team Armitage Franchise and shared a consulting business with the current Assistant Secretary of State for Asia, Kurt Campbell.

I am mystified as to why he thinks he needs a blog. Although long out of office and wedded to the policies of the Bush Administration, journalists and government officials still call him. Thus, his is the anti-blog blog. It is on Foreign Policy Magazine's website under the Shadow Government blog.

In his latest of only three posts, he criticizes "Japan experts" who counseled patience with the Hatoyama Administration and who now "blog" that Gates provoked an unnecessary crisis with Japan. Blog? Those bloggers, how dare they! What makes them think they are relevant?

One problem, with his blog, besides its tedium and inability to use survey data properly, is its transparent use of Green's intern to write the posts. The most amusing indication of this is the declaration in his latest post that the failing alliance was being splashed on the October 22 front pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times. Huh?

Only the Washington Post published anything in print that day.

In fact, the print editions and editorial pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post have been strikingly quiet. Reporting has been brief and limited to the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Japanese press. Only the Post ran a front page story and only the Journal had an op ed. Even the wire service reports have been sparse and rarely found in print editions. There is no crisis to report.

What discussion there has been has been on the Internet, on the blogs. Some quite interesting, especially on the NBR Japan Forum. Old Japan hands dismiss the "newness" of the Japanese reaction and wonder at the sheer lack of understanding by those in Washington to Japan's sensibilities toward contracts, American troops, and the peace constitution. The so-called "golden age" of U.S.-Japan relations was a fabricated illusion woven from dramatically different value sets that seemed to have a common goal. It was unsustainable.

Here is the front page of the October 22nd New York Times. I also have a hard copy sitting besides me. I subscribe. No where is there any mention of Japan on the front page, and no where in the edition is there any mention of Japan.

It is unfortunate that Mr. Green's intern is not made to read the print Times every day like most professionals in Washington. Otherwise he would know that the Times would NEVER put a Reuters article (which is what his blog links to) on its front page. More important, if the intern had looked more carefully at the Reuters article on the Times website, it gave no page number for the print edition. If it had appeared in the Times, a page number would have been noted. Even in blogs you got to sweat the details to be taken seriously.

My advice: Mr. Green should shoot for less hyperbole, more humor, and more of himself in his blog. He may want to take lessons from Our Man in Abiko.

In the meantime, Mike welcome to my world!

P.S. Why is the photo leading into Green's blogpost about U.S.-Japanese relations showing US Secretary of Defense Gates with South Korea's Minister of National Defense Tae Young Kim at the 41st Republic of Korea – United States Security Consultative Meeting (SCM)? (the above photo is a more appropriate image) The flags or the Korean script should have been a give away. Or maybe there is a message here?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy Bloggers

Happy people do not blog. That is unless they are paid to do so.

This month, the MacArthur Foundation started a blog to support their Asia Security Initiative (ASI). They are paying selected bloggers $10,000/year to blog about the research supported by the Initiative. (I am not making this up.)

This blog, according to their website is to host "a discussion of current events and security challenges in the Asia-Pacific, drawing from the policy research of the Asia Security Initiative network. Anchored by six expert bloggers, the blog also includes contributions from leading Asia Security Initiative-supported experts."

As of yet, there is no Northeast Asia expert for the blog, but the Foundation is in the process of selecting him. Reporting on this region, for now, is by one of the MacArthur Foundation's ASI program administrators.

It is probably a good thing that this position is still unsettled. The primary job of the blogger is to promote the research of the specific think tanks ASI supports. This can run into a few difficulties. 

For one, most of the research and writing in Washington think tanks are mediocre reiterations of common knowledge by undergraduates hoping to please their status-seeking bosses. Another problem is that the think tanks selected feature people who have promoted a failed policy with Japan and the Northeast Asian region. They are all members of "Team Armitage." Last, the entire question asked by MacArthur, which is focused on constructing a "security architecture" in Asia may be wrong. It is a tired question that merely continues an old discussion rather than starts a new one.

Frankly, many of the reports to be blogged upon deserve the inattention they ordinarily would have gotten. 

Thus, blogging on the ASI is fraught with all sorts of dangers. The poor blogger is forced into the traditional Washington game of "log-rolling"--you mention me, I will mention you. Objectivity may become skewed as the blogger understands the price of a "bad" review. You either enrage the powerful (albeit unworthy) or embarrass the Foundation for having selected such posers. Having MacArthur's grant administrator blog on his grantees might actually be the safest tack.

The think tanks selected for the Northeast Asia policy blogger to follow are well-known. They house the top tier of policy insiders. Unfortunately, their opinions are culled more from access than knowledge, and their prose is more glib than analytical. They are heavily funded by foreign sources, dependent upon the information given them, and inbreed. Oh yes, they are all heavily alpha male driven.

These think tanks are safe and not known for innovative policy analysis or scholarship. NBR gives the impression that it works with scholars. In truth, it selects prominent scholars and policy officials to head its studies, but the research and writing is done by young RAs. CSIS and the CSIS Pacific Forum have no world-class scholars involved in their programs and rely on former government officials-in-waiting to select the right interns and RAs to do their work. 

The Peterson Institute, although having a better quality of scholarship than most in DC, is poor on Japan and North Korea. Their North Korea fellow is well-known simply because there is no one else; presentable that is. Also they are savvy enough to get substantive outside experts to assist or actually do the work. Peterson simply rebrands the outsiders' research--co-authors matter here. Peterson's Fellows have more the benefit of being in Washington and available than of really knowing anything--then again anything one says on North Korea can be right. The Peterson Fellows, however, are yet to be right on Japan or North Korea.

In Japan, the Japan Center for International Exchange is one of oldest governmental institutions to manage gaijin. It is the granddaddy of Japan's mutual understanding machine. I am intrigued that it is taking foreign funds. JCIE has played an important role in cultivating the Japan hands at CSIS and the Council on Foreign Relations as well as being a back channel to Japan's Foreign Ministry.

For the members of Team Armitage, especially at CSIS and CSIS Pacific Forum, the MacArthur grant may have come at an opportune time. Their traditional sources of funds have been Japan, Korea, and Taiwan as CSIS has been viewed as a backdoor to the White House and American Asia policy. Once this relationship is perceived to be broken, it is likely their funding and "specialness" in Japan will fade as well.

So important CSIS was viewed by Japan, that Japan's conservative nationalists positioned disgraced, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to begin his reentry into politics by speaking at their conference on maritime security in Asia.* Although Team Armitage members such as Kurt Campbell and John Steinberg hold key positions in the State Department, most of the Team members and believers have been shut out.

The nomination of John Roos, an unknown to these men, as ambassador to Japan was a wake up call to CSIS's supporters in Japan. The Japanese were convinced that it would be their friend and Team Armitage member Joseph Nye. As an article in the July issue of the conservative Bungei Shunju notes: reports were based on the impression of "Japan experts" like Armitage and former National Security Council director for Asia Michael Green [now CSIS]. These Japan experts monopolize contacts with Japanese companies and politicians and form a small circle of close acquaintances in a kind of "mutual admiration society." Even after the turnover from a Republican to a Democratic government, theirs is a mechanism to protect mutual interest by dispatching officials on Japanese affairs from their exclusive circle. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell is also a member of this inner circle. 

Since they do not have any connections with Roos, both the so-called "experts on the U.S." and the "experts on Japan" are dissatisfied, calling his appointment a "downgrade." Yet, these very people are the culprits for the lack of stability in the Japan-U.S. relationship. Perhaps it is time to say goodbye to this inner circle. [emphasis added]

*The only thing funnier than that, was one of the conference's the keynote addresses by Vice Admiral William Douglas Crowder, which liberally quoted from a "futuristic" book about the coming war with a Japan allied with Turkey against the US allied with Poland.