You're right, she should definitely stay away from the guy that probably knows more than anyone about Japan politically, and has the network and experience there.No, I do not think I would be appropriate. I talk way too much and always way out of line. Mr. Harris, who is both sweetness and sincerity personified, would probably have looked at the guest list, then humbly demurred.
I imagine you'd prefer she call you, or Tobias Harris, or some other person that's great at trashing the LDP (talk about fish in a barrel) but never offers a real solution but can act as cheerleader for the DPJ.
My difficulty with Dr. Green's attendance comes neither from his contacts nor from his experience nor from his knowledge. He has worked and works within a bi-partisan consensus in Washington, crafting a broad-based foreign policy. He is well-liked, well-regarded and well-known in Tokyo.
I do not have a problem with his having worked in the Bush White House (I must admit, I blew it on this point--more evidence that I am not an appropriate person to attend the Secretary's dinner). It was possible to work in the Bush Administration, be tough on the Democrats in Washington and still come out with a reputation for probity.
My problems are three-fold:
- Dr. Green's image in Japan is not bi-partisan but strictly partisan. He has for years given warnings about what could happen should Democrats take control in the United States. This has set up a terrible dynamic in Japan. Even now the mainstream here is still locked in "Republicans -- Good for Japan. Democrats -- Bad for Japan" knee-jerk mindset.
Dr. Green chose to contribute to an atmosphere of worry and mistrust about the Democratic Party. He really should not have.
(I must admit that House Democrats have played to prejudices about Democrats with the "buy American steel only" provisions of HR1. Here in Tokyo, the public is not given any idea of why the provision is included. All that gets broadcast/printed is that HR1 is a "buy American" bill. The Commerce folks at Embassy in Akasaka must be in a state of catatonic shock, watching decades of public relations work swirling down the drain.)
- The message of the Obama presidency is "change." You cannot have change if the same twelve persons are always in the room. This is not a problem with Dr. Green--this is a problem with Washington. The debacle of the Daschle nomination is this problem writ large.
There are dozens of Japan scholars in the United States on a par with Dr. Green in terms of his analytical skills. If "change" is what the relationship need, then would it be so hard for those heretofore unheard voices to be given their shot?
Yes, Dr. Green has been extremely important to the Japan-U.S. relationship. But he has been the point man during a previous Administration. It is time for new blood.
- Members of the Bush Administration Asia team committed a major blunder in failing to speak bluntly to the Japanese government and the Japanese people about the DPRK abductions issue. Having the Yokotas visit with President Bush was a nightmarishly bad decision, setting the stage for an ultimate, inevitable "betrayal" of Japan over the DPRK terrorism delisting.
Dr. Green possibly did not have a part in the decision to defer to Japanese government wishes on the abductions issue. The decision to go full bore may have been taken after he left government employ.
Nevertheless, an ability to tell friends bad news is an important trait in a confidant. If Dr. Green, in his exalted position, had set about tamping down the expectations of the Japanese government and the Japanese people (yes, I know the opinion poll results on the importance of the resolution of the abduction issue) then so much pain and resentment could have been avoided.
Now on this last point, on finding the balance between negotiations with the DPRK on its nuclear and missile programs and standing with the Japanese government on the abductions issue, "Steve" may have me hanging over a precipice. Dr. Green could have been invited to the dinner in order to present the views of "those who think Christopher Hill erred in his negotiations with the DPRK and in his handling of Japanese sensibilities. " There are specific turning points where Chris Hill could have handled things better--there always are, in everyone's professional life. Dr. Green may, with his intimate knowledge of all the participants, may be able to identify specific errors.
If this were so I only hope the guest list featured a few persons holding the opposite view -- that "Chris Hill did a heckuva job given that the official Japanese position was insane."
Because that view has been given no play at all here in Tokyo.
Later - As for the matter of the "trashing" of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) by Mr. Harris and myself, the entire spectrum of Japanese opinion, from Akahata on the left to the Sankei Shimbun on the right, up to and including the sycophantic Yomiuri Shimbun all would agree that the LDP has done a pretty fine job of trashing itself. Indeed, a survey of political reporters from all the different publications, asking the question:
"Is the Liberal Democratic Party a party, right now?"
would have a surprising number and variety of writers answering, "No."