Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Critical Voices

- From his home where the kiwis walk and the keas fly, Corey Wallace takes a look at yesterday's New York Times article on a purported shift away from pacifism. (Link)

The problem of Japanese pacifism is a straw man, a dummy that various actors take out of the closet to pummel in front of audiences of assorted arms merchants, paranoids, anti-Japan poseurs and insecure revisionists. The asymmetric alliance relationship and the care Japanese officials take in delineating the actions permissible and impermissible under the Constitution combine to form the biggest free lunch ever served. Think of the contrafactual: a fully armed, U.S.-allied Japan with no constitutional restrictions on its actions, without the presence of a regional equivalent of NATO or even an OSCE. Recall that last year the South Korean government ditched Japan at the altar on the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) -- this with a constrained Japanese defense establishment. (Link)

- From Washington, Clyde Prestowitz argues that naming Caroline Kennedy ambassador to Japan would be a departure from the Kennedy Way. (Link)

Prestowitz argues that President Barack Obama broke the mold on Japan ambassadorships with his nomination of John Roos. This elides over George W. Bush's appointment of a big campaign contributor and business associate as his second ambassador. The last of the long line of "big fish" U.S. ambassadors was former Senator Howard Baker, who served 2001-05. Since then, wealthy campaign bundlers and contributors have filled the top spot, just as they seem to do for every other advanced industrialized U.S. ally.

At best, naming an academic giant or a big political fish would be a step backward from Japan's still young status as a normal nation. At worst, it would send a false signal of an Obama Administration sense that the Roos appointment was a mistake and/or that the situation in East Asia is so fraught as to need an emergency change of direction.


TheStrawMan said...

Not being familiar with the careers and backgrounds of current and former US ambassadors to Japan, this rather coy post raised more questions for me than provided information.

Also, this is the second post where you have alluded to the Obama admin. considering nominating Roos to have "been a mistake". What is this based on?

MTC said...

TheStrawMan -

The post of Ambassador to Japan has been an outlier. Look aa the list from 1977 to 2005:

Mike Mansfield - longest serving Senate Majority leader ever

Michael Armacost - Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

Walter Mondale - former vice president, former presidential candidate

Thomas Foley - former speaker of the House of Representatives

Howard Baker - former Senate Majority leader

No other ambassadorial post in the world was seen as requiring the stewardship of such towering political figures.

As to your second point, I agree that the original choice of words was misleading. I have changed the text to eliminate the unwanted and unwarranted insinuation.