Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dave does dull - Storm warnings on the Petraeus-ometer

On September 24, 2009, at a Marine Corps conference on counterinsurgency, a participant asked David Petraeus about the similarities between the wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam.

“There are some similarities,” said Petraeus. “But I think the biggest lesson of Vietnam is to not be a prisoner of lessons you may have learned.”

How ironic. Perhaps the questioner would have done better to ask Petraeus about the similarities between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And perhaps Petraeus should have applied his logic to those two wars.

We tried the same strategy in both wars – add an obviously insufficient number of troops to the war and hope things work out. In both cases, we called this strategy “the surge.” But the question is, why did the strategy appear to work in Iraq?

In Iraq, it appears to me that Europe backed the insurgents and so appeasing Europe was actually the key to winning that war. Of course, as part of that appeasement, we added an insignificant number of troops to the war to make it look like all we needed to do was to add some more troops to win the war. This is what Europe wanted, as Europe wants the American public to believe that military interventions work and are great and need to happen more often (e.g. consider Rwanda, Bosnia, Libya, etc.).

Assuming that Europe also backs the insurgents in Afghanistan, another surge there should work again, right? Well…there’s one problem with that idea. The fact is Europe must be appeased before it would allow the surge to succeed. It must get something first. During the surge in Iraq, the America made a decisive pivot away from East Asia and towards Europe and East Asia played along.

But would America get East Asia to play along again in the war in Afghanistan? It certainly doesn’t look like it. In fact, it looks like the “success” in Iraq set up America – and Europe – for an incredible failure in Afghanistan. Simply doing the same thing over and over again makes you predictable. Perhaps Petraeus should have said, “I think the biggest lesson of history is not to be a prisoner of lessons you may have learned.”


Monday, September 21, 2009

Shakedown, or ... Shakedown? The First Days of the Coalition

On September 21, 2009, in response to my comment, Jun Okumura predicted the opposite of what I predicted. He believed the DPJ would retain control of the Upper House in the upcoming election.

“Sadly for those of us who need a major Japanese political theater fix, given the huge DPJ victory in the 2007 HOC election, nothing short of a miracle will give the LDP-Komeito coalition an HOC majority in the 2010 election,” said Mr. Okumura.

He was wrong. I was right.

In response to his comment, I wrote the following:
Let me help you with that miracle.

Hatoyama should give a speech at Yasukuni while drunk in which he mispronounces at least 40 words, beating the record set by Nakagawa and he proclaims Japan to be a divine nation of one race tricked into World War II by Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and Chiang Kai-Shek, a country that needs to privatize Japan Post and doesn't need to hear anything else about that stupid piece of fiction known as the Nanking Massacre and doesn't need any damn immigrants who would only commit crimes though it does need rich Jews which Japan needs so it can achieve global domination which is possible because it doesn’t have blond hair and blue eyes and so it can be trusted in the Middle East though global domination may be hard given that Japan has doctors who lack common sense, a cancerous teacher’s union, stupid residents near Narita airport who block progress, young men who rape women, though at least that proves that young Japanese men are still vigorous and anyways that problem can be fixed if only Japan beheads the parents of the perpetrators, and it also has corrupt politicians, but really, to ask for honesty and purity from politicians is like asking for fish at a vegetable store, though I did hear that they sell mackerel at a vegetable store in Shimane and on second thought Japan should not privatize Japan Post (burete imasen) and one more thing, we just lost the pension records of another 60 million people and without a doubt, the use of atomic bombs at Nagasaki and Hiroshima...shouganai.

If Hatoyama were to do I as advice, I am sure the miracle can be achieved.

Ganbare, Hatoyama!
In response to this, Mr. Okumura wrote:
Well, keep on praying, Mark. You never now.
I think Mr. Okumura intentionally replace the word “know” with “now” to indicate that I would get my way.

In response to Mr. Okumura’s comment, I wrote:
I will. By the way, am I the only one here who think that America and Europe is doing everything it can to plunge Latin America into civil war? Hugo Chavez must be careful.
At the time I wrote this, I didn’t know that the West often threatens to commit atrocities when it wants Japan to do something. In this case, my government made me tell Japan that the situation in Honduras might soon explode, if nothing was done to get rid of the Hatoyama administration.

By the way, after this exchange, Mr. Okumura stopped blogging for about a month.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Quick Note - More on Hatoyama Cabinet Trouble Spots

On September 20, 2009, in a comment on GlobalTalk 21, not only did I successfully predict the return of political theater to Japan, I also predicted the outcome of the 2010 Upper House elections.

“A return of Japanese Political Theater? Yippee! I guess the meeting with Kurt Campbell didn't go so well. Let's see if Hatoyama can outdo Aso. I don't think it's possible, but hey, I can dream, right? Personally, I am looking forward to the Twisted Diet Part Deux, this time with the LDP in charge of the Upper House.”

My government must have “made” me write this.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kurt Campbell's Meeting With Akitaka Saiki

Kurt Campbell met with Akitaka Saiki on September 18, 2009. During the meeting, Saiki said that Prime Minister Hatoyama would not be able to rein in the bureaucracy. Saiki proclaimed boldly that if the DPJ tried to crush the pride of the bureaucrats, the DPJ would fail. On the other hand, Saiki had nothing but praise for Katsuya Okada, the new foreign minister. According to Saiki, Okada was “very intellectual” and he “understood the issues.” (FYI: Okada is himself a former bureaucrat. That is the reason, presumably, why Saiki was so effusive towards him).

Despite the recent musings of Prime Minister Hatoyama, according to Saiki, the relationship between America and Japan was already an equal one. Saiki had his own theory of why Hatoyama said he wanted to “transform” the alliance into an equal relationship. Saiki theorized that the DPJ wanted to project an image of power by showing the world that they had reined in the bureaucracy and moved the country in a new direction that challenged the U.S. Saiki called this idea stupid and said, “They will learn.”

In Japan, there is a saying, “The nail that sticks up must be hammered down.” In his statements, Saiki seems to be implying that the DPJ would get hammered down for its policies of challenging the bureaucrats and America. But instead, something else very different happened.

Presumably, by investigating the secret agreements, the DPJ intended to pressure America into doing…something. I’m still not exactly sure what the DPJ wanted us to do. It is possible that the DPJ decided to pressure America solely because I told them to. It is possible that America “made” me tell the DPJ to pressure America so America could use that pressure an excuse to retaliate and go after Toyota.

Japan may have had its own reasons for agreeing to this scheme. Perhaps what Japan really wanted was for my government to tell me all sorts of terrible secrets that they wanted concealed. Once I discovered this information, I would then try to tell the world about this information. At this point, my government had a choice – whether to allow me to tell the world the truth or whether they would try to torture me into submission (they chose torture).

Were the public to find out about me and the information I have obtained, this would effectively end the so-called American Century, it would end the era of military interventionism that has killed so many innocent people and has practically bankrupted our nation, it would cause a drastic rethink on the amount of money we spend on our military, it would bring a new age of accountability to the world as governments could no longer murder people and expect that no one would find out who was truly responsible, and it would transform the way everyone looks at history and the world and in doing so, it would allow both policymakers and the public to create new policies based on a more accurate understanding of the world.

This is what Japan really wants. And I have to make it happen.

Assistant Secretary Campbell's Meeting With DPJ Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Kurt Campbell met with Naoto Kan on September 18, 2009. During the meeting, Kan said that, unlike in previous administrations when the bureaucrats held sway, in the new DPJ administration, the politicians would govern the country. Furthermore, under the new administration, the government would have to explain the rationale behind the policies it adopted. Kan predicted that the administration would have a hard time explaining security issues to the public, as the public had little interest in those issues. Kan cited the plan to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma as an example of one of these issues.

In an effort to explain why the government needed to explain security issues to the public, Kan cited the example of President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. According to Kan, because President Kennedy was able to explain the situation to the public, the public supported his policies and the President was able to carry them out.

During the meeting, Kan said that Katsuya Okada would take the lead on security issues related to the alliance.

In order to have an equal relationship, Campbell pointed out that America should not be the only one to take the initiative on security matters. Japan should also take the initiative once and a while.

I wonder if Campbell would like to take back that statement.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Preliminary Thoughts on the Hatoyama Administration

On September 17, 2009, Mr. Okumura wrote the following on his blog:

“My life has been taking/may be about to take some dramatic turns…”

I think he was talking about the previous / upcoming interactions between himself and me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

DPJ, two allies agree to form coalition

On September 9, the DPJ agreed to form a coalition government with the Social Democrat Party (SDP) and Kokumin Shinto. The DPJ needed to form a coalition government because, despite winning an overwhelming majority in the Lower House, they still did not have a majority of the seats in the Upper House.

In reality, for Japan, this coalition government scheme was a form of the good cop / bad cop negotiating scheme. The DPJ would be the good cop, the party who wanted to be cooperative with America. The other two parties, the SDP and Kokumin Shinto, would be the bad cop. The SDP would be the bad cop in regards to foreign policy and security issues while Kokumin Shinto would be the bad cop in regards to economic issues. The SDP was the successor party to the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) and was the party who wanted to relocate Marine Corps Air Station Futenma outside of Okinawa. Kokumin Shinto basically had an anti-neoliberal approach to economics, meaning they had an anti-Koizumi approach and an anti-Washington Consensus approach to the Japanese economy. They opposed the privatization of Japan Post and, whenever the opportunity presented itself, they demanded that Japan enact an impossibly large fiscal stimulus plan (which would mean that the American government would have less money to spend as Japan funds a significant portion of the U.S. budget deficit).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

DPJ 'transition teams' confuse bureaucracy

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the bureaucrats and the DPJ were not working well together. According to the newspaper, “both sides are still basically fumbling around in the dark.”

“We’ve no choice but to hope that DPJ members act with common sense,” said one Japanese bureaucrat in the Foreign Ministry.


Best quote ever.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hatoyama Confidante On Upcoming Hatoyama Administration

On September 4, 2009, Yorihisa Matsuno, a close confidante of Prime Minister Hatoyama, met with U.S. Ambassador John Roos. According to Matsuno, despite the recent New York Times op-ed written by Hatoyama in which he indicated that he wanted to move Japan closer to China and East Asia, in reality the Hatoyama administration wanted to establish closer ties with America. Furthermore, Matsuno said that the Hatoyama administration would probably not make a big deal out of the so-called “secret agreements.”

Of course, events would prove Matsuno wrong on all counts.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Understanding Japan's Elections: What the Elections Mean for Asia and the United States

On September 2, CSIS hosted a panel which discussed the results of the elections in Japan. The panel consisted of Steven Clemons, Mike Green, and Kurt Campbell. Bob Schieffer worked as the moderator.

As for why the DPJ won the election, Mike Green was quick to point out that voters really didn’t like the DPJ, but they voted for the DPJ because “they were sick and tired of the Liberal Democratic Party’s style of politics and governance.”

Mike Green, it seems, did not like the DPJ. He really did not like the recent op-ed written by Yukio Hatoyama. He pleaded with Hatoyama to change his tone now that he had won the election. For his part, Clemons believed that Ichiro Ozawa was “the real strongman” behind the infamous New York Times op-ed. And in sharp contrast to Green, Clemons liked the fact that Hatoyama was creating some distance between America and Japan.

“I predict a much healthier, lively and somewhat reinvented U.S.-Japan relationship,” said Clemons.

Here, I think Clemons was referring to my participation in the discussion. The discussion certainly was lively. It was not healthier. As to whether or not the discussion amounted to a reinvention of the relationship, I can’t say because I don’t how the relationship worked before. On the one hand, I have been led to believe that a small group of experts on both sides manage the relationship. The introduction of a person like me to the discussion, particularly the manner in which I was introduced and the way I participated, certainly seems unique. On the other hand, I subsequently found out that both sides have a long history of using the Internet to disclose information in an attempt to pressure the other side.

Furthermore, Japan does have a history of recruiting some unlikely people to manage the alliance. For example, consider John Roos, the current U.S. ambassador who had zero expertise on Japan prior to his appointment. Or consider Kei Wakaizumi, a Japanese professor, who Japan hired to negotiate the return of Okinawa. You would think Japan would use one of its bureaucrats for that job. Or consider the DPJ itself. Though a few members of the DPJ may have had the experience and knowledge required to manage the alliance, I think they were few and far between. Often, Japan seems to like hiring inexperienced people to manage the alliance. Japan probably has several reasons for doing this. For one thing, hiring an unqualified person slows things down. And if there is one thing that Japan seems to like to do when it comes to relations with America, it is stalling. On the other hand, introducing someone new to manage the alliance could bring a fresh perspective to any existing problems which remain deadlocked. Simply revisiting the same issues with the same people will probably not lead to a resolution. Sometimes, you need to inject someone new into the discussion. And in fact, according to Clemons, Japan did believe that its relationship with America had gotten stuck in the mud.

“Many Japanese felt that the U.S.-Japan relationship on a whole variety of fronts was just stuck too much in the past,” said Steven Clemons.

I have a feeling, based on how the Hatoyama administration unfolded, that Clemons probably believed that the Hatoyama administration would be similar to a famous Japanese saying – “the nail that sticks up must be hammered down” and that is the real reason why he wanted Hatoyama to create some distance between Japan and America.

Kurt Campbell seemed to be of the same opinion. He said America had no problems with Japan trying to improve its relationship with China and South Korea. He said America “would like to see Japan play a stronger leadership role” in Asia.

“We also believe, in that process, they will come to appreciate and understand the significance of the U.S.-Japan alliance,” said Campbell.

Again, it appears that for Campbell, the Hatoyama administration that sticks up would eventually be hammered down. I think Campbell and Clemons would later come to realize that Green knew what he was talking about, at least on this one issue. The Hatoyama administration would go down in ignominious defeat, but not before leading me on the path to the truth, not without moving Japan closer to Asia, and not without moving Japan further away from the U.S. Depending on his true intentions, perhaps Hatoyama views his administration as a great success.

As for the other DPJ campaign promises, Steven Clemons hoped Hatoyama would “find his inner Obama.” Meaning that, much of his campaign promises would have to be delayed or reduced. Apparently, Clemons wanted Japan to spend less of its money on itself and more of its money on bailing out America and Europe. He said as much later on.

According to Clemons, when including private sector assets, Japan had the largest amount of overseas assets in the world. While admitting that Japan had “severe economic problems,” Clemons stated that Japan’s contribution to “the international economic order” was “absolutely vital.” Furthermore, in his view, Clemons believed that Japan had not contributed enough in this regard as the country had “been somewhat internally consumed.” Presumably, Clemons was referring to the political theater of Taro Aso.

Mike Green had his own idea as to why the DPJ seemed so anti-American.

“My sense is that the DPJ is testing the U.S. to see what they can get away with,” said Mike Green.

I really don’t think that is why the DPJ acted the way they did.

Apparently, because they disliked the policies of the DPJ so much, the panelists all advised the DPJ to listen to the bureaucrats in Japan.

“Some of the finest professionals that I’ve worked with in Japan are bureaucrats and I would hate to see a period whereby somehow they are posited as the enemy,” said Campbell.

In fact, the panelists were so uniform in their desire for the DPJ to listen to the bureaucrats that Mike Green said the name of the panel should be “Former and Current Bureaucrats and Staffers Tell Japan, ‘Be Good to Bureaucrats and Staffers.’”

Even the Japanese ambassador, Ichiro Fujisaki, seemed to agree with what the panelists had to say.

“In my country, there is a saying that if three people get together, they will produce Buddhist wisdom,” said Fujisaki. “With these three pundits – (laughter) – huge wisdom. (more laughter).”

Fujisaki then went on to repeat his infamous “Three No’s of Fujisaki” – no surprises, no over-politicization, and no taking for granted. According to these three no’s, neither Japan or America should surprise each other in their actions. They should not over-politicize any issue, meaning that they should deal with issues quietly if they can. And they should not take their alliance for granted.

“I think these are more true than ever when the two administrations get together,” said Fujisaki.

It is ironic that Japan selected someone like Fujisaki as their ambassador during the Hatoyama administration. Under the DPJ, both sides would break all of Fujisaki’s rules repeatedly. And in the end, I believe Japan wants to move to a more transparent, more open relationship with America which really violates the second “no” of Fujisaki.

In the Q&A session, Paul Wolfowitz asked the panel if – in an effort to improve its relations with China – the DPJ would examine its history with the country.

According to Green, as the years have gone by, as the taboos have faded in Japan, there is more debate about the history between Japan and China, and that has made it harder for the government to “keep people quiet.” As a result, “more voices will come out on history issues that make it difficult.” However, Mike Green believed that Japan would not tackle this issue until China had completed its own “internal reconciliation” about the history of the Communist Party.

On the other hand, “maybe we’ll be in for a rollercoaster a little while,” said Green.

As it turns out, Japan opted for the rollercoaster. Japan did not wait for China to reach consensus about its own history. There is only one true history and we should not lie about it. Telling the truth may upset some people in China, and Japan’s relationship with China is critical for its future. However, the truth is critical for everyone, including China. We have tried, repeatedly, to run the world based on lies, deceit, and trickery. It does not work. We need accountability, honesty, and transparency.

If some people find this line of thinking objectionable, I don’t care. I must impose my will.

History end here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

U.S. Is Seeing Policy Thorns in Japan Shift

“There is a fear of dramatic change in the U.S.-Japan alliance,” said Michael Auslin. “No one knows what will happen next, or even who to talk to for answers.”

Bet he wishes he could somehow retract this statement...

“The Hatoyama government will not do things that are going to provoke major controversy with the United States,” said Gerald Curtis.


You’ve got to be kidding me!!! This may be the all time most ridiculous statement in the history of the universe!!!

I thought Gerald Curtis was supposed to be an expert on Japan.