Debate Magazine

Japan Needs US Ambassador of Military Veteran, Not Charming Lady

Posted on the 07 April 2013 by Shahalexander

It seems that the Obama administration’s appointment of Caroline Kennedy is taken favorably among the public on both sides of the Pacific. As shown in the following video, of CBS News on April 2, the family name of Kennedy nurtures charismatic romanticism which is associated with the tragic legend of an idealist president John F. Kennedy. On this program, Robert Dallek commented that the Ambassador Kennedy would represent the best of American culture.

Jun Okumura, Senior Analyst at theEurasia Group, mentions furthermore, “In this age of rapid communications, the real decisions are made at home anyway,” and “The ambassadors are largely symbols these days. What it does say is that there are no major problems in the Japan-US relationship; it’s still a safe appointment, like to Britain or France” (“Why Caroline Kennedy is likely to get a warm welcome in Japan”; Christian Science Monitor; April 2, 2013). Certainly, American presidents appointed political fundraisers to the ambassadors to Britain in reward of contribution to their election victory, as typically seen in the case of Joseph Kennedy.

However, in view of growing security challenges of China and North Korea, and complexity of Okinawa US base issues, some opinion leaders prefer much more professional ambassador to Tokyo. Remember that the Ambassador to Japan represents America’s strategic interests beyond Japan. No other places in the world are so ideally located than the Japanese archipelago to watch security challenges from Hawaii to the Indian Ocean. Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is right to emphasize such strategic value repeatedly. Newly appointed ambassador must be well aware of this.

Despite Kennedy’s popularity, some concerns are raised as she has no experience in diplomacy and public administration. Republican member of the House Foregin relations Committee Dana Rohrabackher ““It thought it was an April Fool’s joke when I first heard about it, Our economic and national security are based on good will toward Japan. I have nothing against Caroline Kennedy becoming ambassador to, say, Barbados. But Japan is too important for somebody with no experience” (“Kennedy as Japan ambassador raises concerns amid N. Korea tensions”; FOX News; April 3, 2013). Even Clyde Prestowitz, President of the Economic Strategy Institute, who supported Obama in presidential elections, comments critically. Compared with past ambassadors, Caroline Kennedy is no political heavy weight, and has little knowledge and experience in doplimacy and foreign affairs. Also, he says that she knows too little about Japanese culture and language (“Caroline Kennedy's appointment is not very Kennedyesque”; Foreign Policy--Clyde Prestowitz; April 2, 2013).
I agree to most of the criticism, in view of Japan’s mistake to appoint Uichiro Niwa, former chairman of a Japanese general trading company Itochu Corporation, to the ambassador to China. But I do not think familiarity with Japanese language and culture so important as Prestowitz says, because current Japanese speak English more fluently and know American culture much more than those in the Edwin Reischauer days. Rather, we have focus on knowledge in security and skills in diplomacy and administration, particularly crisis management. From this point of view, I would argue that the next ambassador to Tokyo be selected from military veterans. There are so many good candidates who inspire awe and respect to America from Hawaii to the Indian Ocean. TO BE ADDED LATER. 

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