As I have been mentioning, the U.S. is sending a new ambassador to Tokyo. His name is John V. Roos, and up to the appointment he used to be the big partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati in California. He was a strong supporter of the President, and especially in the fundraising category.
For many months, the expat community had been under the impression that Joseph Nye would be the next ambassador. Nye was a former State or Defense Department official and is known for the concept of “soft power” in international relations. Soft power is the idea that cultural and other social influences can have a powerful role in geopolitical balance. (Versus military hardware, troops, and/or the ability to send a thermonuclear weapon across continents to wipe out millions in just minutes.)
Joseph Nye had connections to both Princeton, New Jersey (graduate), and Morristown, New Jersey (I think he was born or went to school there). And so I was looking forward to asking him what his impressions were of the Somerville area. Since it’s in between Morristown and Princeton.
But for some reason along 2009, Nye got nixed or turned it down. He is 70 years old or so, and maybe just wanted to style a working retirement in his own fashion. Or maybe he was too close to the Clintons (with Hillary Rodham as the Secretary of State and all that). For whatever reason, we don’t know. He’s out of the picture and Roos is in.
So what does this mean?
Well, like a lot of things in the Obama Administration, it probably means a steady hand over matters while a new policy prescription is put into force. Everyone in the blogosphere has their opinions on Obama, but I am looking at his administration from outside the American media warp. I get the news from Stateside over the net, plus whatever the Japanese report.
To me, President Obama is methodical and a man who works his plan. Despite the fact that rabble-rouser lobbyists for the insurance industry are trying to put out the idea that Barack Obama “moves too fast” on things, I myself think he gets the best information he can, he makes a plan, and then he executes on it. If the execution looks like it’s not going on course, he makes changes.
This is the best manager, isn’t it? The person who thinks, then acts, then adjusts.
So it’s maybe clear what happened with Nye-Roos. For some reason, Nye was indicating that he wouldn’t fit in with Obama’s plan, so Obama found someone else. Someone closer to him that he could trust to carry out the American initiative in Japan.
There was some talk in the Japanese media that the country was being slighted because it was getting (just) a law firm partner. While the Chinese were getting the Governor of Utah.
However, in terms of connection to Obama, the Japanese are getting a close ally and friend of the President. The Chinese are getting an elected official from a state whose borders are all straight lines, who just happens to speak Mandarin.
I am confident that John Roos will bring the same style and approach to the ambassadorship that the President brought to the presidency.
It will be nice for the 40,000 American expat community to finally have an engaging ambassador, after the disappointment of Thomas Schieffer (a Bush Texas crony who was the brother of the Schieffer who did the news on CBS.) Up until a day or two ago, you could still read the page about him on the Tokyo Embassy website (even though he has been gone over six months.) I guess the webmaster there reviews who’s Googling in! U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
My own view of the Schieffer ambassadorship was that it was its own minor disaster, like so much of the second George W. Bush Administration. Hell, like so much of the first George W. Bush Administration. We basically had a Texas Southerner there who only concerned himself with taking care of the wealthy and powerful American expats.
We have an embassy that is behind concrete medians and barbed wire. It looks like a compound. No other major embassy around (England, Canada) looks so, well . . . weird. Even the New Zealand Embassy in Shibuya Ward here has more grace. But that is another post!
Good luck to John Roos and welcome!