Saturday, November 24, 2012

"America Pivots East-Again: Reality in U.S.-Japan Relations" lecture at Pitt, November 29.

Dr. William Farrell, who can list professor at the Naval War College and Chairman of the National Association of Japan-America Societies on his lengthy resume, will give a lecture on November 29 titled "America Pivots East-Again: Reality in U.S.-Japan Relations". Says the University Center for International Studies:
Join us for an informative discussion on the history of U.S. involvement with Japan, the U.S.’ current “Asia Pivot” and the future of U.S.-Japan relations!
It will be held in 209 Mervis Hall (map) from 12:00 to 1:00 pm.

Dr. Farrell will be speaking Thursday morning in a talk hosted by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh. A summary of his 90-minute Breakfast Briefing "America Pivots East - Again: Implications, Images, and Reality in U.S.-Japan Relations" there:
In late 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared the beginning of America’s “Pacific Century.” She said that America’s foreign policy goals in the Asia-Pacific in the coming decade require increased investment in economic, diplomatic, and strategic terms. Some pundits and analysts point to Washington’s “Asia Pivot” as a relatively new initiative. History suggests otherwise. The United States has been a Pacific nation for over a century. One of its key counterparts has been Japan.

Reaching back as far as Matthew Perry’s “Black Ships” anchored in Tokyo Bay during the 1850s, to the brutality of both sides during World War II, the relationship between the United States and Japan has been both collaborative and contentious. Factor in the American occupation of Japan and the close relationship during the Cold War, and a complicated geopolitical partnership emerges. In 150 years, the U.S. and Japan have been allies, sworn enemies, and allies once more.

Economically, relative prosperity has been achieved through mutual gain. Currently boasting the first and third largest economies in the world, the U.S. and Japan account for over 30 percent of the world domestic product. Beyond the economy, scheduled joint naval exercises indicate a strong military alliance undefined but one underlined by regional tensions and the ongoing island disputes in the East Asia Sea.

With nationalism rising throughout Asia, what trends will characterize the future of the U.S.-Japanese relationship? For a complete understanding of America’s “Asia Pivot,” the history of U.S. involvement with Japan is a good place to begin.
The World Affairs Council has been promoting the talk on Facebook in relation to that "nationalism rising throughout Asia": "Tension is rising in the East China Sea", one post says, and that Dr. Farrell will "[discuss] 'Senkaku or Diaoyu? Energy Competition in the East China Sea.'" That is a dispute in which the US should not involve itself, though with nationalism rising and militarism ascendant within our own borders there is little now or throughout recent history to engender optimism. I don't care to editorialize too much on this blog, though readers might guess I look skeptically on the future as imagined by a professor at the Naval War College. His latest book, from 1999 and titled Crisis and Opportunity in a Changing Japan, opens rather unpleasantly:
U.S. business ldeaders and policy makers who seek to influence outcomes in Japan[.]
The two talks on Thursday may have promise, though. From 2009 to last year Dr. Farrell introduced the "Images, and Reality in U.S.-Japan Relations" tagline with a talk titled "From Black Ships to a Black President". A 2009 blog entry from the University of Minnesota East Asian Studies previews:
From the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry and the Black Ships in 1853 to the historical election of America's first African-American president, Japan and the US have looked at each other through stereotypical lenses. This practice has led to serious problems across the spectrum of the relationship: social, political and economic. If misperceptions were commodities, each nation would have run a surplus.

Through the examination of woodblock prints, postcards (the internet of the 1890's), and contemporary political cartoons, the speaker takes the audience on a lively tour through history. Events such as Perry's arrival, the Road to Pearl Harbor, World War II, The Occupation, trade wars, and the current international situation are examined. The key premise being: historical observations that influenced domestic and international policy in the past remain with us today.