That’s East Jerusalem, Baby!

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. The older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.          Mary Schmich

Fulbright Orientation Program at AU 1990.jpg

Inas, my friend of 28 years (!), greeted me again at her family home in East Jerusalem in the Wadi al-Joz (Valley of the Walnuts) section. We met during the summer of 1990 when I was the Academic and Program Coordinator for the Fulbright Pre-Academic Orientation Program and she was pursuing graduate studies in engineering as a Fulbright scholar.

I knew when I last saw Inas in her East Jerusalem home in 2011 to come hungry and thirsty for both sustenance and knowledge. My Palestinian family is a highly educated bunch of Ph.D.s, photo journalists, editors, authors, and pediatric dentists, just to name a few. I could go on and on bragging about this exceptional group of humans.

If you do not have a friend in East Jerusalem, your life is poorer for it!

The richness in culture, history, and education led to my spending ten hours over two days eating first at the kitchen table and then drinking tea and coffee in the living room. I ate so much that I ended up on the day bed, and we kept visiting. These pictures are before I went to lay down and sleep off my overeating.

fdxudKDVRLqN7AgIA0m6lQ

IMG_0991

We sat (or I lay down!) minutes away from where pilgrims around the world come to worship at the holy sites of Greater Jerusalem, including. The Mount of Olives mountain ridge was a neighbor, as was Al-Aqsa Mosque,  the third holiest site in Islam. It is a privilege to be in East Jerusalem and reunite with my longtime friend and her dear family. Just look how happy I am. Photo credit: Inas

6KCWb44xQFirI%jttJf+vw

I have been invited back so I guess I didn’t overstay my visit!

Social Media and Diplomacy

I came across this TEDx talk, “How to Make a Splash in Social Media” after I watched another Alexis Ohanian at Oxford video featuring the Reddit co-founder. His 2016 talk at Oxford Union highlights the agnostic (unknowable) quality of the Internet. Anyone, with any content, can go viral online. It’s hard to predict.

There are many memorable points that Ohanian makes, including this:

What we’ve seen in social media the last ten years [2006-2016] has been the cocktail party. It has been the most superficial level of connection. Now, it’s something we need. I don’t say that derisively. We like cocktail parties. As humans we like showing people how cute our pets are, how wonderful our life is. That’s a level of connection that doesn’t go very deep. What we are seeing on platforms like Reddit, Snapchat, is a hunger for the next wave—a demand for authenticity…something that feels more real, that’s not there because of wanting to show a filtered version of yourself, but wanting to show how you really are in that moment.

Ohanian was a history major at the University of Virginia who saw the connectivity value of the Internet early on. His first business idea with his UVA computer science major friend, Steve Huffman (My Mobile Menu or “MMM”) failed to get funding but then they began to think about what web pages they went to every morning and Reddit was born. Btw, Ohanian is a bit more famous these days for being the spouse of a particularly talented tennis player.

Reddit is a social news website supported by a community of users called Redditors who have only one thing in common, shared interests with other Redditors. Reddit’s subreddit on The Donald helps Trump keep support in the White House. Durinf the 2016 presidential campaign, Reddit served as an alternative source of news for Redditors enthusiastic about Trump’s candidacy, including those who were lining up for hours to hear Trump speak in person. I went to Trump’s subreddit community threat regularly and it convinced me that Donald Trump could beat Hillary Clinton.

We Saw This Coming!

The much ballyhooed planned summit in Singapore on June 12 between US President Donald Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong-un is on shaky ground, and not due to any new nuclear weapon tests.

It has become a battle between definitions.

What does denuclearization mean? It depends on where you sit.

  • Peace is complicated
  • Obtaining peace is often an asymmetrical power game
  • Can we expect North Korea to give up its nuclear program unilaterally?
  • What confidence-building measures can the U.S., its allies, or other countries do to contribute to a lasting peace on the penninsula?

Trump & Obama: A Tale of Two Speeches

DONALD TRUMP’S RIYADH SPEECH, MAY 2017


BARACK OBAMA’S CAIRO SPEECH, JUNE 2009

Trump’s Statesmanlike Speech in Riyadh

Elliott Abrams, National Review, May 21, 2017

 … any balanced strategy will require continued close partnerships with our regional allies to expand and improve the effectiveness of counter messaging programs, especially online. The inclusion of the Saudi Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology on the president’s itinerary was a good sign, but since September 11, 2001 we have seen far too many such initiatives fall short…. Although counter-messaging and counter-radicalization programs are not a cure all, they are a vital part of any strategy especially as America invests in its more military-focused initiatives.

Trump Changed His Tone on Islam—Will He Change Strategy?

Michael Leiter, The Atlantic, May 22, 2017

But the President’s address reflected a more substantive break. By focusing on Muslim governments rather than people, and by focusing on terrorism rather than the broader conditions of the Middle East that catalyze volatility and violence, he broke with his two immediate predecessors’ strategies for engaging the Muslim world.

Trump’s Speech in Riyadh Puts Ball Squarely in Court of Muslim-Led Governments to Fight Terrorism

Eric Trager, The Washington Institute for Near East Studies, May 21, 2017

Most important was Trump’s willingness to point to the ideology of Islamism as the enemy. This matters exceedingly for, just as a physician must first identify a medical problem before treating it, so a strategist must identify the enemy before defeating it. To talk about “evildoers,” “terrorists,” and “violent extremists” is to miss the enemy’s Islamic core.

‘This Wasn’t a Speech About Islam’

Mustafa Akyol and Wajahat Ali, The New York Times, May 21, 2017

I’m not a naïve, wide-eyed idealist and I didn’t drink the Halal Kool aid. I knew the bar was exceedingly low, so all Trump would have to do is stay on script, not say anything egregiously offensive and it would be considered an “improvement.” Which it was.  Mustafa Akyol: … I agree that it definitely did not come out as advertised…. This was a more modest, narrow and pragmatic speech, mostly appealing to Muslim leaders — in fact, only Sunni ones — for more cooperation against terrorism. But given Mr. Trump’s earlier views on Islam, it could have been worse!

 

Is America on track to be the Great Satan again?

Is America on track to be the Great Satan again?

corp_flag_1024x1024

This week I published an essay in The Japan Times about the perception some have of America as a Great Satan. This piece explores the nomination of Donald Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company in the world. Is this a sign of a Trump administration embrace of corporatization of foreign policy? I’ve always been troubled by too much top-down, for-profit focus in American foreign policy. This was the subject of my first book, Propaganda, Inc.: Selling America’s Culture to the World.

Marketing Peace: Japan’s Brand

I published a commentary this week in The Japan Times that explores the use of marketing tools and techniques to “sell” the most wanted concept in our lives: global peace. I participated in the 2016 World Business for World Peace conference in Hiroshima October 14-15, which inspired this article.

Can the ultimate marketing campaign sell peace?

Hiroshima Mayor and I .jpg

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and Dr. Nancy Snow, March 2016

Should U.S. remain the world police?

The World’s Police Force

There are many reasons to love National Public Radio, but the most recent is that NPR provided immediate fact checking and a transcript for the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

First, the New York Times ended Donald Trump’s candidacy with its post-debate October Surprise front page article (October 1, 2016), Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades, but I digress.

Japan showed up YUGE in this first debate. Trump seems equally obsessed with Japan as he is with China and TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership). Here are a few excerpts where Trump (and Clinton) discuss Japan, which follows an exchange about who has the better temperament (steadiness) to serve as commander-in-chief:

HILLARY CLINTON: He has said repeatedly that he didn’t care if other nations got nuclear weapons – Japan, South Korea, even Saudi Arabia. It has been the policy of the United States, Democrats and Republicans, to do everything we could to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He even said, you know if there were nuclear war in East Asia well, you know, that’s fine, have a good time folks.

DONALD TRUMP: I agree with her on one thing. The single greatest problem the world has is nuclear armament, nuclear weapons. Not global warming like you think and your president thinks. Nuclear is the single greatest threat. Just to go down the list we defend Japan. We defend Germany. We defend South Korea. We defend Saudi Arabia. We defend countries. They do not pay us what they should be paying us because we are providing tremendous service and we’re losing a fortune.

NPR Fact Check: South Korean government figures show it paid around $866.6 million     in 2014 for the U.S. military presence in the country. That’s about 40 percent of the cost. Japan’s budget shows that it covers about $4 billion in base-related expenses. [Source: NPR Seoul-based Asia correspondent Elise Hsu @elisewho]

A quick look at Elise Hsu’s Twitter feed reveals a strong anti-Trump position, but this does not mean that I cannot trust her fact check postings. She was probably thrilled to call Trump on his errors.

But here’s the most interesting U.S.-Japan revelation. Japan symbolizes to Trump the feeling that he and many Americans have that the U.S. cannot keep propping up the defense systems of former war enemies turned allies.

DONALD TRUMP: And it’s a big problem, and is as far Japan is concerned, I want to help all of our allies but we are losing billions and billions of dollars. We cannot be the policeman of the world. We cannot protect countries all over the world.

HILLARY CLINTON: Let me start by saying words matter, words matter when you run for president and they really matter when you are president. And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them. It is essential that America’s word be good.

NPR Fact Check: While this Clinton statement is underlining the basics of America’s traditional foreign policy, it illustrates a key difference between the candidates. Trump doesn’t want to be “policeman of the world,” but a longstanding key of America’s Asia policy for keeping peace in the Pacific is maintaining decades-old alliances with Japan and South Korea. Many view the U.S.-Japan-R.O.K alliance as a bulwark against a rising China, so it’s interesting that Trump both demonizes China when speaking of trade and believes China to be key in solving the North Korea problem but does not support alliances that can be a counterweight to it. [Source: @elisewho]

US News just published an op

So what do some Japanese think of Trump’s statement about the U.S. serving as the policeman of the world?

Here is a sample of reactions by my International Relations students at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies:

  • I think the U.S. should be the policeman of the world. No one can take the U.S. position, however other countries might as well share some responsibilities.
  • As the sole superpower, the U.S. has assumed the role of world’s policeman. Citing a moral responsibility to uphold freedom and democracy around the world, America intervenes in foreign conflicts and wields unprecedented global power. But should America invest its resources and energy in global policing? Or should the strongest nation on earth turn its focus inward and respect the autonomy of its neighbors? In my opinion, America is not or should not be the policeman of the world. But it’s hard to quit because, for example, for Japan America is like the “safety of the world.” How does the U.S. keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?
  • I think America doesn’t need to keep being police of the world because the large amount of money for military is hard for America. I hope every country doesn’t have military power in future. I hope America reduces the military power step-by-step.
  • America should continue to be the world’s policemen because when one country has strong power, the world is more integrated.
  • The U.S. should remain world police because there are a lot of problems in the world, both China and Russia spreading their policies—for example, China declaring its territory in the South China Sea.
  • I think that America doesn’t need to be world police because it has a big burden to continue being world police.
  • President Obama said that the policeman of the United States is not the policeman of the world, but I do not think so. The U.S. should keep staying the world police at least for now. The world is unstable (civil war in Syria, missile attack by North Korea). If the U.S. or President Obama abandons the world police, then how does the world get its problems resolved? I think the world economies are going to crumble, also China or Russia is going to get out of control.
  • The U.S. should be paying the money for the bases and the U.S. should be the policeman of the world. We need someone to lead our world and I don’t want Trump do that. We have SDF so we should be protecting ourselves but we also need support. Some country or institution has to take the lead to make the world peace and police the world.
  • I think Hillary Clinton made a really good point in her debate. Trump should have known about the mutual defense agreement as key to keeping the peace in East Asia.

As I have often observed, if Japan were able to vote in the U.S. presidential election, Hillary Clinton would win by a landslide. This is not Trump country and no one is riding the Trump train.