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?

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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.

Abe Conversation with Reuters

Abe Interview with Reuters

Check out this speech by “His Excellency” (usually reserved for royals) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York City on Wednesday, September 21, 2016.

Abe starts out his speech with a joke:

I am Shinzo Abe, not Mario.(laughter)

Like Mario, though, I can keep on fighting, fighting to boost Japan’s economy. (no laughter)

Japan’s economy is no joke. PM Abe has been around now for a second time since December 2012. What new does he offer in 2016? We will watch and you will decide what should be the priority for Japan in relation to the global economy and global society.

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Clinton Towers Trump in First Debate

hillary-clinton-in-shinkansenIt’s too early to call the election but if the vote were held in Japan, Hillary Clinton would win by a landslide. This is a non-scientific poll since I’m basing this on the audible gasp from my students when the race was reported “neck and neck” before the Hofstra debate.

[If you are in the mood for a lengthier treatise on the first debate, check out my Clinton Towered Trump Huffington Post blog.]

What did Hillary Clinton do right? Plenty. She was calm in Trump’s storm. She was prepared and full of pokes and zingers to get Trump off his game.

Two weeks ago it was Hillary Clinton unsteady on her feet. In Hempstead, New York, it was Trump looking and sounding frustrated and unfocused.

What did Donald Trump do wrong? He was too “Donald being Donald.” He interrupted. He forgot (God forbid) that he was always on camera, thanks to that pro-Hillary split screen. In the general election season, all six weeks of it left before November 8, Trump will need to act more like what too many are frightened to imagine: President Trump.

It’s still possible for him to TRiUMPh, but he will have to be more disciplined, calm, and steady in the next two debates. He is now facing a candidate who doesn’t fear him, is not intimidated, and is red power suit ready!

 

CNN Reports on Millennials and Sexless Japan and I’m Part of the Story

On  Tuesday I was interviewed by CNN International “Japan’s Virgins” about a recent government survey that reported nearly half of millennials in Japan (well, actually 44%) are not sexually active at all. Of course this is no one’s business but the person being surveyed, but why this matters beyond the titillating headline is that we all know how obsessed the government of Japan is with fertility and procreation.

Japan’s future survival depends on producing more Japanese to support a rapidly aging and long-living population (think inverted pyramid). It’s not reasonable to expect Japan to reverse a long course of severely limiting immigration or opposing much intermarriage. That’s why whether or not young people are even open to sexual relations with each other is a policy and political concern with international implications. Think about it. If Japanese aren’t reproducing themselves in larger numbers, then Japan won’t have personnel for its military and industry. And Prime Minister Abe’s Japan has big plans for Japan’s military. He needs to replenish forces with more Japanese men and women.

If you haven’t had a chance, please buy a copy of my latest book, Japan’s Information War, published in July 2016. Copies are literally flying off the shelves. The difference is that those shelves are mine as I remove copies I bought to take with me when I give invited lectures. (Warning: If you a student enrolled in my classes at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, you are a  captive audience and you will be required to read my book this semester.) Read my chapter, “No Sex: Brand Japan Stereotypes.” In it I spend a lot of time talking about sex in Japan as portrayed in the global media. Why? Because the world seems fascinated with whether or not the Japanese younger generation is getting together, coupling, dating, uniting–you get the picture. Well, let’s just ask Barry White to paint that picture for us:

So the world is fascinated with sexless Japan. Just check out this YouTube personality, Philip DeFranco, who showed my picture and quoted me from the CNN story:

You see, sex sells! Always has, always will. I could talk about the most serious policy issue and get no attention but if I comment about sex, then I’m famous for a half a minute.

Here’s the rub.

What is happening here in Japan is occurring in other parts of the world. Like Italy. The difference is that we associate Italian men and women with romance and love. It’s part of nation brand Italy: fast cars and even faster men. Or if we are seeking classic romance, then it’s Italy again. Think Roman Holiday. Better yet, watch Roman Holiday. Maybe it will put us all in the romantic mood. But I digress.

My suggestion to Japanese Millennials: Relax.half full

Don’t feel pressured to overcome global media stereotypes or exaggerations. The country of Japan is going to survive. It will be fine. It may have to open itself up more to foreigners in various categories from short-term workers to permanent residents, but I have full confidence that this country is going to right the ship. Or should I say love boat?!