Asia has been the future for more than a generation. When Americans try to glimpse what’s to come, images of the Pacific Rim flood the imagination. For movie audiences in 1982, the rain-soaked Los Angeles of Blade Runner looked like downtown Tokyo. By 2014, the City of Angels in the Spike Jonze film Her had more of a Shanghai vibe. This… Continue reading Who Will Take America’s Place in Asia
James Mattis visited Asia this month on his first foreign trip as the new head of the Pentagon. It was less a get-acquainted visit than a damage control tour. His boss, President Donald Trump, had threatened to escalate tensions with China and prevent North Korea from launching a nuclear-capable ICBM. He’d accused Japan of currency… Continue reading Will Trump Complete the Pivot to Asia?
In the ads in the back of old comic books, a skinny little kid is hanging out at the beach when a bully comes along and kicks sand in his face. The little kid, who weighed 97 pounds at the time, was Angelo Siciliano. He hightailed it to the gym, where he worked out until… Continue reading Is Japan’s Prime Minister the Next Putin?
In bidding farewell to 2014, most of us gave the year a swift kick in the rear end as it exited the calendar. On foreign policy in particular, few people had nice things to say about the recently departed. After all, it was a banner year for all manner of evils. The Ebola outbreak in… Continue reading Why 2014 Wasn’t So Terrible
It wasn’t long ago that certain pundits were predicting war in Asia. Back in the spring, the conflict over the South China Sea was heating up as China sparred with Vietnam over an oil exploration rig and with the Philippines over disputed reefs. Japan and China, meanwhile, were butting heads over a string of uninhabited rocks in… Continue reading Asia Smiles for the Cameras
On the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, Europe is at peace. There are no major border disputes. The countries form a unified economic bloc instead of a patchwork of jostling alliances. In the last 70 years, the only large-scale violence took place during the unraveling of Yugoslavia, which ended 15 years… Continue reading Asia: The Ghosts of 1914
In a future update of The Devil’s Dictionary, the famed Ambrose Bierce dissection of the linguistic hypocrisies of modern life, a single word will accompany the entry for “Pacific pivot”: retreat. It might seem a strange way to characterize the Obama administration’s energetic attempt to reorient its foreign and military policy toward Asia. After all, the president’s… Continue reading The Empire’s New Asian Clothes
I passed through an enormous tori, the traditional gate in front of Shinto shrines. In the courtyard, white-clad Shinto priests walked quietly back and forth. A flock of white doves, specially bred on the site, pecked at the ground and then took wing at the prodding of a photographer. I visited the strolling garden and… Continue reading The Sun Also Rises
Dear Mom: I haven’t written much from Okinawa. I’m sorry about that. I guess maybe you were expecting lots of exciting war stories from your son the Marine. But honestly, the most exciting thing we’ve done is put in a sea wall over by the Torii Beach shoreline and then take it down again when… Continue reading Letter from Okinawa