Monday, June 28, 2010

Musical Deck Chairs, or The Bureaucratic Shuffle

Drawing on his public diplomacy and State Department background, my colleague Joshua S. Fouts analyzes the bureaucratic implications of my "Pragmatic Overdose" essay on how the Obama administration is struggling to articulate a coherent global development policy. His comments are reposted from The Imagination Age.

From Evan's essay:
Security Should Not Define Development

Obama's advisors want to energize U.S. development policy by framing it in terms of American national security, calling development a "strategic imperative." This makes it sound important, but in reality it will backfire. The common wisdom is that poverty breeds instability. The problem is that scarce development dollars are not necessarily best spent in conflict zones. In fact, American development policy is hampered by the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, which attract a disproportionate share of expertise and resources. These three countries are nowhere near the wealth threshold above which democracies tend to stabilize. They would be risky development investments even without conflict. The tradeoff is thus development projects where they might better flourish.
Evan's point is well-made. But it's an issue that will be challenging to the culture of the State Department, where I used to work. Development policy is closely related to cultural relations work (sometimes called public diplomacy) which suffers from a similar dilemma in these kinds of bureaucratic associations.
New Values, Not New Bureaucracy

As it stands, Obama's "New Way Forward" is more bureaucratic shuffle than fresh ethical vision—coordination between departments is necessary, but not sufficient. His team must dig deeper into the fault lines of American foreign policy and take advantage of a crucial chance to redefine America's global engagement.

We won't see a new way forward until the United States views other nations as equal peers in the quest to realize a good life, instead of treating them as instruments in pursuit of American national security or favorable trade. To achieve this, the State Department must stake out its own values—beneficial immigration flows, fair trade, and regional green energy innovation—instead of cutting turf from Defense and other departments.
Herein lies the dilemma. The State Department's "own values" are clouded by layers of historic turf wars fighting for the level of financial investment and support it needs to do its work. After decades of decreasing budgets relative to that of the Defense Department a culture of insecurity has been bred in the State Department. When I was there in the 1990s, the insecurity and desire to demonstrate relevance compared to the well-funded Defense Department was palpable.

The rhetoric hasn't changed much since I left in 1997, as I discovered last week when I was inducted as a Next Generation Fellow of The American Assembly. During round-table discussions about US cultural outreach efforts throughout the day with other fellows and observers, one participant, a public diplomacy foreign service officer, declared that we "should not have another discussion about bringing back the USIA." The dissolution of the USIA is a topic that gets brought up constantly during such discussions.

For readers who don't know, the USIA was the State Department's quasi-independent cultural outreach arm, which was dismantled in 1999 when Congress and the Clinton Administration decided (incorrectly, as the events of September 11, 2001 would soon prove) that we had won the war of global public opinion. The remaining parts of USIA that survived were folded into the new Public Diplomacy cone of the State Department.

Since then, the public diplomacy officers with successful careers are those who adopted the rhetoric quoted above. The logic is simple in an organization as bureaucratic as the State Department: Where you stand depends on where you sit.

The USIA, in theory, was a great agency, but the fact is that it always remained beholden to the State Department and was thus limited in its ability to influence perceptions of the United States. The debate about bringing back the USIA is a time consuming one during events aimed at enhancing cultural relations and, further, completely misses the point, namely that influence can no longer be imposed by rhetoric in the modern world. If an agency is created to address this need, the United States and global community would be far better served by a new method and approach.

Wouldn't it be more innovative, creative, productive, and, yes, more American, to champion investment in intercultural dialogue programs be they independent or governmental? The fact of the matter is, US government investment in cultural relations relative to defense is, at best, an afterthought. Worse, it is a joke, compared to the efforts of other countries. No US foreign service officer should be proudly defending the State Department from creating another USIA. They should be demanding increased funding for cultural relations by any means necessary.

Evan's essay is yet another reminder that bureaucracy does not change. I used to believe that the work of cultural relations and development were well-placed in the State Department. I now believe that we would be better served adopting the UK model by creating an independent cultural relations entity like the British Council. (Dancing Ink Productions is currently collaborating with the British Council on the development of a global creative space within the digital culture for real world cultural relations benefit.)

Based on an earlier report by retired foreign service office John Brown, it sounds like the Obama Administration agrees: Obama's Public Diplomacy Chief of Staff recently told Brown that people interested in doing applied cultural relations work should not look to the State Department for careers but should go to NGOs.

Encouraging passionate US citizens who are concerned about improving ties with other cultures to take their work elsewhere is entirely self defeating for the United States and will cripple us further in the global arena. The Obama Administration needs to support cultural relations financially as well. Government investment in fighting wars overseas should be considered just as important as preventing them by improving cultural understanding between people.

Sadly, there is no domestic constituency for cultural relations work in the US. So the likelihood of increased investment in this critical part of our interaction with the world will be left in the hands of others.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

American Beer Mythology, Revised

Faithful members of the Church of Real Beer (also known by their self-effacing nickname "beer geeks") can recite a common beer mythology. It goes something like this: Back before Prohibition, America was one of the greatest beer countries in the world, producing wholesome ales in thousands of quaint breweries around the country. Back then, America commanded the respect it deserved as a great beer-producing nation. Then came Prohibition, which Americans brought upon themselves, and they were thus kicked out of the beer Garden of Eden. After the United States realized that Prohibition only led to organized crime and moonshine, it was too late. The beer hiatus during Prohibition gave "big beer" a window to elbow out the smaller craft breweries. Through bribery, trickery, and thuggery, large brewing enterprises like Anheuser-Busch, Pabst, Miller, and Schlitz forced Americans to drink thin, watery lager and by the 1970s, there was nothing left but this swill. America became a beer laughing stock. But a miracle happened. A visionary named Fritz Maytag had a epiphany and decided his calling was to restore America's beer tradition. Maytag resurrected an old brewery in San Francisco, sparking a beer restoration in the 1980s that led to the founding of venerable breweries such as Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams), Mendocino Brewing Company, and Brooklyn Brewery. Through hard work and devotion to the movement, beer geeks have supported a return to America's great beer tradition and won over many converts.

A version of this mythic history of American beer appears in the introduction of Maureen Ogle's fascinating social history of the United States through beer Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer. In this impressively researched book, Ogle sets out to debunk the beer geek gospel. Her book creates what one might call American beer history revisionism.

Ogle is a historian. The business of being a historian is to create new histories or new interpretations. In Ogle's new beer history, the world of good and evil is turned upside down. The heroes of Ogle's book are the villains in the beer geek worldview: Adolphus Busch and Frederick Pabst, the German-born founders of Anheuser-Busch and Pabst Brewing Company respectively. Her core argument is that contrary to the belief that these two companies came to dominate the U.S. market through intimidation, cost-cutting, and swollen marketing budgets, in fact A-B and Pabst prevailed through hard work, quality, consistency, innovation, and ultimately adapting to tastes and giving the people what they wanted. The big breweries relied on these traits to overcome several obstacles, proving their worth.

To add to these two excellent reviews, I would like to describe some of the business drama that Ogle outlines in her book. A big challenge that the breweries faced and overcame was to keep beer fresh in markets outside of the breweries' local market. Determined to expand the market and grow their company, Busch and Anheuser by 1872 were shipping bottled beer to the Southwest of the United States, "making them the first Americans to exploit the commercial possibilites of Pasteur's ideas" on pasteurization. By 1879 A-B was shipping its products to every state in the United States--thanks to the innovative use of refrigerator cars--and even to India, Japan, and South America, and Europe in small quantities.

Another challenge early in U.S. beer history was the luxury tax. At the end of the Civil War, the Union Congress needed revenue and in 1862 began taxing items such as billiard tables, liquor, and beer--at one dollar per barrel. The German brewers in America wanted to show their patriotism but still hoped for a lower tax. Several Eastern U.S. brewers met in New York City to strategize and convinced Congress to lower the tax to 60 cents per barrel--thus inspiring the formation "of the nation's first trade and lobby of any kind, the United States Brewers' Association."

A third and reoccurring challenge to beer in America has been the varying forms of temperance movements. The 50 years following the American Revolution, according to Ogle, "proved as intoxicating as cheap whisky." Society saw the emergence of the confidence man (or con man) who spun "outrageous schemes" to trick people out of their money. Americans started to wonder about their nation's moral integrity. "Self-doubt and self-examination inspired action. In the 1820s and 1830s, hordes of well-meaning crusaders launched a multi-armed effort to reform and perfect the American character... the jewel in the reform's thorny crown was temperance."

This temperance movement in the 1800s eventually collapsed but it produced an "unintended, profound consequence that shaped brewing for the next fifty years." That is it drew attention to the virtues of Germans and their lager; the two lived together in harmony and moderation without the social evils Americans feared. German lager seemed to be the moderate answer between the problems temperance created and moral degradation liquor seemed to spur. Scientists, doctors, and others came to the German lager beer's camp, stating how in effect it was not intoxicating. Harper's Weekly even joined the bandwagon stating, "Good lager is pronounced by the [scientific] faculty to be a mild tonic, calculated, on the average, to be rather beneficial than injurious to the system." By the mid 1800s, lager beer saloons and gardens could be found in cities all over the country.

A later temperance movement succeeded in creating Prohibition. The success of the Anti-Saloon League had to do with the times in America, again a time of moral reflection after another revolution (industrial). "As one dry put it, 'You may exercise your personal liberty only in so far as you do not place additional burdens upon your neighbor, or upon the State.'" To many, alcohol seemed to do just that, Ogle writes. On January 16, 1919 the Eighteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution established Prohibition in the United States until it was repealed in 1933 by the Twenty-first Amendement.

Interestingly, one of the finest American microbreweries, the 21st Amendment Brewery, named after the Amendment that repealed Prohibition, explains their namesake on their website. The story harkens to the beer geek mythos:

In 1920, Prohibition wiped out this culture and put the “local” out of business. For 13 years, social interaction was largely driven underground, to the speakeasies, where regular citizens became a nation of outlaws.

But with the passage of the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition, we, as a society, were able to begin the slow climb back to reclaiming the essence of the neighborhood gathering place. At the 21st Amendment, they celebrate the culture of the great breweries of old, making unique, hand crafted beers, great food, and providing a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere that invites conversation, interaction and a sense of community.

A final cultural wave helped give birth to the beloved microbrew. In the 1970s, only one-third of Americans trusted the government, down from 80 percent in the 1950s. In the early 1970s, writes Ogle, Americans rejected all things corporate and establishment, "thanks to the Vietnam war, crushing recession, and Watergate." The expression "small is beautiful" captured the feeling. It was in this environment that Fritz Maytag, who in 1965 bought the Steam Beer Brewing Company on a whim, was to succeed. Maytag, the great grandson of Maytag corporation founder Frederick Maytag I, was living in San Francisco and studying Japanese at Stanford's graduate program but pined for something meaningful. "That 'something' landed in his lap" in August 1965 when he leaned about the brewery was about to close.

In the rest of the book, the apostles of the microbrewery movement make appearances, including Jim Koch of Boston Beer Company, who controversially used contracting brewing to expand production of his beers, Charlie Papazian, the founder of the Association of Brewers and author of perhaps the most famous homebrew cook book The Joy of Home Brewing, and Sam Calagione, the founder of Delaware's Dogfish Head Brewery, which has pushed the innovation envelope by brewing with exotic ingredients such as raisins, ginger, and cocoa powder. Koch and Calagione, by the way, have been competing to produce the world's strongest beer; last I checked Koch was winning with his Utopias at 25.6 percent alcohol. And after Anheuser-Busch was sold to InBev in 2008, Koch's Boston Beer Company became the largest American-owned brewery, a title that Adolphus Busch had fought hard to achieve 100 years before.

Photo by Herkie.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Joi Ito on Fundraising for Nonprofits

Reposted from: Joi Ito / CC BY 3.0

Yesterday I attended a meeting called "The Future of Fundraising" organized by Jennifer McCrea with the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University. It was at the Harvard Club in New York.

It was a small group with a bunch of heavy hitters including some of the best fund raisers in the world. I learned a tremendous amount and was very energized after the meeting.

Some notes from the meeting.

Good executive directors (ED) were also the main fund raisers and they generally loved fund raising. In fact, there was a strong opinion of many that any ED who wasn't excited about fund raising, shouldn't be the ED.

Fund raising is about relationships and building relationships and is very different from sales and marketing in normal for-profits.

In a non-profit, you're not selling some good or service to a customer. What you're doing is helping the donor fulfill or pursue a dream or a cause. In order to be successful you have to have a understand the donor and become part of their world view.

Many non-profits think of donors as a funding source to pay for programs that execute on their mission. In fact, donors should be part of the mission. Good non-profits integrate the funding model directly into the mission. Churches are usually MUCH better at raising money than the natural history museum because "giving" is an integral part of the church-going experience whereas the natural history museum usually tries to collect money from the outside to allow them to run their mission internally.

When trying to understand a world view of someone, it is useful to try to categorize their world view and there may be seven basic world views.

The following "Seven Philanthropic World Views" were presented by Gunther M. Weil.

World ViewPhilanthropic Values & Motive
Alien/ThreatenedSurvival & Security
Family/Socialfamily tradition, care/nurture, status/image
Organizational/Transactionalfinancial metrics & accountability, productivity, efficiency
Self-Actualization/Serviceself-discovery, empathy, altruism, service
Collaborativesocial justice, innovation, collaboration
Symbioticsociety transformation, prophetic vision, wisdom & spirituality
Global Transformationglobal transformational human rights, global ecology, macroeconomics

Once you understand someone's world view, it's much easier to try to understand why they would give and whether there is something in what we do that helps them advance their world view.

Another key point in all of the stories about successful fund raising was that good fund raisers loved their work. Their work was to get to know people. How are their kids? What's their dogs name? Do they have extra tickets to the ballgame? Do they need extra tickets to the ball game? The feelings have to be genuine, respectful and they have to care. You need people who LIKE people. You never ask for money in the first meeting, but you never leave a meeting without asking for SOMETHING. Also, you should offer something too. Always have a followup action. But most importantly, walk away knowing the world view of the person and begin developing trust. The partnerships with donors is a long term relationship involving lots of dialog and exchange where the giving to the organization is only one piece.

All of the top fund raisers took two vacations. One with their families and another with their families and their donors. Working with donors means becoming part of their private lives. It's not just a day job.

One organization sent a message to all of their donors during the Haiti crisis asking them to give to an NGO that they had vetted. They didn't ask for any money for themselves. This had a hugely positive effect and the donors trust in the group increased. Wallets aren't zero sum.

Long term donors and their relationship with the organization is a partnership. This is true of individuals, government program officers and foundation program officers.

One thing to keep in mind is that the world view of the organization that they're in (or family) and the person themselves can sometimes be different and teasing all of this out and helping them solve for this is also key. It's important not to try to force our story and lead with what we need, but rather to understand what the donor needs and see how we fit into the solution.

A key term that kept coming up was "tribe". We're trying to make a tribe of donors and supporters and they all need to feel like they're participants, not just funders for some group of people who go off and do stuff.

Having said that, there is also a lot of analysis. One non-profit would somehow get all of the names and annual incomes of targeted high-net-worth individuals and do a 3 hour call with the board to figure out who would approach who and strategize the approach to each person.

In most cases, board members developed relationships directly with the donors and rarely did the development person successfully email "on behalf" of the board member. A good development staff member usually provided support, analytics and tracking.

The message is very important. It's important to evoke an emotional and visual idea of what we do, rather than the detailed explanation of what we do. The metaphor that resonated was "what is in the frame" no what is written on the plaque below the picture.

My apologies for these rambling style of these notes, but I thought I'd get them out while they were fresh on my mind. I wanted to share because fundraising is a key component to success for non-profits and it is one of the things I get asked about the most.

Reposted from Joi Ito.

The Hypocrisy Clause

Guest post by Timothy A. Wise of TripleCrisis

Trade officials in the Obama Administration have made it abundantly clear that they will move forward in the WTO's Doha Round of negotiations only if the larger developing countries agree to open their economies more to U.S. exports. As Kevin Gallagher pointed out on the Triple Crisis Blog ("Obama's New Trade Agenda"), the administration's trade policies, and its announced goal of doubling U.S. exports, backtrack from those of the Bush Administration, renege on the basic principles of the Doha Development Round, and undermine precisely the kind of multilateralism President Obama claims to stand for.

Such intransigence does not bode well for the WTO, nor does it give much hope that the Obama Administration will use the current TransPacific Partnership negotiations to forge what it promises will be a "21st century trade agreement."

Clearly, a creative new approach is needed to break the trade deadlocks. I offer a modest proposal here: Instead of negotiating reductions in tariffs and farm subsidies, it's time to negotiate reductions in hypocrisy. I call it the Hypocrisy Clause, which mandates phased reductions in "trade-distorting hypocrisy," with the greatest reductions coming from the most developed hypocrites.

Why focus on hypocrisy? Ask the unemployed workers who voted for Obama based on his campaign commitment to reform NAFTA and future trade agreements.

Ask any developing country negotiator. Ask the Brazilians, who have been waiting six years for the U.S. government to respect the WTO ruling that U.S. cotton subsidies violate WTO rules. The U.S. has flaunted the WTO finding, appealing twice (and losing), and now Obama's trade officials have the gall say they'll step up enforcement of existing trade rules. They even cut a side deal with Brazil to stave off Brazil's approved retaliatory trade measures, further delaying compliance with WTO rules. Meanwhile, Mexico waits for its NAFTA partner to comply with the NAFTA ruling on Mexican trucks entering the U.S.

But if you want to know why we should negotiate hypocrisy reductions, ask the so-called "Cotton 4" countries in Africa. Their cotton farmers have suffered more than Brazil's from the U.S failure to respect the WTO ruling. Now they listen as U.S. negotiators insist that no movement on cotton can occur until the larger Doha agreement is signed, in direct contradiction of the 2005 Hong Kong commitments to treat cotton "ambitiously, expeditiously and specifically" ahead of the broader Doha agreement.

Who cares what the rules are or what the negotiators agree to if the rich countries then just do what they want?

Under my Hypocrisy Clause, that stops. The United States, as a developed country that has benefited greatly over many years from its past hypocrisy, would have to eliminate such actions immediately. So would the European Union, whose own hypocrisy may not compare with current U.S. levels (much to the EU's delight) but still offers large trade-distorting benefits. The EU could start by scaling back its export subsidies for dairy products, which it raised last year to dump surplus milk despite its loudly proclaimed commitment to end all export subsidies under Doha.

Under the proposed Hypocrisy Clause, rich countries will have to reduce or eliminate "trade-distorting hypocrisy." Hypocritical acts and negotiating positions deemed non-trade-distorting will still be permitted. (Otherwise there would be no politicians to negotiate.)

But what about middle-income hypocrisy? Isn't Brazil one of the world's largest agro-export powers with a well-cultivated reputation for defending the interests of other countries' small-scale farmers? Isn't Brazil also guilty of hypocrisy? Absolutely. In fact, as part of its side agreement on cotton with the United States, Brazil got a multi-million dollar fund for investment in its cotton sector. Talk about hypocrisy: Africa's Cotton 4 will now have to compete in global markets not only with subsidized U.S. cotton but with Brazilian cotton subsidized by the United States!

Middle-income countries such as Brazil, which have only recently begun to benefit economically from their hypocrisy in international negotiations, will have to reduce such trade-distorting actions, but they will be given more time. This reflects the Doha principle of "special and differentiated treatment" for developing countries, with reduction schedules that demand "less than full reciprocity" from developing country hypocrites.

And the Least Developed Countries? Their governments will be allowed to be as hypocritical as they want, since their countries have yet to benefit economically from such positions.

Does my Hypocrisy Clause proposal stand any chance of success, given the rampant hypocrisy in global trade negotiations? It has at least as good a chance as the current efforts to negotiate fair tariff and subsidy reductions when the world's largest trading partner won't respect the Doha mandate, doesn't comply with existing WTO rulings, and demands further liberalization in developing countries' financial sectors after its own deregulated financial sector nearly provoked a global depression.

If rich countries are going to keep using trade negotiations to "kick away the ladder" of development, outlawing the very trade measures they themselves relied on to grow, then we're better off abandoning the pretense of negotiating about industrial tariffs, agricultural subsidies, and service-sector liberalization.

Instead, let's cut the hypocrisy.

[PHOTO CREDIT: Harvesting cotton in Brazil, by Farming Matters (CC).]

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Obama Did Not "Take Down" Hatoyama

Hatoyama brought himself down.

Last night I was interviewed by Jim Swanson of Progressive News Radio. We talked about U.S.-Japan relations after Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama stepped down from office last week, and about what we might expect under the new Naoto Kan administration. You can listen to our conversation here.

One of the topics we covered during the interview was a narrative that appeared in several publications immediately after Hatoyama's resignation advancing the notion that somehow U.S. President Obama was responsible for Hatoyama's political demise. Never mind the distasteful samurai references to Hatoyama "falling on his sword" and committing "ritual suicide." Blaming Obama for Hatoyama's fall not only ignores the facts, it is patronizing to Japan.

The argument I take issue with essentially says the following: The United States had developed a cozy relationship with the Liberal Democratic Party during that party's decades of nearly uninterrupted rule in Japan. After the Democratic Party of Japan defeated the LDP in the August 2009 general election, the U.S. government got nervous that it no longer had a vassal in East Asia that would obey U.S. wishes and advance U.S. policy—even though the DPJ and the Obama Administration shared many philosophical views and the U.S. and Japan share many core security interests. Hatoyama's move to renegotiate an agreement that the United States and Japan had made in 2006 over the relocation of a U.S. marine base in Okinawa convinced Obama, the argument goes, to greet Hatoyama in international forums with an "icy posture," causing Obama to "lose face," eventually forcing the Japanese leader to resign. (Variations of this argument can be found in The Huffington Post, The New York Times, Slate magazine, Foreign Policy in Focus, and elsewhere.)

If only it were that easy. Wouldn't it be nice if President Obama were able to take down leaders of countries just by being "icy" toward them? Imagine the power. The United States could simply shape international politics through sheer will. If Obama had such supernatural powers, wouldn't he use them to eliminate troublesome figures like Kim Jong Il instead of allies like Japan? Perhaps like any superhero he must keep them secret to avoid unintended consequences. But that is also part of the Obama-is-to-blame narrative: The United States should be careful when using its power for it may face unnamed "consequences." At least this whole notion dispels the dubious "America in decline" school of thought.

The blame-Obama narrative also assumes no independent agency in Japan and therefore sounds U.S.-centric, narcissistic, and uninformed about what has actually been happening in Japan over the past eight months. Since the day Hatoyama came into office Japanese people have poked fun at the politician, calling him an "alien," "a professor," a "momma's boy," and a "pigeon"—a play off his name (see the video above of the prime minister during his last days in office imitating a pigeon).

Meanwhile, Hatoyama was wishy-washy on other things, including pocketbook issues like highway tolls and cash subsidies for families with children. Other money problems included Hatoyama's own campaign funds scandal and a ballooning budget deficit. Hatoyama's failed attempt to renegotiate the relocation of the Okinawa marine base demonstrated to Japanese voters that he lacked leadership skills and failed to appreciate Japan's security needs. It is understandable that Hatoyama would want to reopen the Okinawa base issue, but I believe he could have done so with much more tact, leaving himself room to maneuver in case things didn't look good. At the least, he should have sought a viable political alternative domestically before announcing to his ally that the 2006 agreement was off. As Obama's Asia advisor Jeffrey Bader put it this week at a meeting in Washington:

Secretary Gates visited Japan in October and made clear that the FRF (Futenma Relocation Framework) remained the best option, that walking away from it would damage the alliance. There was criticism of Secretary Gates' so-called "confrontational" approach. In fact, someone on the Japanese side chose to leak virtually the entire transcript of Gates' first meeting with FM Okada to Kyodo News, giving the appearance that Gates was seeking a public confrontation when he was in fact speaking frankly in a private meeting.

As we all know, PM Hatoyama decided in December Japan would not implement the FRF as agreed upon. He said Japan would reach agreement with us on a new proposal by the end of May and made clear his preference was to relocate the MCAS Futenma off Okinawa--if not off Japan altogether.

We thought this was a mistake, for various reasons. We made clear our disagreement to the Japanese government. At the same time, we did not reject Hatoyama's proposal to talk. We would have preferred to stay with the option so arduously negotiated over 15 years, and continued to say it was the "best" option, but we did not insist that it was the "only" option. Rather, we showed respect and understanding of the politics of Japan and the needs of the new government. We were frankly skeptical that delay would produce more positive results. But, that is how allies should treat each other, particularly in the "alliance of equals" about which Hatoyama spoke and which President Obama has accepted.

Hatoyama's mishandling of Japan's relationship with the United States and his flip-flopping on domestic issues precipitated a steady decline in his administration's public support from percentages in the 70s to below 20 at the end of his time in office. People I interviewed in Japan were predicting Hatoyama's undoing and Naoto Kan's ascent as early as November 2009, just a couple of months into Hatoyama's term.

The Japanese people's attitude toward security is paradoxical. Most Japanese understand that the alliance is important for the security of Japan (America and President Obama have been quite popular in Japan since Obama took office). Many Japanese want a more independent foreign policy but they are also reluctant to devote more funding to making that a reality given the country's extremely high levels of government debt. Making things worse, Japan is facing a declining population and is unlikely to open its borders to large numbers of immigrants. So the default position is to rely to a large degree on the United States, a proven, trustworthy ally.

On top of that, the blame-Obama sound bite is mostly an English press phenomenon, and has little resonance with the Japanese media. Foreign pressure (gaiatsu) can have a role in advancing change in Japan, but it needs a domestic constituency for it to actually work. The Japanese have been expecting Hatoyama's resignation for months given his poor performance in office. As a democracy, Japan was able to move on to a more promising leader. To blame foreign leaders for Hatoyama's fall would belittle Japanese democracy.