Caroline Kennedy was officially tapped as the next ambassador to Japan by President Obama on Wednesday. This could be a great idea. It could also spectacularly blow up in our faces. We’ll get into that below.
Kennedy’s nomination is seen as a reward for her efforts to get President Obama in the White House twice, and if confirmed, she will be the first woman to serve in a post that is crucial to our vital relationship with Japan.
Caroline Kennedy would also bring a third generation of her family into the U.S. diplomatic corps. She would replace John Roos, a former Silicon Valley lawyer and a hugely wealthy Obama campaign fundraiser.
Why This Is A Terrible Idea
Aside from the fact that Kennedy has no clear ties to Japan, the country’s important role as an ally to the U.S. will only become more crucial as China continues to grow. Worse, Japan is seeing a huge rise in nationalism under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who desires to change the U.S.-imposed constitution.
The thing with Japan is that their constitution is the official basis of their inherent pacifism and mandates a close relationship with the U.S. Japanese politics could dramatically change in the coming years, requiring an experienced diplomat from the U.S. to keep our relationship with the country intact.
Kennedy has very little diplomatic or governmental experience, despite her family name.
Why This Actually Could Turn Out Okay
Per The Washington Post, while Kennedy herself doesn’t have much linking her to Japan, her family name actually does, and could provide a strategic advantage for us in the long run. Not only was the Kennedy family instrumental in securing the alliance with Japan we enjoy today back in the 1960s, Kennedy’s name affords her a sort of celebrity status.
The Japanese are huge fans of American celebrities.
Gender politics are also a big thing in Japan right now, and some have predicted that a female U.S. ambassador to Japan could move those issues along in a positive way.
“I think this appointment would be a great catalyst for addressing this issue and reversing the backward decline in Japan,” says Tokyo-based consultant William Saito.
Though public attitudes regarding gender issues in Japan have arguably gone backwards recently, most experts agree that the economic reality in Japan (they have the world’s third-largest economy) guarantees that they can’t afford not to figure out a way to close the gender gap. Kennedy could play a nice role in that.
What do you think? Should Caroline Kennedy be confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan?
[Image: Sage Ross]