Introverts Aren’t Losers: Re-reading Haruki Murakami’s Latest

Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage isn’t the story of a reclusive sad sack. It’s a success story. And his pilgrimage? It’s a journey to understanding. Why did so many American critics fail to see this? Partly, I think, it’s because Murakami slyly invites the derogatory interpretation. He depicts Tsukuru as thoroughly brainwashed into believing that only flamingly colorful extroversion is real personality. But mostly, I believe, the critical blindness stems from the deeply-ingrained American preference for extroverts, a phenomenon that is brilliantly examined by Susan Cain in her recent book entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Even in intellectual circles, evidently, there’s little appreciation for quiet accomplishment. Read more »

The Ideal Man: Jim Thompson and the American Way of War – Book Review Essay

Jim Thompson himself, though, was a mystery and that contributes to questions surrounding his disappearance. Joshua Kurlantzick’s The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War (Johnathan Wiley and Sons, 2011) tries hard to solve that mystery but in the end the trail runs cold. The only thing we’re pretty sure of is that Thompson had a number of enemies as well as friends, was likely not eaten by wild tigers or other four legged predators then inhabiting the Cameron Highlands, did not commit suicide and would not have taken a fatal misstep and slipped into some ravine. Read more »

Red Flags over Lhasa

Of course, there’s life in China, the intellectual and creative sort as well as the human sort, but it seems to have retreated underground, where it’s safe from the authorities but inaccessible to short-term visitors unversed in Chinese. As a result, all the new construction in China seemed rather ghoulish to me, like fingernails growing from the digits of a corpse which belongs, not to the Chinese people, but to the all-suffocating party that rules. Read more »

Kanishka in Kashgar: A Report from the Fringes of the Chinese Empire

Although the locals have no effective control over the transformation of their ancient city and the Han immigrants get the best jobs, run the big shops and can afford the nicest new apartments, a certain veneer of local autonomy is maintained. This includes, in Xinjiang, a two language policy. Commercial signs—on shops, for instance—must use the Uighur language as well as Chinese characters. And they do, after a fashion. With few exceptions, the Chinese characters are huge enough to be read at a distance; the Arabic script of Uighur is so tiny it comes across as a long squiggle. Read more »

But What Will China Choose? A Review Article

If it would be disastrous for America to go to war with China and self-defeating for America to pull out of Asia entirely, there’s only one realistic policy path for America now and in the near future: to work toward a cooperative sharing of power in Asia such that all, great powers and small, will benefit. Harking back to nineteenth century European history, he calls it a Concert of Asia. Whatever it’s called cooperation would seem to be a no brainer. Except for the details, of course, where the devil resides. But sadly there’s no room for detail in Hugh White's The China Choice. Read more »

Win for China, draw for Russia and the US

In a recent post on the Snowden Case, Dmitri Trenin of Carnegie’s Moscow Institute asks why US relations with China – America’s real rival – are so much less contentious than they are with Russia. It’s a good question. Is it the differences in political cultures as Trenin posits? Or something else in terms of Snowden? Did, in this case, the Chinese just outsmart the Russians by getting what they wanted from Snowden and then passing that hot potato over to Moscow leaving the Russians holding the bag? Read more »

Note to China from India: As Ye Sow….

As Manmohan Singh (who's notorious for his almost infuriatingly wild manner) said to Shinzo Abe during his visit to Tokyo, “Our defense and security dialogue, military exercises and defense technology collaboration should grow.” Maybe it’s time for China to rethink its doubly offensive, aggressive and expansionist foreign policy. The blowback, I suspect, has only begun. Imagine this: India and Pakistan deciding that their permanent state of war may have become more beneficial to China than to the petulant siblings of South Asia. Will Pakistan’s army allow a normalization of relations to happen this time around? Read more »

The Asian Pivot and Obama’s Gum-Chewing Problem

As an old hand at public diplomacy, I deeply do not understand why the administration so blatantly announced that it was shifting its attention, i.e., executing a pivot, to the East, thus implying that the U.S. lacks the resources to handle a full plate of global issues. Maybe the U.S. isn’t equipped these days to wage a two-front war, but any world power worth the name must have the resources to carry out effective diplomacy on a global scale. Otherwise, it’s not a middling power, much less a super power. What’s more, isn’t it rather dense to inform both goodies and baddies in the Middle East that their neighborhood no longer merits significant American attention? What a wonderful way to dishearten old allies and encourage negative elements to step up their mischief! And how insulting, this the loss of face, of importance, announced to the whole world: old friends no longer matter! Read more »

Nawaz Wins: What’s Next in Pakistan?

Nawaz Sharif appears to be a known factor, yet all we really know is that Pakistani policy under the PML-N could go in many different directions, none under U.S. control. In this situation, diplomacy will serve better than drones and CIA sub-contractors. Read more »

On Dealing with the Hermit Kingdom

Does North Korea’s leadership belong in the madhouse or Alcatraz as so many of our right wing politicians, militarists and some journalists seem to suggest? Or are they behaving as sanely – at least from their perspective - as their accusers? Is there something important going on in Pyongyang that is overlooked here that should be considered? Read more »