More on Asia and Dogs: Ikenberry Enters the Fray


Jackson Ikenberry & Hachiko Shibuya Station Tokyo 29 July 2010.jpg .jpg
(photo of Jackson Ikenberry next to Hachiko at Shibuya Station, Japan; photo credit: G. John Ikenberry)
Sorry folks. This may be a bit inside for some of you — but I have this sort of weird, psycho connection with G. John Ikenberry, a professor of international relations at Princeton University.
Ikenberry is a policy intellectual I always have time for — even though he ‘wrongly’ thinks that the problem the world is facing is an America that is so vastly powerful and outstrips all other global stakeholders that it runs big risks of seeing its power bounded by other competitors who will converge and conspire against its interests. (I see ‘wrongly’ in a friendly, jesting sense — as Ikenberry is usually right)
I, in contrast, see a deficit in America’s power as being the most serious contributor to global instability today. Allies are not counting on the US as much as they once did — and foes are moving their agendas. The international system is in flux because of the profound doubt around the world in American power.
All that said, we are just sort of connected.
At exactly the moment I posted my piece on Dogs in China: More on Leashes, Less on the Menu, Ikenberry snapped this pic of his son, Jackson Ikenberry, standing next to the famous Hachiko statue outside of Shibuya station in Tokyo.
Hachiko stood by his owner, and now everyone gets to stand by Hachiko.
If you are a sucker for tear-jerkers, get Hachiko: A Dog’s Story with Richard Gere at Red Box. Yes, I watched it — and yes, I have to admit to liking it, but I’m a sucker for independent-minded pups.
OK, back to the serious stuff.
— Steve Clemons
Update: Ikenberry writes in that the following better describes his position:
The “Ikenberry position” might more accurately be:

the US has exercised its unrivaled power most effectively when it has invested it in institutions, alliances, and partnerships. The world still wants the US to be strong, if not unipolar, and oriented toward pragmatic global problem solving. No one else can!

My view is that America invents its power and builds it through the investments Ikenberry describes. His book, Liberal Leviathan, should be out soon — and we hope to have him participate in these pages frequently discussing these themes.
— Steve Clemons


8 comments on “More on Asia and Dogs: Ikenberry Enters the Fray

  1. Orwell says:

    Japan does not want necessarily to play the role of Hachiko, obedient to his Master or the role of the famaous RCA dog. It was a dog but these days they are not allowed even to be an independent pup. Today is August 5th, the day of mass destruction some decades ago in Nagasaki.
    The church bess in Nagasaki still tolls, “Peace on Earth”. The sounds echoes into the ends of the barren lands.


  2. David says:

    Actually, no one else with heft will, and to date domestic politics continue to prevent Obama from pursuing this course. All he has been able to do so far is rescue America somewhat in the eyes of the rest of the world from what American big money did to the global economy, and we most certainly were the prime movers. Other countries, other folk, other financial powerhouses rather foolishly went along for the ride, thinking I suppose they would also just get richer than God. And some did. The rest of us got screwed.
    Obama’s, and America’s, first debt was to the rest of the world, and it hinged on keeping American financial powerhouses from collapsing. Not something there is any point in proclaiming to Americans, but that is the reality.
    I have no idea how all of the “normal” economic activities will play out. And I don’t see any consensus, except around the idea that we cannot solve the larger threats to the planet’s well being because of economic necessities.
    I’ve pretty much had it with the bulk of “received wisdom” and the self-appointed “wise elders,” or as they might also be known, the rolodex royalty.
    We either get a serious ecological/climatological transformation, preferably about 40 years ago, or all the rest of it is a slow but quickening march to a planet we aren’t really going to like very much.


  3. Don Bacon says:

    SC: “My view is that America invents its power and builds it through the investments Ikenberry describes.”
    Good discussion.
    National power may be considered in several ways:
    * The sum total of a nation’s economic, natural, military, social and diplomatic resources.
    * The ability of one state to influence or control other states.
    * The ability to achieve outcomes.
    * The ability to prevail in particular circumstances.
    * probably others
    What can the US put on its c.v. in any of these ways based on its performance in, say, the last fifty years? What has the US accomplished? It’s one thing to be feared and another thing entirely to be respected because of one’s achievements.
    Polls tend to be popularity contests, and the world certainly sees Obama as an improvement over Bush, for what it’s worth, but there is still concern. Pew Global Report: “One of the most frequent criticisms of U.S. foreign policy is that in its formulation it does not take into account the interests of other countries. This is the prevailing point of view in 15 of 21 countries outside of the U.S. Somewhat fewer people in most countries level this charge than did so during the Bush era. Currently, the median number saying that the U.S. acts unilaterally is 63%; in 2007 a median of 67% expressed that view.”
    And then one must consider trends, because while history is interesting it doesn’t necessarily describe what’s happening currently nor does it predict the future. The current economic, environmental and social problems in the US hurt its national power.


  4. erichwwk says:

    Hmmm… Count me in the Ikenberry corner. There is evidence that humans are hardwired to be empathetic, and live in a compassionate, not “dog eat dog” Hobsonian world.!
    But I think there is hope for Steve ;-).
    The most strident pacifist seem to come from military families. Bruce Gagnon was once vice chr of his counties GOP, volunteered for the 1968 Nixon campaign, volunteered for Vietnam, etc. Perhaps one needs to experience war deeply, to understand the absurdity of it?


  5. Don Bacon says:

    Your link 404’d for some reason — let’s try it this way.


  6. Carroll says:

    “Allies are not counting on the US as much as they once did — and foes are moving their agendas. The international system is in flux because of the profound doubt around the world in American power.”
    I believe I used the same words…’in flux”..long,long ago. Power is fluid now, shifting as others saw American power’s ‘legitimacy’ deficit.
    Besides, the masters of the universe in Washington can’t even stabilize their own country.
    Congress thinks it’s the UN. It’s comical in a dreadful sort of way.


  7. Don Bacon says:

    SC: “I, in contrast, see a deficit in America’s power as being the most serious contributor to global instability today.”
    Well what’s wrong with a little global instability. Change, or evolution, is purely natural in all things and all processes. Instability is a fact of life. Why fight it? I’m 73 and the only reason I’m sticking around is to see what the hell is next. It better be different, or I’m checkin’ out.
    Personally I get a kick out of countries like Turkey, China and Brazil getting involved in the issues that have been intractable for the US, such as dealing with Israel (Turkey) and Iran (China, Turkey and Brazil).
    It takes the burden off Americans to run the world. I think Americans don’t care, and besides they have better things to do, like finding a job, staying in a home, dealing with illness and educating their kids.


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