[US Vets to Japan 2013] Dan Murray: Asking the Right Questions
While on the long flight home from an amazing two-week journey in Japan, I repeatedly asked myself, “What should I do with the immeasurable gifts of friendship, experiences and knowledge that I just received and how can I take the information I learned and implement it in my policy-making efforts in Kansas?”
Our group was warmly welcomed by our Japanese hosts and showered with information about the structure of local, prefectural and federal government and the pressing policy issues facing Japan. We also came to understand the role of the Japanese Self Defense Force and issues of national security. This information undoubtedly made me a more informed observer of Japan, its politics, and the changing region it calls home.
Before the exchange, the skeptic in me may have asserted that with a little hard work and time, I could study some textbooks, news articles and websites and become similarly informed. And, I may have been right. But, what I could not have gained through mere study is the credible understanding of Japanese culture and Japan’s reliance, both real and psychological, upon the strength of the US economy and military.
Our Japanese friends often told us that, “if the United States sneezes, Japan gets a cold.” Japan is a country that, more than our other global allies, is reliant upon the success and health of the United States. Our European allies have each other. Canada and Mexico are our contiguous neighbors. Japan, however, is an island (literally) in an unsettled region with near-complete reliance upon US military and economic strength. With an emergent China, a strong Japan—whose strength is contingent upon our strength—is critical to American security. Again, books and articles would not have made this as clear to me as this exchange.
I realized now that I was asking the wrong question with regard to my newly acquired knowledge and understanding of Japan. I should not ask how I can use this information in my day-to-day life influencing Kansas policy, but rather: how can I spread the word that Japan is America’s best friend in East Asia and that we should work at all levels to keep it that way.
Dan Murray is the Kansas State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business.