Dr. Robert M. [Skipp] Orr

President, Boeing Japan

December 19 , 2005


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First Exposure to Japan

RCA: This is an interview for our Japan Considered series with Dr. Robert M. Orr, now president of Boeing Japan. He joins us by telephone from the South of France. Thanks for the time during your vacation, Skipp. Usually we begin with a question about how you first were involved with Japan.

RMO: In my case I didn’t know anything about Japan at first. I sort of knew where it was. I knew we fought a war with those guys, once upon a time. And I met a Japanese girl in South Florida, who later became my wife, now of almost 30 years. I was a history major, and decided to take a couple of courses on Japanese history, mainly to impress her. But the more I got into studying Japanese history, the more hooked I got. And one thing led to another, and it’s formed a large basis for my career.

RCA: So, it was while you were in college.

RMO: Right. I was at Florida Atlantic University.

RCA: Did you do all of your undergraduate work there?

RMO: I did almost all of it there. I took some courses at the Free University of Berlin. But FAU was the bulk of it. [Back to Topics]

German Language and European Experience

RCA: Rumor has it that you not only speak and read Japanese, but that your German is good too.

RMO: Well, that was a language that luckily I had from the family. And I wound up spending time in a German Gymnasium, or high school. So, probably German is my strongest language, and I still use it almost all of the time, or whenever I can.

In 1972 it got me a job as an interpreter at the Munich Olympics. I was located in the Sporthalle, where the gymnastic events were held, and got to see the Soviet women – like Olga Korbut – and the Japanese men dominate the events. I also was not far from where the terrorist attack on the Israeli athletes occurred.

RCA: What an experience!Do you think that your training in German and your exposure to German culture early on, helped you to understand Japan?

RMO: It helped me to bridge some cultural gaps. The fact that I had lived in Germany and had been exposed to living overseas, I think, helped me to deal with another country. Obviously, Germany and Japan are different, but there are a lot of similarities. Still, it’s Western versus Eastern.

I do think that one thing that has helped me in my analysis of things related to Japan has been my European background. There is a tendency by many to look upon Japan as an outlier, whereas very often I have seen the United States as the outlier. Because there’s a lot of commonality with the European political economy.

RCA: Interesting. So your German experience has given you a broader comparative perspective.

RMO: Yes. It certainly has helped. And later having been stationed by Motorola, working with the European Union, I was able to see a lot of other European political societies, or civic societies. I was struck throughout Europe that the definition of capitalism – I think the definition of capitalism in Japan is closer to that in Europe than it is to the definition in the Anglo-American countries. [Back to Topics]

Graduate Training and PhD from Todai

RCA: Before we get to your business career, can we go back to your academic training. You are one of the very few Americans I know who has been able to earn a PhD from the University of Tokyo. That’s an incredible accomplishment. Can you talk about that a bit?

RMO: I went to Japan after I did my Masters degree at Georgetown and went to work in the government. I really wanted to live in Japan. I had studied Japanese at Georgetown. It was clear to me that if I was going to do anything with the language, I had to live in the country. I knew that instinctively because of my experience in Europe. So I got a fellowship through what used to be called the Mombusho, now the Monbu-Kagaku-Sho, and wound up going for six months at Osaka Gaidai.

It became clear to me after studying six months, even after studying at Georgetown, that six months wasn’t going to do the job. So I wound up spending the next whole year doing intensive Japanese language training. I wound up doing intensive Japanese for a year and a half, using as the goal the entrance exam for Todai, which I was able to pass – both the written and the oral – and where I spent five years.

The program, I think, was pretty similar to American programs, based on conversations I’ve had with a lot of people. Partly because the professors mainly were educated overseas. Watanabe Akio, Sato Seizaburo, Kumon Shumpei, and others. They molded the program in that direction. I wound up writing a dissertation in Japanese and English. The English one was longer, and it sits in the National Diet Library today. [Dr. Orr didn' t mention that he is the author of The Emergence of Japan's Foreign Aid Power, published by Columbia University Press in 1990]. [Back to Topics]

Dissertation Topic

RCA:What was the topic of your dissertation.

RMO: Like my good friend, Dennis Yasutomo, the topic was Japanese foreign aid. It had one of these boring long academic-type titles that even I don’t completely remember. But the gist of it was how external actors influenced Japanese foreign aid policy or policymaking. In this case it was the role of the United States.

Having worked in the U.S. AID program, I had been in the position of being one of those applying the pressure, prior to writing this. So, I had information from that side. And I was able to make a lot of contacts in the Japanese government, the Foreign Ministry and elsewhere, so I could develop a good interview base. I had loads of interviews, well over 100. Actually, my friend and colleague, Dennis Yasutomo, predated me, though he took a more strategic perspective than I did.

RCA: And Alan Rix too, right?

RMO: Alan Rix looked at it, probably the first of all. There were people looking at it as far back as the late 1950s and early 1960s. But at that time it was more or less a trade development program. Alan’s cut at it in 1980 was really the first one to look at the bureaucratic politics of aid policymaking.

So, in many ways we added on to each other. I certainly gained a lot from Alan’s work. And I gained a lot from Dennis’s work in the sense that I was able to develop an understanding of some of the strategic issues that he brought in. [Back to Topics]

University-Level Teaching

RCA: Getting a PhD from Todai is an incredible accomplishment. And then you taught for about ten years, didn’t you?

RMO: Yes, that’s right.

RCA: Do you have any thoughts on the current state of academic study of Japan in the United States now, and Japan studies training?

RMO: Let me say at the outset that I love academia. And I suspect that one point or another I will find myself back in academia.

RCA: You’ve always seemed to me to be a natural academic – in the good sense of that term. No offence intended.

RMO: Well, I love it. I love to interact with students. It keeps you young and vibrant. So I certainly see something like that in the cards in the future. Though not necessarily strictly related to Japanese affairs. Perhaps wider. [Back to Topics]

Becoming an Administrator

RCA: You’ve also had administrative experience, which is an advantage. Most good academics have difficulty doing that well. But you’ve demonstrated ability in both areas.

RMO: I sort of stumbled into some of it. I don’t know how good I am as an administrator. I think I’m a fair one. The real trick to being a great administrator is hiring someone who can be a great administrator.

RCA: Well, after a certain level, we’re primarily paid for our personnel skills, aren’t we?

RMO: Yes. I made a point in my non-academic career that I always had a deputy who was more adept at the internal stuff. I always felt I was stronger with the external. [Back to Topics]

American Japan Studies Training

RCA: What do you think about the way we are training our academic Japan specialists today? Do you have any advice on that score?

RMO: The problem with the Japan studies area right now is that we’ve run into a changed environment in which other factors have taken over the interest that once was directed to Japan. Obviously, China. But not only China. So, how can we connect Japan now with these wider overall global themes? We always have to think about the marketability of our students. By only focusing on Japan, it becomes too narrow.

Japan studies is damned if they do and damned if they don’t. In the 1980s everyone and his brother wanted to study Japan. The Japanese had mixed feelings about all of that. On the one hand, they associated it with economic pressure. And therefore it wasn’t wanted. They feared that we were training legions of potential men and women who knew a lot about Japan, and who would be “bashing” them. When the shine wore off, and China emerged, Japan studies became less and less appealing. Certainly in the policy world we’ve seen that as well. It’s amazing to me to think of the gifted Japan experts you and I consider to be stars. And yet the discipline is fading away under their feet in the policy world. [Back to Topics]

Government Career

RCA: You remind me of another point. You not only have had careers in the academic world and in business. You’ve also been in government.

RMO: Right. I spent five years working in Congress. My first job was as a doorman in the House of Representatives. Risking a cliché, that got my foot in the door. I was right on the House floor, so I met all kinds of people.

One of the most important things that my first boss, Congressman Paul Rogers, taught me was to always keep your Rolodex up to date. I think that’s been a big help for me. I’ve always maintained contact with people I’ve known and respected. You never know when it will pay off.

For example, when I was a doorman, I walked up to a Congressman on the House floor, telling him about just getting married to my Japanese bride … explaining it to him. This Congressman was a Japanese-American from California named Norman Mineta. We’ve been close friends for almost 30 years now. And it just so happens now that he’s Secretary of Transportation. That’s a pretty important job for Boeing. That contact started back then.

RCA: Many people recognize the importance of maintaining contacts. But they may not realize is that it has to be a two-way flow. When you meet someone you have to be able to give them something too, in order to maintain the contact. Make it worth their time as well as your time. You’ve been able to do that. [Back to Topics]

Back to Business Career

Let’s go back to your business career? How did you get involved in business?

RMO: Well, that was sort of serendipity. I was head of the Stanford Center in Kyoto. And a good friend of mine -- I think you know him too -- Ira Wolff, was working for Motorola as head of government relations. He came to me one day to say he was returning to government to become the assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Japan and China. He asked if I would be interested in his job at Motorola.

My immediate reaction was, “I don’t know, Ira. I’m set in my ways here in academia. I don’t see myself as a corporate warrior.”

One thing led to another, and I gave him a resume. I’m not even sure why. I didn’t have an overwhelming interest. But we started to talk. It began to dawn on me that if I had only been an academic, working for a major corporation would have been harder. Because in academia you have a lot more freedom, and you tend to be a little bit more of a one-man band. Whereas, working in government, the teaming and the "bureaucratics" that goes with it is something that might be similar.

But I still made sure I got a leave of absence from what had become Temple University Japan . I didn’t know whether Motorola would like me, or whether I would like Motorola. And I needed a parachute either way.

The job was as director of government relations. I came into Motorola without knowing which end of a cell phone to put to my ear. No telecom background at all. That was July of 1993. And in six or seven months, I was the lead negotiator for the company on the 1994 cellular phone agreement. Which was scary stuff. Again, I kept telling myself, “If this doesn’t work out you always can go back to campus.”

But it did work out, and we got a great trade deal. That’s how I got into business. I did that in Japan for about seven years, and then went off to Europe as vice president and director of European Affairs for Motorola. [Back to Topics]

The Hanshin Earthquake

RCA: Before we get to the Europe part, which shows that Motorola had confidence in you beyond Japan, do you remember the Hanshin Earthquake?

RMO: Yes, very well.

RCA: Were you involved in that at all?

RMO: I was involved. I was there within a couple of days of the earthquake.

RCA: How did that happen?

RMO: Someone called on the phone and said there had been a major earthquake in Kobe. I said they must be mistaken because they don’t have earthquakes down there. But, of course, it wasn’t a mistake. So, I got on the phone with a fellow in the Embassy. And it turned out that they were down there in the midst of this huge disaster looking for Americans, and they had only one cellular phone. That was it. All of the base stations had been knocked down as well.

So, my initial reaction was how can we help the American Embassy. But then I thought about it more, I thought how can we help the wider Japanese community. So, we initiated a very quick turn-around to put the base stations back up. Those are the antennae that the cell phones connect to. We were faster than NTT getting them back up.

So I was down there within a few days with hundreds of cell phones in my backpack, identifying places to provide with phones, including City government and any other organizations. It was an incredible undertaking.

I remember staying for what must have been ten days in the kuyakusho [City Office] in Naka-ku. Naka-ku looked as if it had suffered a B-52 strike. The building I was staying in, this kuyakusho, was tilted. The only reason I stayed in such a dangerous place was because it was very cold out, and it was the only place to stay. Everything else was either knocked down, or in worse shape.

We got a lot of cell phones out, and got communications going, which was very much appreciated. Then I worked in a “hinanjo,” or evacuation center. I helped with the local Japanese as best as I could, doing everything from cleaning toilets to helping old people. It was an amazing experience.

RCA: When did you finally get back to Tokyo.

RMO: About ten days after that, must have been at the beginning of February 1995. I was whipped – emotionally drained. It was tough to see so many people …. I remember seeing them pull out …. Well … You’d go by places and you’d see toys in the wreckage, and your heart would be in your throat … because you just knew …. And you’d see them with those big orange bags, pulling bodies out of the wreckage. It was hard.

RCA: I hope Motorola gave you a leave of absence.

RMO: They were very generous and very supportive. I alerted the company to a couple of other ways to help. We shipped in huge bundles of blankets as well. My boss, Arnie Brenner, was great. He was a great manager and a great leader. Forty-three years in the company. He was one of those unusual corporate executives who said, “Do anything you’ve got to do. You can apologize later.” That’s rare. So many people out there are inclined to respond, “According to section 5, article 3, paragraph 4….”

RCA: Right, there are clerks all over. Then Motorola sent you to Europe with a much bigger job, didn’t they. [Back to Topics]

To Europe for Motorola

RMO: Yes. That embraced all of the European Union. I was vice president and director of European affairs, which allowed me to …. Working in the European Union, in many ways, is much more than working in Brussels. Talk about the Japanese system being a labyrinth. The European Union is incredible! After you get a decision through the European Commission, then you have to get it through the Council of Ministers. And you have to get the coreper, or Committee of Permanent Representatives, involved. Just one thing after another. Big task, and a great learning experience.

I’ve done several lectures in the past, comparing negotiating with the Europeans and the Japanese. It’s quite different. Both sides have their positives and negatives, to be sure.

RCA: That would be interesting. Are you planning to publish it?

RMO: I might sometime. I certainly have all of the notes. It’s one of these things where …. It’s an on-going story. I’ve learned subsequently that even negotiating with the Japanese side, being in Motorola vs being in Boeing, is quite different. And how Boeing is treated versus the way Motorola is treated. I think, partly, because Boeing doesn’t have any domestic Japanese competition.

RCA: How many years were you in Brussels?

RMO: About three years. A little less. [Back to Topics]

Joining Boeing

RCA: So Boeing plucked you out of Brussels?

RMO: Yes. That too was fortuitous. Former Ambassador Mondale actually was the one who alerted me to this. He asked me if I was interested. I said I was, though I wasn’t at that point even sure of what I was interested in. The headhunters started to contact me after that. Then I found out that it was a pretty big job – to run all of the Boeing businesses in Japan. Boeing is the largest American exporter to Japan. The largest American exporter, period. [Back to Topics]

Academic vs Corporate Life

RCA: This may sound like a silly question. But how do you compare your life as an academic with your life as a senior business executive?

RMO: The one thing about academic life is that you’ve got a lot more freedom. You’ve got a lot more freedom to speak out the way you want to. There are a lot of things that I would like to say and to write that I really can’t do in Boeing. Or even in Motorola. And that’s because it begins to take on the appearance of a corporate position if I say something. And you just can’t do that. It makes people very uncomfortable. So, in academia you have the wonderful freedom to speak out, and to call things as you see them. At least, that’s my view. I think that’s the duty of an academic. And, of course, you have that wonderful exchange with students.

I still try to keep my hand in all of this. We get a lot of requests from universities with Japan studies programs to visit Boeing Japan, to have us talk with them. It’s a rare day I’ll turn something like that down. Usually, only if I’m not in town. And even then, I’ll hand it over to a deputy. It still has that big appeal.

RCA: How do you find time to do that? Isn’t your time much more tightly regulated when you’re being paid for it, so to speak?

RMO: Well, it is. But I think it’s a duty for major corporations to engage young students. I think it’s a major responsibility. And I’ve made that point very clear. When it’s an incredibly crucial time, when I can’t spare the time, I might decline. But normally, I think we should be doing things like this. And, you know, it pays off for the company! You have a bunch of students come in, you’re nice to them, you try to engage them, and be frank with them. And a lot of those students go back with the idea they’d like to work for Motorola or for Boeing. So you’re helping to create a pool of future employees.

RCA: What about your day? Did you work harder as an academic, or do you work harder now?

RMO: I think each side … Here’s where you may find a little haughtiness from people in the business area. So often I hear from business people the phrase, “Ha. That’s good enough for government work.” When they really don’t have any idea what government work is. There’s an incredibly excruciating and demanding side of government that they’re not aware of. And the same applies to academia.

You and I know how it can be quite a pressured environment when you have writing deadlines. And nobody can help you do that. You don’t have a staff you can instruct to start writing chapters three, four, and five for you. It doesn’t work that way. So, I think that you do work hard in academia. And in a sense, you’re never off the job. You’re out there all the time.

For example, Dennis Yasutomo is a workaholic. He’s amazing. So, both sides work hard. It’s just a different kind of work. In the corporate world you have to deal with the bureaucracy, sometimes to a nauseating extent. But that’s just part of the deal.

RCA: The bureaucracy in the company?

RMO: Yes, that’s the challenge. The bureaucracy in the country, say, in my case now, in Japan, I don’t find very difficult. To a certain extent, I’m trained to do that. I kind of know where the buttons are. Do I know them perfectly? No. But when I don’t, I know people I can talk to who can help me. I can always find an answer. But in a great bureaucracy, like Boeing, you really can’t. So it’s a challenge. [Back to Topics]

The Role of Information

RCA: All of us, whether we’re in government, in academe, or in business, one thing we have to do well to succeed is to collect information. Do you have any thoughts on that? How you collected information in government, as an academic, and how you collect information as a business person.

RMO: In government, it was easy. I’d just call Langley. That’s only half a joke. When I was in the State Department, in AID, certainly we had lots of information collection from our embassies. All the cable traffic to go through. That certainly was a source. And all of this media access. We used to get the press from all over the world. Instant translations, practically. FBIS [now OSC, or Open Source Center] does a great job. And other non-classified information sources.

In some ways the corporate side is similar. I cooperate and work with the American Embassy pretty closely. We mine the press. I require all of my senior non-Japanese staff at Boeing to be fluent in Japanese. First time in Boeing’s history.

RCA: First time in any major company’s history, isn’t it?

RMO: It’s sort of rare. Even my deputy, the vice president of Boeing Japan. I wanted to have a Boeing veteran. He’s been with Boeing for eighteen years. Superb Japanese. His undergraduate degree was in Japanese literature. He translates Boeing for me.

RCA: How many other American companies in Japan have such a policy.

RMO: Not very many. Usually they’ll have one gaijin who speaks the language. But you won’t have the whole senior staff. And on the other side, I require that my senior Japanese folks be fluent in English. It has to go both ways. I think we’re pretty strong in that respect.

RCA: That explains some of it. But, thinking back, when you were an academic and wanted to know something you could get in a cab, go around, and talk to people until you found out. But now, you can’t do that, can you?

RMO: Well, actually I can, and do. I’ll give you an example. I have an issue I’m working on right now in Japan involving the way the military procures products. It’s an interesting, difficult issue. An issue we knew absolutely nothing about. So, what was the first thing I did? I sent an e-mail to a friend who teaches at Japan’s National Defense University. He knows more about this than I do. So I went down to see him and asked where I should go and to whom I should talk. I came out with a lot of books.

Then I went to see my former professor, Watanabe-sensei, who now is president of the Research Institute for Peace and Security. So, step-by-step, I started with the academics; then went on to the government. In many ways, a lot like I did as an academic.

Here’s the difference. I now can get incredible access quite easily. One example. I wanted to talk to the American military about how they viewed this issue. I had my staff contact the Supreme Commander of all US Forces in Japan, General Wright. Got in to see him and spent an hour with him. One thing I’ve learned is that these senior American military guys are extremely bright.

RCA: I guess you’re still a people person.

RMO: Yes. I think it’s important to go and discuss your business, and all that. But there are all kinds of ways to start talking about business. I remember that with General Wright the other week, the first ten minutes of our discussion was about the Doris Kerns Goodwin book, Team of Rivals, I had been reading, about the Lincoln Administration. General Wright’s a big reader. I saw him jotting down the title. I’m sure he’s going to get the book. It breaks the ice. [Back to Topics]

Evolution of Views on How Japan Works

RCA: Have your views of how political and diplomatic Japan actually works changed since the time you were an academic, because of your business experience?

RMO: I don’t think it has changed that much from academia to business. But I think it has changed from Motorola to Boeing. In Motorola, again, we had an industry that faced incredible Japanese competition. We had Sony, Hitachi, and all of those companies that competed directly on many levels with Motorola. We don’t have that at Boeing. The only competition we have is Airbus – at least on the commercial side. We’ve got over 95% of the market.

So, when I walk into a Japanese government institution in Tokyo, I’m well received. Very different from the Motorola days, when you practically had to wear a flak jacket.

The other big reason for that is that Boeing has put a lot of money into Japan. Thirty-five percent of our new airplane, the 787, is going to be made in Japan. That’s another reason to get a different perspective of government and the political process. They tend to try to reach out to us.

Speaking of Boeing exports to Japan, I’ll send you a photo of me suited up in “Japan 1,” an AH 64 Apache Longbow. This will be the first to be delivered to our customers in the Japan Defense Agency on March 15, 2006. It’s not just another helicopter. It’s what we call a network-centric fighter. It digitally integrates the entire potential battlefield scenario. It’s equipped with 16 Hellfire missiles. It also carries Stinger missiles enabled for air-to-air combat.

RCA : I look forward to seeing the photo, and will try to include it in the interview. [Back to Topics]

Change in Japan’s Political World During the Past Five Years

RCA: Comparing the Japan of, say, the year 2000, and the Koizumi or post-Koizumi era, do you think politics in Japan has changed fundamentally, or not?

RMO: I think it has changed a lot. If I can stretch it back to the late 1980s, and compare then with now. I was one of those guys who thought Japan was a place that never really changed. That it was totally stagnant.

I actually requested to leave Japan. I was burned out with the place, with all of the trade fights I was going through. So, then I went away. Which was the best thing I could have done.

Then, in two-and-one-half years, I came back to Japan and I was stunned by some of the changes I saw in the political world. And in the national security world it was revolutionary.

In the political world, I think that Koizumi is as close to Yoshida Shigeru as I have seen in any Japanese leader. “One-Man Koizumi” would be as easy to say as “One-Man Yoshida,” the nickname given to Yoshida. I think he has far greater sense than anyone gave him credit for. Certainly than I ever did. I was never that impressed.

RCA: Did you ever meet him before he was prime minister?

RMO: Yes, many times. He has done better than I ever thought he would do. I certainly didn’t expect him to last this long.

And I think the very fact that he has lasted this long has enhanced his power. A lot like Nakasone. But, Nakasone didn’t work the system the way Koizumi has. Nakasone’s opposition wasn’t the Old Guard of the LDP, which is what Koizumi has faced.

I also spent some time working in the Japanese Diet. I can remember that there was only one political appointee, the seimu jikan, who other than the Minister, was the only political appointee in all of the ministries. That was it. Their job basically was to welcome the women’s clubs from their districts. And I worked for a seimu jikan!

But, Koizumi has increased the number of the political appointees in the ministries. Now, if you go to METI, you run into three, four, maybe five political vice ministers. So, it strikes me that he has tried to widen the influence of the political machinery in the bureaucracy.

I also think the bureaucracy became as powerful as it became, at least in part, because of the United States. Obviously, when we ruled through the Emperor, it was, to use the British term, Her Majesty’s Government. I think that had the effect of diminishing the role of the political sector of society. I think that Koizumi has done a lot to change that. Certainly, they have a long way to go.

The other part of that, Bob, is the wakate giin [younger members of parliament] that you encounter these days in Tokyo. They are far more policy-oriented – and many of them are nisei-giin [second-generation politicians] and more policy-oriented than their fathers or grandfathers were. A lot of these wakate giin are interested in more than just agriculture, or even the construction industry, believe it or not. And many of them have been educated outside Japan. I've been told that the largest number of non-Japan-educated Diet Members with undergraduate degrees come from my alma mater, Georgetown.

RCA: I didn’t know that. You certainly are right about the younger members being more interested in policy. I was interested in this new “Hachi San Kai,” made up of the eighty-three newly elected LDP Lower House members. They are said to be doing unusual things, like even trying to write legislation.

RMO: Do you know Yamamoto Ichita?

RCA: No.

RMO: Another Georgetown grad. A very bright guy. And talk about unorthodox! He recently put out a rap CD on Japanese politics. [Back to Topics]

Thoughts on Seiji Maehara and the DPJ

RCA: For heavens sake. I’ll have to get it to play for my Japanese politics classes. What do you think about Seiji Maehara in the DPJ? Does he have a chance?

RMO: Well, I suspect that one thing Maehara has done already is to force Koizumi to name a younger, and a bit flashier, cabinet. It’s a younger cabinet. And I suspect the fact that Maehara is 42 years old may have had an effect on the cabinet appointment process. It may affect the kind of leader that the LDP chooses when Koizumi steps down in September – if he does do what he says he’s going to do, and does step down. It may well help Abe – if they think the youth element will be important.

One thing I find interesting is that prior to being the leader of the DPJ, Maehara was the shadow defense minister. As a consequence, he is fairly hawkish. Not in the old U.S. sense. But in the sense that he sort of believes in Japan as a “normal country,” where Japan recognizes that it has a military force, just like every other country.

Therefore, with two-thirds of the Diet under LDP Coalition control, including Komeito, and the DPJ which, I think, accepts the basic thrust of the LDP proposal to change the meaning of Article Nine … the meaning and some of the language. And with a person like Maehara in a leadership role there ... I think the possibility of it happening is much greater. And that’s going to be a fascinating thing to watch.

RCA: He’s saying now, after the Party Convention, that he really believes that the right of collective self defense has to be defined in the Constitution. And if the DPJ can’t reach consensus on that, they can never be a ruling party.

He also said something else interesting, and I wonder if you have a thought on it. He said that if the party can’t achieve consensus, they may have to decide on the basis of majority vote. That’s kind of an interesting statement, coming from a Japanese politician.

RMO: Well, that’s the kind of thinking you see from a lot of these younger folks. They are much more oriented toward that. That’s the kind of thinking expressed by Maehara’s younger supporters. It’s really a change. Maehara himself, of course, came into office by two votes. So he certainly has to believe in majority rule.

RCA: You seem to see the major cleavage in Japanese politics now as generational.

RMO: Yes. I think that’s true. A lot of them have been educated overseas. We now can see the value of all of the international education that we’ve been throwing at them for years and years. We’ve had many of those students.

Now, it could come back to bite us, in the sense they not only will be more “democratic,” but they will be a lot more self-assertive. And they may end up defining Japanese interests in ways that aren’t necessarily the ways Washington would like to have them defined. [Back to Topics]

Plans for the Future?

RCA: What are your plans for the future, Skipp?

RMO: A good question, Bob, and one I’m starting to toy with now. I will have been with Boeing for four years in February. I don’t see myself going much beyond five. That’s a good round number. We have a beautiful house here in France. And from time to time I think it would be nice to come here to write the great historical novel. But it’s probably a little early for me to do that. I’ll only be 53 in January.

So, I think I could well go back into academia in a while.

RCA: You could afford to do it now!

RMO: I have been approached by business schools in the United States. But I just wasn’t ready to make the change.

RCA: My liberal arts biases are showing here. But it seems to me that your talents and experience would be wasted in a business school. I could easily see you in a larger role in a school of international affairs, or something like that. Where you could contribute to educating American students internationally, more broadly.

RMO: Well, that’s not impossible. But also some large corporations have approached me as well. So, it’s too early to tell.

RCA: Well, let’s end here, and visit with you again after you make the change. Thanks for your time today, and for your insights.

RMO : Any time. [Back to Topics]