With President Obama's nomination of Caroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador of Japan an interesting question faces the president's supporters and critics. Kennedy has clearly been appointed as a figurehead as she has little diplomatic experience with Japan or even the rest of the world. While an increasing number of posts are being given out as political patronage it would seem that Republicans might have good reason to criticize Obama for giving a taxpayer funded salary to a liberal who probably does not even speak Japanese. However, most of the Republican senators who might oppose Kennedy's nomination likely rubber stamped the roughly 36% percent of ambassadorships that were given to George W. Bush's political bedfellows.
The question is whether or not Americans with common sense, liberal and conservative, will stand up to a pick that is clearly not in the diplomatic or national security interests of America. Ambassador to Japan is far from equivalent to a cushy post in Luxembourg or Monaco and with neighbors like North Korea and China tensions could flare up at any time (note: the linked article is on Foxnews.com but it's written by the AP).
It's almost happened before. According to NBC: "There was talk in 1989 that a “Texas banker buddy” of George H.W. Bush would be assigned to [Kuwait]. [Former ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine] said “luckily” that didn’t happen, because on Aug. 2nd, 1990, “all hell broke loose.”. Bodine states that Kuwait was seen then as a “quiet, resort place where nothing happened," and many state department officials likely view Japan similarly.
It is my belief that our Presidents should always try to appoint the most qualified diplomats to be our ambassadors. Unfortunately few will likely stand up to the appointments of Kennedy and the many other political ambassadors who will inevitably follow. But before then I would just like to leave you with the thought that if the sh-t hits the fan in Japan as it did in Kuwait 13 years ago- would you want Caroline Kennedy answering that 3 a.m. call to the embassy?