- The Challenges of the U.S.-Japan Military Arrangement: Competing Security Transitions in a Changing International Environment
Japan's activity since 9/11 in response to U.S.-led diplomatic and military campaigns against threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction in Afghanistan, Iraq, and North Korea suggests further significant changes in its overall security policy trajectory. Rapid passing in 2002 of antiterrorism legislation in Japan to enable the Self Defense Forces (SDF) to provide logistical support to U.S. forces engaged in the Afghan war, and the passing of a second set of laws in 2003 to enable SDF dispatch on reconstruction missions in "postwar" Iraq, do not as yet indicate that Japan has decisively broken from its antimilitaristic traditions. Nevertheless, these developments do indicate that the incremental pace of the remilitarization of Japan's security policy has accelerated, that it has become a more "proactive" player in international security, and that it is increasingly strengthening its alliance cooperation with the United States.
Against this background, the reader will find DiFilippo's The Challenges of the U.S.-Japan Military Arrangement a timely and valuable contribution to the ever-intensifying debate on the future direction of Japan's security policy. DiFilippo's volume was produced barely in time to include a brief mention of Japan's response to the Afghan war, but is still, nevertheless, one of the most up-to-date monographs on Japanese security policy. Moreover, the breadth of its ambition and coverage in addressing the majority of Japan's military activity is still useful in order to provide context for more recent developments.
Furthermore, not only is DiFilippo's work timely and ambitious, but on the whole it makes for a highly stimulating and refreshing read. DiFilippo is clearly not part of the usual U.S.-Japan circle of academic commentators and policymakers who have been involved in attempts to analyze, and in fact often it seems to legitimize, the strengthening of the bilateral alliance in the post-cold war period. DiFilippo's detachment from this dominant discourse also means he is able to bring a different perspective and more critical edge to debates about Japanese security policy. Academics often have remarkably short historical memories, and much of the debate today has developed to the point that it is assumed that the inevitable path for Japan's security policy must be stronger alliance ties, thereby forgetting that only just over a decade ago the alliance was in crisis as its fragilities were exposed by a series [End Page 250] of regional contingencies. DiFilippo's work will jolt those who confidently expect or desire Japan to be a loyal ally to the United States, and demonstrates an alternative reality for the alliance and Japan's security policy. In some senses, DiFilippo can be said to inherit the mantle of the declining breed of Japanese academia that has long struggled to hold back the advance of the alliance relationship.
The essential contention of DiFilippo is that since the end of the cold war, the U.S.-Japan bilateral relationship has been an alliance in search of a purpose and legitimation, but is ultimately unsustainable domestically and internationally, and, therefore, damaging to Japanese interests in the new security environment. DiFilippo argues that, above all, Japanese policymakers have sought to maintain and strengthen the alliance as a means by which Japan can move toward attaining "international credibility." In turn, the maintenance of the alliance has been dependent on finding new functions to replace the containment of the Soviet Union. DiFilippo sees the emphasis of the U.S. and Japanese governments on North Korea and China as means by which to talk up the renewed value of the alliance in the post-cold war period.
However, DiFilippo argues that this type of legitimation for the strengthening of the alliance is shortsighted and counterproductive. He points out that the problem of U.S. bases on Okinawa-a continued U...