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  • Japan's Security Renaissance: New Policies and Politics for the Twenty-First Century by Andrew L. Oros
  • Christopher W. Hughes (bio)
Japan's Security Renaissance: New Policies and Politics for the Twenty-First Century. By Andrew L. Oros. Columbia University Press, New York, 2017. xxiv, 272 pages. $90.00, cloth; $30.00, paper; $29.99, E-book.

Japan's security policy as it has gathered momentum for change over the last decade, and especially with the advent of Abe Shinzō's second administration (Abe 2.0), has rightly attracted increasing policy and scholarly attention given its impact upon questions of regional stability. Andrew Oros's new volume is not just a splendid addition to this burgeoning literature but is arguably now the leading work available due to its up-to-date and comprehensive nature. Oros provides an important and in-depth analysis of the development of Japan's security policy spanning the period from Abe 1.0 (2006–7) to Abe 2.0 (2012–). He interweaves this with the evolving international security environment, changes in domestic politics, and consideration of the influence upon Asia-Pacific security now and in the foreseeable future.

Oros's central contention is that Japan's security posture has advanced over this period so that, with a loose comparison to the spirit of the European renaissance of the late fourteenth century, it is now possible with regard to security to challenge previous taboos, to engender a debate on options beyond the elite and within the broader citizenry, to comprehend and respond to major shifts in the external landscape, and yet to meet the [End Page 489] changes of the present with reference to many of the guiding principles of the past. Indeed, Oros's key thesis is that even as Japan has demonstrated an appetite for and put in place substantive measures to become a more effective security actor, it still exhibits much continuity with the past due to three constraining legacies: contested memories of the Pacific War and the role of the constitution; postwar antimilitaristic constraints; and the U.S.-Japan alliance. Oros thus argues that the development of Japan's security policy is a process of the external international environment generating pressures for change that are crucially mediated in degree and direction by a security identity manifested in collective understandings of the appropriate range of state actions available and institutionalized in domestic policy institutions. Hence, it is here that Oros continues the line of constructivist argument thought to supersede realist explanations first developed in his 2008 volume, Normalizing Japan: Politics, Identity, and the Evolution of Security Practice (Stanford University Press).

Oros then proceeds in four main chapters to unfold a superb analysis of Japan's changing dynamics. Chapter 2 sets the historical context for Japan's security policy, outlining in more detail the key legacies that restrained Japan in the past but nevertheless did not prevent cautious adaptation to changing security challenges and, as Oros importantly notes, meant that Japan was in the past neither a pacifist nor a free-rider. Chapter 3 brings the analysis up to the present, detailing Japanese perceptions of the emerging security and threat environment, and particularly the rise of China. Chapters 4 and 5 then present the most excellent and freshest material in the volume, chronicling respectively the domestic political changes in Japan and the shift in security stance first post-Abe 1.0 through to the fall of successive Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) prime ministers and then rise and fall of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration, and finally from the return of Abe leadership to the present. These chapters offer detailed explication of changing domestic political party disposition and institutions set alongside the resulting changes in Japan Self-Deffense Force military capabilities and the expansion of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Throughout, though, Oros is careful to argue that even as Japan pushes forward its security stance, the legacy constraints of the past continue to mediate and moderate the extent to which it will run. Hence, Oros posits that the LDP and DPJ shared much in common in advocating a more active security policy for Japan but also were subject to similar restraints...


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