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Reviewed by:
  • Securing Japan: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia
  • Reinhard Drifte (bio)
Securing Japan: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia. By Richard J. Samuels. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 2007. xi, 277 pages. $29.95.

To be quite clear from the beginning: this excellent monograph does not prove the existence of a Japanese grand strategy but rather it analyzes the ideological continuities and political constraints of an ongoing debate that has seriously eroded the established Yoshida Doctrine (alliance with the United States and minimal Japanese military efforts). The ideological continuities since the Meiji era are shown by describing in chapter 1 the struggle between liberalists, nativists, Asianists, internationalists, militarists, nationalists, mercantilists, globalists, realists, and revisionists. Chapter 2 details how the post–cold war Yoshida Doctrine came into being and was developed over time, a process Richard Samuels refers to as "baking the Pacifist loaf." Chapter 3 analyzes the factors that have led to the erosion of the Yoshida Doctrine: the end of the cold war, the Gulf War in 1991, the first North Korean nuclear crisis in 1993–94, and the rise of China. Chapters 4 and 5 trace the initial practical results of the changes (such as participation in peace-keeping operations and the passing of the emergency legislation in July 2003) and their impact in discourse, that is, the decline of the pacifists and the widening gap among conservatives between straightforward realists and more ideological revisionists (neoautonomists like Ishihara Shintarō) and middle power internationalists like Soeya Yoshihide. Part 3 of the book with chapters 6 and 7 goes into more details of the new threat environment [End Page 205] and Japan's responses. It deals with China, its challenge to Japan's industrial and technological base, the weakening of Japan's defense industrial base, North Korea, and the relationship with the United States. While Samuels explains that the perceived threat due to China's development is clearly there, the immediacy of the North Korean military developments has been cleverly instrumentalized by the "threat inflators" in Japan who do not have to refer too openly to the more long-term Chinese challenge.

The Japanese dilemma of "abandonment and entrapment" vis-à-vis the United States is confronted head on with this remarkable sentence: "The irony of the Japan-US alliance is that the US poses nearly as great a threat to Japan as any hostile neighbor" (p. 151). The fact that shared interests do not translate directly into shared policies is illustrated by an analysis of the divergent approaches to the Iranian Azadegan oil field development and to the rise of China. Another recurring subject is Samuels's complaint that, by pursuing an East Asian Community, Japan is apparently accepting the exclusion of the United States in order to confront China through regional multilateralism. In the last chapter, the author discusses how Japan has responded to the various political, military, and economic threats in a way that, by increasing the threat of entanglement in the near term, increases the possibility for independence in the longer term. He discerns four strategic choices for Japan: achieving prestige by increasing national strength, achieving autonomy by increasing national strength, increasing prosperity and reducing Japan's exposure to world politics, or achieving autonomy merely through prosperity. Samuels concludes that none of these choices can be fully realized because of limited budgetary means, Japan's robust democracy, the division between the advocates of a "normal state" and the middle power internationalists, and the international environment (that is, the relative decline of U.S. power, China's economic attraction, and counterbalancing moves by Japan's neighbors). He advocates that Japan should find a strategic convergence by creating a fully institutionalized East Asian Community (but one that does not exclude the United States) combined with a globalized U.S.-Japan alliance.

The monograph presents a brilliant analysis of ongoing security discussions and the various schools of thought. The author shows how Japan is groping for a new consensus for the post–Yoshida Doctrine era under constantly changing external and internal conditions. By tracing the continuities (such as prestige, autonomy, and hedging) and the constraints, he makes it clear there will...


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