- Author's Response:Next Steps in Japan's "Security Renaissance"?
The range of interpretation expressed in this book review roundtable about Japan's recent security policy innovation mirrors other responses I have received since Japan's Security Renaissance was released earlier this year. Scholars and policy analysts from countries almost ranging from A to Z (Australia to Vietnam) have shared reactions with me, particularly to my core framing of the past decade as something importantly new for Japan, a "security renaissance." Both the book and the phenomenon itself have generated great interest worldwide, and a wide array of reactions both negative and positive. Some readers object to what they see as the implication that prior to this renaissance something was wrong with Japan: the "Dark Ages" critique, which I seek to address in chapter one. Others, like James Auer in this set of reviews, are not quite convinced that there is something new to this decade that is different from what I describe as "the gradual awakening" that has characterized Japanese security policy for at least two decades prior to 2006. And still others, like Kenneth Pyle, see this renaissance as only the start of what they expect to be much more dramatic change to Japan's security policies in the near term.
I am pleased to read that the reviewers here endorse the core messages of the book: that substantial change in Japan's security policies has taken place, including during the period of Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) rule; that this is not all due to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's leadership (although that does play a role); and that dramatic change in Japan's international environment, led by China's steady rise, is a principal driving factor of this policy innovation. And I am gratified that they collectively found my description of the many new Japanese security policies that have emerged in the past decade as clear and useful—what Nicholas Szechenyi describes as giving the reader "a window into current policy debates and the strategic vision for Japan's future."
My reply to this set of critiques will seek to explain further why I see the decade from 2006 to 2016 as a renaissance in Japan's postwar understanding and action on its security needs, as well as to explore the likely direction of future developments in Japan's security in the new Trump-Abe era based on [End Page 189] the argument I developed in the book. In addition, I will address a few other points of critique and disagreement about Japan's security past and present raised in this set of reviews.
I welcome Auer's underscoring of the important security role that Japan played in the latter years of the Cold War, a time I refer to as the gradual awakening of Japan's security engagement, which is summarized in chapter two. Auer's own scholarship on this period—as well as Pyle's—greatly informed the book; their published works offer much greater nuance and detail on this earlier period, and I highly recommend them to readers who wish to learn more about the precursors to Japan's security renaissance.
I see the past decade as different for numerous reasons explained in the full volume. One especially important aspect is the growing practicality of security discussions across the political spectrum in three notable areas: the primary opposition party's ultimate embrace of the U.S.-Japan alliance, an expanded operational role for the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF), and reform of a large number of restrictive security practices. When the DPJ came to power in the historic August 2009 election, this was a watershed time in Japan's postwar development. Auer worries about a return to past policies in a post-Abe world. However, I would maintain that there is no going back because there is no longer a large group of elites in any major party who advocate for a militarily weak Japan with limited contributions to Japan's only alliance (with the United States). Both the DPJ and the back-in-power Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have demonstrated through their policies that they support increasing capabilities...