IN DEFENSE OF JAPAN: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy

By Hunter-Chester, David | Military Review, July/August 2012 | Go to article overview

IN DEFENSE OF JAPAN: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy


Hunter-Chester, David, Military Review


IN DEFENSE OF JAPAN: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy, Saadia M. Pekkanen and Paul Kallender-Umezu, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 2010, 377 pages, $55.00.

How Japan's defense policies have developed and where those policies are headed has been a frequent topic of discussion among Japan specialists for decades, with realists claiming it was only a matter of time before Japan converted a portion of its vast wealth into military power. Japan became the third wealthiest country in the world in 1968, behind only the United States and the Soviet Union, and it is third again this year. (China's GDP has edged past Japan's.)

As the decades rolled on and Japan did not emerge as a military superpower, other observers aside from the realists made their voices heard, saying that Japan had developed anti-militarist norms and was therefore unlikely to march to the sound of guns anytime soon.

Even so, Japan does have impressive military capabilities in its Self-Defense Forces. The most convincing and recent constructivist take on this seeming dilemma is from Andrew Oros, who discusses Japan's security identity, which he describes as "domestic antimilitarism," in his book, Normalizing Japan. While Oros' thesis is convincing as a description of the attitudes of Japanese society as a whole, other authors, like Mike Green and Richard Samuels, have convincingly traced the realist policies of many important Japanese policymakers.

So Japan's defense policy, like perhaps most such policies, is a mixture of realistic pragmatism within norms-based constraints. Authors Saadia Pekkanen and Paul Kallender-Umezu have added nuance to this picture in their excellent case study on Japan's space policy.

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