Academic journal article Military Review

Securing Japan: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia

Academic journal article Military Review

Securing Japan: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia

Article excerpt

SECURING JAPAN: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia, Richard J. Samuels, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 2007, 277 pages, $49.95.

Both within the country and without, Japan is often portrayed as a country bereft of grand strategy; considered, indeed, by some, to possess a "strategic allergy" that borders on the irrational. Others who concede Japan does do strategy claim that strategy is unduly idealistic and pacifistic. To the contrary, in his book Securing Japan: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of Asia, author Richard J. Samuels convincingly argues that over the past 150 years, Japan has been both realist and rational in creating three grand strategies, and is in the midst of building a consensus for a fourth. In cogent detail, he outlines the rationales and the constraints, both domestic and international, of these grand strategies, tracing and describing historical antecedents, key players, and key components down to the present.

Samuels says the key to understanding the drive to build consensus, then create and maintain these national security strategies since 1868 has been the interplay of domestic and international factors tied to Japan's pervasive sense of vulnerability, and her desire for "autonomy and prestige" on the world stage, motivations Thucydides certainly would have understood. Samuels discusses in learned detail the rise and fall of various currents of thought and actors in the "Rich Nation, Strong Army" strategy of the Meiji revolutionaries, the Co-Prosperity Sphere strategy of the 1930s and 1940s militarists, and the Yoshida Doctrine strategy (building and maintaining an economically prosperous Japan with a "cheap ride" on defense) of Japan's cold warriors.

The author also outlines an emerging Japanese strategic consensus in the post-Cold War, post 9/11 era, which he describes as a "Goldilocks consensus, neither too hard nor too soft, too autonomous nor too dependent, too Western-oriented, nor too Asian-oriented. …

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