Normalizing Japan: Politics, Identity and the Evolution of Security Practice

Article excerpt

NORMALIZING JAPAN: Politics, Identity and the Evolution of Security Practice, Andrew L. Oros, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, 2009, 282 pages, $60.00.


For decades, scholars and other Japan watchers have wondered if or when Japan would remove the straitjacket from its security policy. In Normalizing Japan, Andrew Oros answers with a resounding--well, as resounding as a political science argument gets--probably not anytime soon.

Oros acknowledges previous takes on Japan's security policy evolution, from realist, liberalist, and constructivist points of view, but finds those analyses lacking and offers his own constructivist theory, focused on Japan's security identity. He defines a state's identity, following the work of Jeffrey Legro, as "a lens through which citizens determine a framework for a state's appropriate response" to the international system. Security identity, a subset of national identity, shapes policy by providing a vocabulary for discourse and "a focal point for public opinion." Once identity institutionalizes into policymaking, the paradigmatic blinders it provides, as well as the aforementioned public opinion, help to ensure the identity's continuity.

The author defines Japan's security identity as domestic antimilitarism, not unqualified antimilitarism, or pacifism, which are labels others often use. Japan currently hosts the largest permanent overseas stationing of U.S. forces and has one of the largest military budgets in the world--hardly the attributes of a purely antimilitarist or pacifist state (though Oros acknowledges a minority of Japanese citizens hold these extreme views). Japan's domestic antimilitarism strictly proscribes its own military's roles, but does not conceive that other nations should constrain their militaries in the same ways. …


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