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The Japanese Question: Power and Purpose in a New Era.

Can Japan change from a country committed solely to commercial interests to an international leader capable of providing for regional security? Kenneth Pyle poses this question, and, although he avoids answering it directly, he lays the groundwork for readers to consider the possibilities for Japan's role in the new world order. His book, The Japanese Question: Power And Purpose In A New Era, traces the development of the U.S.-Japanese alliance from the postwar occupation of Japan through the end of the Cold War, and illustrates the need for a "revised alliance" in light of the profound changes in the international system.

According to Pyle, the end of the Cold War, the emergence of Japan as an economic superpower and development of the United States as one of the largest debtor nations have "vitiated the original purposes of the alliance." Pyle describes the present arrangement as the "subject of a growing opposition in the United States," and the object of "visceral nationalist opposition" in Japan. Pyle urges both nations to "shape a new security order in the western Pacific that is less dependent on U.S. resources," warning that if the alliance endures in its present form, it will continue to weaken and will risk destabilizing the Pacific region as well as the great power relations that were established during the Cold War.

Thus far, the task of redefining the U.S-Jpanese alliance has not been a simple one. According to Pyle, Japan's history of imperial expansionism in the 1930s and 1940s has left a lingering stigma on its national character. Many countries, including the United States, are "intensely ambivalent" about a strengthening of Japan's security role. Pyle conveys these national concerns by recounting numerous public statements made by government and military officials worldwide.

Contrary to expressed concerns, the United States has taken some initial steps toward a redefinition of the alliance. For instance, Pyle points out that in the 1980s the United States gave Japan greater responsibility for defense of its sea lanes, and increased Japanese participation in joint military training with the United States and other Pacific nations. Pyle contends that most of these U.S. initiatives were driven by budgetary constraints and were not indicative of a "new strategic vision." He specifically urges the United States to increase its level of cooperation and coordination with Japan and other countries in the region in order to achieve "an approach to ... Asia-Pacific security ... with greater emphasis on multilateral arrangements, mutuality, consensus, and local contribution." With respect to the countries of Southeast Asia, Pyle depicts an apparent willingness on the part of these nations to tolerate a greater Japanese security role, "provided that the United States remains centrally involved." Citing leaders throughout the region, Pyle conveys a regional hope that Japan will, in the words of Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, "play a multifaceted role [in the region] and not restrict itself solely to economic activities."

Within Japan, there exists some support for an increased international security role. However, according to Pyle, "immobilism in the Japanese political system" has perpetuated Japan's dependency upon the United States. Pyle concludes that after decades of shunning collective security arrangements, Japanese opinion remains "adrift and reactive in its attitudes toward post-Cold War foreign policy." Through a combination of quotations by Japanese government officials and examples of the actions taken by the Japanese during the Persian Gulf War, Pyle systematically demonstrates how and why the Japanese have consistently avoided involvement in international affairs and collective security agreements since the Second World War.

Relying on the United States for its security, Japan has pursued what Pyle defines as a "national economics-first policy," using a "minimalistic" interpretation of its constitution. Specifically appealing to Article 9 of the constitution, Japanese government officials typically argue that the Japanese constitution "constrain[ed] the establishment of self-defense forces or participation in the U.N. and other multinational security arrangements." During the recent Gulf War, for instance, Japanese prime minister Miyazawa Kiichi "stoutly opposed" sending self-defense forces or logistical assistance, saying that Japan could not "change the constitution....[W]e must maintain the position that we decided on."

Despite such assertions, Pyle skillfully demonstrates that Japan's alleged inability to play a broader role in the international community is unpersuasive. In fact, the American and Japanese drafters of the constitution did not intend for Article 9 to preclude Japan from developing armed forces that would assist the United Nations in maintaining international peace and security.

Pyle's description of Japan's emergence as an economic power, and the potential repercussions for the U.S.-Japanese alliance in light of recent historical changes in the international system, is particularly revealing. Clearly, these changes in the international system, combined with what Pyle describes as the "urgency of domestic renewal" in the United States, have made the American justification for continuing its traditional role as policeman for a number of regions, including East Asia, a tenuous one. In 1991, the Bush Administration began making substantial reductions in military expenditures. Although President Bill Clinton has promised not to withdraw U.S. troops from Asia, his assurances are overshadowed by a burgeoning budget deficit and a predecessor who, under similar pressure, reluctantly closed the U.S. naval base at Subic Bay in the Philippines.

Pyle's description of the evolution of the U.S.-Japanese alliance is thorough, although his specific recommendations for its revision are less comprehensive. Generally calling for the United States to be "centrally involved" and "at the head of long-range trends in Asia," Pyle fails to define clearly the scope of a new Japanese role in multilateral organizations or in a prospective regional collective security arrangement. Yet the strength, if not the primary concern, of the book is to provide the reader with an understanding of the formulation of the alliance since the Second World War, and to illuminate the deterrents that continue to hinder the evolution of new arrangements in the emerging international system.

Inevitably Japan's regional, if not international, security role will become more prominent. In recent years, Japanese exports to and investments in Southeast Asian nations have tripled. Given Asia's history of political instability, increased Japanese investment in Asia and the waning presence of the United States in the region, Japan's reluctance to increase its security role must diminish in order to protect its economic investments. In 1992, Japan sent troops to assist U.N. peacekeeping efforts in Cambodia - its first foreign deployment since the Second World War. Although Japan could not replace the United States' military dominance in East Asia, recent events suggest a willingness on its part to maintain a higher military profile in the region.

Japan's increased visibility is still, however, overshadowed by its relationship with the United States. It publicly apologizes when it insults U.S. workers and overpaid executives, and avoids membership in anti-U.S. organizations such as the East Asian Economic Caucus. However, like all nations, Japan has a healthy sense of pride and nationalism, so much so that it believes itself deserving of a position on the U.N. Security Council. In this context, the "Japanese Question" as illustrated by Pyle is a legitimate inquiry into Japan's power and purpose in light of the evolution of the new world order. The further question of whether the United States and Asia are willing to acquiesce to a strong Japanese presence in maintaining the region's security will prove an inevitable next step in this ongoing debate.

(1) William Molyneux, Campaigning in South Africa and Egypt (London: MacMillan & Co., 1896) Chapter 5.
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Author:Muckleroy, Terry Bennett
Publication:Journal of International Affairs
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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