Reconstructing Japan's Security Policy: The Role of Military Crises.

AuthorPatalano, Alessio

Reconstructing Japan's Security Policy: The Role of Military Crises. By Bhubhindar Singh. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2020. E-version: 204pp.

The literature on Japanese security has long been dominated by research on the country's alliance with the United States. Bhubhindar Singh's Reconstructing Japan's Security Policy therefore makes for a refreshing reading. The book poses a familiar question for contemporary Japan experts: how do Japanese elites negotiate domestic and external factors to produce changes in the practice of national security? The author's key argument is that external military crises are a significant variable that has been missing in explanations about how policymakers have introduced changes to Japan's security policy since the end of the Cold War.

The book joins a well-established debate in International Relations scholarship. It shares the mainstream literature's core assumption that today's Japan stands as a more proactive security actor in East Asia. Based on this assumption, it reviews Tokyo's journey away from the "minimalist" security outlook during the Cold War. Singh's natural interlocutors are scholars from the realist [and neorealist) camp as well as constructivists. The book highlights the realist camp's emphasis on the role of external factors in the making of Japan's security policy, most notably the impact of its alliance with the United States. Neorealists, and especially social constructivists, have added nuance to this view. They reconsidered structural variables in light of the shifts in domestic politics and the relationships among Japanese stakeholders, the significant rise of political conservatism, and the role of normative ideas about Japan's identity as a "peace state" and "international state".

Still, Singh argues that within the literature, there is a glaring gap between these "underlying causes" and the actual process of policy change. What specific circumstances trigger it? How do specific events affect the ways change comes about? These questions are especially important if we want to comprehend and anticipate future changes. In this respect, the author points his readership towards the relevant factors that may create the political conditions for an actual revision of Article 9 of the Constitution--also known as the "peace"' clause because of the constraints it imposes on the nature and scope of military forces.

What are these factors? Singh's answer is "external military...

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