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Home > Books & Journals > Book Review Last Updated: 08:54 12/20/2007
Book Review #81: November 15, 2007

"Emerging Realism of the Japan-U.S. Alliance" by Tomohito Shinoda

Reviewed by Takahiro Miyao (Professor, Head, Japanese Institute of Global Communications)

Title: Emerging Realism of the Japan-U.S. Alliance
("Nichi-Bei Dohmei-toiu Riarizumu" in Japanese)
Authors: Tomohito Shinoda
Language: Japanese
Publisher: Chikura Shobou
Date/Time: Septermber, 2007
Pages: 274 including notes and index
ISBN: 978-4-8051-0884-0 C3031


Virtually no book has been written by a Japanese scholar to offer a coherent view on the history of the Japan-U.S. Alliance for the entire post-war period, although there have been some edited books including various views of multiple authors on this subject matter. One major reason for this seems to be the lack of an analytical framework, satisfactory from the Japanese viewpoint, to be able to understand the main events and episodes in Japan-U.S. relations throughout the post-war period.

In this book, Professor Tomohito Shinoda provides such a framework by applying the concepts of "realism" (realistic approach based on national power and security), "liberalism" (idealistic approach emphasizing international cooperation) and "constructivism" (analytical approach introducing the elements of ideals and ideologies). With this framework, he tries to analyze the entire post-war period of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, from the occupation period to the present, during which time the basic nature of the Alliance has been undergoing fundamental change. As expected, the basic change might be regard as "emerging realism," i.e., gradual change from liberalism toward realism, as suggested by the book title. What is interesting, however, is the timing and reasons for change, which Professor Shinoda spells out with his analytical framework.

In Chapter 3, "Change to the 'Reverse Course,'" Professor Shinoda singles out the role of George Kenan at the U.S. State Department in the late 1940s to push Japan toward more realism, eventually leading to Japan's rearmament right after the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. However, Japanese political leaders, from Shigeru Yoshida down to Zenko Suzuki, had been keeping their liberal stance for more than two decades until Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone voluntarily accepted realism in the Japan-U.S. Alliance. Similarly, in Chapter 6, "Escape from Drifting Alliance," the importance of the Armitage Report in 2000 is emphasized in making a number of proposals reflecting the George W. Bush administration's realistic stance toward the Japan-U.S. Alliance, hopefully, to make it similar to the Britain-U.S. relationship. However, it took Prime Minister Junichiro Kozumi for Japan to accept the essence of the Armitage Report actively and to take concrete steps for strengthening the Alliance in the aftermath of the 9/11 incident.

While Professor Shinoda's analysis successfully reveals the nature of the historical change in the Alliance in a clear and simple way, its oversimplification is inevitable, as he himself admits in the Introduction. For example, the realism that Nakasone and Koizumi subscribed to was not necessarily shared by a majority of the Japanese people, not even by a majority of the ruling coalition party members. Probably, Professor Shinoda should have utilized the concept of "constructivism" in explaining more recent political developments, rather than adopting simple dichotomy between "realism" and "liberalism," in order to have a richer and deeper understanding of the dynamism of Japanese politics, especially since the Koizumi era.

As mentioned in the Postscript, Professor Shinoda's work in this book may be regarded as a counterargument to some of the well-known studies by U.S. scholars on the Japan-U.S. Alliance which are entirely based on the stance of "liberalism." At any rate, this book should be considered a landmark for the study of the Japan-U.S. Alliance in the post-war period, and a significant contribution to our understanding of the basic nature of the Alliance, which is currently under intense review, at least, on the Japan side in the aftermath of the historic defeat of the pro-U.S. ruling coalition in the Upper House in July 2007.

Tomohito Shinoda, "Nichi-Bei Dohmei-toiu Riarizumu" (original title in Japanese):

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