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The Lexical Funk!

Daniel has wanted to be a writer ever since he was in elementary school.He has published stories and articles in such magazines as Slipstream, Black Petals, Spindrift, Zygote in my Coffee, and Leading Edge Science Fiction. He has written four books: The Sage and the Scarecrow (a novel), the Lexical Funk (a short story collection), Reejecttion (short story/ essay collection), and The Ghosts of Nagasaki (a novel).

Normalizing Japan - Still a Classic on Japanese Defense

Normalizing Japan: Politics, Identity, and the Evolution of  Security Practice - Andrew L. Oros

Along with the work of Tomohito Shinoda, Richard Samuels, Soeya Yoshihide, and Michael Green, Andrew Oros's book on Japanese security rightly deserves to be called a classic on the subject.

In focusing on Japan's security identity, Oros is in someways picking up where constructivists like Thomas Berger and Peter Katzenstein left off.

Oros's books examines the persistence of Japan’s security identity from the post-War period through the Cold War into the post-Cold War period. As the author recognizes, many authors, such as Kliman (2006), examine how Japan is being normalized by shifts in the material structure of the international system. Oros argues that despite these shifts in material structure, there has been a relatively persistent Japanese security identity that has been “hegemonic” in Japanese domestic politics.

This security identity shapes the public debate, provides its vocabulary, but does not determine the outcome. Or as Oros says, “Japan’s security identity structures specific policy outcomes in three ways: through its influence on political rhetoric, its structuring of public opinion and the coalition-building opportunities this enables, and its institutionalization into the policy-making process” (p. 32); also by “exacting costs for violators of the security identity” (p. 33).

Thus, Oros’s book looks at the relative permanence and flexibility of Japanese internal social structure. As Oros argues, these principles shape what is considered “normal” in Japanese politics. This security identity is not a “strategy” in that it is constructed by political elites, but rather “a resilient identity that is politically negotiated and comprises a widely accepted set of principles on the acceptable scope of state practices in the realm of national security” (3).

Oros finds that the main pattern of security change has been the three “Rs”: “reach, reconcile, and reassure” (p. 33). Each new security initiative is followed by a period where this new initiative is reconciled with the prevailing security identity and then the public is reassured about the extent of its influence. Oros is not blind to reforms in defense that stress adjustments to the worsening security dilemma in Asia. However, his explanatory framework emphasizes the relative consistency in Japanese policy from the Cold War into the post-Cold War.

Though the book was written nearly seven years ago, one can still see many of the qualities of "reach, reconcile, and reassure" in the recent defense initiatives proposed by the current conservative government.

For Oros, the dominant security identity of Japan is not “pacifism”, but rather domestic anti-militarism. According to Oros, the three central tenets of domestic anti-militarism are: no traditional armed forces, no use of force by Japan except in self-defense, no Japanese participation in foreign wars. Though the security identity does not determine agent actions, those politicians who wish to cross a boundary, must pay the political costs.

Even as Japan continues its rightward turn, works like Oros's that focus on Japan's anti-militarist identity will still hold important value. They will help explain why defense reforms tend to stop, stutter, and restart, moving at a glacial pace, even as external threats loom large. They will also help explain why conservative governments, with strong desires for a "normal military" end up settling for half-measures that usually channel these desires through initiatives that focus on more anti-militarist measures like peacekeeping, global cooperation, and disaster assistance.