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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest


U.S. - Japan Relations in a Changing World
Steven K. Vogel, editor

Washington: The Brookings Institution, 2002
ISBN: 0-8157-0629-4, 286 pp

A ten essay volume edited by University of California at Berkeley professor Steven K. Vogel uses a mixed theoretical and observational approach to present an overview of the current state of relations between the United States and Japan. While security issues and trade arrangements are aptly considered, the strength of the volume is the inclusion of chapters exploring areas such as media and finance. These analyses give excellent insight into the changes and challenges facing both nations -- though Japan is, appropriately, emphasized. University of California at Santa Barbara political scientist Laurie Freemen offers observations on ways in which media old and new transmit and influence cross-national perception and understanding. Solid assessment shows the impact on the overall bilateral relationship.

Regarding the overall relationship, Keith Nitta argues that a state of paradigm drift exists; where once the cold war structure defined by U.S. containment policy and the Yoshida Doctrine guided the bilateral relationship, it now lacks a consistent framework. Instead, in a range of areas -- primarily economic -- Japanese policy makers are more assertive. Both in response to public pressures, and to American trade and security policies, criticism is more vocal. The Bush Administration actively seeks to devolve responsibility for regional security to Japan.

In a summarizing piece, Vogel contends that absent the binding paradigm cemented by the Yoshida Doctrine -- under which Japan pursued security minimization -- and the San Francisco Treaty, relations between the two nations will become less stable. In the realm of security, he contends the bilateral relationship will be more contentious.

While it would certainly be foolish to discount these predictions, they come across as driven excessively by theory. Should relations deteriorate, it will be interesting to consider if that occurs simply as a result of a post-Cold War lack of structure, or if the presence of that paradigm for so many years perhaps itself contributed. An essay on international organizations by Amy Searight of Northwestern University skillfully shows how Japan has used these fora for achieving twin goals of binding itself to the United States, and binding the United States to a range of multilateral organizations. Realist theory holds that these organizations become venues for conflict between states. Perhaps then the paradigm was tempted toward drift for some time, even while the Cold War continued. Here the theoretical questions are of existential import to the debate in this volume, and in whatever may result in future, when this volume is sure to be cited.

Missing is a rigorous, nuanced inquiry into intergovernmental relations and diplomatic practice. Leonard Schoppa's piece on domestic politics often focuses on parallel analyses of party dynamics and game theory models. A good look at the inner workings of Japanese diplomatic organs, particularly any glitches therein, would be a good addition, as would a piece considering how the bilateral relationship affects and is affected by relations of both nations with Japan's neighbors.

Overall, the pieces are thoughtful, well researched and connect well with each other. There is much information and some solid analysis here, the latter mostly contained in the individual essays. References to historical backgrounds are included appropriately, though the volume deals with matters contemporary. The paradigm drift argument, while perhaps problematic, is a theoretical development. Cases of ethnic conflict are outside the scope of the project.

Jon Levy, The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies

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