In This Review

Arming Japan: Defense Production, Alliance Politics, and the Postwar Search for Autonomy
Arming Japan: Defense Production, Alliance Politics, and the Postwar Search for Autonomy
By Michael J. Green
Columbia University Press, 1995, 206 pp.

With the end of the Cold War, the tension between Japan’s urge for independence and its need for alliance with the United States has grown. No other author has captured this dilemma as trenchantly and readably as Michael Green in this book about Japan’s postwar search for an autonomous defense industry, or kokusanka. Green shows how Japan sought to develop its own defense but soon found it impracticable. The prospects for achieving technological autonomy have been decreasing rapidly in recent decades due to the intertwining of national economies. Japan’s desire to play a larger political role in Asia led to a renewed appreciation of the link between Japan’s freedom of action and close security ties with the United States, which techno-nationalist confrontation might disrupt. Finally, the consensus within Japan on expanded roles and missions for the Self-Defense Forces was also premised on close alliance with the United States. This discovery, says Green, has not led to an abandonment of the goal of autonomy but to a recalculation of what it means. The Japanese have found that a robust weapons program increases Japan’s value to the United States and empowers it within the alliance. He concludes with some important lessons for both countries. Technology need not be divisive, and the possibilities for bilateral technological collaboration are vast. There are great potential benefits to be had from joint development and mutual transfer of defense technology, and the countries’ combined strengths can be harnessed in areas ranging from contending with nuclear proliferation to improving energy resources and the environment.