Document created: 21 February 01
Published Aerospace Power Journal - Spring 2001
Alliance Adrift by Yoichi Funabashi. Council on Foreign Relations Press (http://www.foreignrelations. org/public/cpub.html), Harold Pratt House, 58 East 68th Street, New York, New York 10021, 1999, 514 pages, $25.00 (paper), $49.95 (cloth).
For Japan, the mid-1990s were a period of dislocation and readjustment, both domestically and in foreign affairs. During the decade, the Japanese economic miracle peaked and then weakened. Bureaucratic infighting and a revolving-door leadership characterized the government. Absolute dependence on the United States for protection became embarrassing. And the American presence on Okinawa became problematic. When the time came to renegotiate the Status of Forces Agreement, Japanese leaders were ready to rethink Japans role and relationships in the region and the world after decades of demilitarized depen-dence. Published initially in Japan in 1997, the award-winning Alliance Adrift captures Japans struggle, internal and external, to redefine its alliance with the United States. It describes Japans difficulty in redefining itself, expanding beyond economic leadership and moving into the international arena as a self-sufficient diplomatic and military participant after a half century of mostly being ignored by the major players.
Foreign crises during the period shocked Japanese complacency, causing a loss of face. First came the embarrassment of Operation Desert Storm, in which Japan gave only money; it brought the realization that the economic success that allowed Japan to give billions of dollars meant nothing in comparison with the commitment of people and the sharing of risk. A few years later, Japan sat helpless again. The regional crises in Korea and China revealed Japans lack of self-defense and self-determination as a junior partner sometimes ignored by the rest of the region, as well as the se-nior partner, the United States.
Japan also suffered internal problems beyond the mid-decade collapse of the economic miracle. There was the Sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway, revolving-door prime ministers, and Okinawaalways Okinawa, where most of the American GIs live, train, and disrupt Okinawan lives. The bases issue gets a great deal of attention in this book. There is much back-and-forth on the difficult negotiations on the return of Futenma Air Station and where to put the missions it hosts, the rape of a schoolgirl, and the problems of military bases in an urban setting. Detailed coverage also explains the internal Japanese local-regional-national political situation. Most noticeably, in virtually every context is the issue of face.
Compounding the complexity of this story is the Clinton presidency, whose priority is not always Japan and whose course is sometimes inconsistent. This book deals with diplomatic and political current eventsnot history necessarily, except when the author moves way back to World War II or the 1950s to give context to current arrangements in the Status of Forces Agreement, the Self Defense Forces, and so forth.
The style of this book is unusual because its a translation of a Japanese work. It has that alien feel that commonly occurs early on when reading a work written in another language and from the perspective of another culture. The American reader would be well advised to know that there are many players, much jumping back and forth in time and topic, and occasional duplication of information. The documentation preponderantly consists of interviews with government officials on both sidessome of whom are prominently involved, some of whom are unnamed.
Despite the caveats, the book is well worth the reading. It gives a good overall feel for the differences between the Japanese predilection for bottom-up consensus building and the American top-down approach. It shows that both methods are slow, and it brings forth the many internal and external difficulties that each government has in arriving at a quick, lasting, and effective resolution to a serious problem. Half a decade after the attempts to restructure the alliance, the base issue is still alive in Okinawa and Japan, and there is still no satisfactory solution to Japanese and American concerns about North Koreas and Chinas involvement in the American-dominated region. And the Japanese role remains undefined.
John H. Barnhill, PhD
Tinker AFB, Oklahoma
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.