INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND FOREIGN POLICY
ALLIANCE SECURITY DILEMMA IN POST-COLD WAR U.S.-JAPAN RELATIONS: EXPLAINING JAPAN'S SUPPORT OF U.S. MILITARY OPERATIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
© 2015 ERKELEY V. UKHANOVA
Japan's defence policy has been undergoing certain developments after the end of the Cold War. The unipolar system caused serious implications for alliances and especially for the unipole's allies. The two US-led Iraq wars made Japan adjust her policies for the US demands as of the hegemonic ally, despite her asymmetric alliance commitments. For the purpose of properly analysing Japan's decisions as a reaction to the demands of the US as the hegemonic ally, alliance security dilemma appears to be useful. Moreover, the correct analysis requires adjustment both for the unipolarity implications for the alliance behaviour and the peculiarities of the US-Japan alliance. The basic proposition of the alliance security dilemma assumes that in asymmetric alliances the weaker ally inevitably faces abandonment and entrapment risks, which makes it applicable for the US-Japan alliance case. The US demands of Japanese participation in Middle Eastern military operations made Japan face the dilemma: to give up and get engaged into an illegitimate war, which could provoke serious internal conflicts, or resist and potentially cause devaluation of Japan as an ally and denunciation of the security treaty. The both cases made Japan balance the risks of abandonment and entrapment, which could seriously damage the alliance sustainability if ignored. Despite differences in the US policies in the early 1990s and 2000s, in both cases the Japanese government had to cope with similar risks. The alliance security dilemma has an explaining potential for an allied state's foreign policy decisions analysis and presents a useful tool for the analysis of the US external pressure implications for Japan's defence choices.
Keywords: US-Japan alliance, unipolarity, alliance security dilemma, Iraq wars, defence, strategy.
Japan's defence policy after the WWII has been widely known as passive and US-originated. While, however, as deeper analysis shows, it is rather pragmatic and realistic in nature than passive, it is still an example of longing incrementalism. Moreover, it was much to the world community's surprise when Japan sent its navy to the Indian Ocean in order to support the US military operation in Afghanistan and the ground forces to Iraq later. Despite the limited character of that participation, it was the first time since the WWII for the Japanese troops to be sent abroad to support militarily an ongoing combat operation which was not even sanctioned by the UN. In contrast, it took very much pain to send a minesweeping crew to the Persian Gulf in 1991 even after all the hostilities were over. In both cases it was the US pressure which Japanese leaders had to respond to. The alliance security dilemma can help understanding why any responses took place at all.
It has become a matter of common consent by now that Japan's defence policy has been undergoing some developments since the end of the Cold War. Different assessments are
* The following paper is based on the research funded by the Japan-Russia Youth Exchange Center.
given to these changes within a wide range of approaches from incrementalism to radicalism. This is also true for the analysis of the factors which affect the process. While it is not broadly argued that the relations with the United States, especially in the security realm, do contribute to evolution of the situation, there is nothing like consensus on this contribution's scale. To start with, the international relations science has not come up with a sustainable theory on the alliance relations. While there have been attempts to reflect theoretically on the alliance formation processes, states behaviour within the alliances has not received sufficient theorizing yet. Moreover, for understandable reasons and recognizing the structural aspect's crucial role, theories have been focusing on multipolar and bipolar systems. Alliance politics under unipolarity condition remains understudied.
The forthcoming discussion is an attempt to answer the broad question of how the alliance factor affected Japan's defence policy evolution in 1991-2009 and the special one of whether the alliance security dilemma concept can explain Japan's defence choices or not. I will refer to the special concepts of alliance theory - Glenn Snyder's and Stephen Walt's ideas about alliance management and internal dynamics of alliances [Snyder, 1997; Walt, 2009]. They seem to have the most potential for explaining intra-alliance dynamics, and can be applied to the US-Japan alliance in particular. Thus, we can try to explain the cause-and-effect links between the alliance dynamics and Japan's defence policy.
In order to avoid forcing the issues, the basic assumption should be done for the purposes of the following discussion. Because the alliance security dilemma is considered unavoidable in asymmetric alliances, I will consider it applicable to the case of the US-Japan alliance, which is assessed to be highly asymmetric. In addition, while using the concept as an analytical framework, one should keep in mind the unipolar character of the world system and try to adapt the concept to this parameter. Having taken these moments into account, first I will shortly refer to the problem of the unipolarity implications for the alliance behaviour according to Walt's deliberations. Then, the main propositions of the alliance security dilemma will be described as they appear in Snyder's works. Finally, the combination of these theories will be applied to the case of the US-Japan alliance in order to define its impact on Japan's post-Cold War defence policy evolution.
UNIPOLARITY IMPLICATIONS FOR THE ALLIANCE BEHAVIOUR
The end of the Cold War was the structural shift that brought the unique moment of unipolarity. Such a system has never occurred before, which means specific implications for alliances in terms of both their formation and management. While an excellent analysis of structural impact on alliances can be found in Snyder's works, he describes multipolarity and bipolarity only. However, the unipolar system that witnesses concentration of power in the hands of the single state, or unipole, cannot avoid serious implications for alliances, both new and old.
Basic characteristics of a unipolar system let us deduce several main implications for the unipole and its real and potential allies. First, unipolarity means greater freedom of action for the unipole, that is no great rivals and less need for allied support. This means that the unipole has the capacity to act alone but does not entirely exclude the allies support: they might be needed, for example, to provide legitimacy for the unipole politics or to provide their facilities and bases. This leads to the next feature of unipolarity: states, and even unipole's allies, get concerned about power concentration, because the unipole's actions might affect the other states and the system. Despite the seriousness of concerns, balancing the unipole gets complicated, because in order to balance it effectively, states have to form and manage a large coalition of many members, which is not an easy task. Another concern for the weaker states is their ability to influence the unipole's choices. In a bipolar system, allied support is existential for the poles, so medium and small states can bargain with their patrons and benefit from trade-off. However, the unipole can do well without allies, thus making it difficult for these latter to find appropriate leverages to manipulate the unipole. All these conditions affect alliance politics under unipolarity.
International relations theory has worked out several theories of alliance formation in multipolar and bipolar systems: balance-of-power [Waltz, 1979], balance-of-threat [Walt, 1985], balance-of-interest [Schweller, 1994], the autonomy-security trade-off model [Morrow, 1991]. These theories can be somewhat useful for the unipolar system analysis, but obviously in a limited scope. Principal choices for the weaker states in a unipolar system fall between extreme opposition to the unipole and formal alignment with it, with neutrality as the third option equidistant from the former two. Therefore, alliances in a unipolar world represent a form of reaction to the unipole domination. Stating this, Walt comes up with the range of concrete choices for the weaker states, that is their potential alliance strategies: hard balancing (such an alliance is unlikely to form until the unipole poses an imminent threat); soft balancing (directed against specific policies of the unipole rather than the overall distribution of power); "leash-slipping" (alliances intended to enhance autonomy, that is to reduce dependence on the unipole by pooling own capabilities); bandwagoning (also unlikely to appear because requires the weaker state to tie to the stronger power with which they have significant conflicts of interest and which is probably directing latent or overt threats at them); regional balancing (close ties with the unipole when the threat to be countered is a neighbouring power or some other local problem) [Walt, 2009].
Of course, this is not a universal set of options, and states can show combined strategies with elements of many. As stipulated, unipolarity is a novel condition and we probably simply cannot grasp all its features yet.
Once the alliance is formed, the problem of its management arises. Under unipolarity, there is a greater potential for fluctuation in threat perceptions of regional allies and the hegemonic ally. These threat perceptions cannot be fully deduced from the system's structure; they are influenced more than they were in the bipolar system by geographic variations, different perceptions of intentions, various domestic factors, and ideolo
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