The Abe Doctrine: Japan’s Proactive Pacifism and Security Strategy

  • Published

The Abe Doctrine: Japan’s Proactive Pacifism and Security Strategy by Daisuke Akimoto. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, 246 pp.

After resigning from his role as an assistant professor at the Soka University Peace Research Institute, Daisuke Akimoto began work as a policy secretary in the Japanese House of Representatives at the beginning of 2015. As a result of his position, Akimoto observed firsthand the Diet’s deliberations and enactments in the period that followed. Accordingly, he is well placed to examine the topic of this book.

In The Abe Doctrine, Akimoto sets out to examine Japan’s recent foreign and security strategy. The core normative concept of the book is the “proactive contribution to peace” policy, also known as proactive pacifism. This policy is primarily implemented through the Peace and Security Legislation, enacted by the Shinzo Abe administration in 2015. Akimoto considers the recent legal and political implications of this policy and legislation.

Recognizing that the earlier works of other researchers examine the possible existence of the Abe Doctrine, Akimoto contends that the case studies in his book are concrete examples that this doctrine does in fact exist. While the author is not suggesting that the other works are incorrect, he does identify that they are somewhat outdated and therefore incomplete. That is, in the two years since the Peace and Security Legislation came into force in 2016 and the book’s publication, Akimoto has been able to analyze some practical examples substantiating the Abe Doctrine. It is in this light that Akimoto writes his book in an attempt to fill a research gap for the Abe administration.

Across eight substantive chapters, The Abe Doctrine examines the concept of the proactive contribution to peace and the Peace and Security Legislation, first in their own right and then in the context of a case study investigating their policy effects at the domestic, regional, and global levels. Finally, Akimoto consolidates the book’s earlier chapters by considering whether the Abe Doctrine will become Japan’s new grand strategy.

Akimoto begins his book by conducting a relatively theoretical examination of Japan’s pacifism based on Johan Galtung’s “peace” concept before comparing it with Abe’s proactive contribution to peace concept. To assess the compatibility of the two, the author then uses analytical eclecticism along with orthodox international relations theories. For a reader who already understands these concepts, this chapter gives a succinct and insightful explanation of the compatibility of Abe’s concept in relation to the traditional theory of pacifism. For a less informed reader, however, this chapter may prove to be slightly confusing. While the theoretical discussion is certainly relevant, the chapter continually applies the theory to examples and case studies that appear in later chapters. For an informed reader, this chapter could stand alone from the rest of the book, but for a reader still learning about the later examples, this chapter would likely appear more relevant when reread after finishing the book.

The following chapter considers the “15 cases regarding the peace and security of Japan and the international community” that the Abe administration outlined in 2014. These cases are said to have been a prototype for the Peace and Security Legislation, which as a result encountered a great deal of criticism at the time. For each case, Akimoto translates the simulation from the original source document and conducts what appears to be a neutral analysis that includes the opposition views. The significant aspect of this chapter arises because of the fact that, again, some time has elapsed since the enactment of the Peace and Security Legislation. This allows Akimoto to fill further research gaps by considering the validity and applicability of the 15 cases in light of the legislation that resulted. This chapter, with the assistance of annotated illustrations, offers valuable context for discussion of the Abe Doctrine, particularly because it allows for the introduction of the concept of “collective self-defense.”

The next chapter provides a comprehensive analysis of the Peace and Security Legislation. It begins by first outlining the legislation before briefly considering, in turn, each of the ten acts that were revised, as well as the new act that was created. What follows is a synopsis of the Diet deliberations that ultimately resulted in the enactment of the legislation. The author does a fantastic job of distilling the 216 hours of deliberations into a 13-page section that serves as a highlight reel of the deliberation. This is to be expected since Akimoto watched the entire deliberative process and then extracted and translated relevant statements from the written proceedings. The chapter then goes on to consider the constitutionality of the Peace and Security Legislation, particularly as it relates to collective self-defense. Akimoto contends that the enactment of the legislation and its resulting constitutional effect can be regarded as a legacy of the Abe Doctrine and its proactive contribution to peace policy. Accordingly, the fact that the partial right to collective self-defense became constitutionally permissible upon the enactment of the legislation is a topic that this book revisits throughout the remaining chapters.

The next three chapters examine the implications of the Peace and Security Legislation at the domestic, regional, and global levels, respectively. Again, the underlying theme for each chapter is the consideration of Japan’s newfound ability to exercise its partial right to collective self-defense in each of these three domains. The domestic case study examines the policy implications on Japan’s Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) framework. In this chapter, Akimoto divides his discussion between the three phases of Japan’s BMD framework (boost, mid-course, terminal), providing what is mainly a factual outline of the respective systems.

The regional case study examines the Japan-US Alliance in the context of the Peace and Security Legislation. This chapter is largely focused on providing context to the bilateral relationship. In chronological order, it outlines the two versions of the Japan-US Security Treaty as well as the three versions of the Guidelines for Japan–US Defense Cooperation, considering the relevant geopolitical factors from the corresponding time in history. The chapter concludes by examining the applicability of the Peace and Security Legislation to the relationship.

The global case study focuses on the effect of the Peace and Security Legislation on Japanese peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. In this chapter, Akimoto analyzes the dilemmas faced by those involved in peacekeeping operation across three levels: international (United Nations), national (Japanese Government), and individual (Japanese peacekeepers). With the Japanese involvement in South Sudan spanning 2011–17, the various sections consider the relevant events in chronological order. The significant theme of this case study is that of the kaketsuke-keigo mission (to rescue staff of international organizations or nongovernmental organizations in the case of an armed attack during peacekeeping operations). Following the introduction of the Peace and Security Legislation, the Abe government added this mission to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces operating in South Sudan, thereby legalizing what would have formally been unconstitutional.

The final chapter considers the question of whether the Abe Doctrine will be Japan’s new grand strategy. Akimoto refers to the topics of previous chapters as proof of the consistent nature of the Abe Doctrine that is based on the proactive contribution to peace policy. Recognizing that this book focuses on Abe’s foreign and security strategy, Akimoto turns to the prime minister’s foreign and economic strategy so as to be better able to consider the grand strategy question. In doing so, the author briefly examines the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Ultimately, Akimoto contends that the Abe Doctrine is an emerging grand strategy. That is, the Abe Doctrine with its proactive contribution to peace policy, is a core normative concept across all strategic levels; however, notwithstanding the doctrine’s legislative and constitutional successes, whether the Abe Doctrine will become the next grand strategy remains uncertain. Akimoto concludes by suggesting that the answer to his question will only come with time and that the Abe Doctrine will become the next Japanese grand strategy only if it is accepted by the Japanese people.

Overall, The Abe Doctrine is a comprehensive examination of the subject, providing a valuable and original contribution to its field. Akimoto maintains a neutral perspective during his strategic analysis of the policy components of the Abe Doctrine and its Peace and Security Legislation. Also, throughout the book, the author notes and considers the associated criticism put forward by politicians, scholars, and activists in relation to the doctrine and its legislation. While anyone with an interest in this period of Japan’s history would benefit from reading this book, the level of detail and specificity in some of the chapters indicates that those with some prior knowledge of the topic will arguably benefit to a greater extent.

Benjamin Hofmann
Royal Australian Navy

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."