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Military force as social good: The legacies of Operation Tomodachi

Kersten, R. (2016) Military force as social good: The legacies of Operation Tomodachi. In: Mullins, M.R. and Nakano, K., (eds.) Disasters and Social Crisis in Contemporary Japan: Political, Religious, and Sociocultural Responses. Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 42-58.

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In the aftermath of the compound disasters of 3.11 in Japan, observers witnessed a surge in positive feeling toward the Self-Defense Force (SDF), and toward the Japan–US alliance, among the general Japanese populace (Ministry of Defense 2012, 9, 18–19; Chanlett-Avery et al 2013, 17). Whether measured in public opinion polls or in recruitment drives, it seemed that the substantial contributions of Japanese and US military forces in post–disaster relief had broken through deeply entrenched divisions in postwar society. As Samuels has noted, “a once-marginalized military found itself on centre-stage, achieving new levels of national esteem, while the periodically maligned military alliance with the United States performed to similar accolades” (Samuels 2013, loc 75). Until 3.11, the presence and status of military forces in Japan had been ambiguous and incongruous, as postwar Japanese society overwhelmingly identified pacifism as the normative foundation of national identity. This had compelled the SDF to maintain a low profile at home and abroad, with international peacekeeping activities constrained by legislation and by rote interpretations of Article 9 of the 1947 constitution by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau. Similarly, the US-Japan alliance managers were continuously forced to wrestle with adverse reactions to the burden imposed on local communities by US military bases, with opinion leaders on both sides of the policy spectrum in Japan endlessly torn between the desire for policy autonomy in the security realm and the need to rely on the United States for extended deterrence.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan UK
Copyright: 2016 The Author
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