Learning How To Sweat: Explaining The Dispatch Of Japan's Self-Defense Forces In The Gulf War And Iraq War Open Access
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Until the Gulf War, no Japanese politician could seriously hope to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) overseas. It was off-limits. But contrary to what is commonly believed, Japanese decision-makers did not feel comfortable providing only money while the economy grew. Knowing they could not `bleed' like other states, a number of decision-makers wanted badly to `sweat,' meaning provide human contributions in some capacity. But `sweating' proved problematic because there was no consensus as to what `sweating' entailed. When the Gulf War occurred, the first serious attempts were made to dispatch the SDF as `sweat,' but the Kaifu Administration encountered innumerable problems in these efforts. Unable to dispatch, the government instead provided over $13 billion and only after the war had finished sent naval minesweepers to the Gulf. Twelve years later, during the Iraq War, the Koizumi Administration had little problem dispatching all three SDF branches to Iraq on a reconstruction mission. My research question is this: Why was Japan unable to dispatch the SDF in the first Gulf War while it successfully did so in the second?Drawing on theories and concepts from the foreign policy literature and political psychology, I argue the answer is to be found in the nature of the opposition parties and the beliefs of decision-makers. Specifically, changes in the nature of the main opposition party from an ideological party to a pragmatic party widened the parameters of viable policy options while a convergence on shared beliefs prioritizing the importance of Japan's international obligations amongst bureaucrats and lawmakers led to consideration of policies that included SDF dispatch. To explain the cognitive shift, I point to the clear feedback from international society criticizing Japan's efforts to the Gulf War in what became known as the Gulf War Trauma. The research is a comparative analysis of the policy-making process during the 1990-91 Gulf Crisis and War and the 2003 Iraq War. Utilizing data collected from 102 interviews with Japanese bureaucrats and lawmakers active in the decision-making process in both periods, parliamentary records, materials obtained from ministries and political parties, and other primary and secondary sources, I conduct contextual analysis of the policy processes to analyze the beliefs behind policy preferences, why policy preferences succeeded or failed during the process, and how effective opposition parties were in vetoing policies from the government agenda. Although this dissertation demonstrates that a consensus has been reached amongst Japanese decision-makers on the importance of making visible international contributions as a way for Japan to fulfill its international obligations, it calls into question recent scholarship that Japan is `normalizing,' creating a new grand foreign policy strategy, or crossing the Rubicon. In addition, it illustrates how opposition parties, despite numerically inferior to parties holding government, can exercise veto power over policies when its message resonates among government decision-makers and the public. Also, it questions the argument that states cannot control their reputation. Finally, the research confirms that unexpected failures impart lessons, affecting cognitive structures of decision-makers through their inherent trauma. However, the lessons learned do not translate into quick policy changes because the public constrains rapid change due to the fact that it learns lessons at a slower pace than those who experienced the trauma first-hand.
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