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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Simon Schwenke

Japanese Studies, Social Sciences
(PhD Students, March 1, 2012 - February 28, 2013)

  • Japan’s Foreign and Security Policy
  • Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and civil-military relations
  • Japan’s Political Economy
  • U.S.-Japan Relations

With the ongoing change of Japan’s security policy, the role of the SDF (Self-Defense Forces) changed accordingly. An important part of this redirection of security policy were additional roles and functions for the SDF, which stand in stark contrast to the established principles in Japanese security policy and its restrictive political and societal engagement with its own armed forces. While the primary function of the SDF has been mainly focusing on the defense of Japan against an outside attack, participation in United Nations led peace-keeping operations and other “out-of-area” dispatches brought about a completely new range of operations, local and regional wise. In addition, the ongoing integration of the SDF into the U.S. security strategy for East Asia due to the U.S.-Japan alliance led to a regional extension of a possible deployment of the SDF to “areas surrounding Japan”. These changes have led to a necessary adaption in the chain of command, training and education, and equipment of the Self-Defense Forces to cope with these new demanding profiles for deployment.

The underlying question for this research project is, whether there has been an institutional change of the SDF, and continuing, whether this led to a politicization of the SDF in the political decision-making process of security policy. The term “politicization” stands for a wider and deeper involvement into decision-making processes. It contains two dimensions: One is driven by endogenous aspirations of involvement, i.e. the SDF aims for more involvement. The latter is about the external allocation of competences by outside forces. In this context, the SDF is seen as an institution. However, institutions are not just formal organizations, but social constructions with norms and values attached to it. An institution not only defines the scope and legitimacy of actions for its members, but is on the contrary also defined by the members themselves. Institutions therefore shape the identities, self-perceptions and preferences of its members, as well as the evaluation of its own actions and those of others. In a military-hierarchical system, officers are key figures, as they have commanding authority and represent the connection between politics and bureaucracy. The officers of the SDF are therefore the main object for this research.

Methodologically, this project uses a qualitative approach to gather and analyze empirical data. This contains semi-guided interviews and a detailed analysis of various documents and source material. The analysis itself will be based upon a qualitative content analysis approach, with the technique of structuring being applied. In addition to interviews with SDF officers, interviews will also be conducted with bureaucrats from the Japanese Defense Ministry, as well as politicians who have certain knowledge about or are involved in Japanese security policy.