Theses Doctoral

The Paradox of Antimilitarism: Civil-Military Relations in Post World War II Japan

Hikotani, Takako

The changing security environment in Asia has led to a renewed interest in the Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF). However, the SDF itself remains a black box: assessed either in terms of its problematic legal standing or physical military capacity, but with limited understanding of the people within; who they are, what they do, and how they think.
This dissertation opens up the black box and brings the SDF officers into the analysis of civil-military relations in post-war Japan. I present a theoretical framework inspired by principal-agent theory, in which I hypothesize that the type of control (ex-ante or ex-post) and preference divergence between the civilians and the military produces four different outcomes in civil-military relations: containment, auto pilot, conflictual, and cooperative (possibly excessive). I examine how civil-military relations in Japan evolved over time and across three realms of defense policy making, budget, personnel, and use of force; utilizing the findings from an opinion survey conducted among SDF officers and civilian elite addressing the "civil-military gap," oral history records of former SDF leaders and civilian defense officials, and interviews with active duty SDF officers and civilian officials.
My research shows that civil-military relations in Japan was generally calm, not because the ex-ante constraints were strong and suppressed the opposing views of the SDF, but because the policy preferences of SDF officers and civilian bureaucracy converged in support of the alliance relationship with the United States. Such preference convergence made it possible for the politicians to continue "auto-pilot control" of the SDF, which was convenient for politicians who preferred to avoid dealing with military matters in face of the anti-militaristic public. However, this led to two paradoxical outcomes: (1) the SDF came to enjoy their relative autonomy within the ex-ante constraints, and (2) the ex-ante constraints turned out to be self-binding for politicians, possibly hampering their ability to control the SDF ex-post.
Institutional changes through the electoral and administrative reforms in the 1990s along with the perceived changes in the security environment surrounding Japan enhanced both the incentive and capacity of politicians to release the ex-ante constraints and to control the SDF in their own hands. Re-interpretation of the constitution to allow for collective self defense is a step in the same direction. Looking towards the future, the shift from ex-ante to ex-post control may result in tension between the civilians and SDF officers, in cases where their preferences diverge.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Curtis, Gerald L.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 13, 2014