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Japan's Self Defense Forces After the Great East Japan Earthquake: Toward a New Status Quo  [2012]

Hiscock, Kyle W NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL MONTEREY CA DEPT OF NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS [Corporate Author]

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The Great East Japan Earthquake's unique scope, and the actors involved in the ensuing disaster, has the potential to significantly affect four areas influencing Japan's Self Defense Force's (SDF) trajectory: security interests, economic interests, norms, and actors and institutions. Retrenchment, status quo, and remilitarization are all plausible outcomes for the SDF's trajectory. Understanding what the disaster changed in these four areas is critical to determining the most probable SDF trajectory. This thesis finds that the SDF is not likely to embark on a retrenchment or rapid remilitarization trajectory. Japan's security and economic interests have not fundamentally changed since the disaster, but economic trends in place prior to the disaster were aggravated and its security policy was validated. Japan's norms were the most fundamentally changed, as the SDF emerged from the disaster as the most trusted institution in Japan. Changes will be limited to the fringes of the status quo bordering remilitarization as numerous disincentives restrain the SDF from rapidly moving toward remilitarization. These changes will come about from a growing sense of economic and security pragmatism that results in engaging rather than containing the SDF. Improved civil-military relations, more public support for the SDF's expanding domestic and international roles, and increased deference to the SDF as a useful tool of the state will characterize this new status quo.