Japan and America in East Asia in the Wake of the Cold War: Drift and Immobilism amidst International Upheaval

Part of the St Antony’s Series book series


This admonition by Napoleon Bonaparte is today peculiarly relevant for the United States and Japan, great powers caught up in a world in transition. America and Japan emerged from the Cold War as the two most powerful nations on the international landscape. The United States was not only the hegemonic leader of the coalition that won the war, but was the only global military superpower and possessed the world’s largest economy. Japan, although mired in recession for much of the period since the end of the Cold War, remains a global economic superpower as the world’s largest creditor, at the forefront in a number of high-tech industries, and the dominant economic player in the fastest-growing region in the world, East Asia. Both, perforce, will be leaders in any future international order. However, the continuing failure of both nations to look beyond the now-anachronistic strategic policies and institutions of the Cold War, both military and economic, has itself become one of the features and problems of the international scene. A kind of strategic immobilism has afflicted both Tokyo and Washington regarding bilateral ties, the East Asian region and the global system. A number of reasons underlie this immobilism: both states are shackled by the success of previous policies; the domestic as well as the international institutions that were developed to manage foreign policy during the more than four decades of the Cold War are impediments to change as long as they remain in place in unchanged form; and political leaders in both countries (for differing reasons) are currently more concerned with domestic affairs than with international statesmanship.


Foreign Policy Liberal Democratic Party World Order Security Arrangement National Purpose 
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  1. 1.
    See, for example, Jonathan D. Pollack and James A. Winnefeld, US Strategic Alternatives in a Changing Pacific, Rand Corporation, June 1990, p. 14.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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