Japanese foreign intelligence and grand strategy
Japanese Foreign Intelligence and Grand Strategy Japanese Foreign Intelligence and Grand Strategy
BOOK REVIEW: Japanese Foreign Intelligence and Grand Strategy: From the Cold War to the Abe Era
By Brad Williams / Georgetown University Press
Reviewed by Stephen C. Mercado
The Reviewer – Stephen C. Mercado is an analyst, researcher and translator who has worked in the Washington area and East Asia on Asian issues as an all-source analyst and open source officer for the CIA. He is the author of The shadow warriors of Nakano, an intelligence history of the Imperial Japanese Army. The CIA has twice awarded him its âStudies in Intelligence Awardâ for his contributions to the Agency’s journal.
SEE AGAIN – Intelligence may be the second oldest profession in the world, according to some writers, but it is a young field of inquiry for academics. Much of the scholarly work written in English since the field began to develop in the 1990s has to do with American and British intelligence. Japanese Foreign Intelligence and Grand Strategy: From the Cold War to the Abe Era, written by Brad Williams, associate professor in the Department of Asian and International Studies at Hong Kong City University, which hit the shelves in March this year, follows eminent MIT researcher Richard Samuels’ Special Service: A History of the Japanese Intelligence Community (2019) as the second of two academic works in English on the Japanese intelligence community.
Dr Williams examines why the government of Japan, the world’s third largest economy, has an intelligence community that is modest compared to the country’s leading international reputation and lacks what all the other great powers of the world have: a basic intelligence organization with officers sent abroad to carry out foreign human intelligence (HUMINT) activities. In short, in this book he examines a key question: why doesn’t Tokyo have more intelligence assets and its own version of a CIA or MI6?
The author attempts to answer this question in six chapters. The first traces Japan’s changing place in the world as Tokyo recovered from the defeat of World War II, passed through a period of military occupation, and then took a stand as a “junior ally” of the United States during the Cold War before developing its classification. intelligence capabilities in the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall in the West and China’s power increased in the East. The second chapter concerns the secret action of the United States in occupied Japan. The third chapter examines Japan under the aegis of the United States during the occupation and the Cold War. The fourth chapter is an examination of how the Japanese have focused their intelligence efforts on economic growth and technological development. The fifth chapter concerns the opposition of the government and the population to the development of HUMINT capabilities in particular and military intelligence in general. And the sixth chapter is largely a look at Tokyo’s acquisition of spy satellites and the prospects of adding HUMINT to its capabilities to deal with changes since the Cold War.
Emerging from defeat and occupation, stripped of the formidable intelligence and military capabilities of its imperial era, Japan devoted resources during the Cold War to intelligence gathering to bridge the yawning economic and technological divide with the United States. United while sheltering under the American military umbrella. The author’s discussion of economic and technological intelligence gathered through the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), Japan Foreign Trade Organization (JETRO), other auxiliary government bodies (gaikaku dantai) as Japan Science and Technology Information Center (JICST) and the extraordinary Japanese trading houses (sogo sosha) made Chapter 4 one of the two chapters I found most interesting.
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While the search for market intelligence and technology has done much to propel the Japanese intelligence community in one direction, the government and public opposition to a renaissance of military and human intelligence have worked to curb the growth of intelligence. Japanese in these areas. These restraining forces are the focus of Chapter 5, my other favorite chapter. Readers should find particularly interesting the author’s tracing of the efforts of the Postwar National Police Agency (NPA) to prevent the return of a powerful army in the power struggle between the Ministry of the Interior and Army of Imperial Japan. In the same chapter, the author also finds the root of the determination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to control the reports of defense attachÃ©s of embassies today in the independence of the military and naval attachÃ©s of the former Empire from to the ambassadors of that time.
There is much to recommend this book to readers. Dr Williams wrote it after reading widely – from declassified CIA documents to relevant books and newspaper articles in Japanese and English – and interviewing experts (including Dr Ken Kotani of the Japanese National Institute for MIT’s Defense Studies and Dr Samuels) inside and out. Japan. Readers interested in learning more about the Japanese intelligence community will find a treasure trove of documents in the bibliography.
The author’s presentation of the unusually modest and constrained intelligence community of postwar Japan in the wake of Tokyo’s Yoshida Doctrine – emphasizing economic growth and technological development rather than political concerns and military while enjoying close ties to Washington – is compelling. The same is true of his suggestion that changes in Japan’s domestic conditions and in the international environment since the Cold War have stimulated the development of the Japanese intelligence community and may well push Tokyo to “cross the Rubicon” to join the other great powers in the development of its own classified HUMINT capabilities.
Having extensively praised the book, I must also point out what I consider to be shortcomings. Dr. Williams, in parts of the book, writes more about Washington’s actions than Tokyo’s. The second chapter, for example, is a story of American covert action in occupied Japan that fails to tell readers how the Japanese leadership endured, exploited, or applied the lessons of these classified operations to their own intelligence community. The author, in a few places, also deviates from the topic into interesting but unrelated tangents, such as Washington’s promotion of the post-war Federal Intelligence Service (BND) in West Germany. Academic, he uses academic jargon and certain buzzy or awkward terms in a style that this reviewer sometimes finds disturbing.
I recommend this book as a solid piece of work for those interested in the evolution of the intelligence community of the world’s third largest economy. Faced with an increasingly powerful China, both its main trading partner and its main military threat, Japan has no other choice but to develop its intelligence capabilities as well as its diplomatic and military resources.
Japanese Foreign Intelligence and Grand Strategy wins three out of four solid trench coats.
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