E02 Matthew Cooper
E46 Kyotaro Harano
E52 Mark Scott
E56 Chris Craigo
Runner-up: E32 Rebecca Black
Winner: E42 Rebecca Gade
E02 Matthew Cooper
What can international political scientists do when faced with war?
Masaya Inoue, political scientist
Since the war in Ukraine began, I have seen experts on international politics and security on television everyday. The activity of mid-career researchers is particularly striking. They enthusiastically share up-to-the-minute analysis of the situation and their personal opinions, not only on television and in newspapers, but via social media.
It goes without saying that people who are familiar with the international situation in Europe, including Russia and Ukraine, and are able to explain in simple terms what is happening, do not spring up overnight. The emergence in the media of a new generation of international political scientists, who are able to take on such a role in response to this crisis, highlights the depth of the academic field in Japan.
It is said that the strength of Japanese political science is in its historical and regional research. The largest academic organization in the country related to international political research, the Japan Association of International Relations (JAIR), first established in 1956, became a centre for regional studies and foreign policy researchers. These foreign policy researchers distinguished themselves from Marxist historians, who emphasise the importance of substructures, by attempting to shed light on the dynamics of international politics through empirical analysis of policy-making processes based on historical records. Meanwhile, regional studies researchers systematically absorbed and made use of the arguments of the international political scientists to gain a deeper understanding of phenomena occurring in their own field.
The direction of Japan's international political research was undeniably determined by the country's defeat in the Second World War. Following this defeat in August 1945, a concern shared by many was the question of why Japan had rushed into a reckless war. As with Russian citizens today, a great majority of the Japanese public could not understand how their country's policies had been decided. After the war, a widespread intellectual desire to understand the causes of past wars arose in Japanese society.
In response to this demand, researchers in foreign relations and regional studies affiliated with the Japan Association of International Relations vigorously carried out joint research in a comprehensive analysis of Japan's diplomatic relations leading up to the Pacific War. That research is compiled in “The Road to the Pacific War”, 8 Volumes (Asahi Shimbun Company, 1962-1963).
Making use of original documents and testimonies from relevant individuals, this book became a must-read text for understanding Japanese international relations in the Showa pre-war period. In the 1970s, further international joint research on the causes of the war was carried out with British and American researchers.
Looking back on the progress of Japanese international political research, I am forced to consider what international political scientists can do when confronted with war. Medical science saves people's lives from sickness or injury, while engineering makes their lives easier. History or regional studies, by comparison, may be unable to directly prevent or stop wars. But great research, even after the fact, can make clear why wars occurred in regions in the past, and can offer people historical lessons and perspectives for the future.
There is, for example, Barbara Tuchman's famous work “The Guns of August” (1962), which describes the process of the outbreak of the First World War. It is well known that, while facing the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. President Kennedy was reading this same book, which showed that the First World War occurred in spite of all the countries involved not wanting it. Tuchman's work did not directly stop the war, but it could be said to have had an impact on the thinking of political leaders who wished to avert a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
With the current trend towards practical science, research of old events or narrow areas of study is often criticised as pointless. However, I want to emphasise that in reality it is precisely this research that is the most certain way to understand the complex modern world.
E46 Kyotaro Harano
What can international politics scholars do facing a war
Masaya Inoue, political scientist
Experts in international politics or security now appear every day on television since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Experts in their mid-career particularly catch our eyes with their activeness. They are actively transmitting, not only through televisions or newspapers but on social media, their latest situational analyses and views.
Not to mention, human resources do not grow overnight who have expertise in, and ability to explain easily, international situations in Europe including Russia and Ukraine. New-generation international political scientists actively play such roles on media facing crises, which I would say shows the thickness of academic layers in Japan.
The strength of Japanese international political studies is said to be its historical studies and regional studies. The Japan Association of International Relations (JAIR), the largest academy of international political studies in our country, centered around the researchers of diplomatic history or regional studies when established in 1956. The researchers of diplomatic history tried to draw the line with Marxist histography putting importance on the base, and to make clear the dynamics of international politics through empirical analyses of political decision-making process basing on historical material. On the other hand, the researchers of regional studies tried to digest systematically and exploit the arguments in international politics to more deeply understand phenomena that had occurred in the regions they specialized in.
It was the defeat in World War II that has set such a direction of Japan’s international political studies. After the defeat in August 1945, a question why Japan went into the reckless war interested many people in a similar manner. Like Russian nationals these days, most Japanese nationals in those days could not know how their country’s policy is made. After the war, intellectual curiosity wanting to know the cause of the past war prevailed widely across the Japanese society.
To meet the demand, JAIR’s researchers of diplomatic history and regional studies started energetically collaborative studies and analyzed comprehensively Japanese diplomacy leading to the Pacific War. The studies culminated in an eight-volume book Taiheiyou Senso eno Michi, or the Road to the Pacific War, The Asahi Shimbun Company, 1962-1963.
The book, which made full references to the original documents and hearings from the people concerned, has become a must to read for studying Japanese diplomacy in the pre-war Showa era. In the following 1970s, the Japanese researchers conducted international collaborative studies with British and American researchers on the cause of the war.
Looking back at the progress of international political studies in Japan makes us to re-think what scientists of international politics can do when facing wars. Medical science may save human lives from disease and injury, and engineering may enrich our life. Contrarily, historical and regional studies may not directly prevent or stop wars. Good studies, however, make clear how a war developed in a region in the past even though in hindsight, and may provide people with historical lessons-learned and future outlook.
For example, a great book The Guns of August, Barbara W. Tuchman, 1962, describes opening everts of World War I. It is well known that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was reading this book, which shows that the war occurred with nobody wanting the war, when he faced Cuban Missile Crisis. Tuchman’s book did not directly prevent a war from occurring but may be said to have influenced the political leader’s mental images who wanted to avert a nuclear war against the U.S.S.R.
We often come across criticism of what are the points of studying past events or narrow regions, as studies with tangible outcomes are more favored these days. I, however, want to emphasize it is those studies that are in fact the surest ways to understand the modern complex world.
E52 Mark Scott
The Power of International Relations in the Face of War
Masaya Inoue, Political Scientist
In the days since the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine, our TV screens have played host to a variety of experts in fields ranging from international relations to national security, with some particularly standout contributions coming from established academics. It’s not only on TV and in the papers, though; many on social media have also been working tirelessly to provide breakdowns of the latest developments and personal interpretations of events.
It should go without saying, but pundits of this calibre—well acquainted with Russia and Ukraine as part of European international affairs, and furthermore capable of presenting this information in layman’s terms—are not exactly a dime a dozen. As we witness this new generation of political scientists appearing in the media to fulfil this role in times of crisis, it gives an indication as to the depth of talent in Japanese academic circles.
The study of international relations in Japan is distinguished for its research in history and area studies. Indeed, at the time of its initial establishment in 1956, the Japan Association of International Relations (JAIR) was spearheaded chiefly by researchers of diplomatic history and area studies, and is now Japan’s largest academic society in the field of political science. Scholars of diplomatic history would employ an empirical approach to the analysis of policy-making processes through the use of historical sources (as distinct from Marxist historical theory, which centred around the idea of the societal “substructure”) in an attempt to interpret the fluctuations of world politics. Those in area studies, on the other hand, sought to better understand the goings-on in their respective regions of expertise by applying a systematic integration of international relations theory.
The driving force which shaped these approaches to political science was none other than Japan’s loss in the Second World War. Following the defeat of August 1945, the same burning question lingered at the forefront of many people’s minds: why did Japan rush headlong into such a reckless conflict to begin with? Similarly to the Russian people of today, the vast majority of Japanese citizens at the time had little way of knowing how policy decisions were being made in their own country. In the wake of this war, Japanese society was gripped by a widespread yearning to understand the motives behind wars of the past.
Spurred on by this growing demand, JAIR’s diplomatic history and area studies scholars set out in earnest to conduct joint research efforts, working towards a comprehensive analysis of Japanese foreign policy leading up to the Pacific War. The fruits of their labour resulted in the publication of Taiheiyō Sensō e no michi [“Japan’s Road to the Pacific War”], vols. 1-8 (Asahi Shimbun Publishing Co., 1962-63).
The text’s thorough incorporation of original documents and interviews with primary sources soon made it an essential resource in the study of Japanese foreign policy in the pre-war Shōwa period. As JAIR’s research efforts continued into the 1970s, they would go on to establish international joint research projects with Anglo-American scholars examining the catalysts of war.
Reflecting like this on the progression of international relations in Japan, it reiterates the question: when war rears its head, what is it that political scientists can realistically contribute? For instance, medical science saves people’s lives from disease and injury, and engineering improves our quality of life. By comparison, then, it may be fair to say that the pursuit of historical or regional research can neither directly prevent war nor stop an ongoing one. However, truly exceptional research is capable—albeit only retroactively—of shedding light upon why past wars broke out in a given region, and has the power to equip us with lessons from the past and outlooks for the future.
One such example can be found in Barbara W. Tuchman’s The Guns of August (1962), a renowned work of literature that outlines the events surrounding the onset of the First World War, and portrays it as a war which none of the countries involved had initially wanted. The book is famously known to have been referenced by American President John F. Kennedy in his negotiation of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Although Tuchman’s writing itself may not have directly ended a war, it no doubt had an influence on the mindset of those political leaders who hoped to avoid an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
With the recent trend towards the practical in academia, it is common to see those who question the merit of confining one’s research to a limited region, or poring over the events of times past. On the contrary, it cannot be stressed enough that it is these very research methods that provide us with the most reliable lens through which to decipher the complexities of our modern world.
E56 Chris Craigo
What Good Is a Global Political Analyst When War Comes Knocking at the Door?
By: MASAYA Inoue, Global Political Analyst
Ever since war erupted in Ukraine, experts in global politics and military security have been making frequent appearances on TV day after day. Tried-and-true mid-ranking analysts have been especially active as they go about tirelessly sharing the latest developments and their own insights across newspapers, TV, and even social media.
It goes without saying that a seasoned analyst is not made overnight, much less one who is well-versed in the geopolitical affairs of Russia, Ukraine, and all of Europe, and who can explain the relevant issues in layman’s terms. As such, this timely media debut by a new generation of global political analysts ready to rise to the challenge in times of crisis testifies to the depth of the Japanese academic sphere.
It is said that Japan’s strengths in global political studies lie within its historical and area studies. Indeed, even the Japan Association of International Relations (JAIR), now the largest domestic association involved in global political studies, was primarily made up of area specialists and foreign affairs historians in the early years after its inception in 1956. Drawing a stark contrast with Marxist historiography and its focus on Marx’s notion of the base, these foreign affairs historians conducted a historically situated demonstrative analysis of the process by which political decisions were made in an attempt to illuminate the dynamics behind global politics. Meanwhile, the area specialists involved made it a point to systematically assimilate and utilize discussions in the field of global political studies to better understand the phenomena occurring in their own respective areas of focus.
It was, without a doubt, Japan’s loss in World War II that set its global political studies down this path. After Japan’s defeat in August of 1945, the common question looming large in the minds of many civilians was just why Japan had thrown itself headfirst into such an ill-advised war in the first place. Much in the same vein as the Russian people today, the overwhelming majority of Japanese citizens at the time had been left entirely in the dark as to how the nation’s policies were determined. In the years following the war, a dogged interest in uncovering the causes of the war had sprung up in all corners of Japanese society.
In order to respond to this thirst for answers, the foreign affairs historians and area specialists at JAIR poured themselves body and soul into collaborative research to examine all aspects of Japan’s foreign policy leading up to World War II. Their findings were compiled and recorded in the eight volumes of JAIR’s Japan’s Road to the Pacific War (The Asahi Shimbun, 1962-1963, English translation by James W. Morley).
Making full use of primary sources and interviews with the relevant parties, this compilation became an indispensable reference work for understanding Japan’s foreign policy in the pre-war period of the Shōwa era (1926-1945), and was later followed by further international collaborative research into the causes of the war alongside analysts from the U.S. and the U.K.
A look back down the road that global political studies in Japan has taken thus far begs the question: what good is a global political analyst when war comes knocking at the door? Medicine saves people’s lives from the threat of illness or injury. Engineering enriches people’s lives. Compared to the remarkable achievements of such fields, historical and area studies may very well lack the power to directly prevent war or even to bring it to an end. The fact remains, however, that quality research in these fields can illuminate why wars broke out in certain regions in the past and in turn grant individuals the chance to learn from history as they look towards the future–as after the fact as such insight might come.
One notable example of this lies in Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August (1962), a famous work depicting the events that ultimately kindled the fires of World War I. Tuchman’s work made it clear that World War I had occurred despite the fact that none of the nations involved had desired to go to war. It is widely known that President John F. Kennedy read this same book when the U.S. was facing a potential showdown with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It would be a stretch to claim that Tuchman’s masterpiece was responsible for averting an all-out war, but it stands to say that her work left its mark on the president’s mind as he sought to avoid a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
With the focus on “practical” fields seen in recent years, it’s not uncommon to encounter criticism alleging that research focused on past events or narrowly defined areas holds no real value or purpose. However, when it comes to making sense of the complex modern world we live in, I can think of no better place to start.
Runner-up: E32 Rebecca Black
In the face of war, what good are geopolitical scholars?
By Masaya Inoue, political scientist
Every day since war broke out in Ukraine I watch experts on international politics and global security on the television. The work of the current generation of researchers is particularly remarkable. In addition to television and newspapers, they make use of social media to actively disseminate the latest developments along with their own analysis.
Of course, experts like this—with both deep knowledge of Russia and Ukraine in the context of the political landscape of Europe and the ability to explain the situation clearly—are not created overnight. The fact that a new generation of scholars of international politics has risen within the media to take on this mantle at a critical moment is a testament to the depth of academia in Japan.
The main strengths of Japanese geopolitical scholarship are generally said to be history and interdisciplinary regional studies. The Japan Association of International Relations (JAIR), founded in 1956, is the largest academic society focused on international politics in the country, and was initially largely composed of scholars whose focus was diplomatic history or regional studies.
Diplomatic historians—in contrast to Marxist historical analysts who emphasized the idea of economic substructure—attempted to understand the dynamics of international relations through the empirical analysis of historical policy-making records. Regional studies scholars, on the other hand, systematically sorted through the general arguments of international political theory as a tool to help them better understand phenomena occurring within their individual region of interest.
It was undoubtedly Japan’s defeat in World War II that caused this trend in Japanese geopolitical scholarship. After the defeat of August 1945, the question of what led Japan to plunge so recklessly into the war weighed on many people’s minds. Just as in Russia today, the vast majority of Japanese citizens at the time had no window into how their own government’s policies were decided. In the postwar period, Japanese society was gripped by a great need to understand the causes that had led to war.
To satisfy that desire, the diplomatic historians and regional studies scholars of JAIR collaborated enthusiastically, analyzing the national diplomatic policies that led to the Pacific War in great detail. The results of their efforts were published in the eight-volume work Taiheiyō Sensō e no michi (tr.: The Road to the Pacific War) (Asahi Shimbun Company, 1962-1963).1
This publication, which made extensive use of primary source documents and interviews, became a must-read in the study of Japanese diplomacy spanning the two decades leading up to the war. By the 1970s Japanese scholars were collaborating internationally on research into the causes of war with scholars from the United States and the United Kingdom.
Reflecting on the arc of geopolitical research in Japan leads me to ponder the question of what scholars of world politics can do in times of war. A doctor cures people of illness and injury; an engineer brings comfort and convenience to people’s everyday lives. Compared to that, a scholar of history or regional studies may not be able to directly prevent the outbreak of war or cause a war to end. However, great scholarship can illuminate—albeit retrospectively—the reasons that war broke out in specific places and times, and thus gift us with both the lessons of history and a road toward the future.
For example, consider Barbara Tuchman’s seminal work Guns of August (1962), which outlines the events surrounding the outbreak of World War I. It’s well known that President Kennedy of the United States, at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, was familiar with this book and the way it presented WWI as a war that broke out against the desires of all the countries involved. Tuchman’s writing may not have directly prevented a war, but it could be said that her work played a role in the mentality of world leaders intent on avoiding nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
In our current era of practical science, the purpose of studying historical events or narrowly specialized regional studies is often called into question. However, the truth is that this scholarship is one of our most powerful tools for understanding the complexities of the modern world.
1 Selected English translations were published by Columbia University Press between 1976 and 1994 in five volumes edited by James William Morley.
Winner: E42 Rebecca Gade
In the Face of War,
What Can International Relations Scholars Do?
Political Scientist Masaya Inoue
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, I have seen international relations and national security experts on television day after day. The performance of mid-career researchers especially has been breathtaking. They don’t stop at broadcasting their personal opinions and analysis of the latest situation through television and newspapers—even social media is buzzing with their takes.
Needless to say, a person well-versed on the international situation in Europe, including Russia and Ukraine, who can also explain it clearly and simply, is not made overnight. The rising prominence in the media of a new generation of international relations scholars able to take on such a role in this time of crisis likely points to the abundance of such academics in Japan.
Japan’s forte in the study of international relations is said to be historical research and area studies. Diplomatic historians and area studies researchers have played a key role in the Japan Association of International Relations (JAIR), the largest academic society engaged in research in international relations in Japan, ever since its founding in 1956. Researchers of diplomatic history, differentiating themselves from Marxist historians who focus their studies on the modes of production, tried to clarify the dynamics of international politics through empirical analysis of the policy-making process based on historical sources. On the other hand, area studies researchers systematically assimilated the debates in international relations theory and tried to apply them to more deeply understand the phenomena that occurred in their regions of study.
More than anything, what determined this course for the study of international relations in Japan was defeat in World War II. After the nation’s surrender in August 1945, the universal concern of many was the question of why Japan had plunged into an ill-advised war. The large majority of Japanese citizens could not know how their own country’s policies were decided, just like many Russian citizens today. In the postwar period, there arose from all over Japanese society an intellectual desire to comprehend the causes of the past war.
To meet these demands, diplomatic historians and area studies researchers belonging to JAIR poured their energy into joint research and comprehensively analyzed the Japanese diplomacy that led to the Pacific War. The culmination of their work was Taiheiyō sensō e no michi [The Road to the Pacific War] (The Asahi Shimbun Company, 1962-63), altogether eight volumes long.
This text, making full use of original documents and interviews with the people involved, has become a must-read for anyone seeking to understand Japan’s diplomacy in the pre-war period. Continuing into the 1970s, JAIR researchers were also able to conduct research on the causes of the war in international collaborations with their American and British peers.
Reflecting on the development of the field of international relations in Japan allows us to consider once more what international relations researchers can do when confronted with war. The study of medicine can save people from illness and injury, while engineering enriches their daily lives. In comparison, research in history and area studies most likely cannot directly prevent or stop a war. However, exceptional research, even while done after the fact, can clarify why a war occurred in some area in the past, and while teaching lessons from history, can give us a view into the future.
One example is Barbara Tuchman’s masterpiece, The Guns of August (1962). The book illuminates the events leading up to the outbreak of World War I, which is portrayed as a war that began against the wishes of the countries involved. U.S. President John F. Kennedy famously read the book as he faced the Cuban Missile Crisis. While this does not mean Tuchman’s masterpiece itself prevented a war, we could say that it shaped the thinking of a political leader seeking to avoid nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
With the focus nowadays on the applied sciences, I have seen many criticisms that question the significance of research on events from long ago or limited to specific regions. Yet, I must emphasize, it is precisely these studies that are the most reliable way to understand our complicated, modern world.