Normalization in Foreign Policy: the Case of Japan

Prof. Dr. Tarık OĞUZLU
22 December 2014
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Normalization is a contested topic in the academic discipline of International Relations. The question of to what extent states act normally in their foreign policies has been an issue of debate among scholars. Defining the contours of normalcy in foreign policy and inter-state behaviors is a prerogative of powerful countries and a matter of power competition. Not all states are in a position to set the rules and define the accepted boundaries of normal and appropriate behavior in external relations. The ability of great powers to do so mainly emanate from two particular sources. They are capable of defining normalcy either because of the huge material power resources at their disposal or due to the legitimacy of their identities, values and policies in the eyes of others within the system. It is generally believed that while the United States is a prime example of the great powers which are able to set the limits of normal interstate behavior resulting from their immense material power capabilities, the European Union is assumed to have this privilege mainly because of its power of attraction in the eyes of outsiders. 


Even though defining the boundaries of normal foreign policy behavior would vary from one particular approach to another, there seems to exist a mid-way consensus between alternative explanations, according to which countries act normally in their foreign policies when they build their behavior on the basis of their material power capabilities, geopolitical status, geographical locations and the expectations of others. For a state to act normally abroad, it should not punch below its capacity. For example, developing military capabilities, adopting a defensive security outlook, projecting power across the borders, enlarging sphere of influence around, contributing to collective security attempts around the globe and playing an active role in the resolution of regional and global issues of concern would count as normal foreign policy activities for many states. The capacity of states to perform such tasks should positively vary with their material power capabilities.


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