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One aspect of the changes in Japanese security policies since the Cold War has been the dispatch of Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) overseas to engage in a range of missions most commonly referred to as ‘PKO’. Beyond the initial political controversy and the attendant media frenzy little is generally known of the nature of the operations, of JSDF duties, and of whether the Forces carried them out effectively or efficiently. The JSDF, Defense Agency/Ministry of Defense, and other public bodies have failed to analyse overseas dispatch operation (ODO) performance, and have generally branded them as successful based upon their completion, and without loss of life, in contrast with Japanese police ODO.
Looking at ODO during the 1990s it is possible to project analyses forward into the operations of the 21st century to evaluate the operations of the post-9.11 period and the prevailing strategic policies driving them, and also to more fully understand the qualities and limitations of JSDF performance in the immediate aftermath of the 3.11 triple disasters. Since JSDF ODO have become the most prominent symbols of an emergent ‘new Japanese strategy’ it is worth understanding whether the Forces have actually been ‘effective international actors’.