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So why hasn’t March 11, 2011, been the game-changer that many anticipated? Richard Samuels’ masterful account of Japan’s policy responses to its greatest crisis since World War II explains why continuity has trumped change. But maybe, just maybe, it hasn’t, as he also reminds us that the consequences are still unfolding.

Crisis creates opportunity, but Japan’s politicians and mandarins let this one slip away as they resumed old battles under new guises. Samuels focuses on three policy areas — national security, energy and local government — and analyzes the competing narratives that emerged as policymakers hijacked the crisis to bolster their preferred agendas.

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