JPRI Critique, Vol. X, No. 4 (May 2003)
In Japan, First Left Then Right
by Michael Schaller

American : Rogue State
by Mel Gurtov




In Japan, First Left Then Right

by Michael Schaller
 
Anticipating victory in Iraq, Bush administration officials recalled past success in implanting democracy in what was truly an “axis of evil,” the Axis powers of World War II. Few regimes in history had perpetrated greater horrors than those inflicted by Nazi Germany, imperial Japan and, to a lesser degree, fascist Italy. Yet, within six years of their defeat, all three former enemies were functioning democracies allied to the United States. This time, pundits speculated who might be the new Gen. Douglas MacArthur, poised to transform Iraq as had the American Caesar of Japan.
           
Historians, of course, predict the past more comfortably than the future and often cringe at efforts to make policy by analogy. After all, for every Germany and Japan, there are failed efforts at nation-building, such as the American ventures during the 1920s in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Even more spectacularly, recall South Vietnam. To be sure Berlin and Tokyo count more on the world stage than Port-au-Prince or Managua. However, growing a democracy is hardly a sure thing. Unique and unpredictable factors often are more important than planning.
 
One factor is the political culture of the occupied nation. As the war with Japan ended, nearly all Americans voiced contempt for their enemy. The 1945 view of multiculturalism was expressed by the song “When the Cohens and the Kelleys Meet the Little Yellow Bellies.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt privately discussed forced “cross-breeding” of barbaric Japanese with docile Pacific Islanders, and one senator proposed that MacArthur’s first act should be to “sterilize every one of them so in one generation there would be no more Japs.”
 
The truth is, Japan had evolved dramatically in the century before the U.S. occupation and had experienced several waves of economic and political modernization. Until the calamity of the Great Depression, Japan had become a relatively pluralistic society. The incremental march to democracy was derailed by a coalition of military-industrial leaders in league with the Emperor and his minions. Seizing upon the economic crisis of the 1930s, they forged a ruthless dictatorship, determined to create an empire. In the end, however, the dictatorship suppressed rather than eliminated Japanese democratic tendencies. The toll of destruction, culminating in the fire and atomic bombings of 1945, had revealed to most Japanese the incompetence as well as the evil of their leadership and provided an opening for change.
 
Despite the mythology surrounding MacArthur, the Occupation was less a one-man show and more a complex process in which Japanese of many political stripes interacted with U.S. officials, some of whom were more progressive than MacArthur or the Truman administration. Emperor Hirohito negotiated a surrender in August 1945. In return, President Harry Truman agreed that Hirohito could remain on the throne, at least temporarily. With his future mortgaged to the Americans, Hirohito dropped his claim to divinity and endorsed democracy—or as one wag remarked, “he stopped claiming to be God when he discovered MacArthur was.”
 
While it eased efforts to garrison Japan, this retreat from a promised clean sweep of wartime leaders cast a pall over subsequent efforts to punish war criminals. Like Hirohito, Japanese scientists who performed horrible chemical and biological experiments on Allied prisoners, received a get-out-of-jail-free pass in exchange for providing data to U.S. agencies. A small number of senior military officials were hanged for war crimes; others received prison sentences. A few hundred thousand Japanese, mostly military or police officers, were barred from political activity for several years. Few politicians, industrialists or bureaucrats were punished for wartime activities. Day-to-day administration of the country fell upon Japanese officials, many of whom had been in power during the war.
 
In the first two years of the occupation, the Americans in Tokyo promoted a dizzying array of social, economic and political reforms. Many of these so-called occupationaires were veterans of New Deal agencies who hoped to achieve in Japan the types of reform that Roosevelt had envisioned domestically before World War II short-circuited his agenda. They actively promoted labor unions, disarmament, land reform, enhanced civil liberties, women's rights, anti-monopoly measures, fully free elections and a new constitution. Some Japanese conservatives, including those who dominated the government during most of the occupation, cringed at these innovations, but many more Japanese actively embraced and advanced the cause of reform. Half a century later, nearly all democratic initiatives of this era remain enshrined in Japan's law and constitution.
 
Ultimately the United States had a more difficult time restraining than inspiring reforms. By 1947-1948, the emergence of the Cold War abroad and a Red Scare at home had cast a harsh light on the occupation agenda. The new containment doctrine envisioned Germany and Japan as bulwarks against Soviet expansion, not laboratories for social change. MacArthur, who had hoped to parlay success in Japan into the Republican presidential nomination in 1948, bitterly resisted pulling the plug on reform, since to do so implied past error. But he failed to gain the GOP nomination and Truman’s election that November altered policy.
 
As new presidential emissaries took charge in Tokyo, they reduced MacArthur’s role to that of figurehead and sent home most of the NewDeal activists. This “reverse course,” as Japanese call it, led to tight restraints on labor unions, support for conservative political parties and the rebuilding of industrial conglomerates that had earlier been slated for dissolution. The earlier notion that the occupation needed to create economic democracy and equality in order to successfully install political democracy was jettisoned. Prosperity and being a Cold War ally became more important, though the basic democratic reforms remained in place. Some old enemies became new friends. Shortly after the occupation ended in 1952, the CIA began secretly financing politicians like Kishi Nobusuke, a wartime munitions minister, who became prime minister in 1957. The fact that in 1941 Kishi had signed off on the order to attack the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor seemed a mere detail.
 
Japan emerged from U.S. occupation a far more prosperous, democratic and stable society than it had been before. But these accomplishments could not be reduced to a formula. Japanese progressives and New Dealers, who believed in the value of government regulation more than the untrammeled free market, played a vital role. So did the Cold War, which elevated Japan as a vital ally in Asia. Describing occupied Japan as a model for Iraq may have sound-bite appeal, but it is, I think, an unlikely template.
 
MICHAEL SCHALLER is professor of history at the University of Arizona and author of Altered States: the United States and Japan Since the Occupation and many other books. This article first appeared in a different form in Newsday, April 20, 2003.


 
America: Rogue State
by Mel Gurtov
 
It used to be a fixture of foreign-policy analysis that the United States as a country was slow to anger but, once aroused, reacted ferociously against its challengers.  That characterization clearly needs to be jettisoned. The United States is feared as never before around the world. It now acts preemptively, audaciously, vindictively, and unilaterally, with no need for concern about countervailing power and little regard for international law or the views of old allies and the rest of the international community. The American quest for primacy in world affairs has been fulfilled. But instead of using that position for global good, it is abusing it in the manner of a rogue state.
 
One might be tempted to attribute such behavior to righteous anger over September 11, 2001. But while the terrorist attacks provided reason for taking action in self-defense, they also provided incentive and opportunity to implement a neo-conservative agenda that had taken shape years earlier. That agenda, which is now incorporated in the so-called Bush Doctrine, is based on the trinity of unilateralism, preventive war, and regime change. Its chief creators came together in 1997 as the Project for the New American Century, using a name taken from a Henry Luce editorial in 1941 that urged the U.S. government to make the post-war era “the American century.”
 
The PNAC’s agenda was (and is) rather simple: American must return to the Reagan years of stout military buildup, aggressive pursuit of primacy abroad, overturning obstreperous governments instead of engaging them, and, above all, “moral clarity” about America’s leadership mission. Its Declaration of Principles was signed by people who would form the ideological hard core of George W. Bush’s administration: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams, and Zalmay Khalilzad. The signers also included prominent neo-conservative writers and politicians, such as the Weekly Standard’s William Kristol, Francis Fukuyama of “end of history” fame, Dan Quayle, and Jeb Bush. (Kristol, along with his colleague Robert Kagan, had called a year earlier in the pages of Foreign Affairs for regime change in “Iran, Cuba, or China, for instance.” He recently asserted that Democrats who criticize the war on Iraq are “anti-American.”) This is a list that represents much more than the oil-and-gas elite; it is the hard-line, self-righteous, fundamentally anti-intellectual elite of the far right.
 
Ronald Reagan’s confrontational approach to world affairs had several victories, including a massive increase in the military budget, the start of the “Star Wars” missile defense system, support of counter-revolutionary forces in Afghanistan and Central America, and a nuclear-weapon buildup that the Soviets under Mikhail Gorbachev realized they could never hope to match. But Reagan was never able to fulfill his vision of empire because he was opposed by enough people with backbone in the Congress—helped along by the Iran-Contra scandal—and by a Soviet Union whose nuclear arsenal was imposing enough to require the negotiating of limits. Even with the demise of the USSR, neither George H.W. Bush nor Bill Clinton was prepared to seek unilateral advantage to the extent of outraging old allies, ignoring the UN, and reviving a war economy.
 
But now U.S. national-security policy is firmly in the hands of ideological crusaders, people who deeply believe in the American century and are absolutely religious in the belief that might makes right. With no military competitors and a political issue—the war on terrorism—that neutralizes nearly all opposition, the Bush administration has the ingredients for implementing a Reagan-like agenda. So completely has the neo-con crusade come to define America’s role in the world that national-security priorities dominate the domestic agenda, the mass media are beholden to the “Fox-effect,” and the very essence of patriotism is to either support the crusade or shut up. What used to pass for public opinion now amounts to unquestioning followership, for how else to interpret polls that show a substantial majority of Americans supporting the Iraq war even though the announced reasons for it—the threat posed by the Saddam Hussein regime’s weapons of mass destruction, and its ties to al-Qaeda—have proven demonstrably false.
 
The ease with which the Bush Doctrine on terrorism has become a global search for enemies should disturb anyone concerned about building a sustainable peace. What began as a mission to punish al-Qaeda and overthrow the Taliban has morphed into an expansion of military bases and political ties with authoritarian regimes that stretch from Colombia to Central Asia and the Horn of Africa. Occupied Iraq will soon take its place in this constellation as the new center of U.S. oil production and military access, perhaps as the next Saudi Arabia, unless the Shiites take the lead and turn it into the next Iran. Syria and North Korea have received thinly veiled warnings that the United States has military options for dealing with their intransigence and uncooperativeness. 
 
Rumsfeld was not exaggerating when he said many months ago that the war on terrorism would be “endless;” but what many people misunderstood is that he was referring to the big picture, a full-court press on any government that refuses to play by America’s rules. Such a policy indeed promises endless war and only occasional recourse to diplomacy.  One wonders how many Americans see the implications, at home and abroad, of the Bush Doctrine and are willing to pay and die for it.
 
MEL GURTOV is professor of political science and international studies in the Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University; and Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective. His latest book is Pacific Asia? Prospects for Security and Cooperation in East Asia (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).

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