The lessons from the post-WW2 occupation of Japan
The American military occupation of Japan after 1945 has served as a widely admired example of successful post-conflict management. MacArthur’s General Headquarters not only achieved demilitarization and democratization of Japanese society, but also economic growth through decentralization, equalization and liberalization. Military occupations throughout the world have ever since drawn on this Japanese experience. However, seen from the recent example of Iraq, lessons drawn from Japan have not necessarily been very successful, since the country has not escaped from chaos and instability. Most academic research in the past has focused on political and economic reforms carried out by General MacArthur. This paper will attempt to emphasize two factors rarely accounted for: 1) attainment of postwar internal security through anti-disturbance measures, and 2) marginalization of the occupation of outlying regions, such as Okinawa. The first factor established the ground for the execution of the better known postwar reforms, and the second factor shows that occupation of some peripheral Japanese areas has been much less successful than has been the case for the mainland. The results of this research are twofold. That 1) stabilization was not the achievement of the occupier, but rather the result of the conscious efforts by the occupied, and that 2) the occupation of Japan was inextricably linked to the marginalization of Okinawa. In order to be more realistic, the lessons to be drawn from the occupation of Japan should be less focused on the occupation as a U.S. undertaking and should take into consideration important socio-cultural factors.
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