The Far East
ON THE WORLD TODAY
THE downfall of Japan leaves the United States and the Soviet Union as the two great powers of eastern Asia and the Pacific. Americans and Russians face each other from the Bering Sea to northern China, sometimes in very close proximity, as in Korea. The stakes are high. If we want to maintain a military position in Asia, it must be a strong one. Short of an effective world security system, we must either maintain ourselves there in force or withdraw. There can be no halfway measure.
Nor should we be misled by the apparent retreat of the Soviet political influence in China, which the promise of military and other assistance exclusively to the present National Government would suggest. The strength of Communism in China does not rest on armed force alone. It lies much more in the hold that Communist ideas have upon millions of Chinese. If Communist sympathies are spread all over China instead of being limited to the north, their potential influence will be tremendous.
Surely in the waging of World War II we have witnessed one of the greatest exhibitions ot interracial coöperation the world has ever seen. Peoples of nearly every country have been trained in the camps and airfields of the United States; and our Army has shown a superb consideration for Chinese national sensibilities while assisting in the re-creation of a modern Chinese fighting force.
The people of Asia will watch our action in Japan to see whether we as conquerors are any different from the Japanese. In both the small and the big countries of Asia, there is bound to be a reaction similar to that in Thailand. In that country, before the surrender, the people were bitterly anti-Japanese, but hatred of the Japanese seems to be receding as fear of the conqueror fades. And in British India the native press is doing its best to encourage distrust of the Allies.
It is to our interest to restore some measure of sanity to the political climate of Asia. The job outside Japan is almost as important as that inside. We have to direct the attention of both the Japanese and their former subjects away from the reasons why Japan lost the war, to the reasons why she started it.
We have to substitute for the Japanese idea that this was a war fought in Asia the idea that this was a war between Asiatic countries in which we found ourselves, like China and Thailand, victims of aggression. It would be dangerous to allow Japanese propaganda to flourish in Asia while we concentrate on crushing it in Japan. The two tasks go together.
Who directs the occupation?
The key to dealing with Japan lies in the manner in which Japan deals with us. The Japanese leaders have approached the question of defeat and occupation in the same spirit with which their grandfathers met the enforced entry of Japan into the family of nations after the visit of Commodore Perry. Ever since it became clear that nothing could prevent defeat, their attitude has been one of realistic acceptance and calm determination to meet the conditions defeat imposed. The transition from fighting to surrender, from surrender to occupation, is an example of national direction and national propaganda which few defeated nations could have achieved.
Perry opened up a divided Japan — a country almost ready to emerge into the modern world through the process of civil war. There were significant groups opposing isolationism long before the black ships arrived. Although at that time our intervention helped to resolve the situation against the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate, we imposed upon the new government conditions similar to those imposed on China a decade earlier — treaty ports, control of maritime customs, and extraterritoriality.
The leaders of Japan set about getting rid of these restrictions on Japan’s sovereignty, not by revolt and revolution, but by meeting all foreign-imposed conditions to the letter, and most of all by demonstrating their ability to run the affairs of the nation.
This approach has carried over into the present. From the moment surrender was accepted, the Japanese leaders have made every effort to present us with a going concern, in the Japanese manner — to show that they are ready and able to meet our terms, carry out our orders, change the direction of national thought, and remold the national institutions without our guidance or interference. The establishment of an office of liaison with the victorious enemy is a typical touch.
Calculating on our reluctance to maintain huge armies of occupation abroad, relying upon our lack of familiarity with the Japanese language and Japanese customs, counting on our inability to rule directly, and assuming in us a fear of chaos and revolution, the Japanese leaders are striving to demonstrate that they, and they alone, can produce law and order, a peaceful occupation, and a correct interpretation of the terms of the Potsdam declaration.
They want to put before us the choice of letting Japan run the occupation in a Japanese way or facing the enormous difficulties of running it ourselves against passive if not active opposition. Just as the Japanese got rid of the “unequal treaties” of the nineteenth century by dint of their own efforts, which included a fair amount of window dressing to dazzle the Western world, so they are now determined to get rid of the occupying forces.
This determination holds for us grave dangers as well as great opportunities. First of all, we must face the main question: Do we want a peaceful occupation, or do we want a peaceful Japan? A peaceful occupation, which the Japanese can probably give us, will not necessarily lead to a peaceful Japan. Development of a peaceful Japan may involve, though not necessarily, a turbulent occupation.
The problem is more easily stated than resolved. We know what a peaceful occupation means, but what is a peaceful Japan? Can we assume that a Japan in which there are democratic elections, freedom of speech and worship, civil liberties, and private enterprise will necessarily be peaceful? Would we, alternatively, accept a Sovietized Japan?
Perry in reverse
In the nineteenth century we acted on the theory that a Japan fully and openly brought into contact with world affairs and Western methods would assist in the creation of an independent and self-governing Oriental state which would add to our own security through limiting the growth of the British and Russian empires. Our ideas were carried by policy, Christianity, and commerce: there was no organized projection of America to the Orient.
Our objectives today must be different and our means better planned. The reconstruction of a Japan which can live peacefully in the modern world can be attained in two main ways: by taking away the tools to make war, or by creating a Japan that wants to be peaceful and a full member of the family of nations. The first way — given the psychology of Americans as well as that of the Japanese — is not likely to accomplish a permanent reconstruction.
The second method is imperative, and much more difficult. We should face this fact realistically, because the danger is that we shall try to have our cake and eat it too — try to secure world peace through the United Nations organization and at the same time hold Japan down.
The Emperor explains
The Emperor issued his rescript to the nation at noon, August 15, and followed it with a further rescript to the Army and Navy on August 17. The nation was told that Japan went to war for self-preservation and the good of Asia, without intending territorial aggrandizement or infringement of the sovereignty of other nations. The unfavorable course of the war, together with the atomic bomb, brought about the decision to stop fighting; the Emperor acted out of concern for the welfare of his people and of humanity.
The structure of the Imperial State, it is emphasized, remains intact, and there must be no internal conflict. The rescript to the armed forces did not mention the atomic bomb, but explained that Soviet entry into the war was the main reason for surrender. To keep on fighting would endanger the future of Japan’s empire.
The rescript tried to keep alive the idea that Japan is the spiritual leader of Asia, the bulwark - temporarily crushed — against Anglo-American imperialism. The country whose emperor stopped further suffering and saved mankind by his decision to end the fighting is presented as a moral force backing the sensitive nationalisms of Oriental peoples. There will be hardships, but these must be suffered for the sake of Japan’s national existence and her efforts to keep pace with the progress of the world.
Reactions to defeat
It is important that the tone set by the rescripts — loyalty to the Emperor and avoidance of dispute — did not put Japanese thought into a strait jacket. Certain newspapers put the blame for defeat squarely on the government rather than on the people. And Shigemitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs, brushing aside the rescript’s implication of negotiated peace, pointed bluntly to the fact that Japan is to be treated as a defeated nation.
Two members of the Board of Technology spoke in vigorous terms of defeat and the future, several days before the occupation. Lieutenant General Tada, President of the Board, said that Japan must cast aside the feeling that a weapon superior to the atomic bomb must be invented in revenge: “We must adopt an entirely new and broad outlook, and liquidate the military for the sake of the Japanese people today.”
According to Dr. Yagi, former President of the Board, Japan was defeated by sectionalism and jealousy “which popped up in every branch of our war effort.” More significant, “Ideological leaders asserted that scientific thought runs counter to the Japanese spirit, while the politicians and other privileged classes completely failed to understand the importance of science.” Dr. Yagi went on to demand complete freedom of speech, press, association, and criticism of the government.
Asahi pointed out on August 19 that the world was steering towards peace instead of war, and that if Japan wished to retain her status as a great power she must make contributions to peace. The Minister of Education spoke of developing science not as a countermeasure to the atomic bomb but “for the establishment of a new culture for Japan harmonizing natural science with human nature.”
In all these Japanese reactions to defeat, there are ideas which can help as well as hinder. Our obligation to world security should force us to crush the concepts that any nation need champion Asia against the West and that Japan can rise again by inventing weapons more murderous than ours. We must insist that Japan did not surrender because of the Emperor’s long-suffering love for mankind, but because she was defeated.
In his report to the Japanese Diet, Premier HigashiKuni outlined the causes for Japan’s surrender: curtailment of shipping through the ever increasing loss of ships and the shortage of fuel oil; reduction of railway transportation by air raids and steady depreciation of rolling stock; shortages of coal, oil, and other basic raw materials; the crippling of industrial production by bombing; enormous losses in naval and aerial strength; deterioration of ground forces everywhere from lack of supplies and replacements; rapid destruction of cities by Allied aircraft, resulting in the burning of 2,200,000 houses; the atomic bomb; and the entry of Russia into the war.
We can only benefit, however, from encouraging the ideas that Japan’s future depends on her contribution to world peace and well-being, and that Japan was defeated not only by military might but also because her ambition of ruling the peoples of Asia and of the world carried in it the seeds of her downfall. The most secure basis of peace in Asia is to show that what we defeated in Japan is something that we should be equally ready to defeat in ourselves or our friends if the occasion arose.
Some Japanese would like to persuade us that the atomic bomb or the entry of the Soviet Union brought about the surrender. The fact, is that Japan tried desperately to secure peace terms in July, long before the Russians or the atomic bomb came on the scene.
The occupation honeymoon
We have ahead of us a task larger than dealing with war criminals: we have to change a whole people. How can this be done? Certainly not by exporting lecturers on democracy or booklets on how Americans live in Centerville. Certainly not by massive displays of force and direct rule. Surely not by picking out “democratically-minded” puppets and trying to rule through them.
We control the economic lifeblood of Japan. By careful political handling of our power we can assure the development of social groups and intellectual movements which will undermine the ancient feudal structure of the country. If the incubus of militarist thinking, now discredited, is removed from the study of the natural sciences and the humanities, the institution of the Emperor will suffer a heavier blow than any we could give to it.
The way to keep the Imperial institution popular in Japan is for us, the enemy, to abolish it; the way to discredit it is for us, the enemy, to associate the Emperor with our occupation and allow the forces of national rejuvenation to rally around some other symbol. During the war our official propaganda did not attack the Emperor either by radio or by leaflet. Nor did we give him any reverence.
This policy was based on the propaganda principle that it is foolish to attack the strongest point in the enemy’s morale, and on the political principle that the Emperor was the only agent capable of bringing about an organized surrender. Our Department of State, by leaving the question of the Emperor open, saved thousands of American and Allied lives.
The occupation honeymoon will soon be over and the real toughness of Japanese policy will rapidly emerge. If we do not have clearly in mind What we want of Japan, the Japanese may well decide for us. Nothing will suit many of Japan’s present leaders so much as ah orderly and peaceful occupation. Nothing is further from their intentions than the development of a peaceful Japan by a process of internal revolutionary change in thought and society.