Partners for Democracy: Crafting the New Japanese State under MacArthur

Partners for Democracy: Crafting the New Japanese State under MacArthur

Partners for Democracy: Crafting the New Japanese State under MacArthur

Partners for Democracy: Crafting the New Japanese State under MacArthur


In 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally to the United States and its allies, thereby planting the seed from which would spring one of the world's most successful and stable democracies. In an age when democracy is often pursued, yet rarely accomplished, in which failed democracies are found throughout Africa, Latin America, and Asia, Japan's transformation from an utterly defeated military power into a thriving constitutional democracy commands attention. It has long been assumed that postwar Japan was largely the making of America, that democracy was simply imposed on a defeated land. Yet a political and legal system cannot long survive, much less thrive, if resisted by the very citizens it exists to serve. The external imposition of a constitution does not automatically translate into a constitutional democracy of the kind Japan has enjoyed for the past half-century. Apparently Japan, though under military occupation, was ready for what the West had to offer. Ray A. Moore and Donald L. Robinson convincingly show that the country's affirmation of democracy was neither cynical nor merely tactical. What made Japan different was that Japan and the United States-represented in Tokyo by the headstrong and deeply conservative General Douglas MacArthur-worked out a genuine partnership, navigating skillfully among die-hard defenders of the emperor, Japanese communists, and America's opinionated erstwhile allies. No dry recounting of policy decisions and diplomatic gestures, Partners for Democracy resounds with the strong personalities and dramatic clashes that paved the way to a hard-won success. Here is the story of how a devastated land came to construct--at times aggressively and rapidly, at times deliberately and only after much debate-a democracy that stands today as the envy of many other nations.


On February 17, 1941, the eve of America's entry into World War II, Henry R. Luce published an essay in Life magazine: “The American Century. ” It was a call to arms, but it was far more than that. Luce declared that the fundamental trouble with America was a reluctance to face its duty and opportunity as the most powerful nation on earth, to exert the “full impact of our influence. ” It was not America's duty “to police the whole world nor to impose its democratic institutions on all mankind. ” America was, however, the bearer of ideals that could light the way to an “international moral order. ” We must share with all peoples “our Bill of Rights, our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, our magnificent industrial products, our technical skills. ” This nation, “conceived in adventure and dedicated to the progress of mankind, ” must now commit itself to the “triumphal purpose of freedom. ” It must become, not a “sanctuary” of civilization (as former President Hoover had recently said), but the “powerhouse from which the ideals spread throughout the world and do their mysterious work of lifting the life of mankind from the level of the beasts to what the Psalmist called a little lower than the angels. ”

Luce had a special interest in Asia. When the war was over and won, he dedicated himself and his vast publishing empire to the defense of “freedom” in China, the land of his own birth to missionary parents. But the spirit he articulated in his famous essay was very much present in the soldiers who led the occupation of Japan as well.

The decisive period of the century, the time when America made a commitment to individual liberty, the constitutional state and the rule of law, came in 1945–1946. With much of Europe and Asia in ruin, a victorious America had the unique opportunity to convert Luce's vision into reality in the defeated nations of Germany and Japan.

In this book we study American idealism at work as it imposed constitutional democracy during the military occupation of Japan. As Americans ourselves, we confess ambivalence about the Occu-

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