Altered States: The United States and Japan since the Occupation

By Michael Schaller | Go to book overview

1
JAPAN: FROM ENEMY TO ALLY, 1945-50

IN the spring of 1946, as Japanese diplomat Yoshida Shigeru formed his first postwar cabinet, he remarked to a friend that "history provides examples of winning by diplomacy after losing in war." As ambassador to London during the 1930s, Yoshida viewed with alarm Japan's aggression in Asia. The ruin later visited on his country seemed proof of the folly sewn by reckless militarism. In 1945, Yoshida joined those urging the emperor to negotiate an end to the war before a Soviet invasion or leftist revolution. Although this led to his arrest by the military police, it paid a handsome dividend when the Americans exempted him from the postwar purge.

Japan's postwar achievements, many of which can be credited to Yoshida, seemed proof of his aphorism. Between 1945 and 1950, Japan experienced what Occupation Commander General Douglas MacArthur called a "controlled revolution," the partial uprooting of political, economic, and social structures that had contributed to repression at home and aggression abroad. In retrospect, it is clear that many Occupation reforms changed less than their American sponsors hoped and that important aspects of the pre-1945 power structure continued to operate in the new Japan. During the two years after the end of the Pacific War, Japan seldom commanded attention among America's leading officials. Europe dominated foreign policy concerns, followed by the Near East and China, where General George C. Marshall tried, in vain, to mediate a civil war. Japan glowed dimly in the foreign policy firmament.

Testy relations between Douglas MacArthur and the Truman administration further complicated matters. Despite public praise lavished on the general by civilian and military leaders during the Second World War,

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