Iraq Should Heed Lessons From U.S. Occupation Of Japan
by Suvendrini Kakuchi
(IPS) TOKYO --
and Japan are on opposite sides of the world, but analysts here see parallels between the U.S.-designed path that Japan took after its surrender in World War II -- and the direction Iraq may be taking in under U.S.-led occupation.
Japan, Washington's closest ally in the Asia-Pacific, is often cited as a model of the successful 'peace strategy' the United States had during the seven years it occupied this country after its 1945 surrender, forged a new constitution and introduced political reforms.
But for some Japanese themselves, this glosses over the cost of the U.S. role in their affairs, reflected increasingly in growing public pressure on the government to think independently of Washington.
Iraq's history and the circumstances of the U.S.-led invasion in March are quite different from that of Japan's, which had invaded several countries in the region starting from the 1930s.
But the plight of Japan under the U.S. occupation easily bring to mind similar issues being debated in relation to Iraq -- be it in discussions about how long U.S. troops will stay in Iraq, the leadership dominated by the U.S. military, plans for a new Constitution and talk about U.S. military bases in Iraq.
"Basically the success of Japan's experience can be tied to its stance of being a 'good' loser," explains Tetsuya Ozeki, director of the respected think tank called At the World Institution. "The Japan model can be an inspiration for Iraq."
"Japan's high regard for social order allowed it to humbly accept defeat and take the next step to move ahead with its victors," he adds. "In turn, the U.S. government installed progressive policies that received support. I would think this is what is important for Iraq now."
Yoichi Funabashi, an analyst on international affairs at the respected 'Asahi' newspaper, asks: "After World War II, Japan embraced defeat and the United States embraced Japan. How is the United States going to embrace Iraq?"
In a commentary this month, he recalled fondly that there were U.S. "missionaries of Japanese culture" after the war, and that many U.S. servicemen married Japanese women, reflecting respect and admiration for the Japanese people and country.
Shinsaku Nohira of the anti-war group Peace Boat finds this nostalgia misplaced. "The occupation of Japan was to make sure the Americans could expand their presence in East Asia. It was a bargain being attempted in Iraq today, in order to control the vast oil reserves and politics in the Middle East," he says.
Nohira says that rather than follow the Japan 'model', Iraq should be able to select their leaders in order to have real democracy. "We were given everything as long as we followed the Americans. But while there were merits in this policy, the Japanese are not happy with everything American. The Iraqis themselves would like to be given a choice," he says.
"The Americans want to promote Japan as their success model because this policy has turned Japan into an unquestionably American ally," opines Harumi Arima, author and commentator on international issues.
"But 58 years after the American occupation, the Japanese are realizing that this may not be exactly what they want," Arima argues.
Japan, a military power and dictatorship at the time, was forced to surrender in 1945 after the U.S. military dropped two atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The succeeding years changed Japan in major ways.
The U.S. occupation was led by Gen Douglas MacArthur and a trial was then held for war crimes. Japan's Emperor Hirohito, under whose watch the country undertook military aggression, was allowed to stay on but as the symbolic head of the country.
In 1946, Japan was given a new Constitution that guaranteed a democratic-led government and installed a peace policy that prohibited the development of a military and allowed in its place the country's Self-Defense Forces.
U.S. forces also ended years of repression by implementing drastic land reform. Women were extended suffrage for the first time.
But at the same time, Tokyo signed a security pact in 1951 that permitted U.S. troops to use bases in Japan to maintain U.S. and Japanese security interests in Asia.
That security pact made Japan a firm ally of Washington throughout the Cold War, a liaison continues to be a pillar in Asian security. It can be seen clearly through today, including through Tokyo's support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The post-war changes in Japan occurred relatively smoothly, despite an outcry from mostly socialist-leaning political parties. Most people were more interested in rebuilding their lives and were impressed with the rich U.S. economy, which they wanted to emulate as quickly as possible.
The net result was a Japan that rapidly rose from the ruins to become the second-richest country in the world. Despite its defeat decades ago, Japan's post-war, affluent population has a strong affinity to the United States until today.
Today too, while Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been trying to help heal the rift between Washington and Europe over Iraq, it is clear where Tokyo stands in relation to Washington, due to its security interests.
"There is a lot of anti-Americanism in the world today. As a good friend of the United States, Japan must stand by Washington at this critical stage by working hard to bring unity in the global community," says Ozeki.
Not least, Washington's military power is a fallback for a Japan that is counting on it to deter North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
Looking back, Arima says, Japan may indeed be a model for Iraq -- but as a warning of how U.S. interests shape Washington's moves.
He says that Japan remains grateful to U.S. leadership after its World War II defeat, but increasingly wants an end to the parent-child bilateral ties that have made Japan a "puppet"' of Washington.
"Japan wants to find its own identity separate from what the Americans bestowed on us. But the saddest thing is we don't know how to do this," Arima explains. "Being under the United States for so long has turned us into a race that is neither Japanese nor American, causing economic, political and social breakdown."
May 15, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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