From September of 1945 to May of 1952, seven years of the Allies’ occupation of Japan has been deemed as the most unique and auspicious occupation in the history. It was unprecedented as there was no prior cases where a developed nation actively involves involve in an extensive reform of another developed nation. Also, there has been no occupation that was so satiable for the victorious, yet so auspicious and humane for the defeated. Although U.S occupation policy toward Japan involves punitive aspects, it was, indeed, constructive and favorable occupation from the very beginning. A majority of Japanese expected the worst scenarios of barbaric reins of the Allies and had ongoing fear since they never have been defeated in terms of war. Despite active involvement of Soviet Union and other allied nations, occupation was solely led by U.S. under Mac Arthur’s supervision.
Two major aims of U.S. occupation was demilitarization and democratization. Demilitarization was prioritized, and actively pursued during initial period of occupation. Japanese army and navy were disarmed, soldiers were repatriated, war facilities were dissolved, and weapons were destroyed, thereby eradicating deep-seated militarism. Democratization, on the other hand, was a more complicated issue that requires long-term approach. Starting from enactment of new constitution in 1947, Japan was heading toward a complete reform in political, economic and societal arena. Despite the fact that occupation directives were brought out under the national interests of U.S., the speed and scale of reforms can be compatible to Meiji reforms that triggered fundamental reforms at the national and societal level, positively contributing to Japan’s recovery. Still, there has been an ongoing debate regarding authoritative way of democratizing Japan. GHQ actively pursued censorship of publication, prohibited free media, and provided orders to Japanese government that cannot be carried out in democratic means. Occupiers’ top-down way of democratizing implied that Japan was “forced to be free” that directly contradicts with the true notion of democratization purely provoked by the general public. U.S. occupation was, in this sense, was often viewed as a unilateral and authoritative imposition of democratic ideals that were compromised from the very start. Nonetheless, occupation was highly appraised as momentous liberation that effectively transformed Japan’s traditional authoritative regime. It is called as an “embraced defeat” as it paved a way for Japan’s rapid economic recovery under extreme devastation. The 1947 Constitution was readily embraced by the Japanese and has endured as a sound basis for Japan’s postwar democracy without a single amendment over past six decades. This paper will substantiate the rationale behind authoritative imposition of Japan that ultimately forced Japanese to be free mainly due to Mac Arthur’s utilization of prewar bureaucratic regime and strict censorship of media that blinded the general Japanese.
MacArthur’s utilization of prewar bureaucratic regime
Mac Arthur purposefully remain bureaucratic groups untouched, since he firmly believed utilizing existing regime was much easier for him to carry out his strategies. Although he eradicated any form of militaristic or related regime, he underwent a minimal intervention on Japan’s prewar bureaucracy and the Diet, thereby fully utilizing such system for successful imposition of democratic ideals. In epitome, his strategy was clearly shown in a major reform in the emperor system. Declaration of Humanity in January 1946 clearly denunciates the notion of divinity and is no longer predicated on the false conception of living god but as a mere human being. Mac Arthur intentionally undertakes a reform to promote an emperor as a symbolic figure, since an emperor can be an effective political means. An iconic picture of an emperor Hirohito and MacArthur together directly shows that an emperor who once was regarded as a living god standing at attention contrasting with MacArthur who casually putting his hands in his pocket. This snap was highly conspicuous for propaganda. Mac Arthur’s intention was to clearly convey the message that he was the one who reigns over an emperor who had been deemed as a divine figure for the Japanese.
Likewise, remaining previous authoritative centralized regime was the most effective means, yet demanding the minimal efforts for carrying out indirect ruling. Such top-down method of liberation does not reflect the true meaning of democratization, containing a clear contradiction. Although Mac Arthur’s occupation directives have resulted in a successful transformation of Japan into a peaceful, prosperous and democratic regime, his way of carrying out such ideals utilize prewar political systems of Japan that “necessitated a return of sovereignty to some of the very actors responsible for the horrors of World War II. Critics evaluates that although U.S. occupation of Japan as a “rare success”, it is no different from colonial rule that features a reform from the top. From the occupier’s perspective, maintaining prior bureaucratic system and using them as a route for democratization was the optimal choice. Centralization of power through strengthening of bureaucratic parties ultimately resulted in lasting of authoritative bureaucracy within Japan. Furthermore, censorship of the occupiers have created a passive societal attitude towards the notion of power, since transfer of power has occurred without transparency and any form of opposition was not allowed.
If a respective administrative government pursues various forms of ruling, it becomes extremely hard for a hierarchy to implement his ideals and policies. Likewise, centralization of administrative governments can be deemed as a much more efficient method, and that is exactly what MacArthur did for Japan. Furthermore, in the midst of the Cold war, occupation authorities’ implicit allowance of rehabilitation of the old-guard conservative politicians in exchange for the assurance that Japan would not drift into the communist bloc. “As a result, Japanese has developed a unique form of democracy called polyarchy where a small political and economic elite cycles its members through power continuously within the confines of an otherwise thoroughly liberal constitution”, “retaining a sound, liberal constitution up to the present, but never developing the kind of robust political competition characterized by frequent turnovers of power.”
Furthermore, general public’s prevalent criticism toward low-level administrative bodies directly proves that it was an induced form of freedom. Since an emperor or occupying government or the Japanese government did not have a direct interaction with the general public on daily basis, the public clearly lacked information regarding reform procedures.