MIRROR FOR AMERICANS: JAPAN by Helen Mears
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MIRROR FOR AMERICANS: JAPAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This is a very important book, but its evident truths are unpalatable and many of its arguments are sure to rouse controversy and disagreement. All of which may make the book sell. Let's hope so- it ought to be read, even if the mirror held up to Americans of ourselves in the role we have assigned to Japan is not a pleasant picture. Helen Mears, author of The Year of the Wild Boar (Lippincott, 1942) returned to Japan as part of an advisory commission on labor. Her conclusions advanced in this book are therefore based on her previous familiarity with and interest in Japan, plus closeup observation of American occupation. She recognizes it as a miracle of organization and mechanical ingenuity, but feels that it is based on false premises, and that we are today repeating yesterday's failures. This is not, however, a study of the occupation, but goes father back into an analysis of the emergence of Japan as the spearhead of Asiatic liberation, establishing the Greater Asiatic Co-Prosperity Sphere as an effort to break free from the western democracies. Here is the case for Japan- here is the charting of our failure to accept the basic differences in the Pacific and European conflicts. Here are the errors of judgment, the myths promulgated to explain our policy, the falsity of the picture of the Japanese as an aggressive warlika people, the underplaying of the facts as they emerged of Japan's lack of supplies, food, man-power, equipment. She pictures a Japan defeated long before Potsdam strengthened their flagging spirit to survive; she shows that the demoralization of the troops was based on propaganda that painted American soldiers as just what we visualized Japanese soldiers to be. She does not defend the barbaric cruelty of the Japanese, but does criticize our failure to recognize the roots. She challenges the illusion of stability in re-educating the Japanese, claiming that the universality of our economic principles is debatable, that cultural and social reform cannot be built on our assumptions. She paints a grim picture of a wholly prostrate nation, to whom democracy and punishment seem synonymous. She insists the major powers are reaping what they sowed, and must recognize this before building for peace and human welfare. There's an occasional sense of repetition -- but perhaps is intentional. The overall effect is of an arraignment of our policy- from the pre-war to the post-war times, amply documented and convincingly argued. Whether it can be accepted or not, it should provide a salutary warning.

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1948
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin