THE AMERICAN OCCUPATION OF JAPAN: The Origins of the Cold War in Asia by Michael Schaller
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THE AMERICAN OCCUPATION OF JAPAN: The Origins of the Cold War in Asia

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Under a mildly misleading title, a superb analysis of the development, directions and confusions of US Pacific-basin policy toward Japan, the Soviet Union, China and Southeast Asia in the era immediately after WW II and later. Schaller lays out in detail the almost unbelievable factional squabbles over the policies that should prevail toward post-occupation Japan. The White House, the State Department, MacArthur's headquarters, and the Joint Chiefs engaged in byzantine bureaucratic infighting about what direction Japan should be pointed toward. The fighting was not always done in the polite circumlocutions common in bureaucratic memoranda--as when State's George Kennan wrote ""how he recoiled at the 'stuffiness' and 'degree of internal intrigue' around MacArthur, which reminded him of 'nothing more than the latter days of the court of the Empress Catherine II'. . ."" But underneath the thickets of contradictions that lay between the principal players, the great engine of anticommunism was driving the US inevitably toward an essentially negative policy of containment of Russia and China. The Korean War was the catalyst that set everyone marching to the anticommunist, containment beat. At the start of that conflict, the Japanese economy was in dire straits, possibly facing collapse. American war orders--not for munitions, but for trucks, clothing, binoculars and similar items that also had a civilian use--began the economic miracle. ""The war-related orders stimulated a boom that was critical to subsequent growth and prosperity. The governor of the Bank of Japan captured the sense best by describing the procurement as 'Divine Aid.' "" The process of turning Japan into the industrial giant of today was completed by the orders that flowed from the US during the Vietnam War. US planners were delighted to help the Japanese economy so handily, for the administration viewed Japan as the final domino in the domino theory that underlay US involvement in Vietnam. Schaller has written the best kind of history, the kind that has great scope, supported by solid scholarship. But, better yet, he shows how present predicaments--like the current export-import problem with Japan--have grown directly out of past policies and events. The last two sentences of the book send forth a particular chill for American readers: "". . .Perhaps Yoshidu Shigeru spoke a truth (if not the [emphasis in original] truth) when he predicted in 1950, that, like the changing balance between the American colonies and imperial Britain more than a century before, if Japan temporarily became a 'colony of the US it [would] also eventually become the stronger.'

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 1985
ISBN: 0198020635
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press