The perils of occupation

Thomas Lifson
Occupation is never easy. Even the most successful of military occupations under the best possible circumstances have their troubles. This is a factor to keep firmly in mind when considering the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The American occupation of Japan has to be counted as a spectacular success - maybe the greatest success in the world's history of occupations -  in retrospect. Fifty-five years later, a country that was once a brutal militaristic and racist imperial power is now committed to democracy.

But at the time, it was often dicey. I wrote my first graduate dissertation on the American occupation of Japan and the emergence of a modern ideology of management there. As part of my research on the topic, I spent endless days reviewing the dusty archives of the American occupation forces in a federal document depository, and got a strong sense of how dangerous, dicey, and difficult the occupation was for the people carrying it out.

To be sure, there were no insurgents flowing over the border because Japan is an island nation. But the danger of a communist revolution was always regarded as serious, all the more so after war broke out on the Korean Peninsula. There was also a counter-force, the often shadowy remnants of militarist circles, consisting of secret societies, purged officials and their confederates, and those seeking to restore something like the pre-war regime. These hands were enormously strengthened by the need to have a force to combat the well-organized and then-powerful communists in Japan.

Recently, key CIA documents regarding the occupation were declassified, and a startling revelation has come to light: there was a serious coup attempt planned in 1952, shortly after the occupation ended, by a group of ultra-rightists, aiming to assassinate then-Prime Minister Yoshida, and install a hard line regime that could eliminate communist threats with more drastic measures than the fledgling democratic regime could undertake.

This AP story reveals the expected media spin on both Japan and the USA and beyond:
Japanese ultranationalists with ties to U.S. military intelligence plotted to overthrow the Japanese government and assassinate the prime minister in 1952.

The scheme, which was abandoned, was concocted by militarists and suspected war criminals who had worked for U.S. occupation authorities after World War II, according to CIA records reviewed by The Associated Press. The plotters wanted a right-wing government that would rearm Japan.
The fact that the US would apparently have nothing to do with the effort, that it was quashed or abandoned and never happened, and that Japan went on to recover spectacularly, is regarded as less relevant than the ties of the plotters to the Americans. Of course, they had ties! Any group of any significance which operated in the political sphere had such ties.

The larger point is military occupation puts the occupying power in touch with a lot of dubious people, whose efforts may be needed to offset other dubious people. Defeated evil regimes are full of such people, and they must be dealt with.

Those who argue that the difficulties in Iraq mean that we have failed simply do not know their history. At best (and Japan is probably the best), it is tricky to navigate the shoals of occupation and its aftermath.

Hat tip: China Challenges
Occupation is never easy. Even the most successful of military occupations under the best possible circumstances have their troubles. This is a factor to keep firmly in mind when considering the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The American occupation of Japan has to be counted as a spectacular success - maybe the greatest success in the world's history of occupations -  in retrospect. Fifty-five years later, a country that was once a brutal militaristic and racist imperial power is now committed to democracy.

But at the time, it was often dicey. I wrote my first graduate dissertation on the American occupation of Japan and the emergence of a modern ideology of management there. As part of my research on the topic, I spent endless days reviewing the dusty archives of the American occupation forces in a federal document depository, and got a strong sense of how dangerous, dicey, and difficult the occupation was for the people carrying it out.

To be sure, there were no insurgents flowing over the border because Japan is an island nation. But the danger of a communist revolution was always regarded as serious, all the more so after war broke out on the Korean Peninsula. There was also a counter-force, the often shadowy remnants of militarist circles, consisting of secret societies, purged officials and their confederates, and those seeking to restore something like the pre-war regime. These hands were enormously strengthened by the need to have a force to combat the well-organized and then-powerful communists in Japan.

Recently, key CIA documents regarding the occupation were declassified, and a startling revelation has come to light: there was a serious coup attempt planned in 1952, shortly after the occupation ended, by a group of ultra-rightists, aiming to assassinate then-Prime Minister Yoshida, and install a hard line regime that could eliminate communist threats with more drastic measures than the fledgling democratic regime could undertake.

This AP story reveals the expected media spin on both Japan and the USA and beyond:
Japanese ultranationalists with ties to U.S. military intelligence plotted to overthrow the Japanese government and assassinate the prime minister in 1952.

The scheme, which was abandoned, was concocted by militarists and suspected war criminals who had worked for U.S. occupation authorities after World War II, according to CIA records reviewed by The Associated Press. The plotters wanted a right-wing government that would rearm Japan.
The fact that the US would apparently have nothing to do with the effort, that it was quashed or abandoned and never happened, and that Japan went on to recover spectacularly, is regarded as less relevant than the ties of the plotters to the Americans. Of course, they had ties! Any group of any significance which operated in the political sphere had such ties.

The larger point is military occupation puts the occupying power in touch with a lot of dubious people, whose efforts may be needed to offset other dubious people. Defeated evil regimes are full of such people, and they must be dealt with.

Those who argue that the difficulties in Iraq mean that we have failed simply do not know their history. At best (and Japan is probably the best), it is tricky to navigate the shoals of occupation and its aftermath.

Hat tip: China Challenges