What Sort of Government
for Postwar Japan?
Japan become a
free and peaceful nation? It is understood that the present leaders of the Japanese
people must fall with the defeat of the armed forces. But who will take their
place? The future peace of Asia, perhaps of the world,
may depend upon the answer.
If a peaceful and democratic government were
established in Japan,
most Americans would be reassured about the future. Democracies have, on the whole,
been far less inclined to aggression than totalitarian states. But are the Japanese
ready for democracy? Some Western observers claim that Japan
made encouraging progress in representative government from the close of the first
World War until 1931. It is, they say, possible that this progress might be resumed
after the war lords are thrown out.
On the other hand, democracy may be
less suited to the psychology of the Japanese people than is a strong constitutional
monarchy. The position of the emperor after Japan’s defeat is a hotly debated
problem. Opinions vary from demands for his immediate elimination to suggestions,
that he be used as an instrument for maintaining law and order in the wake of
invasion. The allies have not yet announced an official policy concerning the
emperor, and the question is assumed to be still undecided.
How about Hirohito?
in favor of keeping Hirohito on the throne argue that he has a reputation for
good character and personal mildness and that he submitted to the militarists
only because his position as a venerated figurehead left him no choice. They point
out that his influence might be sufficient to force acceptance of the unconditional
surrender terms without a costly last-ditch defense.
It is further suggested
that the Japanese people might be persuaded that the Emperor was led astray by
his military advisers. Then, if he and his court officials have the welfare of
the people at heart, he might be willing to use his influence to help establish
a government which would cooperate with .the victors. Another proposal would replace
Hirohito on the throne with his son or some other “suitable”member of the imperial
But students of Japan
who are opposed to making use of Hirohito declare that the imperial family and
Japanese militarism are so entwined that they cannot be separated. The emperor
is the symbol of the “divine race.”The people’s fanatical devotion to him stands
in the way of the development of representative government.
claim that leading Japanese aristocrats, industrialists, and financiers are reaping
enormous profits from the war and are closely united with the militarists. The
forces in Japan which can be counted on for cooperation in building a peaceful,
law-abiding nation are to be found, it is maintained, among the common people
of Japan, industrial and white-collar workers, peasants, and small businessmen,
who have borne the burden of losses and hardship.
As for the Emperor’s personal
character, we lack reliable sources of information concerning his present views,
wishes, and recent activities. We do know that he offered no effective opposition
to the militarists, and that he rubber-stamped, or was compelled to rubber-stamp,
their various acts of aggression with his “divine”approval.
What can we
do about it?
Whatever form of government may be best for Japan
there is general agreement that it should be peaceful, law-abiding, and not opposed
to international cooperation. It should also work for the welfare of the peasants
and factory workers, combating hunger and unemployment, and not for the benefit
of a minority of government officials, bankers, industrialists, and large landowners.
far shall we go in attempting to impose this kind of government on the Japanese?
Can we assist the more liberal elements in the country in organizing good government?
Some people believe that the only way to approach the situation is to take an
active hand in reforming Japanese politics and education.
During the period
of military occupation, something might be done to help the Japanese who are opposed
to militarism. There is much disagreement as to the number, ability, and potential
influence of these “good Japanese.”Certainly they did exist at one time; but just
as certainly they were completely silenced by the present government. When the
Japanese army and navy are out of politics, former leaders, both of the old “moderate”aristocratic
and big-business groups and those representing democratic or popular elements,
may offer their services to head a new government.
It has been proposed
that loyal Japanese Americans, qualified persons chosen from Hawaii’s 160,000
Japanese Americans in particular, might be valuable in the occupation and re-education
of Japan. But
most experts hold that education can be successful only if conducted by native
Will reform under pressure work?
Those opposed to such
a program point out that reform measures imposed with foreign backing would be
resisted by a fanatical and stubborn people, smarting under the shame of defeat.
Persons of Japanese blood cooperating with the allies would be hated and despised
as quislings, and might be the first objects of a bloody revenge. Another objection
is that military occupation of Japan cannot continue indefinitely. Eventually,
control of their own affairs must be returned to the Japanese and then the enforced
reforms might be speedily undone.
An alternative ”to supervision has already
been mentioned. This program calls for destruction of Japanese cities, industries,
and communications by bombing, crushing defeat on all fronts, and invasion of
Japan proper to
Japanese surrender would be followed by our withdrawal
to let the Japanese work out of their own political problems. The benefits of
democracy cannot be forced upon a people. For the immediate future, at least,
security will rest upon positive measures to prevent Japanese aggression, rather
than upon hopes for a friendly and honest “new Japan.”