Thursday, August 10, 2006

Reactive Folly Response

From Dr. John Lewis after my post on "Reactive Folly" (which he later expanded on in
I've been doing full time reading and writing on the American defeat and occupation of Japan in 1945. First we DEFEATED them--the nation, that is, with nuclear bombs. Then MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Occupation, was ordered (JCS1380/15) to do the following:
"By appropriate means you will make clear to all levels of the
Japanese population the fact of their defeat. They must be made to realize that
their suffering and defeat have been brought upon them by the lawless
and irresponsible aggression of Japan, and that only when militarism has
been eliminated from Japanese life and institutions will Japan be admitted to
the family of nations. They must be told that they will be expected to develop
a non-militaristic and democratic Japan which will respect the rights of
othernations and Japan's international obligations."
As to their economic condition:
"You will not assume any responsibility for the economic rehabilitation of Japan
or the strengthening of the Japanese economy. You will make it clear to the
Japanese people that: a. You assume no obligations to maintain, or have maintained, any particular standard of living in Japan, and b. that the standard of living will depend upon the thoroughness
with which Japan rids itself of all militaristic ambitions, redirects the use of
its human and natural resources wholly and solely for purposes of peaceful
living, administers adequate economic and financial controls, and cooperates with
the occupying forces and the governments they represent."
The explicit plan of the Americans was then to remake the society of thisdefeated nation so that it would never again wage war. This included total reform of education. MacArthur was ordered to make sure that
"The dissemination of Japanese militaristic and ultra-nationalistic idealogy and propaganda in any form will be prohibited and completely suppressed.
"As soon as practicable educational institutions will be reopened. As rapidly as
possible, all teachers who have been active exponents of militant nationalism and
aggression and those who continue actively to oppose the purposes of the military
occupation will be replaced by acceptable and qualified successors. Japanese
military and para-military training and drill in all schools will be forbidden.
You will assure that curricula acceptable to you are employed in all schools
. . ."
In 1890 the Meiji Emperor had issued an Imperial Rescript that placed worship of the Emperor and duty to the State as primary educational goals.The rescript was reconfirmed in 1937 and 1941. After the Americans won in 1945, the rescript was rendered null and void; schools were purged of militaristic teachers; textbooks were rewritten (students themselves had toblack out unacceptable sections of books they had hand-copied); and Imperial control over the schools was broken. Students were taught western methods of learning (OK, not all were great, but all were far better than what they had been used to). See a book by Takemae Eiji, "The Allied Occupation of Japan," chapter 8:
"Since the Meiji era, the explicit purpose of formal instruction had been
to serve the Imperial state, and children were taught absolute loyalty to
the Emperor . . . boys were inculcated with martial values and
received paramilitary training."
The Americans undertook "an exercise in moral and psychological disarmament balanced by a positive project of institutional reform . . .." (p.347). There is a tremendous photo on page 362 of children sitting in rows outside (their school had been bombed), surrounded by rubble, learning their lessons.

The bombs cleared a physical and intellectual space, often at great trauma, to make room for better ideas. In a short time, the students and teachers themselves took an active role in purging their own schools of militaristic teachers, and some teachers apologized in tears for their pastactivities. Young people were immediately rid of the kind of lessons that led to suicidal service to the Emperor, fanatical hatred of enemies, and a desire to die for the state. It was the greatest foreign policy success in history.

I must add that the Department of State had studied Japan for three years,while the military was winning the war--but when it was time for the occupation, the job was given to the military. Even then, State did not really get it. During a private meeting, a State Dept.Undersecretary suggested that international law applied to the occupation, since the Japanese had not really surrendered unconditionally.

Within three days he was replaced with someone who understood the policy. Truman wrote a letter to MacArthur reminding him that he was to listen to no suggestions from the Japanese about the scope of his authority--since our relationship with them was not contractual, but rather based on unconditional surrender.

When MacArthur left Japan, it was as a hero to the Japanese. What the Americans did then was like from another planet than the one we live on now. This is what needs to be done with the Madrassas--but first we need to clear the physical, intellectual and moral ground of 1600 years of malevolent sacrificial baggage, and we need to do it openly, forthrightly, and proudly.
John Lewis

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