|JPRI Occasional Paper 29, February 2003
The Occupation of Japan as an Exercise in Regime Change: Reflections after Fifty Years by a Participant
by Hans Baerwald
The Allied Occupation of Japan, after Japans defeat, lasted from August 1945 until April 1952, or about six and a half yearsa very short span of time in Japans 1400+ years of recorded history. Some, maybe many, Japanese would argue that the Occupation still goes on, as exemplified by the many American military bases on Okinawa and the home islands as well as the extremely careful attention that Japans Ministry of Foreign Affairs pays to shifts in American foreign policy. But I will focus on what transpired after Japans defeat and prior to its regaining legal sovereignty with the Peace Treaty officially coming into force in the Spring of 1952. I will address only a few of the Occupations reform programs, with primary attention being devoted to the political purge.
My own participation as a language officer, that is translator and interpreter, lasted from August 1946 until January 1949 [see JPRI Occasional Paper 27, July 2002]. For the first few weeks, I was assigned to the Allied Translator and Interpreter Service (often referred to as ATIS) the primary home of all linguists. Through good luck and some prewar connections (kone in Japanese), my superiors reassigned me to Government Section, a special staff section inside SCAP (Supreme Command of the Allied Powers)that is, MacArthurs headquarters. In that kind of military organization, a lieutenant (which is what I was) is among the lowest of the low; but with each passing year of my life, those twenty-eight months have taken on a more romantic hue that may distort what really happened. However, I will make every effort to remove my rose-colored glasses.
Initially, Japan lay prostrate and General MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, and his staff came with a profusion of reformist goals based on the Potsdam Declaration, supplemented by detailed policy documents that Washington issued. These can be summarized under two major headings: demilitarization, which included the destruction of the so-called old order, and democratization, which included far-reaching alterations in Japans economy, society and maybemost important of allits political system. All in all, we might say that fundamental regime change was the goal.
Demilitarization proved to be relatively simple: All Japanese military forces, including those still overseas, were demobilized. Many of my linguist buddies spent their tours of duty interviewing returned Japanese veterans to insure that none of them had been indoctrinated with unacceptableprincipally Communistideologies. Japanese soldiers who had been captured by the Russians had spent months, sometimes years, in Soviet prison camps. In all of our efforts, the reigning Showa Emperor, better known as Hirohito, aided SCAPboth MacArthur and his bureaucracy. His being allowed to remain on the throne was a highly controversial SCAP decision and may well have been a Faustian bargain, but there is little doubt that his order to the troops to surrender made the Occupation a far more tranquil undertaking than it might otherwise have been. Both John Dowers Embracing Defeat and Herbert Bixs Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, published within the last three years, address the issues involving Hirohito in great detail.
However, SCAPs Chief of Intelligence, Charles Willoughby, managed to squirrel away a few former senior Japanese military officers to help write a history of combat during the war from the Japanese point of view. This special group took on a wholly different role when its members became the kernel of Japans rearmament after the Korean War began in June, 1950. Despite this glaring exception, Japans military ceased to be a factor in the nations politics, much to the joy of the civilian bureaucracy, especially its putative leader Yoshida Shigeru, who was Prime Minister for the greater part of the Occupation era and for almost three years thereafter. This shift in power at the apex of the political system needs to be remembered in the context of regime change.
Democratization as a goal proved to be far more complex. It could have included trying Hirohito as a war criminal, or forcing him to abdicate, or abolishing the Imperial institution altogether; but none of these options was considered viable in the context of giving the highest priority to public tranquility. Professor Takemae Eiji, among many other Japanese historians of the Occupation, cites this reality as reflecting an undercurrent of conservatism that pervaded all reforms from the beginning of the Occupation.
My own brief elaboration of specific reforms will be highly selective. Even to list all of them would take up too much space. The English language literature is rich, if uneven, in accounts of the Occupation, and although our Japanese colleagues have been publishing some excellent studies over the past two decades, they are still hampered by excessive restrictions that the Japanese government has imposed over the declassification of relevant materials. This was a point that members of the Japan Occupation History Association (Nihon Senryo-shi Kenkyukai) emphasized to me when I was invited to one of their meetings in February, 2002. They have consequently been forced to rely much too heavily on SCAP archives. One recent study that stands out is Professor Takemae Eijis Inside GHQ: The Allied Occupation of Japan and its Legacy (Continuum, 2002),which in my estimation is probably the best single-volume study of the Occupation era and its aftermath.
Disagreements Within SCAP
My own views are colored by the fact that I was a linguist in Government Section, which was supposed to be THE principal conduit for contact between SCAP (as an institution) and the Japanese government . When it came to reformsespecially if they had a political dimension, and most didGovSec was on the side of the angels most of the time, at least until 1949. General Courtney Whitney, an attorney in civilian life, and his brilliant Deputy Chief, Charles Kades, who had participated in preparing the post-surrender policy documents, were our leaders. By the time I joined this hub of frenetic activity in late September 1946, it was obvious that MacArthurs Chief of Intelligence (G-2), General Charles Willoughby, who had been born into an aristocratic German family (von Tscheppe und Weidenbach) that emigrated to the U.S. in 1910, epitomized our ideological enemy. Towards the end of his life, after he had retired to Spain, Willoughby served as an adviser to Francos Falangists. Even MacArthur occasionally referred to him as my favorite fascist. GovSecs and G-2 s rivalry was one among many roiling through GHQ, but it was probably the most crucial because both Whitney and Willoughby had close ties to MacArthur. It would not surprise me if similar disagreements will be discovered when the current political transition in Afghanistan (or in Iraq, if it comes to that) under the aegis of foreign military forces becomes a research topic for serious study.
One of the first reforms was the SCAP directive ordering The Removal of Restrictions on Political, Civil and Religious Liberties (SCAPINthat is, SCAP Index93 of Oct. 4, 1945). It commanded the Japanese Government to abrogate the infamous Peace Preservation Law (Chian Iji Ho) and related ordinances and orders, and release all political prisoners, many of whom were Communists.Some years later, Willoughby personally hounded one of the State Department Japan specialists, John Emmerson, out of Japan for having been involved with these released political prisoners. In this instance, the State Department stood by him until he was exonerated, but it took years. Emmersons case was only one among severalanother was the Canadian historian and diplomat E.H. Norman, who ultimately committed suicidethat illustrate G-2s power not only vis-à-vis the Japanese, but also over Allied personnel whose orientation was not in accord with what soon became the Cold Wars ultra-conservative orthodoxy.
One other early break with Japans wartime past was Hirohitos 1946 New Years message denying his divinity. It was a small step in his being humanized and had more basic consequences when linked with the Dec. 15, 1945, directive abolishing governmental support of state Shinto. Both reflected SCAPs willingness to reach into deep corners of the Japanese kokutai (polity). By contrast, if one compares SCAPs actions with Hirohitos official funeral and Akihitos enthronement ceremony half a century later, subsequent changes from the past seem to have been minimal, especially regarding the mysticism that still shrouds the throne.
The third prong of SCAPs early efforts to eliminate the old order consisted of two inter-related directives issued on January 4, 1946. SCAPIN 548 ordered the Japanese government to abolish certain political parties and societies that resisted or opposed Occupation policy, had supported military aggression, had opposed free cultural and intellectual exchange with other countries, andmost important of allhad used assassination and terrorist tactics to alter earlier policies. SCAPIN 550 ordered the removal and exclusion of undesirable personnel from public office. The latter was based on Article 6 of the Potsdam Declaration: There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest, for we insist that a new order of peace, security and justice will be impossible until irresponsible militarism is driven from the world. SCAPIN 550 became known in common parlance as the political, or white, purge. I spent most of my two and a half years in GovSec working on this program and will use it as a brief case study illustrating some of the complexities inherent in regime change.
American government post-surrender policy documents setting forth the guidelines for the reforms that SCAP was to implement were grandiose. Newcomers to GovSec had to read them as their first assignment in order to understand the thrust and inter-relatedness of the intended reforms. Regrettably, other SCAP agencies were lax in this requirement with the result that many ordered reforms were forgotten or ignored. MacArthur may have contributed to these attitudes by promoting the notion that HE was in charge whereas Washington, D.C. was far away and international participants irrelevant. Nonetheless, these basic policy documents are illuminating and provide models of what taking a defeated enemy by the scruff of the neck and forcing him to change might entail.
Deconcentration of economic power included the dissolution of both holding companies as well as trading companies, later conflated as zaibatsu dissolution. It rested on two premises: first, that the major conglomerates had been complicit in Japans wartime aggression; and second, that excessive concentrations of economic power were inimical to democracya belief that had its origins in Americas anti-trust legislation first promulgated in 1890. This set of reforms became the source of endless acrimony both within SCAP and between Tokyo and Washington, with the result that delays in translating the general to the specific were inevitable. In the process what might have been a fierce tiger was transformed into a pussycat. Japans captains of industry simply had too many friends in high places inside Japans government and among American industrialists. Alarmist voices complained that implementation would delay economic recovery and thereby raise the Occupations budgetary needs. Opponents of zaibatsu dissolution also raised the bogeyman that these reforms, if fully implemented, would usher in a socialist Japan. Although far-fetched, this latter criticism was very effective.
By contrast, at least initially, SCAP had some degree of success in promoting the growth of a vibrant trade union movement. As early as September, 1945 (one month into the Occupation), it ordered the dissolution of labor fronts that the militarists had sponsored to control workers. The staff of SCAPs Economic and Scientific Sections Labor Division then went forth to assist with the formation of unions. Miserable living conditionsa lack of food and housing, plus inflationprovided their own incentives. By February, 1947, 19,000 unions had sprung up with over 5 million members who became ever more militant. They planned a coordinated general strike for the first of February, 1947, butat the last momentMacArthur ordered that it be stopped. This intervention ended the honeymoon with labor and halted the ascendancy of left-wing Socialists and Communists as leaders of the movement. They never fully recovered and their tactical errors have provided much grist for endless debates. SCAP authorities were willing to support trade unionism so long as it restricted itself to bread and butter issues, but not if the unionists agenda included activities that were deemed to be political. It was another instance of giving a higher priority to overall tranquility, which became more important with each passing year.
Land reformthat is, the elimination of tenant farmingwas the most successful pillar of economic democratization. It reduced tenancy from well over 60% (if part-owners and part-tenants are included) to near zero. It also began the slow process of defeudalizing the countryside by reducing the baneful influence of domineering, if often absent, landlords. Many agencies have claimed some credit, as is often the case with programs that work well: Japanese specialists in the Ministry of Agriculture, who had been drafting reform measures since the early 1930s; American specialists in SCAPs Natural Resources Section; andmost unusuallythe British Commonwealth and Soviet delegates on the Allied Council for Japan, who sought to oversee what MacArthur and his large staff were doing. The reform did not solve the small size of Japanese farms. Most of themexcept in Hokkaidocame to be about seven acres, an area that is incomprehensible to most American farmers.
Farm labor, which shrank from over 50% of the work force at the wars end to less than 5% today, is now dominated by the elderly, often women, while men have urban occupations in nearby towns. Land reform and the subsequent growth of agricultural cooperatives also largely eliminated rural non-mainstream ideological movements. It made the vast majority of Japanese tillers of the soil into staunch conservatives without whom the dominant LDP would have lost its majority long ago. This hoped-for conservative outcome was used to justify the radical near-expropriation of former land-owners. Also, as land reform was reaching its apogee, Chinas civil war was coming to its climax nearby and serving as an object lesson of where large-scale and unrelieved rural misery could lead.
Writing a new Constitution was supposed to have been undertaken by the Japanese themselves. However, as is well known, this aspect of Japans regime change became GovSecs most impressive and lasting achievement. Although it was written during one tumultuous week in February, 1946, some seven months before I arrived, work on it continued because debates in the House of Peers resulted in certain amendments, as well as because of some difficulties in the Japanese translation of the document itself. Two factors played an important role in convincing MacArthur to ignore the Far Eastern Advisory Commissions (FEAC) purely hortatory edict that any constitutional change needed its imprimatur. First, all of the Japanese drafts amending the existing Constitution were deemed to be badly flawed and insufficient. Second, the FEAC was going to be replaced by the FECthe Far Eastern Commissionwhich was intended to project a greater international voice in supervising Occupation policy. SCAP was most concerned that possible Soviet intervention might threaten its goal of the new Constitutions early completion.
Despite many second thoughts and endless caveats that might be raised, Japans Constitutionformally adopted in April 1947is a model of modern democratic thought. The Emperor became a symbol of national unity. The Imperial Diet (Teikoku Gikai) became the National Assembly (Kokkaiperversely, still translated as Diet) with both chambers being elected by the people. Chapter IIs Article 9 renounced war as a sovereign right of the nation and pledged that armed forces will never be maintained. Chapter III devoted itself to a lengthy enumeration of fundamental human rights that included (in Article 14) the peoples equality under law with no discrimination based on race, creed, sex, social status or family origin allowed. Equal rights not yet included in the U.S. Constitution were enshrined.
It is easy to deride the document and to expound at length about the yawning chasms between constitutional doctrine and practice, but the 1947 Constitution has withstood the test of time, without a single FORMAL amendment. No one in GovSec (including me) could have imagined the Constitutions pristine survival beyond the end of the Occupation, much less its doing so without significant alterations subsequently. Indeed, as early as 1948, voices in Washington began expressing doubts about the wisdom of having included Article 9, and these voices became louder with each passing year. Nonetheless, some fifty-five years later, the Constitutions wording (if not its literal meaning) remains sacrosanct , a testament to the commitment of the Japanese people or at least one third of their representatives in the National Assembly. It is they, not the foreign progenitors of the basic law, who have been convinced that its continued survival, as adopted, reflects their basic aspirations. My having had qualms over half a century ago disqualifies me from expressing any prediction for the future.
Purging So-Called Evil-Doers
The political purge proved to be an entirely different matter. I will give it somewhat more extended consideration for two reasons: it was central to my work while a GovSec staffer, and the programs evolution illustrates some of the vagaries of Occupation policies and their implementation for accomplishing regime change. As noted previously, SCAPIN 550 of January 4, 1946, ordered the removal and exclusion from public office of Japans wartime leaders. Broad categories delineated those who were to be purged: A) indicted war criminals; B) all career military officers; C) leaders of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association (IRAA) and affiliated organizations; D) leaders and influential members of ultranationalist, secret and terrorist organizations; E) executives of companies involved in Japanese expansion; F) governors of occupied territories; and G) an initially broadly-phrased and unspecified additional militarists and ultranationalists.
At the conclusion of the designation process, of the 210,000 labeled purgees, almost 80% came from the ranks of the military, not quite 1% came from the civilian bureaucracy, 16 % had been active in government-sponsored political organizations (the Imperial Rule Assistance Association and its affiliates), influential ultranationalists accounted for 1.6%, and a mere 1.4% had been executives of business and information media companies. Clearly, it was the officer corps of the Imperial Japanese military and the IRAAs national and local leaders whose ranks were most deeply affected and who accounted for over 95% of those deemed inimical to the development of a democratic and to-be-pacifist Japan.
All this was accomplished by administrative procedures and none of those affected lost their lives, even if their careers were interrupted. The judiciary only played a role in a small number of individual designations that were appealed or if an incumbent in or applicant for public office had falsified some information in his or her questionnaire. Keys to the entire process were the criteria that spelled out with increasing precision exactly who was to fall under the purge. Japanese screening committees and their secretariats did the bulk of the work. The national committee, operating under the Prime Ministers Office, examined the questionnaires of the incumbents in and applicants for public office, but these questionnaires had to be translated into English in order for GovSec to exercise its supervisory role. After I joined in October 1946, there were only two of usone brilliant Japanese-American Kibei linguist (Tom Tsukahara) and myselfamong a group of about ten young staffers, to handle the translating and interpreting chores. Inevitably, this proved to be totally inadequate. Looming above us were senior GovSec officials who handled issues involving policy. Most of these had to do with interpreting specific provisions of SCAPIN 550 and its translated version as a Japanese Government Imperial Ordinance, that is, what we would call an administrative directive, or a law requiring no legislative action.
During the first year (1946), the entire effort was concentrated at the national government level. By the end, much effort and time were being devoted to expanding the meaning of public office into local government, as well as private commercial enterprises (linked to zaibatsu dissolution) and information media corporations (book and newspaper publishing, film and theater companies, etc.) that came under the catch-all category of other militarists and ultranationalists. By then, everyone who might be affected understood the overweening importance of defining specific criteria, and this resulted in endless wrangling inside the Japanese government and between it and GovSec. A series of hard choices had to be made. If the provisions were ill-defined, the screening committees at the national and later local levels would have discretionary authority in reviewing individual questionnaires, as would GovSec. Alternatively, arbitrary and possibly self-serving decisions could be avoided by refining the criteria to the greatest degree possible. The latter course was selected.
Another facet of the process was the gradual evolution from careful reviews of individual questionnaires to the virtually automatic designation of purgees by the screening committees and their exclusive reliance on the criteria. The only question that had to be answered was whether an individual had held a specific position during a critical period. Provisional designation was the name given to this process, which was akin to the Lord High Executioners little list of those who wouldnt be missed, except that the list was made up of categories instead of specific undesirables. Successive appeals boards were available to correct any errors that might have been made. Accuracy and fairness were less important than speed so that the designation of all purgees could be completed by the spring of 1948. To cite only one category: of the potential 8,309 members of the business elite, 1,305 were purged by provisional designation whereas an additional 668 were purged after going through the screening process. The remainderroughly 6,000were found to be not subject to the purge.
On the other hand, there was a handful of cases that became highly contentious. Most famous was Hatoyama Ichiro, the grandfather of the current Democratic Party leader. GovSec drafted a direct order to the Japanese government ordering his removal and exclusion from public office on the eve of his becoming Prime Minister in May 1946, despite the Screening Committees having cleared him. The case against him rested on several considerations: he had been Chief Secretary of the Tanaka Giichi Cabinet (1927-29); as Minister of Education (1932-34), he had ordered the dismissal of Professor Takigawa Yukitoki from Kyoto (Imperial) University and had thus participated in the stifling of freedom of speech; and, he had written a book in which he expressed his admiration for Hitler and Mussolini, especially their repressive labor policies. Hatoyama had also held a press conference for foreign journalists, and in their stories they had portrayed him as unsuitable to be Prime Minister of the new, democratic Japan. These negative press dispatches affected MacArthur, who was extremely sensitive to any criticism. In the ensuing turmoil, Hatoyamas role as an opponent of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association and its efforts to control all wartime political parties was overlooked. So was his having been among the very few politicians who was returned to the House of Representatives in the 1942 wartime election without the IRAAs endorsement.
Instead of Hatoyama, Yoshida Shigeru, a distinguished Foreign Ministry diplomat who spoke English fluently, became the Liberal Partys prime ministerial candidate. Yoshida was Prime Minister for most of the Occupation era and promoted the candidacy of bureaucrats who, as a group, were minimally affected by the purge. They in fact were active participants in defining the criteria. One unintended consequence was that the civilian bureaucrats were able to strengthen their control over the National Assemblys two chambers at the expense of long-serving parliamentarians. Moreover, all SCAP staff sections had to rely heavily on their counterparts in the Japanese bureaucracy for basic data and assistance in drafting reforms. This necessity allowed the Japanese officials to protect themselves and promote their own agenda by influencing SCAP officials. It was an early variant of using gaiatsu (foreign pressure) to their own advantage. I was an unwitting participant in the game while drafting purge criteria involving members of the Dai Nippon Butokukai, the Great Japan Military Virtue Society.
Hatoyamas dismissal and that of many others proved to be temporary. An Appeals Board rescinded his designation as a purgee, thereby allowing him to rejoin the ranks of elected politicians in 1951. He succeeded Yoshida as Prime Minister in 1954, and while in office he lent his support to the formation of the long-ruling LDP. Hatoyamas purge illustrates the potential dangers of purgers using broadly-framed criteria, giving them wide latitude in their ad-hoc consideration of a specific case. That mode of operation allowed later critics of the purge to have a field-day.
Enforcement and After
Determining who should be dismissed or excluded from what positions should have been only the first step. Of even greater significance might have been enforcingby some kind of control mechanismthe actual elimination of the authority and influence of those who had been designated as purgees. Much of that effort foundered and generated new problems. GovSec did not have any investigative staff. General Willoughby, the Chief of Intelligence, who had hundreds of agents at his disposal, had by late 1946 become deeply skeptical of the purge and its proposed expansion in 1947. There was no alternative available to GovSec except to turn to Japanese agents in the Home Ministry, especially those who had been involved in the enforcement of the earlier Peace Preservation Law. While a few of themirony of ironieshad themselves fallen under specific criteria defining purge categories, others had not. Moreover, Prime Minister Yoshida was in office, and he too was less than enthusiastic about the process of actually enforcing the purge.
All that changed after the April, 1947, General Election. The Japan Socialist Party won a slim plurality in the House of Representatives and Katayama Tetsu, its leader, became Prime Minister of a coalition Cabinet with the conservatives in the Democratic Party. Suzuki Yoshio, a leading Socialist, became Minister of Justice. As an attorney during the war, he had defended those charged with thought control violations of the Peace Preservation Law, as had Takiuchi Reisaku, who became Director of the Special Investigation Bureau (Tokubetsu Shinsa Kyouku), which had been shifted out of the now-dissolved Home Ministry. Takiuchi was eager to uncover violators of the purges restrictions. That helped enormously, but the budget for his bureau was meager and office space could not be found. By then, my superiors had turned their attention elsewhere and ordered me to assist Director Takiuchi in his effortsfar more meaningful and interesting for me than sitting in my office reading questionnaires.
However, precious months were lost before the now vitalized Special Investigation Bureau could begin to function properly. By early 1948, the winds of Japanese and American politics had begun to change. Conflicts within the Socialist Party and with its coalition partner (the Democratic Party) ended the high tide of reformism and brought Democrat Ashida Hitoshi (a staunch conservative) into the office of Prime Minister of a now Democratic PartySocialist Party coalition cabinet. Justice Minister Suzuki and Director Takiuchi stayed on, but without having strong backing at the top. Ashidas Cabinet lasted only a few months before a House of Representatives election decimated the ranks of the Socialists, while the Liberal Party won a sizable victory that brought Yoshida back as Prime Minister.
One of Yoshidas first personnel interventions was to dismiss Takiuchi, who was replaced by a career public procurator, Yoshikawa Mitsusadathe same man who during the war had prosecuted the Soviet spy Richard Sorge and his Japanese accomplices. Understandably, Yoshikawa was far less enthusiastic than Takiuchi in having the Special Investigation Bureau control the activities of purgees; instead, he turned to harassing leftists of various hues. Thus the complex problems of controlling those who had been designated as purgees for having misled the people of Japan were never solved. Instead, the agency that was to do so became the incubator for the now enormously powerful Public Security Investigation Agency (Koan Chosa Cho), Japans counterpart of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Meanwhile, the overall policy guiding the Occupation changed direction, a process that is often referred to as the reverse course. The existence and nature of the reverse course has been extensively debated. However, in the case of the purge, the available evidence is conclusive. The program had begun with the Potsdam Declarations paragraph 6 (remove for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan to embark on world conquest . . . i.e., the leaders of the old regime). This goal, exemplified by SCAPIN 550, underpinned the political purge and had been achieved by the spring of 1948.
However, by late 1948, Washington had begun making policy adjustments. MacArthur and many members of his staff resisted at first, but his influence and stature were no longer sacrosanct, possibly because of his failure to become the Republican Partys 1948 candidate for U.S. President. That was minor in comparison with the Cold Wars having become the major determinant of American foreign policy. Closer to Japan, the civil war in China was about to be won by the Communists. Congress had also become restive over funding the costs of the Occupation. Instead, its leaders wanted the Japanese economy to be resuscitated by giving greater emphasis to making it the workshop of Asia. That objective meshed neatly with the aspirations of the so-called Japan Lobbycentered in New York and Washington, D.C.led by former ambassador Joseph C Grew and Eugene Dooman.
Many of the Japan Lobbys members had been active participants in prewar business ventures with Japanese commercial and industrial enterprises, principally the zaibatsu, and had voiced strong reservations about their dissolution and the ancillary economic purge. Within SCAP itself, Chief of Intelligence Willoughbys influence and power grew. His much earlier contention that the Japanese Left posed a greater danger than the ancien regime to the future stability of a democratized Japan had become the dominant view. In any case, by the latter half of 1948, if not earlier, it had become clear to many of us that the reformist phase of the Occupation had ended.
As far as the purge is concerned, it is worth mentioning that a half century later, it is the red purge that is far better remembered in Japan than the original white version that I have briefly described above. In 1949, SCAP became concerned about the increasing militancy and political radicalism of the trade unions. These were, at least in part, reacting to Detroit banker Dodges advocacy of a tight monetary policy and the Shoup Missions conservative (some would label it reactionary) tax policy recommendations. Both impacted blue collar workers adversely by causing large layoffs in private and public sector enterprises while simultaneously reducing public welfare benefits. With SCAPs concurrence and intermittent encouragement, the red purge began to target union organizers. Gone was SCAPs earlier love affair with unionism. Japans economic growth stalled and a full-scale recession was avoidedanother historical ironyonly by the onset of another war, in this case the U.S.s war in Korea, which began in June, 1950. Offshore procurement by the American military provided new employment and jump-started Japans economic revival.
Simultaneously, the Japan Communist Party (JCP) became more aggressive in its behavior. This shift in tactics was probably motivated less by politico-economic circumstances in Japan than a response to the Cominforms January, 1950, criticism of the docility of the JCP. The JCPs leaders took the advice and by the spring of 1950 they were engaged in activities that MacArthur, in a June 6th letter to Prime Minister Yoshida, described as setting the stage for the eventual overthrow of constitutional government in Japan by force. The letter (notably not a SCAPIN) ended with his order to exclude and remove (that is, purge) the leadership of the JCP and its newspaper Akahata (Red Flag). Yoshida complied with alacrity. Meanwhile, a succession of appeals boards rescinded the earlier purge designations, gradually by whole categories, so that almost everyone was allowed to return to public life by the end of the formal Occupation. The U-turn was complete.
Some Notes on Regime Changes
The phrase regime change is, no doubt deliberately, rather fuzzy. Some would restrict it to the removal of one person (e.g. Hirohito or Saddam Hussein), as if that alone would accomplish the desired result. Others think it implies much more, including some kind of nation-(re)building, such as is now being talked about in Afghanistan. The Occupation of Japan fits into the latter meaning, especially if one takes into account all sorts of other programs that were undertaken, such as education reform and civil service reform, that I havent discussed here.
If the regime change takes place after a war, it is absolutely necessary to provide sufficient food, medical care and to insure public safety, maybe by having an army of occupation that acts like a police force and collects remaining caches of arms. If a coalition of foreign forces has fought the war, there must be multinational agreement on, and definition of, the goals that the victors seek to achieve. Some kind of multinational mechanism must have the authority to oversee the work of the occupiers. In the case of the Japanese Occupation, the FEAC and its successor FEC, as well as the Allied Council for Japan, were deliberately neutralized by MacArthur in particular and by the dominance of the United States in general.
If an Occupations goals are to be achieved, the participants must be willing to stay the course for many years by their continuing presence and willingness to accept the budgetary burdens. In the case of Japan, there was an increasing unwillingness by the U.S. Congress to foot the bill midway through the formal Occupation. Moreover, the dramatic shift in goals from demilitarization and democratization to a second phase emphasizing the rebuilding of Japan, making it into an American ally and a bulwark against international communism, created confusion among the occupied and within SCAP. It also vitiated much of the earlier reform effort.
Among the occupiers, a cadre of well-trained civil affairs officers with relevant language skills is highly desirable. Working through interpreters insures that there will be many misunderstandings. Also, if the interpreters come from the ranks of the occupied, it is highly probable that they will become unnecessarily influential, to the detriment of those who should be.
In short, regime change, if it is to be more than a meaningless rallying cry, is an extremely complicated process and not for the faint-hearted. Even a domestically inspired revolution, which is a different kind of regime change, is not simple. Those who undertake it as foreign occupiers must be aware of unanticipated consequences, major gaps in knowledge and the likelihood that their efforts might end up being in vain, regardless of the high-minded aspirations with which they began. Moreover, changes in American and its coalition partners domestic politics and the international or regional environment can be expected to influence adversely initial expectations and goals. Caution is crucial.
HANS BAERWALD is professor emeritus of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles. This paper was first presented to a symposium at the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies at St. Antonys College, Oxford University, on November 1, 2002. Dr. Baerwald is also the author of JPRI Occasional Paper 27 (July 2002), Postwar JapanA Reminiscence, and Occasional Paper 3 (May 1995), Fund-Raising in Japan: A Sasakawa Saga. He is a member of JPRIs Board of Advisers.