By Chet Yarbrough
By John W. Dower
Narrated by Edward Lewis
JOHN W. DOWER (AMERICAN AUTHOR, HISTORIAN)
Victory is sweet; defeat is bitter. Victory engenders responsibility for the defeated; defeat demands fealty to a victor. Fealty is not the goal of a victorious leader who seeks lasting peace.
Peace among nations has a price. John Dower’s reflection on WWII and Japan holds lessons for today’s American leadership and Putin’s folly.
John Dower, in “Embracing Defeat”, endeavors to picture Japan’s condition; i.e. the state of its economy and its people, after surrender in WWII.
History’s complexity is difficult to capture in words. Dower makes an effort to explain the context of post war Japan by showing Japanese attitude in media reports and literature of the time. The irony of Dower’s effort is that media reports and literature are censored by Allied forces, particularly the United States. This is not unlike Vladimir Putin’s control of Russian media during the Ukraine invasion. Putin will undoubtedly use that control to soft petal a hopeful settlement, though unlikely palliative acceptance by Ukraine.
MICHINOMIYA HIROHITO (124TH EMPEROR OF JAPAN 1901-1989)
Dower covers the history of an American white wash of Hirohito’s war complicity and responsibility. The American government uses Hirohito to make occupation and influence in Japan more acceptable to its population. It became politically expedient to hide Hirohito’s true involvement in Japan’s war plans.
Dower reports on post-war trials of Japanese military and government leaders; i.e. Dower writes about trial testimony of Japan’s WWII’ atrocities but his history shows that victor’ justice is not necessarily victim’ justice.
Hideki Tojo as hero and/or goat–tried and convicted; sentenced to a prison in which he dies. Tojo refuses to implicate the Emperor in his actions during the war.
In spite of (partly because of) American military occupation of Japan, financial aid is misdirected and food goods and material are stolen, a black market develops, gangs are formed, and corruption thrives. (Sounds like Iraq after America’s invasion.). Prostitution became a way of making a living, and immoral behavior became semi-acceptable because of rising poverty.
NICOLAS MADURO (PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA SINCE 2013)
A case in point today is the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. Are his actions a “crime against humanity” or is he fighting for his country’s independence?
Economic sanctions are as likely to punish the innocent as the guilty in countries that fight for their own identity. One’s interest is peaked by Japan’s experience after WWII because of the current Middle East muddle.
Syria, Iraq, and Iran are challenged by domestic unrest and punitive actions by non-indigenous forces. These three countries are particularly impacted by military and/or economic pressures from outsiders. What is going to happen in those countries? Are there any clues in the great change that occurred in Japan after WWII?
General MacArthur assumed the role of “Dear Leader”, treating the Japanese like 12-year-olds that were to be taught the ways of Democracy with a capital “D”. This role by MacArthur in post war Japan is accepted by many Japanese because of centuries of Imperial control, exemplified by Emperor Hirohito.
BONNER FELLERS (U.S. ARMY OFFICER, SERVED AS A MILTARY ATTACHE IN WWII)
Dower also suggests that a large part of General MacArthur’s success is due to Major Bonner Fellers, a Japanese scholar that predicted Japan’s war several years before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Major Fellers’ respect and understanding of Japanese culture and his influence contributes much to the success of American policy in post war Japan.
One may hope for a similar go-between if a settlement can be reached between Russia and Ukraine.
Fellers recognizes Japan’s people, with new found freedom, are inwardly driven toward a capitalist philosophy inherent in democracy. The Japanese did not abandon their ideas of production, the ideas of small business cooperation to achieve common goals. Those ideas made them a military behemoth in the 1920s. They redirected that belief system toward domestically driven capitalism. Japan became a dominant 20th century economic power. Japan’s experience suggests that freedom will not be denied but how it exhibits is a mystery wrapped in nation’s histories, beliefs, and practices.
Are there equivalents of “Major Bonner Fellers” to guide America’s policy toward other countries like Venezuela the Middle East, and today’s Russia/Ukraine conflict?
America can help or hinder a peoples’ drive for freedom but where it leads in Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, or Ukraine must be their peoples’ decision.
Nature abhors a vacuum (Spinoza). The centralized governments and economies of Venezuela, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Ukraine will be occupied democratically, autocratically, or some combination thereof, when domestic tumult subsides.
A peaceful settlement of the Russia/Ukraine war will be difficult. Outside countries cannot mandate lasting peace within other countries; let alone their own country. Sovereignty should be recognized as an inalienable right. It is not America’s or other countries’ job to pick winners and losers.