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Jun 18th
Home Sections History The MacArthur Experience (Part I)
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Sections - History
Sunday, 16 September 2007 04:43

In the Loop

A couple of months ago, Jose Aliling of the University of the Philippine Alumni Association and Rudy Asercion of the American Legion cosponsored a panel discussion on the topic" Is there a MacArthur in you?". It was held at the San Francisco War Memorial building as part of the anniversary festivities of the A-Day Leyte Landing a.k.a. the beginning of the Liberation of the Philippines. They asked me to give my impressions as a panel member on what MacArthur did during the reconstruction of Japan, based on his earlier Philippine experiences. Here's the salient points of my observations:


D ouglas P. MacArthur said many things, but two in particular remain vividly in my mind. The first was his statement: "I was born a Democrat, and raised a Liberal". The second statement was, "If I were a Filipino peasant, I would be a Huk".

Today, we see two vastly different societies in Asia, the Japanese, and Philippine societies. However, sixty years ago, immediately after the Second World War, both these nations were re-created much in the American mold with Liberal Democracy at the core. Both were devastated by the war with basic infrastructure and the economic base eliminated. So why did these two nations take vastly different paths, and reached the points where they are today?

First, look at Japan in September 1945.America had totally defeated a highly industrialized nation, bombing out its industrial complexes, its entire railway transportation system, sinking its entire merchant marine on which importation of raw materials and exportation of manufactured goods relied, and virtually annihilated its military and naval capabilities. The people were at starvation point, and needed immediate shipment of American relief food to prevent the outbreak of riots and rebellion. Japan was, literally destroyed to the point of economic pauperism. the island State was never an agricultural economy, lacking arable land and natural resources.Its economy depended on the manufacture and export of goods. Indeed, close to the winter of 1945, MacArthur urgently cabled Washington, D.C., "Give me food, or give me bullets", when his initial demands for massive food shipments from America for Japanese civilians were initially rebuffed by the Pentagon and State Department. Parenthetically, the need for

Japanese military expansion to Manchuria and Korea was precisely due to the need for more space for the burgeoning Japanese population at the turn of the 20th Century.

General of the Army (five stars) Douglas MacArthur was appointed as Supreme Commander, Allied Powers,(SCAP) and assumed command of the occupation of Japan. He was concurrently Commander in Chief, American Forces, Far East (CincFE). This command was held from September 1945 through April 1951, when he was summarily relieved by President Truman. But during said period, while he also directed the defeat of the North Korean forces in the Korean War, he did something greater as a soldier than any non-Japanese ever did for Japan. That was to re-create that country in the American way, using concepts based on liberal Democracy, thus leading to what it is today.

MacArthur exercised his SCAP powers of executive fiat with great perspicacity. He first brought in the tenets of the Rule of Law, Majority Rule, Political Freedoms, Equal Economic Opportunities, and Social Justice as the groundwork for the American occupation. Peace and prosperity were his immediate objectives. It was true benign authoritarianism.

New Japanese Constitution

It must be recalled that even after the Meiji Restoration, and the adoption of the Meiji Constitution which supplanted the Tokugawa Shogunate, Japan was still an absolute monarchy and a police state, controlled by the Triad of nobility, military cliques, and the Zaibatsu (great family economic monopolies, which controlled Japanese industry and Finance). Japan was likewise a feudal society, which prohibited organized labor, repressed Civil and Human rights, and where Parliament was subservient to the monarchy, unlike the British model after which

it was patterned. After the end of the Second World War, the American occupying forces discovered and released over 60,000 Japanese political prisoners held in government concentration camps throughout the country.

During Macarthur's tour of duty in Japan, he oversaw the drafting and adoption of a new Japanese Constitution. His vision was for Japan to become a strong American ally in Asia. Initially, a Commission was formed by the Japanese

government and that group created a draft which was almost identical to the original Meiji constitution. If not more restrictive. MacArthur believed it unacceptable and directed a new group be formed to re-write another document, with American consultants and members of his military staff. The final document was then submitted to the Japanese people in a Plebiscite which gave it overwhelming approval

The new Japanese Constitution contained certain new and innovative provisions which were never enjoyed by the Japanese people. These were, Universal suffrage; The right of Labor to organize and bargain collectively, Civuil Rights, the abolition of the nobility and titles of nobility; Multi-party electoral system; Land Reform, Abolition of Monopolies and Combinations in restraint of Trade (this broke the absolute hold of the Zaibatsu), and the renunciation of war as an instrument of foreign and national policy, among others. I suppose one could say MacArthur acted like a Democratic New Dealer".

The change in Japanese society was so radical and yet so popular and readily accepted by the people. Japanese women in particular were empowered more than any other time in Japanese history, achieving ¼ of the total seats in the Japanese Diet (Parliament), even voting a former prostitute into office with 145,000 votes in a particular Tokyo District. Labor unions bloomed and soon organized labor began achieving benefits the workers never had before- better wages, specific work hours, better working environments, benefits packages and many more. The most-remembered provision in the Constitution however was not a MacArthur innovation. That renunciation of war as an instrument of foreign policy was actually born of an idea of Prime Minister Shidehara, with which SCAP wholeheartedly agreed.

Free-and-Open Society

W ith the groundwork laid for the creation of a free and open society, massive American financial aid began to flow to Japan, as part of the Marshall Plan for reconstruction. It was also during this period of the growing fear of Communism, and the conquest of china by Mao Tse Tung's forces, that Japan was seen as a bulwark which must be created to stave off Communist expansion in the Pacific. Indeed, Secretary of State Dean Acheson made the speech that the first line of defense of America against communism in the Pacific was the line from Japan, to Formosa, and the Philippines. Which, unfortunately failed to mention Korea, and which was said to have misled the Communists to think that the U.S. was abandoning syngman Rhee's South Korea. Japan later became, along with South

Korea, and Taiwan, part of the anti-Communist " Iron Triagle" in the Pacific, and whose economies the US supported as a result.

In any event, the absence of the financial burden to maintain standing military and naval forces, the injection of massive aid through the Marshall plan, the lowering of trade barriers to Japanese goods in American markets, the creation of the country as an anti-Communist bulwark, and the liberalization of society of a disciplined, frugal, and homogenous people all helped to make Japan what it is today. One of the Five largest economies in the world.

I must note as well that Macarthur achieved the mass acceptance of his policies by his astute and masterful manipulation of the Japanese mindset, i.e., the leadership principle in the Emperor. His subordination of the American conqueror image to that of the Mikkado, and the use of that figurehead's prestige as the head of state and religion combined with the purposely benign and friendly occupation by American forces under his command is one of the most effective lessons in political manipulation, in my opinion. SCAP knew that where the Emperor led,the Japanese would follow, and it was there where the reason why he absolutely refused the demand of many Americans and Allied leaders to prosecute, or try the Japanese Royal family lay. And MacArthur's strategy to win over the Japanese people thus became extremely successful.

Japan is an archipelago with a homogenous population, speaking one national and official language, with history, culture, religions, and monarchy continuing down an unbroken line through over a thousand years. The leadership rested in one symbol, the Emperor (Mikado), who was both Head of State and Religion. Japanese discipline and culture likewise molded the people's minds to follow their leaders absolutely. This discipline gave the Japanese the courage to accept defeat, embrace new ways of governance and thought easily and completely to a successful end. It is a testament to the stability of MacArthur's vision that for over half a Century, Japan has been ruled by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

American Occupation of Japan

T he American military occupation of Japan lasted ten years, from 1945 through 1955, when a peace treaty was finally signed. MacArthur was succeeded as SCAP by Lt. Gen Matthew B. Ridgeway, and later Lt. Gen. Mark. Clark. But it is to MacArthur to whom the success of the Japanese occupation and reconstruction is attributed by history. And rightly so.

But was this success entirely the result of MacArthur's upbringing, and education? Was there any other stimuli that caused him to fashion Japan as an American copy? I submit it was MacArthur's extensive experience in the

Philippines during four tours of duty which showed him how a State with true Democratic ideals could be created. (First as an Army Lieutenant of Engineers, then as Brigadier General commanding the Philippine Brigade and Manila Department, later as a Major General commanding the entire Philippine Department, then finally as Field Marshall, Philippine Commonwealth Army, from where he was reactivated to service in the American Army as Commander-in Chief, U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East.)

( To be continued . . . )

Next:

MacArthur’s Philippine Experience (Part II)

Copyright 2005 Jose G. Caedo. Reprinted with permission from Mr. Caedo.



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