In concluding his book on World War II in the Pacific, Eagle Against the Sun, Ronald H. Spector stated that, "The United States acquired a strong democratic ally in the new Japan which emerged from the wreckage of war."1 Following the Japanese surrender on September, 2, 1945, General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander Allied Powers (SCAP) in Japan, led the largely unilateral U.S. effort to rebuild Japan. The U.S. occupation and reconstruction met with varying degrees of political, social and economic success, but overall, the U.S. succeeded in developing Japan as a strong responsible power in the Pacific. Additionally, studying the whole-of-government methods for the U.S. post-war reconstruction in Japan renders historical insights that have relevance to future post-conflict efforts.
In order to set the foundation for successful political reconstruction SCAP worked with the existing Japanese government to write and ratify a new constitution. Several key actions within the Japanese Constitution include transfer of sovereign power from the Emperor to the parliament-style Diet, provision of equal rights for women and complete disarmament. The Constitution also established the freedoms of speech, assembly and religion. In a testament to the effectiveness of this political effort, although the Constitution includes amendment procedures and the Diet considered revisions, the Constitution remains unchanged since 1947.
Any occupying force establishing a new Constitution, with or without concurrence of the defeated government, faces the primary challenge of gaining popular acceptance. The Military Government teams, who provided direction and advice, “paralleled Japanese governmental organizations… [and] were identified wi...
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...ng a strong responsible power in the Pacific. The lessons learned in rebuilding Japan apply to current and future post-conflict efforts. The U.S. continues to reap the benefits of success in Japanese reconstruction, and Japan remains the closest U.S. ally in the Western. Pacific.
Ronald H. Spector, Eagle Against the Sun: The American War with Japan (New York: The Free Press), 561.
Douglas MacArthur, Reports of Douglas MacArthur: MacArthur in Japan: The Occupation: Military Phase (Volume I Supplement), 201.
World Health Organization, The World Health Report 2000: Health Systems: Improving Performance (Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization), 153.
James Dobbins, Andrew Rathmell, Keith Crane, Seth G. Jones, and John G. McGinn, “Japan,” America’s Role in Nation Building: From Germany to Iraq (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Publications, 2005), 36-37.