- America’s Road to its Asian Dilemma
“[H]istory . . . is a continuous process . . . an unending dialogue between the present and the past,” E. H. Carr wrote in What Is History(1974, p. 30). Yoichi Miura and Daizaburo Yui reexamine the Pacific War, the U.S. occupation of Japan, and war memories in both countries, with a critical view in regard to the current situation in Japan and in Japan-U.S. relations.
Miura casts doubt on the prevailing postwar concept among conservative Japanese that they should accept economic growth and subjugation to the United States as inseparable imperatives. He focuses on the process of establishing the San Francisco Treaty (including both peace and security treaties) from the perspective of Japanese history. Those who approve of the treaty insist that it was the only realistic choice for Japan while those who disapprove believe that the treaty imposed the rearmament program and incorporated Japan into the American militaristic world strategy. With the demise of the Cold War and the Japan Socialist Party, the validity of the treaty is now widely accepted; however, Miura is still critical of it, speculating on an alternative road Japan could have taken. He believes that there was a good chance of concluding a peace treaty in 1947 that would have made Japan a demilitarized and neutral country. Then, the Korean War would not have happened in the way that it did and the Cold War in Asia would not have escalated as much as it did. He goes so far as to claim that postoccupation security and economic issues had nothing to do with a peace treaty.
In Empire and Aftermath: Yoshida Shigeru and the Japanese Experience, 1878-1954(1988), John Dower sheds light on the pivotal importance of Yoshida Shigeru, who “bridged the decades from the turn of the century into the 1950s [End Page 326]as successfully and colorfully as anyone” (p. xii). Dower argues that since the Cold War enhanced Japan’s strategic importance, Yoshida used this as a bargaining chip to resist the American demand for swift and large-scale rearmament, successfully concluded a peace treaty, and firmly established the foundation for Japan’s postwar development. In contrast to Dower’s thesis, Miura regards this positive image as a “Yoshida myth.” Miura is convinced that Yoshida was an incompetent negotiator who relied completely on the United States, narrowing his focus only to acquiring independence. Miura criticizes Yoshida for not making much use of the outbreak of the Korean War increasing Japan’s strategic significance and John Foster Dulles’s concern about whether or not the United States could maintain bases in Japan after the occupation. Miura claims that Washington’s aim was not to pressure Japan to implement a prompt large-scale rearmament program but rather to establish a framework that would keep military bases in Japan and continue to channel Japan into a remilitarization course. Miura may have succeeded in destroying the Yoshida Myth; however, by doing so, he holds Yoshida himself responsible for establishing a distorted Japan-U.S. relationship. If Yoshida had been a better negotiator, could Japan have formulated a more equal relationship with the United States? He seems to argue in the rest of his book that the enormous difference in U.S.-Japan power relations and the emergence of the Cold War in Asia left Japan no choice but to wholeheartedly depend on the United States. In short, Miura’s challenge leads him to a self-contradiction.
While Miura offers some empirical research with emphasis on security and the peace treaty, Yui tackles the broader issue of why the differences in the memories of the Asia-Pacific War widened over the last half century. Emphasizing images and cultural factors, Akira...