How did the USA manage to rebuild Japan into a democratic ally after WWII? What made that different from other failed attempts?


How did the USA manage to rebuild Japan into a democratic ally after WWII? What made that different from other failed attempts?

In: Other

We were directly at war with a nation…and we crushed them in the end, with a display of an ungodly power (the a-bomb).

All the other conflicts since then were against divided nations (N/S Korea, N/S Vietnam) or against groups (Taliban, Al Qaeda) rather than nations, or weren’t full-fledged wars, just peace keeping actions, or protective of work on behalf of allied nations.

It isn’t unique. West Germany and South Korea were similarly rebuilt, although in the latter case the road was a bit rockier (SK was basically run by a dictator for a while before settling into its modern democratic form.) Look up the Marshall Plan and and the [Occupation of Japan]( (which at the time included what is now South Korea).

Well, what the US did was beat the Japanese in a war and force the Japanese to surrender unconditionally. With that the US (and Allies) occupied Japan. The US then drew up the Japanese constitution.

After WW2 the Japanese people were rather over war and so didn’t resist. WW2 wasn’t a quick war which just saw the Japanese military destroyed. Japan got bombed flat.

You could write a library about that, as there are many factors influencing it. So just some points in a nutshell. Because it is in the same area as “What lead to the European part of WW2” in complexity and scope.

– Japan was allied to the Soviet Union during to the war (or to be precise: a neutrality pact after a small border war). In August 1945 the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and was a major factor in making Japan surrender, together with the 2 nuclear bombs. From that on Japan saw a very dangerous state relatively close to the Japanese islands, with ongoing border disputes for the northern smaller islands.

– After the war there was a massive reconstruction effort. It included rebuilding efforts, food relief, infrastructure support etc. The period from the end of the 1940 to the end of the 1950s is considered an economic miracles, as the Japanese economy recovered incredible fast and expanded, increasing the living standard by a fair margin.

– The US forces in Japan made many changes to laws, regulations, political structure etc, enabling democratic forces to emerge, which where previously silenced under the constitutional monarchy and the military influence. The Japanese peace movement (based on left union movements and womens movement) picked up speed after a few years after the surrender, and became a major part of Japanese culture, politics and society. After two cities vaporized, dozens of other cities put to the torch by firebombing, the breakdown of basic infrastructure, famine etc the peace movement (which inherently leaned more to the democratic forces and less to the old monarch/militaristic forces) and millions of lives lost it was a factor not to be ignored.

– The breakdown of the system. Japanese society tends to be less flexible and more static in nature. With the utter public defeat and shame of the hyper-nationalistic view upon the world many young people searched for new orientation.

– The Emperor demanded in his infamous speed to bear the unbearable, in that case foreign occupation. Contrary to many Western perception of the role of presidents, Queens, chancellors, prime ministers etc the Emperor of Japan was deeply entrenched in the belief-system and how the entire society oriented itself. In some ways you could argue that was similar to the Pope in Vatican State. Basically it was the declaration of “We now like the Americans, please be nice to them, thank you” and everyone was like “Roger that, boss”.

– Historically western orientation. Under the Meiji government at the end of the 19th century the country took a sharp turn to the West, in order for military, cultural and economic inspiration. Previously the Japanse society was not an industrialized one (not as we in the West would understand it), and modern Japanese industrial society stated in that time period, heavily influenced by Western practices, views and systems.

And finally the perhaps most significant one:

– The Cold War. With the Western and Eastern part of the world seeing each other more and more as cold enemies, the build up of nuclear weapons, the fall of China to Mao etc there was not much room for neutrality. China became an ally to the Soviet Union and the Korean War showed what it means to face the Eastern block. It was either the blue US or the Red Soviet Union, especially considering the strategic location for the goal of the Truman Doctrine to “contain aggressors”. The US and later “the West” put *massive* resources to win new allies and keep old ones on all levels: propaganda, diplomacy, economics, military support, alliances, treaties, cultural exchange, education etc. Nothing unifies people more than 1) being successful (and the Western Block was successful) and 2) *”Do you see that guy over there? Yeah, that´s the enemy and he is trying to kill your wife and your child! Lets be allied against him, kay?”*


Havent you ever played civilization. You go to war with another country, beat the shit out of them, make a peace deal and then become best friends

There are some good answers here, but I think many are missing the point. It isn’t just was the US did differently; it’s what was so different about Japan.

There are two very significant points about Japan (and Germany, for that matter):

1. Japan was a unified nation. The people self-identified as a Japanese and saw themselves as one people. Compare this to the sectarian violence we have seen in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Both of the countries have borders that were more or less arbitrarily drawn by outside powers. The people of these countries are often far more loyal to their region or tribe than to any central government. Afghanistan particularly can almost be thought of as a region more than a true nation.

2. Japan was an economic powerhouse. They were able to build massive war machinery and deploy it across oceans. It’s one thing to retool a factory that built warships into one that builds cars. It’s another thing entirely to build the factory, train workers and engineers, develop a system of commerce, etc. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan that had mature, industrialized economies and certainly not the level that it would take to launch a World War.

Or to sum it up another way, US helped rebuild Japan and Germany after WW2, while it attempted to create nations almost from scratch in Iraq and Afghanistan.