Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II Review
This tremendous and massive work is regarded as the representation of years of research and deploys the comprehensive knowledge of the Japanese history by art’s major practitioner. In his work Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, John Dower uncovers the secrets of the most enigmatical parts of Japan’s history of the World War II period. Having taken his idea from the perspective of the history cycle, the writer reveals in his book the transformation of Japanese post-war model into the American-Japanese model. Being an example of both regret and admiration work, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II opens the history of post-war Japan from a different point of view. It pays attention to the social realities and presents them from the perspective of a person who treats the history with a special love and precision.
John Dower observes Japanese history from a different angle than the one used earlier. Unlike those who denied and did not admit the occupation experience of the country, Dower claimed that it overcame furious and hard times and proved that the United States and Japan were tightly bound. However, the author devotes too little time to reviewing the politics of MacArthur and his assistants who granted Japan with democracy, therefore giving its citizens the opportunity to live happily and freely. In fact, Dower dedicates the significant part of the book to analyzing the occupation’s demands as well as its activities. He is extremely critical about the numerous impertinences of the censorship regime stringently supported by the occupation's administration. The very occupation could not be blamed. The author admits that censorship during the occupation was not as strict as under the regime of Japanese militarists in the 30s and early 40s. Although, he indicates that all the published works were prohibited to appeal to the prevalence of censorship or point out cancelations by a consistency of circles and crosses. John Dower examines the inquisitive logic of advertising freedom of expression and detects staggering cases of the bureaucratic foolishness.
Furthermore, the author is highly disapproving of the war crimes trials taking place in Tokyo. As a result, he esteems the intricate legal and moral dilemmas included into operating victor’s justice. While even the most tolerant decision of the court would consider their behavior as chaos, the author is particularly engaged in one aspect profoundly practiced by the Australian judge and the president of the court William Webb. In William Webb’s point of view, the courts were unavoidably messed because they lacked a man whom he was supposed to assess as the principal respondent.
Diligently well-investigated, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II presents a compelling view about the immediate post-war period of the Japanese culture and society. The manner in which native Japanese treated their tenants and the democratic regime that came with them detects certain things about the miserable Japan’s state under the reign of militarists. The image of the Japanese society represented in the book strongly contradicts the caricatures advanced through the publicity to the West.
On the spectrum of the idea identified with the Emperor's war obligation, John Dower is supposed to hold that he bore a significant weight of blame, whether personally confessed or not. In any case, it is conceivable to dispute that the Emperor had little to no real ability to influence events. Given the insufficiency of decisive evidence and the suspicion that some proof rationally appeals, it may happen that the problem will never be resolutely solved. Dower shows masterly that the Emperor was defended from criticism as a matter of intentional occupation policy. Moreover, the Emperor was persuaded in several occasions to reject repudiating and was perceived as a symbolic constitutional monarch.
Dower's written work is realistic and, to a great extent, moving in the way it depicts the way ordinary Japanese people lived between 1945 and 1949 when the improvement of economics caused the improvement of life conditions. The book incorporates numerous astounding narrative photos. Pictures of Allied war detainees and Japanese servicemen after the end of the war show better than any words what malnutrition means. The pictures clearly claim and prove that neither victory nor defeat makes a difference for a soldier that is starving.
Another spectrum where Dower is showing his best in the descriptive mastery is his chronicle of the overflowing free expression promptly taken after the smothering breakdown of the aggressive belief system of surrendering one's entire being to the state's administration. A discouraging and penetrating part of this was a prevailing corruption and underground market action. At the flip side of the area of respectability was the presence of tremendous quantities of magazines publishing any kind of literature regardless of a considerable lack of paper. In fact, few of those engaged had enough to eat later being the idiotic mediations of the occupation's restriction. In addition, in some time, there were the substantial quantities of young ladies who serviced American men of service (and Japanese men) with a hideous carelessness. In Dower's point of view, such changes reflected both monetary need and thrilled enjoyment of the previously forbidden freedom.
The work is exceptionally absorbing on what Dower considers as the intentional policy of the occupants to disregard the directions of ''old Japan hands''. The latter accepted a culturalist strategy that was doubtful of the chances of Japanese system reformation except for constructing aboriginal establishments and ways of cooperation. On the other hand, the occupants considerably preferred those who were not restrained in their standpoint by the former experience of how Japan had functioned but who were emergent and ready to think of new tomorrow for Japan.
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The most resembling example of this was the way in which the committee of MacArthur’s Government Section headquarters wrote the project of the 1946 Constitution (they wrote it in February 1946 spending only one week on its draft). It can be considered as the case of supreme confidence and arrogance while it sounds unbelievable to rewrite completely the sovereign state’s basic law within a week and then effectively apply it to the state’s government. Regardless of how dubious the Constitution’s origin may be, these are Americans who have often been harshly criticizing it.
On the whole, the author supports a depreciative attitude to the occupation. On the other hand, he is explicitly infatuated with the genuine democratic Constitution's flamboyance and almost successful struggle of the bureaucrats of the Government Section against undermining of its principal provisions by the Japanese government. John Dower occasionally depicts the case when the member of the committee (one of the most extraordinary young ladies called Beate Sirota) assisted the Japanese while introducing the most progressive and developed set of human rights of any people at that time.
One of the flaws of the book is the fact that it is mostly composed of stories and factoids. Every chapter is concentrated on a particular aspect of the occupation like starvation or sexual slavery. Unfortunately, there is no clear narrative. The author makes the reader try his best at pulling the stories together in order to make a complete puzzle of the Japanese history. Moreover, while there is an unsurpassed focus on Japanese society, there is too little information concerning Americans in Japan. The author seems to tell the story from the Japanese point of view. Regardless of the fact that the book is absorbing, astounding, and a real masterpiece, it does not tell the whole truth. For instance, the reader can only guess who the Macarthur’s subordinates or Washington’s policy-makers were. The reader has no information concerning the American occupation administration as well as the challenges, debates, and considerations that faced Japan. There is no clear explanation why all of these things happened in Japan; they just did happen.
All in all, despite all minor drawbacks of the book, there are many striking ideas worth spreading and sharing (e.g. the photographs of starving soldiers). Moreover, the style of the book is impressive as well while the author reveals the truth regardless of the censorship. The book’s first and foremost benefit the reader appreciates and admits is the depiction of the ordinary people’s lives while politics and economics are not of the same interest as real everyday life. The only question that may appear concerns the role of America in the processes taking place in Japan in the post-war period.
In conclusion, the occupation of Japan was quite equivocal, inconsistent, lacked profound policy-making apparatus, and showed bureaucratic incompetence. Part of the uncertainty took its roots from the beginning of the Cold War while the campaign was in the midcourse. Without a doubt, there is much to regret about its heritage, but also much to admire. John Dower both regrets and admires this opulently composed book, which brings a lot of pleasure for the reader. Finally, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II is the kind of a long historical book that is particularly involving because it concentrates on the social realities first and then on the political ones.