Dangers of Occupation: Taking a lesson from post-war Japan

BOSTON REVIEW: The paper copy of the latest (Feb/March) issue of BR dropped into my mailbox today. Hey, there’s still something special about hard copy– like the way you can mark it up with a real red pen or read it in the bathroom. Anyway, this one is a Special issue on the theme of “War and Democracy”.
Okay yes, I draw it to your attention because there’s a piece by me in it: a fairly long piece of reporting about my December trip to Damascus, and some info about the imprisonment of my Syrian friend and colleague Ibrahim Hamidi.
But in addition, there’s a lot more good stuff, including a piece by John Dower, an excellent, wise historian of modern Japan. Dower directly takes on the arguments heard from some members of the current pro-war crowd, to the effect that “General” Rumsfeld’s war can end up having the same salutary effects for Iraqis as the post-WW2 occupation of Japan had for the Japanese.
(Talking of Rummy, where’s Cheney these days? Back to the secure location?)
Anyway, Dower’s warning for the gung-ho crowd is dire. “The lessons we can draw from the occupation of Japan all become warnings where Iraq is concerned,” he writes, noting the many, many differences between the two cases.
Well, obviously you should read it. (And mine! And mine!)
Trouble is, BR don’t seem to have updated their website yet. So maybe wait a couple of days. Either that, or call ’em and start subscribing to the paper edition…
Someone else who should maybe read Dower’s piece is Rend Rahim Francke, the longtime head of the DC-based Iraq Foundation. January 13, the Washington Post ran an interesting, human-interest-y story by former Middle East reporter Caryle Murphy, who had trailed around Greater DC’s Iraqi-opposition community with her notebook at the ready.
One of her interviewees was Francke, who joked that she would be “on the first U.S. tank” going into Baghdad. Francke confessed to Murphy that she had recently picked up a book at Second Story bookstore about the history of the U.S. occupation of Japan, to learn as much as she could from it.
Maybe that was one of Dower’s excellent books on the subject? Maybe she should talk to Dower as well?
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Also significant in Murphy’s piece was her report that, “Of more than a dozen Iraqi [exiles] recently interviewed, none said they plan to permanently return to Iraq if Hussein is removed.”
And yet, these people are taken seriously as they sit around in their comfy georgetown exile making plans for how Iraq will be governed in the future? Does something smell funny here?
Even Francke told Murphy that she planned to establish only part-time residence in Baghdad after she’d gotten there on her tank.