The predominant line of thought amongst the Americans was that it would be best to condemn Tojo and preserve the figurehead of the Emperor to hold the nation together, for fear that doing away with the imperial system would be too great a shock to the Japanese. Yet the relationship of the Emperor Hirohito to the militaristic leaders of Japan was far more complex than might be initially suspected. Dower suggests that the Emperor was far more complicit in wartime actions than has been portrayed in the past, and that Japans democratic tradition before the dominance of the military took hold of the government was and has been overlooked. The Japanese intellectuals who were embittered by the eventual system enforced by the Americans raged that rather than a true democracy, what came into being was “a charade” and instead of revolutionizing the Japanese consciousness the Americans merely set about reinforcing a colonial mentality (Dower 72).
Some real strides were made in undoing the damage that had been done over the years of military rule. Freedom of the press was now enshrined in law. Furthermore, women were given the right to vote. But democratization was not absolute — all anti-American, including many leftist dissident voices were purged from the institutions of government. However, Americans tended to ignore the impositonal aspects of their rule and the Japanese, on the surface, complied with this notion rather than resisted. They seemed to accept this gift of democracy, along with gifts of American cigarettes and chocolate. However, the genuine feelings of the Japanese people bubbling beneath the surface were far more pluralistic. In Dowers phrase, many different cultures of defeat existed, including leftist, Marxist resistance.
Ultimately, far from being a pure force of democracy, contrary to American self-mythologization, America preserved the Emperor and the Imperial system, forced only a few military leaders to take total responsibility for the actions of the government in a fashion that denied the far more diffuse responsibilities amongst Japans leaders for the war, and helped create an entrenched government bureaucracy. The Americans imposed a “root-and-branch agenda of demilitarization and democratization that was in every sense a remarkable display of arrogant idealism – both self-righteous and genuinely visionary” but which also reinforced singular-minded American notions of who and what Japan really were in terms of their need for an emperor and a strong, guiding American hand (Dower 23). Ignoring the subtleties of the enemys culture in the spirit of colonialism to preserve democracy was at the bottom of Americas paradoxical mission: “Never…had a genuinely democratic revolution been associated with military dictatorship, to say nothing of a neocolonial military dictatorship…” (Dower 80-81).
Dower makes a persuasive case for the strong-armed and often insensitive nature of MacArthurs program, using a comprehensive array of sources. He includes photographs, cartoons, and also diaries. He paints a little-seen political picture of the nation, showing former Japanese soldiers disillusionment with their nation as well as left-wing Japanese dissatisfaction with American colonialism. He also shows how a great deal of covert Japanese behavior actually flouted Americas assumptions about the occupied nations subservience — black marketeering was rampant, for example. From interviews with occupation authorities to hard data, a complete picture of Japan emerges that stretches beyond the usual sanitized American portrait of a democracy.