Drawing largely on archival sources to provide a perceptive overview of the crucial period from the Occupation through the mid- 1970s, Schaller (Douglas MacArthur: Far Eastern General 1989, etc.) makes a persuasive case for the arresting proposition that latter- day Japan is to a great extent what American foreign-policy made it. To begin with, he recounts how Washington (concerned that Tokyo might try to improve relations with the Red regimes in Beijing and Moscow) decided to promote the defeated country's economic development and open domestic markets to its merchandise. In the name of continuity and stability, then, its puissant industrial combines were left largely unscathed; in like vein, many politicians penciled in as candidates for rough military justice found themselves summarily rehabilitated. When the Cold War turned hot, first in Korea and later in Vietnam, the author (History/Univ. of Arizona) documents, money poured into Japan from the US, accelerating the island nation's recovery. In addition, Schaller points out, presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson all provided the Liberal Democratic Party with sizable amounts of secret financial aid, largely to ensure that its conservative, anti-Communist leaders would remain in power. By the 1960s, he observes, America's Asian ward had become a formidable economic force and appreciably less deferential to its longtime protector. The author provides details on the increasingly difficult relations between Japan and the US through the so-called Nixon shocks (imposing restrictions on imports, pulling troops out of the Far East, and reaching a rapprochement with China). In conclusion, he fast-forwards through the past two decades, an equally convulsive era during which the USSR's implosion depreciated Japan's value as a strategic partner.
An informative briefing on a decidedly odd geopolitical couple's increasingly ambivalent alliance.