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American Asia Experts, Liberal Internationalism, and the Occupation of Japan

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Transcending Cold War Politics and Historiography

image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

This article reexamines the thought of American Asia experts during the 1940s and early 1950s who directly or indirectly influenced u.s. policy toward post-surrender Japan. Revisionist scholars in the late 1960s and 1970s categorized Asianists in a binary manner as “conservatives” and “progressives,” “Japan” and “China specialists,” and “Cold Warriors” and “critics,” but they all were in reality essentially modernization theorists and liberal internationalists of various kinds who agreed on the desirability of democratizing Japan and constructing a new order in the Asia-Pacific under American leadership. This new perspective exposes limitations in the revisionist narrative of the Allied Occupation of Japan informed by Marxian-populist criticisms of u.s. Cold War policy. Revisionists not only tended to stress differences over similarities in judging the ideas of Asia experts, but idealized “radical” reformers over more “moderate” ones. By arguing that the United States should have democratized Japan thoroughly, they held on to liberal internationalist ideology and unintentionally endorsed u.s. intervention in a foreign nation. This article shows how an objective assessment of the Occupation history requires transcending Cold War historiography and integrating a more global perspective.

Affiliations: 1: Sophia University,


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