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Herbert Bix on: MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito
Herbert Bix BIX: The Japanese never want to go back to the old system, but the feeling of the old guard elite, who we supported, and the moderates, was that it was the Emperor who needed to control the people. He was needed as a symbol of identification between the people and their state and their government. And I think that, as a result of MacArthur's reforms, after the passage of a decade, the Emperor becomes irrelevant to the national identity of the Japanese people and superfluous in their lives.

I think that this had been the trend before the thirties--already Japan was moving in the direction in which this all-embracing throne, an imperial institution which couldn't be penned in by the Constitution, in which the Emperor was the teacher of the nation and an absolute moral value -- that this system was being eroded by the natural, social, the development of social forces making Japan a modern industrial society. What happened in the thirties was the pumping up of this artificial ideology. The Emperor came on the scene and he contained, to some extent, the worst extremism. But on the other hand, he did play a very active role, and aided the expansion of the Japanese empire at every turn. And he did lead the nation into disaster. His reign, during the first twenty years, was a disaster for the Japanese people.

I think MacArthur understood that the Emperor ideology had been bad for the Japanese people, that the institution needed to be reformed, and that the Emperor was radioactive and had to be handled with care. He dealt with it adroitly. He reformed it, and he went beyond what American policy makers had envisioned, by stripping the Emperor of everything. And his constitution, codifying his reforms, was the great American achievement of the occupation.

And the thing is that by exempting the Emperor totally, shielding him from the tribunal, and then intervening in the process whereby the Japanese sought to come to terms with the war, fostering the notion that the people had been deceived, that they were victims --well, many Japanese people then drew the conclusion that the war that we fought had been just what the Japanese propaganda had said it was, a war for self-preservation and self-defense.

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