This article appeared in the August 25, 1945 edition of The Nation.
Surrender hasn’t stopped Japan from resisting.
Amidst the general rejoicing over the surrender of Japan there has been an undercurrent of uneasiness in all the Allied countries. Although Domei dispatches report that great crowds gathered outside the Imperial Palace weeping unrestrainedly when the news of the surrender was disclosed, Japan’s actions have not been those of a nation which has accepted defeat. The Japanese government has consistently delayed the carrying out of MacArthur’s orders; Japanese planes repeatedly attacked Allied ships and bases after the Imperial cease-fire order; Japanese propagandists have been telling the people that they have had to bow to the material force of the Allies but that they did not lose the war "spiritually." In his rescript to the Japanese people, the Emperor boasted that the "structure of the Imperial state" had been saved and would be maintained. And in line with this boast, he appointed an arch-militarist, Higashi-Kuni, a prince of the royal line, to take over as Premier in place of the moderate Suzuki. None of the news from Japan tells of indignation against the leaders whose lust for power brought disaster to the country. Instead, the people are alleged to have given their approval to the view, expressed in various ways, that Japan would do better next time.
While a legitimate cause for uneasiness, the Japanese reaction should come as a surprise to no one. Japan did not suffer the overwhelming military defeat that Germany did. When the end finally came in Europe, the Nazis had lost all capacity for organized resistance. Japan, on the other hand, had not been invaded and the bulk of its army had never even come in contact with our forces. True, the navy had been destroyed, the air force rendered impotent, and vast industrial areas reduced to rubble. But conceivably Japan could have maintained resistance for many more months. Thus, it was inevitable that we should find the Japanese spirit relatively unbroken.
What the Japanese war lords may say in the first hours of defeat is not nearly as important as what kind of Japan we shall have one year or ten years from now. That will be determined largely by the wisdom and firmness of our occupation policies. In many respects the responsibilities of the occupying force are far heavier and its problems far more complicated than those faced by the Four Powers in Germany. Because Japan has not been physically vanquished in the sense that Germany has, it will be the duty of the occupying force to bring home the reality of defeat without resort to inhumanity. The task of taking possession of the Japanese islands and setting up an effective governing force will be arduous and delicate. And, as all the fuss over the Emperor indicates, we are woefully ignorant about Japanese psychology and the realities of Japan’s social and political structure.