IS GENERAL MacARTHUR TO BLAME?
BLAIR FRASER REPORTS FROM TOKYO
EVEN BEFORE the Korean disasters of December, General Douglas MacArthur was the most controversial figure in the Western world. By some Americans he was and is idolized. By others he is disliked, distrusted, feared.
Other governments, including our own, seem to share this latter view. Policy speeches by the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lester B. Pearson, have named no names, but they’re all strenuously against most of the fundamental courses MacArthur advocates. Britain’s Secretary for War Emanuel Shinwell has openly charged that MacArthur went beyond “what Britain understood to be the objective” in Korea with calamitous results. In India Prime Minister Nehru explained his reluctance to take any part in the Korean affair by saying, among other things, “our people don’t like General MacArthur.” Thus MacArthur is a focus of division not only between the Soviet bloc and the freti world, which would go without saying, but within the free world itself.
All this lends new importance to an old question: What sort of man is Douglas MacArthur?
MacArthur’s own stamping ground, from which I have just returned, is not the best place to find a balanced answer. Within the precincts of SCAP (Supreme Command, Allied Powers) MacArthur is a godlike figure without flaw, blemish or body temperature. Outside the big doors of the Dai-Ichi Building, MacArthur’s Tokyo headquarters, you find a natural reaction to the other extreme. Thus the Supreme Commander sometimes appears not as a demigod but as a vain old man, his posturing comic, his reverent disciples contempt ible.
From both groups, the worshippers and the scoffers, MacArthur himself is about equally remote. Even among insiders few people have easy access to him. Outsiders have none. There’s a saying in Tokyo: “On a clear day you can see Mount Fuji, and on a very clear day you might see MacArthur.”
That’s not literally true, of course. Anybody can see MacArthur, four times a day. All you have to do is stand on the sidewalk outside the Dai-Ichi Building to watch his entrances and exits. It’s quite a sight and its effect on the beholder depends on the beholder’s own prejudices.
Many people are impressed by the little ceremony that marks every public movement of the Supreme Commander. Long before he arrives you can tell he’s coming by the concentration of Japanese police in the neighborhood. They stand looking at each other nervously, waiting for the first whistle that’s relayed down the street as his Cadillac comes into view.
Whistles then break out in all directions. Traffic is stopped for two blocks. The big black car rolls up on the wrong side of the street; the honor guard of picked American soldiers snaps to attention facing inward, while two parallel lines of Japanese constables face outward. The car door opens; the aide and the honor guard salute. The Supreme Commander emerges, salutes off-handedly as he strides across the sidewalk without a look to either side.
Even his physical appearance strikes different people in different ways. MacArthur is 70, but you could give an accurate description that would sound as his photographs look, a hale and vigorous 40 —tall, spare, erect, the broad shoulders squarely filling the regulation army shirt, the profile stern but strong. Only an unfriendly observer would note the slightly sagging paunch, the stringy muscles around the throat, and perhaps sourly concede that the old man doesn’t look a day over 65.
When it comes to estimating what he has done, what his stature in history may be, it’s even harder to form an opinion. The MacArthur who so grossly misjudged the strength of the Chinese Communists in December is the same MacArthur who, in September, ordered the Inchon landing against the advice of all his staff officers. That brilliant manoeuvre changed the whole course of the campaign, turned apparent defeat into apparent victory. These things will have to be weighed much later than now.
But we have another yardstick to measure him by—his virtually completed work as Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in the five-year occupation of Japan. Here are tangible, durable achievements a civilian can understand. If it’s difficult even here to make an unbiased judgment, that’s partly MacArthur’s own fault. Back in 1947, after the first Japanese
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Respected and admired, feared and hated, MacArthur stands remote and stern at the bar of world opinion. Did he bungle in Korea? Has he worked a miracle in Japan? Whatever the eventual answers, Douglas MacArthur remains the most controversial figure in the Western
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election, a junior official of SCAP was assigned to write a report on it. He worked for several months, finally completed a report which on balance was favorable (it really was a good election, everyone agrees) but which did point out certain flaws.
For several days there was silence. Then he was summoned to the office of a SCAP general, one of MacArthur’s inner circle.
“This report of yours is a little harsh,” the general said. “I think we’d better tone it down in places.”
“I don’t think it’s harsh, sir,” the young man said. “On balance it’s very favorable. But I was told to get the facts and here they are. This is the truth.”
“Son, in my experience I’ve found there are two kinds of truths,” said the general. “There are good truths and bad truths. The bad truths are the kind your enemies can use against you.”
MacArthur’s aides and scribes, if not MacArthur himself, have done his name a disservice by magnifying the good truths, denying or ignoring the rest. It’s natural for the unconverted to seize upon the bad truths, the “inside story” which becomes, by implication, the true and the whole story.
It isn’t, of course. Unquestionably the good truths about MacArthur’s administration outnumber and outweigh the bad truths. SCAP really has done» a remarkable job.
No defeated enemy has ever been treated so generously as the Japanese, and the effect is plain to see. In spite of Hiroshima, in spite of the fire-bomb raids which leveled Tokyo, in spite of
the hunger and poverty still present in Japan, there is a remarkable lack of bitterness between these ex-enemies.
MacArthur did not originate that enlightened policy but he did advocate it and he did execute it with competence. Since 1945 the United States has poured $2 billions of direct dollar aid into Japan. MacArthur has directed the spending of it.
It’s true, as Japanese like to point out, that the cost of the occupation itself has come out of their national budget and on paper is roughly equal to the total of American aid. It is not true, as they imply, that Japan has done no more than break even. Most of the so-called “occupation costs” have been devoted to useful public services.
A Democracy in Dictatorship
SCAP looks after the defense of Japan—a penalty in a sense, but a relief from the biggest single item in most national budgets.
SCAP provides a better public health service than any Japanese government ever gave its people. Smallpox, epidemic in 1945, has been almost wiped out, diphtheria and dysentery and typhoid cut by more than 80% the TB death rate by one third.
SCAP devised and ordered a land reform which broke the Japanese feudal system and gave new freedom to the 70% of Japanese farmers who used to rent their land at exorbitant rates.
SCAP has imposed on Japan a “superbalanced” budget by which the country not only pays its way but devotes large surpluses to debt retirement. The Japanese don’t like this “Dodge Plan” (worked out and enforced by Dr. Joseph Dodge, a Detroit banker) because they think it puts an intolerable tax burden on a very poor
people. Nevertheless it has done them the service of arresting inflation.
However, the Dodge Plan does illustrate one of the anomalies of the occupation. Dodge has power to dictate the Japanese budgets—“Strictly speaking I’m just a technical adviser,” he told me with a disarming grin, “but they usually take my advice.” In other words (and in other ways, too) Japan is trying to establish a free democracy under the dictation of a foreign supreme command.
This anomaly was quite unavoidable. No one would have suggested that the conquered Japanese be given a free hand to do as they liked with U. S. dollar aid. But neither SCAP nor MacArthur himself has been able to escape all the vices dictatorship engenders, nor the odium it deserves.
One of the Tokyo Press Club’s favorite stories concerns an American reporter who, a couple of years ago, wrote some pieces criticizing MacArthur’s rule. It’s against the law to give any military supplies to “indigenous personnel” (army jargon for Japanese). SCAP policemen searched this reporter’s house without finding anything, then searched the home of his maid’s parents 100 miles away. They found an old torn khaki shirt and an empty toothpaste tube.
Summoned to GHQ the culprit faced a roomful of junior generals. They pointed to the evidence, reminded him that this breach of rules could be punished by a prison term.
The correspondent drew himself up to his full height, and delivered this enviable sentence: “Lackeys, you may return to your supreme master and tell him I shall be proud and happy to go to prison for giving a torn shirt to an old and faithful servant.”
Needless to say he did not go to jail. The story proves two things: (1) that dictatorial powers encourage bad mental attitudes; but (2) that it is difficult to dictate successfully to the American Press.
Does Loyalty Come First?
Japanese have no such recourse and have had some bewildering experiences. One problem is to tell the difference between a SCAP “order” and a SCAP “suggestion.” SCAP is fond of such phrases as “we see no objection,” or “we think it would be advisable.” When the suggested course turns out badly SCAP can, and does, disclaim any responsibility for it.
One day last summer SCAP called a meeting of Japanese publishers to talk about purging Communists and fellow - travelers from the Japanese Press. As a result of that meeting 270 journalists lost their jobs. When the matter was queried in the Japanese Parliament the Government denied any part in it—it was the responsibility of the publishers. One publisher I met confirmed this, said he hadn’t been ordered to fire anybody but merely reassured of his right to do so under the labor law. But most Japanese newspapermen, fairly or unfairly, put the onus on MacArthur’s men.
The onus is considerable, because some of the victims were not Communists at all. One was a respected editor of somewhat conservative views. He had been writing editorials in favor of Japanese neutrality (which MacArthur also advocated before the Korean War) and against a peace treaty which would exclude the Russians. His demotion fnay have been pure coincidence, or the work of some private enemy (Japanese are not above passing the buck to SCAP when they can), but it is a fact that SCAP didn’t like his editorial line.
Just who is SCAP, though? Is
MacArthur personally responsible for all these sins and shortcomings?
Of course not. Nine times out of 10, SCAP is nobody but the subordinate official in charge of some particular section or project. But MacArthur quite rightly gets the credit for the good things SCAP has done, and a very impressive record it is. To the same extent he gets the blame for the bad.
That’s true of any leader. In MacArthur’s case there is an added, special reason to hold him responsible for both the virtues and the faults of his regime. Its top layer is composed of men personally loyal to him, loyal to the point of adulation. That is a very important reason why they’re there.
“Doglike devotion is the one indispensable quality for a top job in SCAP,” said a man who has had many dealings with the Supreme Command.
He was speaking of the civilian activities of MacArthur’s regime, which he knows intimately. Neither of us knew anything about the military side. But as a matter of pure inference, it may be supposed that this emphasis on personal loyalty would have similar effects in both fields.
Once the 38th parallel had been crossed without provoking a Chinese attack MacArthur concluded that the Chinese were bluffing. They weren’t coming in at all. When a few weeks later they did come in his intelligence i officers seemed very reluctant to admit I the fact that MacArthur had been wrong. All the early estimates of Chinese strength in Korea were fantastically low, judged by the test of battle.
“MacArthur said the Chinese wouldn’t come in, so they aren’t there,” one cynical correspondent remarked. “Like the farmer with the giraffe— there ain’t no such animal.”
That inference may have been wholly untrue. For all either of us knew the evident defects of Intelligence may have been due to ordinary and purely military causes. But MacArthur does lay himself open to the suspicion of posing as infallible.
Shortly before the American Thanksgiving a ft-iend of mine was touring a hospital in Tokyo. She noticed a Thanksgiving tableau set up by Japanese patients—a sort of triumphal arch surrounding a portrait of the Supreme Commander, with the legend: “We are thankful to General MacArthur.”
My friend turned to the young public information officer who was conducting her. “Do you mean to tell me,” she asked, “that we’re teaching the Japs to offer prayers of thanks to MacArthur?”
“I am sorry, but I cannot discuss the Supreme Commander,” the subaltern replied stiffly.
Some people tell you MacArthur’s imperial attitudes make a great impression on the Japanese; accustomed to wo ship their Emperor, they bow readily to a new supreme power.
MacArthur could do his country and J the free world no greater service than j to win over the Japanese people to firm friendship and alliance.
If MacArthur has won them over as he believes that is a victory beside which any defeats in Korea become insignificant. But has he done it?
Among the Japanese I met not one I uttered a word of criticism of General | MacArthur. They seemed grateful to him, as indeed they have reason to be. One, a Japanese Christian woman of great intelligence and charm, told me ; a long story about a famous Japanese : artisan who worked in lacquer. He | had been obsessed with fear and hatred ; of the American conqueror, but the fear j and the hatred melted when G.I.’s of the occupation force gave his child a piece of chocolate.
In his gratitude the artisan made for MacArthur a beautiful lacquered box in which to keep his Bible. The Supreme Commander does not as a rule accept presents, but in this case the donor was so insistent, the gift at once so beautiful and so small, that he made an exception.
There are many such stories, and no reason to doubt them. But the Japanese are a shrewd people, well able to see the contrast between democratic theory and autocratic paractice.
I thought 1 could detect a certain amusement, a certain contemptuous tolerance in some of them.
Certainly they are not likely to let gratitude obscure their view of Japan’s own national interest. SCAP officials today are full of the idea that Japan must be rearmed. One of MacArthur’s senior generals expounded this to me at some length: “We need 50 divisions out here and where else can we get them?”
Unfortunately the Japanese (like the Germans) don’t want to be rearmed. They are sitting pretty now. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (approved and in large part dictated by SCAP) says: “Land, sea and air forces . . .
will never be maintained. The right of belligerence of the state will not he recognized.”
Prime Minister Yoshida, questioned last month about Japanese rearming, said, “I accept and abide by our constitution.”
Another Japanese, of long experience in both hemispheres, put it to me even more frankly: “What good would it
do us to support an army and a navy? If the Russians are crazy enough to put their major strength in the east then Japan is finished anyway—we couldn’t possibly raise a big enough force to stop them. If not, we are in no great danger. The American Navy and Air Force will protect us quite adequately.”
He had another reason, more palatable to a westerner: “If we revive
our army and navy now we’re afraid of the result. This power could be abused. We don’t want to put our own militarists back in the saddle.”
I heard this thought expressed often, in other terms and contexts. The Japanese tell you repeatedly that they don’t want to return to their own prewar system or anything like it, that they prefer democracy.
Suppliance Wins Supplies
Certainly democracy, even the limited form of democracy that MacArthur has been able to give them, has had an impact on the Japanese people. While I was in Tokyo the finals were played for the Japanese baseball championship. After the game the coach of the losing team came up to a Japanese friend who’d gone to Harvard.
“You’ve been to the States,” he said. “Maybe you can explain to me this democracy. I can’t understand it.”
“What’s your problem?” said the Harvard man.
“In that last inning I sent a man in to bat and I told him to bunt,” the coach explained. “Instead of bunting he took a swing at it—hit right into a double play.
“After the game I started to bawl him out and d’you know what he said/ He said, ‘You can’t go ordering me around any more; this is a free democracy now.’
In a way that’s encouraging, 1 suppose; in another way it isn’t. Some months ago Robert Guillain, correspondent for Le Monde in Paris, interviewed the aged conqueror of Manchuria, General Araki. Said the general :
“Democracy in Japan will be tricked
by the words that translate it into Japanese. Liberalism is written in Japanese with ideograms that mean, word for word: ‘To do as I like.’
Democracy? We read: ‘The lower carries the day over the higher.’ That is how the new regime runs the risk of being, in the minds of the Japanese, just a translation—in other words a betrayal, in which liberalism will mean egoism, democracy indiscipline, and liberty license.”
I can add a small footnote to that glum thesis. I had dinner one night with a group of Japanese, one of whom had been a prisoner of war in Russia for two and a half years. I asked how they treated him. He said okay.
“Of course,” he went on, “we soon found out how to please the Russians. First we asked for Communist literature and read it. Then we put up pictures of Lenin and Stalin and big signs like ‘Down with capitalist imperialism’ and ‘We want a people’s democracy for Japan.’ The Russians thought we were converts. They increased our rations and gave us all kinds of privileges.”
He paused and giggled. “You know, the minute we sailed for home, the very night our ship left Vladivostok, we tore up all that rubbish and threw it overboard.”
During the rest of the evening he explained to me how much the Japanese people like democracy and how they admire General MacArthur. ★