A quote to live by in postwar environments
General Douglas MacArthur owns a mixed legacy as a military commander, but he presided over one of the most successful postwar occupations in modern history. His role as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers-Pacific placed him atop the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Allied occupation in Japan from August 1945 to April 1951. During those six years, occupation authorities successfully oversaw the liberalization of Japanese society and the restructuring of Japan's governmental and legal system to one that has remained in place to this day.
Though not without its failures, the many successes of the Allied occupation lie in a basic philosophy that the GHQ submitted under MacArthur's hand to the War Department in Febuary 1947:
There is a popular misconception that the achievement of victory in modern war...is solely dependent in the field. History itself clearly refutes this concept. It offers unmistakable proof that the human impulses which generated the will to war, no less than the material sinews of war, must be destroyed. Nor is it sufficient that such human impulses merely yield to the temporary shock of military defeat. There must be a complete spiritual reformation such as will not only control the defeated generation, but will exert a dominant influence upon the generation to follow as well. Unless this is done, victory is but partially complete…The great lesson and warning of experience is that victorious leaders of the past have too often contented themselves with the infliction of military defeat upon the enemy power without extending that victory by dealing with the root causes which led to war as an inevitable consequence.
To understand why this quote is so meaningful, it is helpful to break it down to each of its core messages.
...the human impulses which generated the will to war, no less than the material sinews of war, must be destroyed.
This is important because to establish peace in a postwar environment, one must not only eliminate the means (i.e. the tools and weapons of war), but the motive for perpetrating violence. Both are given equal importance because a disarmed society may eventually rearm once more, but a reformed society will see no need to use them in belligerent ways.
There must be a complete spiritual reformation such as will not only control the defeated generation, but will exert a dominant influence upon the generation to follow as well.
Here, the GHQ noted the importance of building postwar policies that can positively influence the younger generation. For the GHQ in Japan, this meant education reform and institution of liberal values (freedom of speech, right to unionize, universal suffrage, etc.). This portion of the quote and the GHQ's corresponding policies represent the depth of reform necessary to ensure that the cessation of hostilities is solidly rooted and not just a passing nuisance for parties who would otherwise choose violence over peace. ...leaders of the past have too often contented themselves with the infliction of military defeat upon the enemy power without extending that victory by dealing with the root causes which led to war as an inevitable consequence. There are two important takeaways from this section of the quote. The first relates to the concept of a negative peace vice a positive peace. Although there was no term for it in 1947, we now use "negative peace" and "positive peace" to describe the difference between the mere absence of war and the existence of relationships, linkages, and conditions which would render the use of military force an untenable option for resolving conflict or achieving policy aims. The immediate postwar setting is one of a negative peace, and the goal, as the GHQ alludes to here, is to evolve the environment to one of a positive peace. The second concept is that of endogenous vice exogenous objectives of war. Exogenous aims are those that may contribute to conflict but are not necessarily central to the prosecution of warfare. Endogenous objectives are those that are specific to the war or a militarized interstate dispute. Put simply, the difference between the exogenous and endogenous objectives are those things that might get two states into a fight compared to the goals they have once they are in the fight. What the GHQ was saying here is that for a true peace to exist, postwar policies must resolve the exogenous objectives that contributed to the war.
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This quote offers a few important takeaways for those seeking to implement postwar policies that foster a lasting peace:
1) It is important to remove both the means and the motive for the perpetration of violence.
2) Postwar policies must institute reforms that are enduring and reach the next generation.
3) Postwar policies must seek to advance the setting beyond a negative peace to one of a positive peace.
4) To secure a lasting peace, postwar authorities must seek to resolve the political and ideological objectives that led to war in the first place.
GEN Douglas MacArthur exits the GHQ Headquarters (Daiichi Seimei building) in Tokyo