Research

Book Manuscript: Cold War Democracy: The United States and Japan, 1945 – 1963

Under Review with Harvard University Press

My current book project, entitled Cold War Democracy: The United States and Japan, 1945 – 1963, offers a new interpretation of the alliance between the United States and Japan, and of the broader Cold War in Asia. It explores the creation and evolution of this alliance from 1950 to 1965, which covers the end of the U.S. occupation to Japan’s economic rebirth. Cold War Democracy challenges two key narratives that have long dominated public and scholarly understandings of the U.S.-Japanese relationship. The first claims that the U.S. and Japan developed a harmonious “partnership” based on a mutual commitment to democracy, a commitment that stemmed from the instillation of American democratic values during the occupation (1945-1952). The second narrative claims that with the rise of the Cold War, U.S. policymakers ceased to care about Japanese democracy and instead turned their attention to Cold War security. Democracy, in this narrative, played no significant role in the evolution of this alliance beyond the early years of occupation.

In Cold War Democracy, I argue that both of these narratives fundamentally misread the role of democracy in this relationship. For diverse reasons, ranging from Cold War propaganda to popular mobilization to a genuine democratic embrace, both Americans and Japanese continued to value Japanese democracy long after the end of the occupation. Yet they did not always value democracy for the same reasons. Democracy, as both an idea and as a political system, was not simply a shared foundation; it was also a primary source of disagreement and tension in this alliance, as different groups developed different definitions of democratic values, politics, and goals. My research therefore examines the U.S.-Japanese relationship through competing visions of democracy. It utilizes both American and Japanese archival sources to examine how American and Japanese actors understood, mobilized, and contested Japanese democracy in the years following the U.S. occupation of Japan. By placing these democratic tensions at the center, this project uncovers the compromises, negotiations, and protests that fundamentally shaped the U.S.-Japanese relationship.

Each chapter of this project analyzes how U.S.-Japanese policymaking intersected with intense debates over Japan’s postwar democracy. For example, the United States and Japan emerged from war and occupation with different ideas about the role of military force in a democratic system. While American policymakers saw the military as a force for positive social and political change at home and abroad, many Japanese argued that military power was no longer a legitimate exercise of the democratic state. Democracy, they argued, was an inherently non-violent system, and Japan’s own experiences under a militarist wartime leadership meant that democracy and military power could not coexist. These different interpretations deeply shaped the expectations for development of Japan’s postwar military, a military that the United States funded, trained, and armed, but that was subject to Japanese laws and sovereignty. Other chapters explore issues like the end of the occupation and the nature of reconciliation and peace, U.S. attempts to mobilize Japanese democracy in the service of the Cold War through programs of intellectual, cultural, academic, and labor exchange, and the 1960 protests against the renegotiation of the U.S.-Japan security treaty, the largest protests in Japanese history. This research examines the interplay between state and non-state actors, including American policymakers, military leaders, labor activists, philanthropic foundations, and academics, and Japanese government actors, intellectuals, and labor, student, and anti-base activists. Ultimately, Cold War Democracy examines how Japan’s “postwar democracy” developed through both collaborations and disagreement between the United States and Japan.

Portions of this research have been published elsewhere:

Jennifer M. Miller, “Fractured Alliance: Anti-Base Protests and Postwar U.S.-Japanese Relations.” Diplomatic History 38:5 (November 2014): 953 – 986 [doi: 10.1093/dh/dht122].

Jennifer M. Miller, “The Struggle to Rearm Japan: Negotiating the Cold War State in U.S.-Japanese Relations,” Journal of Contemporary History 46:1 (January 2011): 82 – 108.

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