The post-World War II U.S. occupation of Japan set conditions that continue to shape today’s dynamic Indo-Asia-Pacific security environment. Architects of Occupation: American Experts and the Planning for Postwar Japan, by historian Dayna L. Barnes, examines the wartime planning processes and resultant policy that enabled Japan’s postwar transformation into a stable international actor and strong U.S. ally. This well-researched contribution to World War II literature thematically explores the policymakers, strategic planners, think tanks, media players and networks that influenced postwar outcomes and set the stage for modern U.S. foreign policy. Though the strategic reader will appreciate this generally persuasive volume’s bureaucratic politics lens, some of the author’s arguments about policy maker influence are imperfectly reasoned.
In the November/December 2017 issue of Foreign Affairs, Kosh Sadat and Stanley McChrystal defended the ongoing state-building and counterinsurgency project in Afghanistan as both right and necessary. In doing so, however, they revived the fallacies that have long obscured problematic aspects of the US-led campaign in that country. Proponents of the open-ended commitments to Afghanistan have long misrepresented the governance and security issues in Afghanistan as merely technical, albeit complicated, and overstated the ability of American means to remedy such issues. Like others before them, Sadat and McChrystal have addressed neither the complex prerequisites to state building nor the consequences of ongoing American political ambivalence towards the war. Either one of these factors alone could derail US aims. The fact that both are present should give policymakers pause.