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Thread: Germany 1945-1949: a case study in post-conflict reconstruction

  1. #1
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Mar 2006

    Default Germany 1945-1949: a case study in post-conflict reconstruction

    A short paper from the UK-based History & Politics group. There are many threads that appear to cover post-conflict / reconstruction, but none from the post-war period.


    The Executive Summary:
    British and American occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that ‘regime change’ and victory in war do not necessarily lead to the establishment of stable and prosperous democracies, as was the case in the Allied occupations of West Germany and Japan after the Second World War.

    British experiences in post- war Germany, 1945-1949, highlight some general principles which are relevant today: what happens after the war is won can be more important than the war itself. As Field-Marshal Montgomery said in a message to his troops on Victory in Europe (VE) Day, 8 May 1945, ‘We have won the German war. Let us now win the peace.’

    Restrictive measures to prevent future aggression need to be complemented by positive reconstructive measures so that the occupied can see their own efforts are rewarded. Giving the Germans ‘hope for the future’ was one of Montgomery’s favourite phrases.

    There is a limit to how much preparation can be done in advance because it is impossible to predict actual circumstances on the ground. Therefore military commanders and civilian authorities need to respond flexibly in light of what they encounter.

    Democracy cannot be imposed by force or by totalitarian means. Trying to make local people do everything the victor’s way can be counter-productive. If political structures are to last beyond the occupation, they have to be created by local political leaders and accepted by the population as a whole.

    Personal relationships between occupier and occupied are important. Reconciliation does not happen automatically, but requires a conscious effort on both sides.

  2. #2
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    May 2009
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    Examinations of comparative reconstruction policies cannot treat the policies of the occupier as the only or even the most important variable. The nature of the occupied society makes at least as much difference as the policies of the occupying power. The same qualities that made Germany and Japan formidable opponents in war also made them ideal candidates for reconstruction, just as the same qualities that made Iraq and Afghanistan ineffective at war imposed enormous difficulties on reconstruction policy.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

  3. #3
    Council Member
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    Default Occupations, Military Governments, Etc.

    from Dayuhan
    The nature of the occupied society makes at least as much difference as the policies of the occupying power.
    IMO: The nature of the occupied society is paramount. The occupier who recognizes that nature for what it is (as opposed to what the occupier wants it to be) might see "success" and the "light at the end of the tunnel".

    The cases of Germany and Japan were quite different. In Japan, we had MacArthur, who was/became a liberal democrat of the reform persuasion (one of his many contradictions); and a Japanese government and society who were willing to play the same role.

    David's cited piece, Germany 1945-1949: a case study in post-conflict reconstruction (by Christopher Knowles, January 2014), cites as a reference: Dower, Don't expect democracy this time: Japan and Iraq (April 2003). The latter was prescient in its conclusion:

    I have no doubt that huge numbers of Iraqis would welcome the end of repression and establishment of a democratic society, but any number of considerations make the situation there very different than it was in Japan. Apart from lacking the moral legitimacy and internal and global support that buttressed its occupation of Japan, the United States is not in the business of nation-building any more - just look at Afghanistan. And we certainly are not in the business of promoting radical democratic reform. Even liberal ideals are anathema in the conservative circles that shape U.S. policy today. And beyond this, many of the conditions that contributed to the success of the occupation of Japan are simply absent in Iraq.
    although given Dower's apparent political slant, it wasn't difficult for him to reach that conclusion.

    Our German occupation was first marked by Henry Morganthau's Plan, which called for turning Germany into a "desert" (in the archaic sense of that word meaning a "sparsely populated, pastoral state") and calling it peace. That plan was scuppered by two people, Lucius D Clay and James F Byrnes in 1946. The resultant "Restatement of Policy on Germany" recognized the realities of the German situation; and eventually put paid to the farce of the WWII "Allies" "co-operating" in Germany and Austria (e.g., the "Third Man" as a portrait of the times in 1946).

    Re: SWC threads, The Curmudgeon's Military Governance versus Stability Operations has links to much of the post-WWII US doctrine and practice regarding military government. Whatever was learned in WWII and its aftermath was unlearned by 2001.


    Last edited by jmm99; 03-15-2014 at 02:53 PM.

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