Bush said that Presidents Roosevelt and Truman “understood that the sacrifices of Allied forces would mean nothing unless we used our victory to help the Japanese people transform their nation from tyranny to freedom.”

“There were many doubters,” Bush said. “American and Japanese experts claimed that the Japanese weren’t ready for democracy.” ~The Los Angeles Times

There may very well have been those who doubted that the Japanese were “ready for democracy,” but these were probably the poorly educated ancestors of the same ignoramuses who now believe that Iraq is Japan redux. Anyone familiar with pre-war Japanese politics in the 1940s and anyone today familiar with Japanese history would know that the Japanese had a moderately successful experience with constitutional monarchy combined with significant representative government starting from the adoption of the Meiji Constitution in 1890 until at least the mid 1920s when the army effectively took much of the real power in the early Showa period (the Diet remained in existence, however, even if its influence was much reduced). That is over thirty years more of experience than any Iraqi has ever had.

Those only familiar with History Channel replays of the same ten film reels of Hirohito in uniform riding on his horse might make the mistake of thinking that there was only authoritarianism in Japanese political history. This is not to pretend that the Japanese experience with representative government was ideal or necessarily even very well adapted to Japanese society, but the Japanese did have ongoing practical experience with it for over a generation (much as the Germans had enjoyed for even longer) before wartime measures reduced the Diet to a rubber-stamp assembly. When the war ended and the Japanese (probably one of the most ethnically and culturally homogenous nations in the history of the world) were keen to rebuild their country and did not have some deep abiding cultural resistance to the forms of government we were demanding of them–they had seen them all before and had used them in some form.

Obviously, nothing remotely comparable happened in Iraq’s eighty years as a highly artificial, heterogenous, fractured state. Everything that made the Japanese post-war government a success (though one might ask whether there has been anything like real representative democracy in a country where the same party has ruled almost uninterruptedly for 60 years) is lacking in Iraq. All signs point to failure. When will Bush get it?

By implication, if Bush believes that our soldiers’ deaths in WWII would have been “meaningless” had democracy not taken root in Japan he also believes that our soldiers’ deaths in Iraq are meaningless if the political system does not succeed there. If we can be reasonably sure of the failure of the political project, as I believe we can, can we then admit that it has all been a colossal, horrific waste of life and bring our soldiers home?