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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japan and Italy, New Victims of Cold Wars End

The Soviet regime in Russia and the rest of the old Communist empire are not the only victims of this turbulent new world which follows the long stability of the Cold War.


The remarkably similar political crises in Italy and Japan represent the collapse of Cold War structures in the West. Each country was developed with U. S. support as a one-party state, and the voters accepted the diminution of democracy this involved, so long as the good times lasted economically, and the Communist threat could be made real.


The combination of the Soviet collapse and the West's recession has pulled the rug from underneath the corrupt and complacent politicians in Rome and Tokyo. The Christian Democrat's 40-year dominance of Italian politics, and the Liberal Democratic Party's monopoly of post-war Japan have both ended with leading politicians in prison, long lists of bribes and corrupt payments, and a political vacuum that new parties struggle to fill.


Superficially, Japan and Italy may have little in common. But they shared in the late 1940s and 1950s sizeable Communist parties and importan strategic positions that made their political stability and reliability into a national security priority for the American ally.


They were both children of the Cold War, and of the new institutions of national security it established in the United States. On Dec. 19, 1947, the first of them, the National Security Council, held its first meeting in Washington, and decided to use the equally new Central Intelligence Agency to run covert operations in Europe.


One of the first directives passed that day ordered Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoeter, the new Director of Central Intelligence, to use covert methods to prevent a Communist electoral victory in Italy. Methods used included propaganda, disinformation, secret payments to non-Communist political parties, public threats to withhold U. S. aid from a Communist government, and special training and equipment for the Italian armed forces.


In Japan after 1945, the sweeping authority granted to the American occupying forces under General Douglas MacArthur forestalled any serious chance of a Communist victory. More that $3. 3 billion (in 1950 dollars) was pumped into rebuilding Japanese industry by the Pentagon. In building up Japan as an industrial base for the Korean War, the Pentagon financed the basis for the Japanese economic miracle.


Back in the heady days of glasnost, Georgy Arbatov, head of the U. S. A. and Canada Institute once told me: "We are going to do to you the worst thing we possibly could -- we are going to take your enemy away". It was a prophetic remark, as we watch the West's political systems begin to crumble now that the Cold War glue has dried up and blown away.