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Occupational Hazards: The Occupations of Japan and Iraq


with Al Zelver

author, army intelligence officer, World War II

Zelver served in army intelligence in World War II in the China-Burma-India Theater. When the war ended he was flown from China to Tokyo where he served, as a Japanese language officer, in the Allied Translator and Interpreter Service in the occupation of Japan. There Zelver witnessed a successful regime change from a military oligarchy to a democracy with a constitution that renounced war. In contrast, Iraq’s occupation lead to a destabilized region that made suicide bombings and roadside improvised explosive devices the new norm. Zelver explores the circumstantial, cultural, historical, and religious differences that set the stage for these very different outcomes. His study reveals that while it is not possible to forecast whether an occupation will succeed, it is possible to tell with near certainty that one—like Iraq’s—will fail.