The differences between the US occupations of Japan and Iraq are suggestive. The US fought Japan in an exhausting war and had every reason to hate its government. Democratic America detested Japanese monarchy. The Western Christians were xenophobic about odd customs of the Japanese. Yet the US was wise to change none of that.

America strengthened the very Japanese institutions that underpinned the war and eliminated only the Japanese army, the direct threat. Then the US used those institutions to change the Japanese outlook from within. The mid-term result was hugely successful: Japanese ambitions were channeled into the economy and the economy, directed outward. Long-term changes in mentality are unlikely, and Japanese imperialism will resurface, reinforced by economic success. Hardly any policy, however, could produce more than mid-term results.

Contrast the American policy in Iraq. The US destroyed institutions like the strong government and police which cemented multi-ethnic, religiously diverse Iraq. Reforming a failed state is impossible; only strong states survive reforms. America made the situation still worse by directly enforcing the law and pushing for unwelcome political changes, like democracy and Westernization. No people accept a new ideology force-fed by hostile outsiders. They fight or, at best, are contemptuously passive. Once the occupation force withdraws, locals will repair to the old values in their most extreme form. People will firmly connect the resistance fighters with the idealized old values, and raise them to power.

America could follow the Japan example in nuclear Egypt, Iran, and North Korea. Each still has a strong security apparatus and a reasonably contented population. America may conquer their capitals install acceptable rulers without damaging the security framework, and have the new rulers brainwash their citizens with a local variety of Western ideology, from schools to mass media. Ataturk was almost alone when he started secularizing Turkey. Totalitarian governments plus Western ideology could solve the problem of nuclear rogue states.