Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 August 2010
In the aftermath of traumatic conflict, erstwhile adversaries Germany and Poland have made significant progress toward deep reconciliation, whereas China and Japan remain politically and emotionally alienated. Having examined these two cases with different reconciliation outcomes, this book concludes that a history of conflict does not doom states to future conflict. Instead, how the memory of the conflict is constructed and manipulated largely shapes the likelihood of reconciliation. Elite mythmaking of national history to fulfill immediate practical goals can bring about substantial divergence between the memories of former adversaries and spur both mutual perception of hostile intentions and virulent popular emotions. Although international structural incentives are instrumental in scrapping certain barriers to intergovernmental cooperation, without curbing pernicious historical myths and fostering bilateral historiographic convergence, a state of deep trust and harmony between former combatant governments and their corresponding societies will not truly arise.
This conclusion is borne out by the testing of realist theory and national mythmaking theory against the cases of post–WWII Sino-Japanese and German-Polish relations in the previous chapters. As illustrated in Table 7.1, the predictions of realist theory fit the reconciliation outcomes in only half of the total of eight subcases. It is true that a certain degree of compatibility between states' security interests is useful to enable the reconciliation process. Even in the European case, the trend of historical settlement did not appear until East-West détente created a more relaxed external environment for the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and Poland to develop formal contacts.