History,  International

Pacific War: Americans to Blame

Eri Hotta, writing in the Guardian, explains that the road to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941 and the subsequent entry of the US into the Second World War was at least partially caused by the actions of “an arrogant and conceited power” She explains further:

 Japan’s military thrust into southeast Asia led President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration to impose sanctions. The US froze Japanese assets, an example followed by Britain and the Dutch East Indies. When Japan responded by taking over southern French Indochina, the US retaliated by imposing an embargo on oil exports to Japan. Rather than telling Japan that the US was determined to search for a diplomatic solution, America’s categorical reaction confirmed it to the Japanese as an arrogant and conceited enemy. Moreover, by transferring its Pacific fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, the US encouraged the Japanese understanding that the US fully anticipated war with Japan.

 In other words by imposing an oil embargo on a demonstratively expansionist power under the political control of aggressive Generals as opposed to engaging in further political diplomacy the US hastened the Pacific War!

 One has to wonder what the correct diplomatic solution to the state that was responsible for the 1937 Rape of Nanjing  should have been. Here are some of the details:

 The elimination of the Chinese POWs began after they were transported by trucks to remote locations on the outskirts of Nanking. As soon as they were assembled, the savagery began, with young Japanese soldiers encouraged by their superiors to inflict maximum pain and suffering upon individual POWs as a way of toughening themselves up for future battles, and also to eradicate any civilized notions of mercy. Filmed footage and still photographs taken by the Japanese themselves document the brutality. Smiling soldiers can be seen conducting bayonet practice on live prisoners, decapitating them and displaying severed heads as souvenirs, and proudly standing among mutilated corpses. Some of the Chinese POWs were simply mowed down by machine-gun fire while others were tied-up, soaked with gasoline and burned alive.

After the destruction of the POWs, the soldiers turned their attention to the women of Nanking and an outright animalistic hunt ensued. Old women over the age of 70 as well as little girls under the age of 8 were dragged off to be sexually abused. More than 20,000 females (with some estimates as high as 80,000) were gang-raped by Japanese soldiers, then stabbed to death with bayonets or shot so they could never bear witness.

Pregnant women were not spared. In several instances, they were raped, then had their bellies slit open and the fetuses torn out. Sometimes, after storming into a house and encountering a whole family, the Japanese forced Chinese men to rape their own daughters, sons to rape their mothers, and brothers their sisters, while the rest of the family was made to watch.

Sanctions might be considered a fairly mild response to the ruling cabal which sanctioned brutalities like these in a neighbouring country, might they not?

Unfortunately for her, thesis Hotta’s article unwittingly reminds us of yet another reason why diplomacy might not have been the most fruitful strategy the US could have pursued against Japan. Here she highlights the delusional nature of Japanese government assumptions at the time:

It was ultimately in the name of saving Asia for all Asians from what was regarded as western arrogance that the government united to wage war.

Hmm. I wonder what the surviving citizens of Nanjing think of that self-deluding and see-through excuse for naked imperialism.

Worse than that, the author can’t resist drawing quite frankly laughable ‘lessons’ for today from her flawed understanding of history:

With almost 70 years of hindsight, Pearl Harbor should offer some lessons for US foreign policy today. Despite obvious differences between Pearl Harbor and recent Islamist terrorist tactics, they show the common desire of self-proclaimed Davids to topple their Goliaths in a clearly lop-sided battle. These Davids depend on western technologies to overcome imbalances of power, and are driven by a sense of real or imagined humiliation.

Oh dear God.

The only lesson we can draw from this article is the opposite the one the author appears to want us to.  Treating militaristic ideologies (state sanctioned or not) whose practice and ideology involves rationales for genocide – as “humiliated” actors in a political drama that acts of diplomacy are able to “resolve” – is at the very least, symptomatic of a dangerous and demonstrable naivety.

Where does the Guardian get this never-ending supply of ‘understanders’ from?

David T adds:

Apparently, Eri Hotta is the wife of liberal Anglo-Dutch intellectual, Ian Buruma:

Last year he married another Japanese woman, Eri Hotta, 20 years his junior. They met after he gave a talk at Oxford, where Hotta was a doctoral student in international relations. They have a 16-month-old daughter, Josephine, and speak mostly Japanese at home.

In his 1996 collection of essays The Missionary and the Libertine, Buruma explores the stereotype of liberated sexuality for which Westerners have traditionally looked to the Orient.

Is this sort of apologia for genocidal Japanese imperialism common among liberal-ish Japanese intellectuals, do you know?