Friday, December 07, 2007

The Inscrutable Occidental

On this day, 7 December, in 1941, at dawn in Hawaii, the Japanese military engaged in a surgical strike against a US blockade. The rational Japanese mind could not begin to fathom the inscrutable Occidental response.

Beginning in the seventeenth century, Japan decided that it wanted to remain in an immutable stasis as an independent feudal state. To accomplish this, Japan closed itself off from gaijin. The emperor had issued a decree prohibiting gaijin ships from landing on the shores of Japan, and prohibiting gaijin from setting foot on Japanese soil. With the help of the Gods, the military enforced that order.

Until 1853, when the US Commodore Perry entered Tokyo harbour with four steamships.

Since the Japanese military could not prevent the American ships from landing, and since the Japanese Emperor’s decrees could not be violated, the Emperor decreed that US ships were allowed to land in Japan, US citizens were allowed to stand on Japanese soil, and Japan signed a treaty with the United States opening its ports.

At this point, since the US had ruled out Japan’s prospect of remaining an isolated feudal state, Japan decided to industrialize; however, Japan could not follow the US path to industrialization, since Japan lacked the necessary raw materials to even initiate industrialization. Japan found itself heavily dependent on foreign trade for sources of raw materials and markets for its finished products. The US proved very helpful, giving Japan access to raw materials and technology.

Japan prospered under industrialization. By the 1920s, pictures of Japanese cities resembled pictures of thriving Western cities (except for the Japanese characters). Japan celebrated the day when Commodore Perry arrived, and a grateful Japan sent a gift of cherry trees to grace the US capital. Americans were welcome in Japan.
Then, in 1930, the US blocked almost all world trade, putting 25% of the US workforce out of work, with similar consequences for the UK. Germany responded by abrogating the Treaty of Versailles and militarising.

The major Western countries didn’t seem to mind that their people were starving, but the Japanese leadership couldn’t let this happen, and, in searching for an answer, they stumbled upon the Monroe Doctrine. Sadly, they read the Spanish version, rather than the English version.

The English version of the Monroe Doctrine is that the US promised its full assistance to all of Latin American to prevent predation and recolonization by the European mercantile empires. The Spanish version is that the US demanded the droit de seigneur, the first rights to rape and pillage every Latin American country, turning the Latin American countryside into a land of feudal estates with Latin American serfs slaving for absent US feudal lords, and turning the Latin American cities into brothels.

So Japan put its people to work to liberate East Asia from all predators who were not East Asian, a liberation even more brutal than the Monroe Doctrine, as it is described by Latin Americans.

But the US and the UK had no intention of giving up their Chinese holdings, and the Japanese Navy was only 60% of the strength of the US Navy, and only 30% of the strength of the combined US-UK Navies.

However, the US and the UK had closed their factories. Their people were starving, but refused to work, instead standing in line for handouts. And, by December 1941, the UK were under seige from the Nazis, and were unable to send ships to protect their East Asian colonies and concessions.

As for the US, if the US people would not work to eat, they certainly would not work to build a Navy for the sake of a few very minor holdings on the opposite side of the world. This would make no sense at all.

Japan’s attempts to drive the Westerners from East Asia was called, in the US press, ‘The Cancer of the Pacific.’ Had Japan won the war, the Japanese name for the liberation of East Asia might have entered the history books (and would have had a very different description in Japanese than in Chinese, just as the Monroe Doctrine is very different in English than it is in Spanish).

However, Japan lost, so their attempt to make East Asia a Japanese preserve remains known as ‘The Cancer of the Pacific’ in the standard World History textbooks.

In late 1941, the US ordered a complete blockade of Japan. Washington warned the Philippines and Pearl Harbour to expect an imminent attack.

Since Pearl Harbour was impregnable, the only possible threat was sabotage by Japanese agents disguised as coolies, so the senior Pearl Harbour officers ordered the ships’ magazines secured in underground bunkers to prevent these agents from tossing lighted matches into the magazines and thereby destroying the ships. Pearl Harbour was prepared for the expected attack on the vulnerable and resource-rich Philippines, and was ready to steam to the rescue within hours of the initial Japanese attack.

Only the treacherous Japanese vipers (as they were convicted of being by US newspapers and US courts) used a new combined arms synthesis, one that had been extensively studied by the US military and ruled out as impossible to execute. The US military experts had determined, correctly, that, under wartime conditions, with ships under way and shooting at the planes, even suicidal bombers would find it almost impossible to sink a ship. However, with the US ships’ magazines safely secured in underground bunkers, the fiendishly clever Japanese were able to operate under peacetime conditions, bombing stationary ships that were not, for the most part, shooting back. The Japanese pilots took their time, aimed carefully from low altitudes, and generally managed to sink all the ships anchored at Pearl Harbour.
While the US Pearl Harbour commanders were all relieved of their posts and never given positions of authority again, the US military review found that the guilt lay entirely with the Japanese, since the Japanese had committed heinous violations of the rules of war.

The strike was against a military target of a nation that had ordered a blockade, a strike that, one would think, had some justification. Hawaii suffered only limited collateral damage to civilians, though the military target was severely damaged and thousands of US military personnel were killed. As already observed, why would a nation that refused to work to feed itself work to destroy an enemy thousands of miles away, an enemy that had struck a purely military target, a target justified by the blockade?

The US response was an immediate bombing of Japanese civilians, followed by a campaign to round up all people in the US of Japanese ancestry and send them to concentration camps. All the factories that had been closed before 7 December 1941 re-opened to produce materiel that could be used to turn all of Japan into desolate, uninhabitable, radioactive Trinitite, with devastating results for Japanese civilians. The Japanese considered these attacks on civilians to be war crimes, but losers do not get to run the trials for war crimes, this is a privilege reserved for the victors in a war. A few downed US pilots were tried in Japanese courts for war crimes and crimes against humanity and executed, but the officers of these Japanese courts were found guilty of war crimes by the US tribunals after the war and were, in turn, executed.

None of this made any sense to the Japanese leadership. They found the Occidentals completely inscrutable.


Blogger Brn said...

I understand your basic point that the Western powers spent hundreds of years taking whatever they wanted - colonies, resources, etc - and then tried to declare all that sort of thing off-limits when others tried it. The US and UK did try to stop the Japanese from establishing and expanding their overseas empire. And the US for far too long interfered in the affairs of Latin America. All fair enough.

But, you have made just a ton of factual errors in the rest of your argument. The US didn't block "almost all world trade" (indeed, there isn't any way that it could have even if it had wanted to), it (very stupidly) raised import tariffs - this only applied to goods imported into the US. The US can hardly be blamed if everyone else jumped off the same cliff.

Germany did not respond to the Smoot-Hawley Act by abrogating the Versailles Treaty. The Germans had been quietly working on abrogating it almost from the moment that they signed it. The open disregarding of the treaty came with the election of the Nazis.

I have absolutely no idea where you got the idea that the "major Western countries didn’t seem to mind that their people were starving". It would be interesting to see you try to come up with a source for that one, or that in the US and UK the "people were starving, but refused to work". I realize that things have changed somewhat now, but Americans from that era (and before) were incredibly hard working and industrious. (Hey, and thanks for insulting my relative who lived through that era, by the way.)

Also, the US, unlike the UK, had no Chinese colonies - the problems that the US had with Japan was how brutally they were treating the Chinese (e.g. annexation of Manchuria, the Rape of Nanking, etc) as well as their alliance with Germany and Italy.

The Japanese, not the US press, were the ones who called the conflict with the US "Cancer of the Pacific" (Taihei-yono-gan), not the US. In all my years of reading about the Pacific theater, I had never heard that phrase before. In fact, this blog entry is one of only five google results for that phrase. It is not the term that "standard World History textbooks" use.

The US did not order a complete blockade of Japan - it quit selling the Japanese oil.

It is true that the Japanese used a new attack technique - one that the British had used in 1940 at Taranto. The reason that the Americans thought that such an attack was impossible was because the water at Pearl Harbor (n.b. American place names do not use the 'u') is shallower than torpedo planes had needed to drop their weapons. The Japanese were the first to figure out how.

The Japanese did not "generally managed to sink all the ships anchored at Pearl [Harbor]". The Japanese sank five ships and damaged 13 out of more than 100 that were there that day. Actually the raid was in the end a huge failure because none of the American aircraft carriers were in port that day and so all survived. By sinking or damaging all the battleships, the Japanese forced the Americans to become the aircraft carrier-centric navy that was able to defeat the Japanese.

As far as not seeing what the US would do, that was certainly true for those who don't understand the US. Hitler made the same mistake. Historically, one of the worst mistakes that a country can make is attack a democracy, especially if in so doing you convince the people of that that their survival is at stake. Admiral Yamamoto, the planner of the attack, famously warned the leaders that after six months the US would begin to beat Japan, which is what happened almost to the day.

I could go on and on, but I think you get my point. You obviously don't like the US. That is fine and your right. There is a lot to criticize the US for now and in the past. You don't have to make things up to do it.

8:23 pm  

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