+ wanted to strike south to secure desperately-needed sources of oil, rubber, and other resources for their war machine (an alternative they debated was to invade Siberia);
+ felt that for a strike south to succeed, they had to neutralize both the U.S. Pacific Fleet and the American bases in the Philippines, from which the U.S. surface fleet, submarines, and air forces could have caused serious problems for Japan's maritime supply lines from Southeast Asia; and
+ perhaps most importantly, were out of their depth when it came to assessing a political risk, namely the extent to which a surprise attack would bring down on them the implacable fury of an enraged and industrially-powerful United States.
The US had embargoed Japan and was demanding that the army (IJA) withdraw to its pre-war Manchurian borders in China. The IJA needed American goods to prosecute the war but such withdrawal would result in an utter loss of face for the IJA.
The IJA instead proposed that the US and Dutch be attacked and goods be secured from American and Dutch colonies (Philippines and Indonesia) to fight the war in China. This would chiefly be a Naval war and thus executed by the IJN.
The IJA hoped to force the IJN to share in its loss of face by admitting it wasn't powerful enough to fight the USN. But the Admirals refused to publicly admit that they couldn't fight the USN (privately they lobbied the Emperor and his subordinates to intervene). Through this impasse between the service branches the Japanese government drifted towards a war they knew they couldn't win.
Some important Japanese politicians did anything they could to stop war with the USA (Mamoru Shigemitsu, a pacifist, and Fumimaro Konoye, who considered an attack on the USA to be a very bad idea) but the militarists had the ear of the emperor, and kool aid was drunk.
The reality is that the Philippines were incredibly vulnerable and run by a General who was not so effective. Ditto the fossils living in WW1 dreadnought world on the Navy side.
Had fate turned ever so slightly at Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, or Midway, the great gamble made by the Japanese would have been genius.
The embarrassment and face saving nonsense killed them not in 1941, but in 1943, when they followed through on a fools errand instead of settling for peace. Once the US industrial power was mobilized, the result was pretty certain.
Disagree strongly. The way those battles turned just sped up the destruction of Imperial Japan---and if you expect every battle to go your way, you're a damned fool.
The surprise attack, their brutality in war, plus our memory of how WWI did not end in a lasting peace, made sure settling for a peace was not an option by 1943. By the time we were focusing on the home islands with Operations Starvation and Downfall, plus the fruits of the Manhattan Project, the details of the Bataan Death March unquestionably revealed by the liberation of the Philippines ... well, it really sucked to be Japanese by then. But not hardly so bad as the subject people in the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, which they were killing at a rate of 400,000 per month by then.
I'm finishing reading Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947 http://www.amazon.com/Hell-Pay-Operation-Downfall-1945-1947/... and it's really sobering. Olympic as planned, the invasion of southern Kyuushu, wasn't going to work, and with Marshall pushing for all nuclear weapons after Nagasaki to be earmarked for it, and liberal use of poison gas, it would have made Okinawa look like a walk in the park. And there's no way Coronet, the planned March invasion of the Kanto plane in Honshu that includes Tokyo would have happened on schedule before the weather made it impractical. Yet we were absolutely determined to see it through, one way or another, with as many as a million of our men dying the process.
You're too polite. They did try that. There were minor skirmishes along the Soviet-Japanese border before WW2, they were close to an actual war. But the Japanese Army got smashed so that idea was scrapped.
The other faction vying for power then gained favor and they headed south.
By "out of their depth" do we mean "dumber than six pounds of gravel"? I admit that the fantasy that slapping someone in the face will instantly cow them, instead of provoking angry retaliation, is a common one in history, but I don't think that makes it any less stupid given the historical evidence.
(See also Every Terrorist Ever, with the exception of the ones who want to provoke angry retaliation.)
I don't pretend to know what a terrorist's goals are, but my observation, as a US civilian is that our responses to terror have harmed us a whole lot more than the terror attacks themselves, so assuming that a terrorist's goal is to maximize damage to my country, it would be rational for them to focus not on how many people they kill, but on how big and self-destructive of a response they can provoke.
(the counter-argument, of course, is that I don't know how many terror attacks would have happened without our massive reaction.)
Terror, on the other hand, seems to be saying something more like "no matter how powerful you are, you can't prevent us from coming in and inflicting shocking, unexpected violence on you."
Do you see the difference? one relies on fear, while the other relies on... well, I had it called guilt, but a better person than I am would call it 'empathy' or something like that.
I'm saying that nonviolence operates on your enemies willingness to harm others, rather than focusing on harming the enemy, and that makes it fundamentally different from other forms of warfare.
Now, there is a connection in that both terror and nonviolence are fundamentally psychological warfare; both rely on giving the enemy feelings rather than just killing the enemy in the most efficient way possible, but I think that nonviolence is interesting and different because it is a new form of warfare that only works against modern societies that are able but not willing to just kill a bunch of the opposing group.
but I think that the genius of Gandhi was that he saw that he couldn't win through conventional military means, so he found another way; ethics aside, I think he should be remembered as a great general; a great strategic thinker who won a war that seemed impossible to win because he considered options that were not obvious to the military leaders who tried for Indian independence before him. (and may not have been available to those leaders... but still, it was a great innovation in strategy and tactics, really, that you could fight a war by.. not fighting.)
That's the thing that seems weird about the current wave of middle-eastern terror; if the goal is to get the US out of the middle east, terror has been woefully ineffective. It's possible that there is some deep game, someone trying to get the US to attack some countries and not others... but it's also just as likely that this current wave of terror has no real strategic planning, that it's just a howl of undirected, incoherent rage; like a man putting his fist through the drywall in his own house.
The latter explanation of terror actually seems more plausible to me than any grand strategic plan.
Maybe you're right about radical Wahhabi terrorism. There is a lot of incoherent rage. But I do think that, at least for the rational planners, the goal is to draw the Christians into battle in the Middle East. Look at how they played the US into attacking Iraq, ruled by their former pocket anti-Communist strongman, and creating chaos that ISIS could later exploit. It's beyond amusing how both the radical Christian new right and the radical Wahhabis see conflict in the Middle East in the context of Armageddon. They just disagree about which side Christ will favor.
There's no excuse for the Japanese militarists' infliction of millions of deaths and untold suffering, but please keep in mind that they were doing the best they knew how at the time with the hand they were dealt (genetics, education, training, experience, social pressures, etc.), in a situation with enormous risks for their nation, which they believed to be on their shoulders. I'm curious what if anything you know of such pressures.
Seems like you can plug just about any name you want into this paragraph. What are you trying to say?
1. it's better to understand who and what you're dealing with, especially when it's a mortal adversary whom you might have to fight to the death;
2. the older I get, the less judgmental I get about other people personally, because I really do believe everybody does the best they know how --- and that's true even though very often I don't accept (and might be more than willing to fight against) what they regard as "the best"; and
3. I'm mindful of the words of a very wise, first-century Middle Eastern sage  who urged us to love our enemies .
 http://www.questioningchristian.com/2004/11/benjamin_frankl.... (self-cite).
Blame Hitler all you want but England and France are ultimately responsible for WWII.
If it's not literally true, then perhaps they were something else.
For the record, that overstates what I said, which I hope was a bit more nuanced than that.
Certainly the Japanese militarists, as a whole, decided to roll the dice that the outcome would not be "An enraged U.S. will counterattack us until our way of life is destroyed." It doesn't necessarily follow that there were those among them who thought, "The US will roll over and cower if we can just take out their battleships at Pearl Harbor."
(Of course, some Japanese militarists had an overly-exalted regard for Japanese military virtue and prowess. So it does seem likely that there were indeed some militarists, especially junior officers, who held the latter view, and yes, that view proved fatally naïve.)
So while (particularly) the need for oil can't be overstated in this case, I think that there was a degree of self-consciousness that DID characterize the actions of the upper military acting on pressure from those "beneath" them. I don't think the pressure was directly to attack, but there was enough power concentrated in the hands of the few that their decisions were allowed to be implemented rapidly and without much resistance.
In such cases, people prefer terms like "honour", "principle", "fear of failure", "perseverance", etc.
A bit off topic but perhaps interesting to some.
Where would America be in the space race, had they not done this? I think in hindsight, it was a pretty clever decision - these people were probably the most valuable war bounty America got out of the whole deal.
Unit 731's doctors were more akin to Mengele: personally hacking off living humans' half-frozen arms to see how they reacted in the cold, experiments with gangrene, etc...
Every single concentration camp "doctor" was deemed a war criminal. We didn't import them as a war bounty. Too bad we never did the same for Japan.
* The only two exceptions seem to be Kurt Blome and Hubertus Strughold, both brought over in Paperclip, who probably perpetrated some nasty shit but were "tried" and given a pass.
But their involvement (they used slave labour with people possibly tortured or worked to death) was strong enough for some of them (especially higher ups) to be put to trial.
But the US is currently shipping weapons and money to brutal dictators in several countries in a horrible display of RealPolitik, so not much has changed.
"Yeah, these guys have some impressive technology and ideas that can revolutionize our world. But they killed a lot of people, so we're gonna just kill them"
Very rarely those who take the absolute high road win...
Fatally flawed in that you couldn't form a government without a member each from the Army and Navy, and the Army abused this. Plus in the 20s or so a culture of acceptable political assassination developed.
In this context, I'm sure Hirohito, who would have much rather focused on marine biology, knew very well something unpleasant would happen to him if he didn't go along with the ultranationalists, there's way too much old and new Japanese history telling him exactly that.
I seriously doubt he could have prevented the war, especially since the genesis was so long in forming, e.g. without their depredations in China stretching back years, and of course the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, it's very unlikely things would have come to a head like they did. And why not go back to their turn of the century war with Russia and occupation of Korea? Not all that many people are upset with the former, even today, although it helped set the stage for the Bolsheviks and most of the bloodletting of the 20th Century.
Repeating a bit about what I've read especially in Hell to Pay (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10685585), while we can debate his being able to influence things earlier, we, the peoples of East Asia, etc. can be very thankful that he was able to throw his weight behind surrender after the two bombs and the Soviet entry in the war, in a situation where the cabinet was still bloody minded enough to stay the course. And I'm not so sure they wouldn't have "won", they were quite willing to sacrifice 20 million of their own people in the process, a mere 1/5-1/4th.
Counterfactuals to that could include Hirohito trying earlier and being replaced by a pliable Emperor who wouldn't have dared try or have had the stature to make that utterly critical move when it most counted.
That's off by like an order of magnitude. Numbers like this are never exact, but no way was the difference 70x. Wikipedia's numbers have it at ~5.5x: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_production_during_Wor...
Also, I seem to remember reading Canada had a part in the pre-war story (very anti-Japanese PM), but I don't remember the source.
* Settlers displace native peoples in the north east of North America and the Caribbean.
* The first Americans kick out the British.
* Americans move west, killing more native peoples.
* Americans take over land from Mexico.
* "Manifest Destiny"
* Americans topple the Hawaiian monarchy and take over Hawaii.
* Americans go to war with the Philippines, killing tens of thousands.
It doesn't seem unreasonable for Japan at this point to feel threatened by America or compelled to take action to protect themselves.
1853: Commodore Perry shows up on the shores of Japan with shiny ships and cannons and says "You're gonna trade with the world." It worked, but Japan didn't like it. Japan spent its time buying ships from Great Britain and sending its young people to school in the United States to learn what it could about empire building.
Late 1800s: The United States, wanting to be seen as a world power, attacks and defeats the world's weakest "World Power" Spain, both in Cuba and in the Phillipines. Japan had been helping the Phillipines achieve independence and the United States basically stole the Phillipines out from under them.
Early 1900s: Japan fights and wins against Russia in the Pacific. They basically destroyed Russia at Port Arthur (using the same tactics as were used at Pearl Harbor). To retaliate the Russians had to send their Atlantic fleet the long way around the world. By then Japan had rebuilt from the battle at Port Arthur and defeated the Russians again. The lesson: Defeating a world power only requires you to be powerful within your sphere of influence.
Shortly before Pearl Harbor: U.S. cuts off oil supply to Japan. Japan needs the oil in the Phillipines and also wants to take the Phillipines back which they felt were stolen from them. Pearl Harbor was their attempt to recreate the Battle of Port Arthur and wipe out American presence in the Pacific, leaving Japan the most powerful entity in that sphere of influence.
The long view of Japan and the United States is that we kind of grew up together, but we were the bullying older brother. They grew up to emulate us and when they got big enough... they punched back.
* Han Chinese displaced people in every direction, throughout what is now China and even into Malaya.
* Chinese moved south & west, killing native peoples. (numerous Mongol, Dzungar and Tibetan elimination campaigns)
* China takes land from Tibet (1930-1932).
* "Chinese unity" includes a lot of places that aren't Han Chinese. (routinely interfering in Mongolia)
* China previously demanded tribute from Japan.
* Republic of China oppressed the Manchu, killing hundreds of thousands.
* China wanted to kick Japan out of the mainland.
It was only logical to feel threatened by China. If properly unified it would outclass and defeat Japan. They had a momentary advantage and felt compelled to take action to protect themselves against a hostile China.
Aside from aspect that many national governments were expanding and conquering, as they are wont to do.
The situation dictated policy. Either their war in China ground to a halt or they conquer SEA.
I don't think the "Manifest destiny" entered much into IJA/IJN thinking in 1941.
Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.
Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.
The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.
The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the united States fleet so close to Nippon's shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.
By 1941 Japan had no reason to believe the US was in any way expansionist. There had been 20 years of isolationist rhetoric from both political parties and almost no public support for intervention in wars abroad.
Is like you are trying to say, hey, I only killed 4%, the other 95% were already dead so is not so bad.
"And the only source for deaths on the trail of tears is the US government"
No, they are not the only source. "Cherokee Population Losses during the Trail of Tears: A New Perspective and a New Estimate" gives the loses as double. Not counting the subsequent increase in loses where they ended up.
I doubt we would take German official's word at numbers during WWII, so I'm not sure why the US's word is valid in this instance. The US couldn't even keep the land ownership and payments straight for the tribes and lost a massive lawsuit because of it.
And I don't have time to read your book, but I'm going to guess that the book relies upon the official government numbers and their extrapolates additional deaths based on some criteria. I doubt someone just magically found a new as yet undiscovered accurate death list.
There were certainly acts of genocide (like Trail of Tears) and Indian Removal was a form of ethnic cleansing.
But there was never an attempt or policy to kill Native Americans off.
Plus a lot just blended into society. Intermarrying has always been common. Both on and off the reservations. Most native americans aren't full blooded anymore, but a mix of white and black too.
I see stuff like this and I cannot believe the total ignorance. I guess I'm going spend part of my night grabbing every damn reference to every government and private company policy that was specifically designed to kill Native Americans including some laws still on the books that included clause that you could kill any Native American if you were in a covered wagon or any group of 5 Native Americans that were gathered. Some, including MN's ban on all Dakota Indians, are still on the books.
We'll ignore the whole, give Native Americans disease laden blankets and killing as many buffalo as possible so the plains tribes would starve.
Its as bad as people quoting the US government general on how many Native Americans died during the Trail of Tears. I guess people like that believe other governments when they say how many people they killed.
As to your last line.... that does not account for the loss.
Mostly they hoped to take out the US naval fleet and have their way in the pacific while Germany kept the allies busy, and then eventually win in Europe creating a world wide axis.
Germany and Japan correctly feared the United States long before its entry into the conflict. They feared it not necessarily as a war machine, but as a relentless and massive industrial machine. They knew that, if war with the US were to drag on for a few years, the US would eventually get its shit together and outproduce and outgun either of them by an order of magnitude.
I don't claim any authority, but it's important not to project our own views of cultural permanence onto other cultures. Japan has businesses that have spanned over a 1000 years contiguously. I would not be surprised if Japan had a view that spanned much further into the past (particularly during the days of the Emperor).
Oh, just another side. Those are only a couple of examples of Western aggression in the previous century. Europe and the U.S. had been quite active in South East Asia. There likely would have been Japanese alive at the time who had a living memory of events like the colonization of Vietnam.
But, my point is that even conceding such a long view of history, the US probably didn't look more menacing than Europe. The US was a minor political and economic power, whereas Europe was much more powerful and had its own much longer history of imperialism and territorial expansion by divine right.
The implication seems like a bit of historical revisionism in hindsight, based on how threatening the US seems to a lot of people now.
I agree with you that the US was under-powered militarily at the time, but by the 40s the US had been the world's largest economy and industrial power for decades.
That may be true in London, for all I know, but it's definitely not true in western culture as a whole.
There are different times for when you can actually do anything about it - mostly if a train is delayed by an hour you can get a refund (if you chose not to travel) or compensation (if you were already travelling before the delay happened), but it's a bit complicated.
For London tube trains you can get some refunds if the train is 15 minutes late.
> Transport for London (TFL) offers refunds if a passenger's journey is delayed by more than 15 minutes. For tube passengers, this amounts to the fare for the single journey you were making, whether you have a season ticket, or have purchased a single fare. London Overground users get the same, but only when their train is delayed by more than 30 minutes
Though I've read papers that also trace a shortening of the window of timeliness to the appearance of public clocks. Like Big Ben.
That really doesn't capture the flavor of it. In a very real sense, the first Americans were British -- they just refused to pay taxes to a government thousand of miles away.
Japan's intrusions and occupations of Korea and China lasted decades before 'it kicked off in late 1939'.
I strongly recommend Ian Buruma's "Inventing Japan"
The more accurate analogy is if a murderer murders your neighbor, and then moves into his house, and the police don't exist.
On the world scale, this doesn't exist. If there was no laws, police, or government and a serial murderer moves in beside you, you may very well try to murder him in his sleep.
So, yeah, it turns out that when a country goes out and commits mass murder for ten years then carries out a surprise attack against another country who thinks they should maybe just cut back a bit on that whole raping-and-murdering thing and has otherwise stuck to their own borders for a couple of decades, the first country gets the blame for the ensuing war. Go figure.
And the claim that "Japan had planned to declare war shortly before its planes bombed the US fleet at Pearl Harbor, but a series of errors by typists and translators prevented the Japanese embassy from giving Washington the declaration in time." is beyond absurd.
It appears to be the truth, or pretty close to it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_on_Pearl_Harbor#Japanes...
If you've ever noticed the Americans' official reaction to Pearl Harbor often made a curious point about calling it a "despicable sneak attack". While a sneak attack seems like a rather obvious way to start a war for Westerners, the emphasis may have been a propaganda point towards the Japanese.
[*] No offense is intended to any actual Ninjas.
Bushido would find its ultimate embodiment in kamikaze pilots and foot-soldiers who “honorably” sacrificed themselves for their country. “Although some Japanese were taken prisoner,” David Powers of BBC writes, “most fought until they were killed or committed suicide.
It's not as if there's only one way to et into an unsafe culture: I have seen situations where people were intimidated by using abusive, aggressive behavior, and others where the same things were accomplished through smiles and backstabbing.
If you are leading a startup and you don't see dissent in your organization, beware, because what it means is that it's been forced to go underground.
So yes, we should learn from imperial japan that every organization needs ways for people to safely and politely express unpopular, honest opinions.
A war that need not have been fought was about to be
fought because of mutual misunderstanding, language
difficulties, and mistranslations.
Why did America drop the two bombs? Why did it not drop the first one over the Tokyo bay? Why Japanese leaders hesitated so much to surrender, despite being so much overwhelmed by foreign power? Why nobody managed to stop Hitler from inside Germany? Why all the genocides in the history had to happen?
The world is complicated, it does not always choose the right path. Decisions of even the greatest importance are sometimes made with insufficient information, and are subject to all kinds of cognitive failures. It's easy to judge after you know all the facts.
The US made ultimatum without a specific deadline. The hawkish press spoke in behalf of the government, but without authority. The US continued its plan to attack until surrender was communicated. No doubt powerful in US govt wanted to see what the bomb could do. Dropping two a-bombs in a week wasn't an accidental race condition against communication lines. The US leadership had two bombs and wanted to use them.
that's why the bombs and that's why the target were mid sized cities.
especially source http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/05/opinion/blood-on-our-hands...
''We of the peace party were assisted by the atomic bomb in our endeavor to end the war,'' Koichi Kido, one of Emperor Hirohito's closest aides, said later.''
The targets were mid-sized cities because by the time the target planning started, Kyoto was the only big one the B-29s hadn't burned to the ground (well, the important parts; I forget when, but we'd given up on Tokyo after destroying 17 square miles or so), and Secretary of War Stimson, who'd visited it and Japan in general, removed it from the list, despite Groves imploring him many times to not. That was wise, if for no other reason that it strengthened the Emperor's hand when he was finally in a position to end the war, for a long time Kyoto was the Emperor's city, Tokyo the military's.
And as I noted elsewhere, a culture of acceptable political assassination was well established by then, so e.g. being too strongly anti-war would only get you killed.
That's one thing you do learn from history. You'll win this one if you have the technology and your opponent does not. Otherwise you lose. The next war, you'll both have the technology.
In 1935 USSR was pioneer in monoplane fighters with retractable undercarriage. They we're two or three years ahead of anybody else, and the Russians had them in relatively large quantity.
Problem was that they didn't know it was relevant. When war started they still mostly relied on biplanes. And only got the development rolling again in 1940 with MIGs and they could not compete with Nazis in the sky on even terms until 1943.
Japanese had total miss with Yamamoto class ships. Germany didn't invest enough in submarines and their tanks we're way too fancy for field repairs. Nobody understood how important submachine guns would be. Brits had some major naval defects, exposed by explosion of HMS Hood and problems with guns of King George V battleships. France and U.S. fucked up tank development. U.S. made thuderbolts, which we're about twice as costly and difficult to built than what was necessary.
It's complete hit and miss. Currently U.S. has global military hegemony because they can afford to miss more than anybody else. Also logistics. If you are committed to get more stuff to the front than the enemy, you can compensate quite lot.
But sometimes the smallest of things derails you. The scientists' saving throw for a real program failed when the bigwigs Nazis were invited to a seminar, but the secretary sending out the invitations accidentally included in the packets the agenda for a different and very technical seminar they'd have no interest in.
What have the Americans ever done for us? Post WWII American leadership brought us decolonization; i think that this was a really significant change; one of the biggest changes of the twentieth century...
And the US military was busier in China that you might think: