Posted on November 6th, 2012 No comments
In an article entitled “Hitler’s Second Front,” that appeared in the November 1942 issue of the Atlantic Review, one T. H. Thomas confidently predicted disaster for the British forces in North Africa. In his words,
Roughly speaking, Rommel is sixty miles or so away from winning the war. There looms up close at hand the prospect of a decisive victory – one which would involve an irreparable disaster to the Allied conduct of the war.
In the mustering of forces for this battle, the enemy has now the advantage of position. At one time British convoys could still take the direct sea route to Alexandria, but German dive bombers then appeared over the central Mediterranean. By now it has actually become Mare Nostrum. The British forces in Africa and the British fleets had no planes with which to strike back in kind. British factories do not produce them.
British tanks were hopelessly outclassed by the Germans:
These actions (earlier fighting in north Africa) also brought into the field German medium tanks armed with 75’s (i.e., 15 pounders) against British tanks carrying nothing larger than 2-pounders. The effective range of the German guns is said to be over three times that of the 2-pounders. This contrast has dominated the fighting in Egypt since that day. The British 2-pounder is an excellent tank against infantry positions. In the naked landscape of Libya, mechanized warfare develops the situation of duels between tank and tank, or tanks against anti-tank artillery. On this footing, the heaviest British tanks were hopelessly outranged.
Victory, was out of the question for the British. It was merely a question of hanging on for dear life until the various nostrums proposed by Mr. Thomas could be applied:
The narrow front at El Alamein has become the keystone of the whole arch of Allied resistance east of Suez. Here, as on every other front, the pressing task is to avoid defeat – the question as to how the war is to be won does not yet arise.
As it happens, on this day 70 years ago, just as Thomas’ prophecy of doom was appearing on the newstands, the question of how the war was to be won did arise. Rommel’s “hopelessly superior” forces had been smashed by a British offensive after nearly two weeks of brutal fighting. The remnant was in speedy retreat, leaving Hitler’s Italian allies, who had fought well at El Alamein, helplessly mired in the desert without food, ammunition or fuel. Quoting from the Wiki article on the battle:
It had not been the first time that the Allies had had numerical superiority in men and equipment in the Western Desert, but never had it been so complete and across all arms. Furthermore, in the past—except in field artillery—they had struggled with the quality of their equipment. But with the arrival of Sherman tanks, 6-pounder anti-tank guns and Spitfires in the Western Desert, the Allies at last had the ability to match the opposition.
Allied artillery was superbly handled. Allied air support was excellent in contrast to the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica which offered little or no support to ground forces, preferring to engage in air-to-air combat. This overwhelming air superiority had a huge effect on the battle…
In the end, the Allies’ victory was all but total. Axis casualties of 37,000 amounted to over 30% of their total force. Allied casualties of 13,500 were by comparison a remarkably small proportion of their total force. The effective strength of Panzer Army Africa after the battle amounted to some 5,000 troops, 20 tanks, 20 anti-tank guns and 50 field guns.
So much for Mr. Thomas’ prophecies of doom. The Atlantic described him as follows:
A military hitorian who served with distinction on the staff at GHQ in the First World War, T. H. Thomas is well qualified to appraise the developments of the war.
I have no information on what became of him after he penned the article, although I didn’t put a great deal of Google time in searching for him. If he had written the same stuff in Germany or the Soviet Union, no doubt he would have been shot as a defeatist. However, the Allies were remarkably tolerant of pacifists and defeatists during the war. I suspect that such tolerance played a major role in the rapid collapse of France, and may have cost Hitler’s other enemies dearly if he had not been so completely outmatched by the forces arrayed against him. Be that as it may, there were many other T. H. Thomases writing similar disinformation about Hitler and the phenomenon of Naziism, the likelihood of war, the probable outcome of the war, etc., during the 30’s and 40’s. I know of none whose careers suffered significantly as a result. Apparently they just swept their past mistakes under the rug, and kept writing more of the same.
Fast forward 70 years, and a new generation of pundits has been busily enlightening readers as to the reasons why either Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney will inevitably win the election. Half of them, more or less, will be wrong, and the other half, more or less, will be lucky. Given the number of pundits and the laws of probability, a random few will be very lucky, predicting not only the outcome, but the exact tally of votes in the electoral college. No doubt these lucky ones will be celebrated as geniuses, at least until the next election. Except for Cassandra, successful fortune tellers have always prospered. However, those who put too much faith in them would do well to recall the example of Mr. Thomas.
Posted on September 26th, 2012 No comments
Pundits on the right have been less than pleased by what they view as a timid defense of freedom of speech and appeasement of radical Islamists by both Obama Administration officials and public intellectuals on the left in the wake of the murder of Ambassador Stevens and the accompanying violence in the Mideast. See for example, this piece by Ann Althouse, and this by Victor Davis Hanson. If the wobbly stuff emanating from the L.A. Times, The New Republic, and MSNBC is in any way representative, they have a point. In fact, the Left in the US and Europe has been exchanging admiring glances with the Islamists for some time. It’s not surprising. Following the collapse of Communism, radical Islam is the only game in town if your tastes run to extreme ideologies and you like to imagine yourself as a savior of the world. Unfortunately, it takes a very flexible intellect to abandon the ideological shibboleths embraced by the Left for the last couple of decades in favor of a misogynistic and fundamentalist version of Islam. Hence, the love affair has been carried on from a distance for the most part. If it’s any consolation to Professors Althouse and Hanson, things have been worse. Much worse.
It’s instructive to occasionally step back from the flood of information about current events that constantly pours in over the public media and look at the equivalent sources of information and opinion from times gone by. Consider the first half of the 1930’s, for example. The Great Depression had a strong tendency to adjust the attitudes of the public intellectuals of the day. Many of them were also fascinated by, and strongly supportive of, the totalitarian regimes that had recently appeared on the scene, some leaning to the Communist and some to the fascist variants thereof. I found interesting examples of both while thumbing through an old copy of The Atlantic Monthly.
The issue in question, dated November 1934, began with a piece by Vincent Sheean entitled “Youth and Revolution.” I highly recommend Sheean’s books, such as Not Peace but a Sword and Personal History to interested readers. Sheean was an excellent writer and journalist, and had a knack for turning up at key places just as events that shaped history were happening. He was also a forerunner of what a whole generation of later journalists became; a self-appointed champion of noble causes who saw the world in stark black and white, with few shades of grey in between. He had no illusions about Hitler at all, and witnessed and wrote about Nazi brutality against the Jews at a time when many “experts” who should have known better were dismissing such stories as “atrocity fables.” Hitler was a “bad guy.” Stalin and the Bolsheviks, on the other hand, were “good guys.” When it came to the bloody deeds of the likes of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco, Sheean didn’t miss a trick, but was strangely blind to the ample evidence of similar mayhem available at the time if the perpetrators happened to be Communists.
In the article he wrote for the Atlantic, Sheean describes a trip to China in 1927. To set the stage historically, he arrived in China during the Northern Expedition, in which Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-shek triumphed over a coalition of warlords and succeeded in uniting most of the country in 1928. Nanking had fallen to them in March 1927, a couple of weeks before Sheean arrived, and tensions between Chiang and the Communists in the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) were coming to a head. They would soon culminate in Shanghai Massacre and the purge of Communists from the party which, until then had been supplied with arms and money from the Soviet Union. The Soviet envoy, Mikhail Borodin, was allowed to “escape” from the country. Here are a few excerpts from Sheean’s article:
The moment of triumph was inevitably the one in which the two elements among the Cantonese victors would separate. Genuine revolutionaries – those who wished to change the conditions of life in China, and not simply the forms or names of government – found themselves obliged to cling to the Left Wing of the Kuomintang, in which Russian influence was paramount. The others – those who took part in the revolution for their own advantage, or were prevented by the tenacity of middle-class ideas from wishing to disturb the established arrangement of wealth – collected around the treasuries of Shanghai and Nanking, under the patronage of the Chinese bankers of those cities and their new ally, Chiang Kai-shek.
…the difference between an academic acquaintance with Communism and an actual perception of its spirit is very great. The step required to pass from the first state to the second is so easy that it may be accomplished in a moment, and so difficult that it may involve the effort of a lifetime… but when the step has at last been taken, the barrier passed, we enter a world in which all parts of the structure of existence are so related and harmonized, so subjugated to a sovereign system, that its ordered beauty and majesty give us the sensation of a new form of life, as if we had moved off into space and taken up our abode, for a time, on another star… The world of Lenin (which is, in effect, all around us) can be entered in a moment, but only if the disposition of circumstances, persons, influences, can conquer the laziness of a bourgeois mind. The required combinations occurred for me at Hankow, and were given force and form, particularly, by Michael Borodin and Rayna Prohme (Russian editor of the left wing Kuomintangs newspaper).
Borodin, a large, calm man with the natural dignity of a lion or a panther, had that special quality of being in, but above, the battle that seems to me to deserve, in itself and without regard to the judgment of the world, the name of greatness… As I knew him better I perceived – or, rather, he showed me – how his political philosophy made breadth and elevation inevitable in the mind that understood it. He was an Old Bolshevik.
Such were the musings and reminiscences of a “mainstream media” journalist in 1934. As the reader will gather, Sheean was singularly ill-equipped intellectually to give his audience a balanced view of the Stalinist regime in Russia, or an understanding of the real nature of Communism. I encourage anyone who thinks he was the only one writing the sort of stuff cited above in 1934 to look through a few of the intellectual journals of the time. The question among many of the authors who contributed to them was not whether capitalism was dead, but which flavor of socialism would replace it, and whether the “inevitable” transition would occur violently or not. For the record, Borodin disappeared into the Gulag in 1949, and died in captivity in 1951, having escaped that fate much longer than most of the old Bolsheviks. The current state of the “worker’s paradise” in China should be familiar to most readers.
Apologists for the other brand of totalitarianism extant at the time, fascism, were fewer in number, but hardly uncommon. One of them, William Orton, a professor of economics at Smith College, contributed an article to the Atlantic entitled “New Wine in Germany.” It soothed readers’ “irrational” fears about Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime that had seized power in that country in January 1933. Orton had no more problem with Hitler’s suppression of “bourgeois” freedoms than Sheean had with the suppression of those freedoms by the Communists. He wrote at a time when much of the propaganda about atrocities perpetrated by the Germans in World War I had been debunked, spawning an attitude among intellectuals that all reports of atrocities were to be taken with a grain of salt. This instance of “learning the lessons of history” was particularly unhelpful at a time when the Communists and Nazis were competing for the title of greatest mass murderers of all time. The many eyewitness reports coming out of Germany and the Soviet Union were dismissed with the sage observation that, “It’s necessary to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Orton applied this logic to the violent Nazi persecution of the Jews that Sheean, among others, had already described in great detail. Here are some of the things he had to say about the “New Wine in Germany.”
It is not difficult, after three thousand miles of travel in Germany, to recognize in one’s mind a certain general impression; but it is almost impossible to convey that impression in speech or writing. One has the sense of a tremendous spiritual or psychological fact – overwhelming in its magnitude, urgent in its significance. But since the ingredients of this fact are primarily neither personal nor political, it eludes the scope of both the ordinary news story and the ordinary article. Perhaps the film could do it justice.
A sound film, of course, it would have to be. Drums – no, not the drums first. Silence – the silence that surrounds a great ship coming into harbor; and, somewhere up above, a band playing the new national anthem, the ‘Horst Wessel Lied’ – a fine music, reserved, steady, powerful in its measure, swinging out in the sunshine over the massed decks, over the narrowing water, over the crowded dock, over thousands of arms held motionless in the splendid gesture of the Fascist salute. Swing the camera along those lines of hands, held tense, not flaccid; close up to the faces; look at the lips, look at the eyes, shining, shining…
Confronted by this transition from party to government, British and American opinion exhibits a reluctance to face the facts that amounts to a positive refusal. Atrocity stories are played up, blunders magnified, oppression emphasized, …until a fair estimate of Hitler and his system is out of the question. There was the same display of stubborn short-sightedness in regard to the Italian and the Russian revolution, but in neither case was the myopia as acute as in this one. The roots of the disease must be exposed, since it renders a realistic attitude to modern Germany impossible.
Evidently Orton considered himself just the man to cure the “myopia,” and convey a “realistic attitude” about Hitler. He continues,
Germany is completely united in the determination to assert her equality of status with other powers; she has the means to do so, and there exists neither the right nor the possibility of preventing her.
Whether we will or no, we must take the risk of believing in the German people.
Germany has no present desire to provoke a war; and she has given certain tangible evidences (as Mussolini did not) of this fact. Hitler said, a few weeks ago, that ‘no colony was worth a single German life.’ His lieutenants have repeatedly said that with the return of the Saar there will remain no further cause of quarrel with France. There is good ground for accepting these assurances. But more weighty evidence is supplied by the ten-year treaty with Poland and the agreement recently concluded by Danzig with that state. To anyone who knows at first hand what conditions are like on the eastern border, those two settlements are an impressive demonstration of the will to peace.
Anti-semitism had been a problem, but Hitler had wisely put a stop to it:
Anti-semitism got altogether out of hand; until, when Streicher’s organ, Der Stürmer, attacked the President of Czechoslovakia, that too had to be temporarily suppressed.
It was with such stories of Hitler’s “will to peace” and his “suppression of anti-Semitism” that Orton reassured and “enlightened” the great democracies on the eve of the greatest existential struggle in their history. It is not recorded that he suffered any ill consequences for this “service.” As far as one can tell, it was forgotten, and he continued as a respected professor at Smith until his death in 1952. Searching the Internet, one learns that, “Russell Kirk praised Orton as a “humane economist,” “at once liberal and conservative,” seeking to “liberalize and humanize the Dismal Science.”
In a word, conservatives frustrated with the Left’s flirtations with radical Islam should take heart. Things have been worse. At the moment, at least, the United States and the European democracies don’t face an immediate threat to their existence. Meanwhile, there is no reason to believe that we will not continue to be “enlightened” about similar threats as we move into the future. Whether such “enlightenment” will be a significant contributor to our eventual downfall only time will tell.
Posted on November 12th, 2011 No comments
Orwell despised pacifism, and wrote some very interesting critiques of pacifist ideology during World War II. On reading them, one notes a striking similarity between the pacifist ideology of Orwell’s time and the different variants thereof that existed in the United States during the Vietnam era and thereafter. A particularly interesting example appeared in the US literary and political journal Partisan Review entitled A Controversy. The piece included an attack on Orwell and elaboration of their own ideas by several pacifists, and Orwell’s reply. The bit by the pacifists actually amounts to an excellent piece of self-analysis. The reply exposes the gross self-deception that has always been inherent in pacifist thought, and points out the equally obvious fact that pacifists during wartime are, objectively, enemy collaborators in whatever country they happen to be active.
A remarkable similarity between the Vietnam-era pacifists and those of Orwell’s day is their tendency, against all odds, to perceive their own side as the moral equivalent of the enemy. Occasionally their own side is recognized as an outgroup, as for example by Jane Fonda who struck a heroic pose on a Communist anti-aircraft gun as her countrymen fought them further south. By that time Gulag Archipelago had been published, and a torrent of details was available about the mass slaughter, misery and torture that was a common feature of Communist regimes. As for Orwell’s British pacifists, the murderous nature of Hitler’s regime was already abundantly clear by 1940. It didn’t matter. In both cases, the facts were simply ignored. D.S. Savage, one of the pacifists writing against Orwell in the Partisan Review, provides us with what could well be described as a self-caricature:
It is fashionable nowadays to equate Fascism with Germany. We must fight Fascism, therefore we must fight Germany. Answer: Fascism is not a force confined to any one nation. We can just as soon get it here as anywhere else. The characteristic markings of Fascism are: curtailment of individual and minority liberties; abolition of private life and private values and substitution of State life and public values (patriotism); external imposition of discipline (militarism); prevalence of mass-values and mass-mentality; falsification of intellectual activity under State pressure. These are all tendencies of present-day Britain. The pacifist opposes every one of these, and might therefore be called the only genuine opponent of Fascism.
Don’t let us be misled by names. Fascism is quite capable of calling itself democracy or even Socialism. It’s the reality under the name that matters. War demands totalitarian organisation of society. Germany organised herself on that basis prior to embarking on war. Britain now finds herself compelled to take the same measures after involvement in war. Germans call it National Socialism. We call it democracy. The result is the same.
…we regard the war as a disaster to humanity. Who is to say that a British victory will be less disastrous than a German one?
…and so on from one of Hitlers most valuable “useful idiots.” The striking similarity between these puerile arguments, as transparently specious to Orwell then as they are to us now, and those of the Vietnam-era pacifists must be apparent to anyone who lived through those times. Orwell points out the disconnect with reality, seemingly obvious to any child, in his rebuttal:
Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, “he that is not with me is against me”. The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security. Mr. Savage remarks that “according to this type of reasoning, a German or Japanese pacifist would be ‘objectively pro-British’.” But of course he would be! That is why pacifist activities are not permitted in those countries (in both of them the penalty is, or can be, beheading) while both the Germans and the Japanese do all they can to encourage the spread of pacifism in British and American territories. They would stimulate pacifism in Russia as well if they could, but in that case they have tougher babies to deal with. In so far as it takes effect at all, pacifist propaganda can only be effective against those countries where a certain amount of feedom of speech is still permitted; in other words it is helpful to totalitarianism.
If Mr. Savage and others imagine that one can somehow “overcome” the German army by lying on one’s back, let them go on imagining it, but let them also wonder occasionally whether this is not an illusion due to security, too much money and a simple ignorance of the way in which things actually happen.
I am interested in the psychological processes by which pacifists who have started out with an alleged horror of violence end up with a marked tendency to be fascinated by the success and power of Nazism. Even pacifists who wouldn’t own to any such fascination are beginning to claim that a Nazi victory is desirable in itself.
As one who listened to the chants of “Ho, Ho, Ho chi Minh, NLF is going to win” back in the Vietnam era, I know exactly what Orwell is talking about. As students of the Civil War will know, there were pacifists in those days with precisely similar arguments. Just as Orwell’s pacifists were objectively pro-Nazi and tended to sympathize with the Nazis, and the Vietnam-era pacifists were objectively pro-Communist, and tended to sympathize with the Communists, the Civil War pacifists were objectively pro-slavery, and tended to sympathize with the slavers.
In a word, when it comes to pacifism, we have left the realm of rational argument. As Orwell points out, we are dealing with a psychological type, very similar across populations and across long stretches of time. The pacifist equates peace with “the Good,” and war with “evil.” Identification of “the Good” represents, not a logical, but an emotional process. If peace is “the Good,” one becomes “good” and defends “the Good” by supporting “peace,” regardless of any real situation or consequences, no matter how obvious to anyone whose mind has not been artificially closed in the same fashion.
One should not become too smug in judging the pacifists. After all, we are all human, and we all have a similar tendency to form emotional attachments to “the Good,” whether it be pacifism or any other ideological tendency. As a Monday morning quarterback, it seems to me I can detect similar phenomena, associated with other “Goods,” going on in Orwell’s own mind. For him, socialism was “the Good,” so, for a long time, he had the fixed idea that Britain must try the highly dubious experiment of attempting a socialist revolution if she was to win the war. For him, the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War was “the Good,” as well. After all, he had nearly been killed fighting for that side. As a result, one finds highly exaggerated predictions of the disastrous results that would “inevitably” follow because the Allies had allowed Franco to win. In retrospect, with Franco safely in the grave and Spain a democratic state, Orwell’s prediction that she would remain a totalitarian dictatorship until the fascists were overthrown by force didn’t exactly pan out.
I have any number of similar emotional attachments of my own. Perhaps the example of a man as brilliant as Orwell will help me to detect and compensate for some of them. It would seem to me that it would behoove us all to make the attempt, assuming we really value the truth.
Posted on August 8th, 2010 2 comments
Another August 6, another round of historial revisionism. The fabricators of adjusted realities always make their appearance about this time every year to spin their yarns about how the atomic bombing of Japan wasn’t really necessary, how Japan was just on the point of surrendering but the bombs were dropped anyway for an assortment of nefarious and evil reasons by the nefarious and evil rulers of a nefarious and evil country, how the “real” reason for the surrender was the obvious and long expected Russian entry into the war, how this or that scrap of information or this or that “official” report “proves” that the bombings didn’t in any way hasten or even encourage surrender, etc., etc. These periodic attempts to reinvent the past come from any number of different sources. Of course, the pathologically pious head the list; those whose penchant for imagining themselves to be the “saviors of mankind” goes beyond mere daydreaming to the invention of alternate worlds, drawn in colors of stark black and white, in which they appear in the role of virtuous heros, eternally saving the rest of us from evil. Of course, they never quite accomplish that worthy goal, and the “victims” they strive so mightily to save somehow always seem to remain “victims” in spite of their most heroic efforts, because victims are indispensible. After all, if the victims were ever really saved, virtuous heros would become superfluous.
But I digress. Of course, there is also Japanese officialdom. Ever since the end of the war, they have been busy rationalizing, relativizing, and generally seeking to consign to oblivion such horrific crimes as the rape of Nanking, the deliberate slaughter of the civilian population of Manila (in both of which cities more civilians died than in Hiroshima), the Bataan Death March, the deliberate starving and murder of prisoners, the wholesale rape of a generation of Korean women,
germ warfare experiments with human guinea pigs, etc., etc. The bomb has always been their most effective foil for diverting attention from their country’s criminal past. Other than that, there are the legions of Ameria-haters worldwide for whom the United States is well-suited for the role of “out-group,” satisfying the universal need wired in the human brain for an evil enemy.
It is usually easy to identify historical revisionists. They tip their hands by insisting on a version of reality that allows no room for doubt, and that neatly fits their ideological preconceptions. In this case, for example, in spite of the undeniable coincidence of the atomic bombing and the surrender of Japan, they insist that there was absolutely no connection, and that the bombing had nothing at all to do with the Japanese decision to capitulate. Obviously, especially in view of the careful destruction of relevant documents by Japanese officials, it is irrational to claim that it has absolutely been proved that the bombing and the surrender were purely coincidental, and the former’s contribution to the latter was trivial at best. That, however, is precisely what the revisionists claim. Look at their books and essays, and you will also find that they invariably leave out salient facts that don’t fit the altered reality they are trying to construct, and that other facts are “reinterpreted” to give them a significance they don’t deserve.
Readers who have been around long enough may recall a previous round of Hiroshima revisionism on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the bombing back in 1995. Earlier in the year, officials at the Smithsonian Institution, a magnet for leftist academics whose tastes run to interpreting all American history as the story of an oppressor’s playground on which a series of invariably pure, noble and morally immaculate classes of victims were brutalized by an invariably greedy, selfish, and evil ruling class, had attempted to introduce the now familiar adjustments to reality in conjuction with the Institution’s planned display of the Enola Gay. Fortunately, enough people with firsthand knowledge of what really happened and who objected to the bowdlerization of history, were around at the time to mount an effective resistance to the fabricators. Now most of the eyewitnesses have passed from the scene. It is, therefore, all the more important that the critical source material relating to the atomic bombing be preserved and made easily accessible.
Revisionists of one stripe or another will always be with us. At different times and in different places, they have succeeded in constructing alternate realities in spite of the existence of a far greater volume and variety of source material than exists in the case of the atomic bombing of Japan. Schools in much of the US South, for example, raised generations of students who firmly believed that the Civil War “really” occurred for any number of reasons besides slavery, in spite of overwhelming evidence documenting that the leaders of the South believed it was about slavery, the leaders of the North believed it was about slavery, the populations in both sections believed it was about slavery, and foreign observers were unanimous in confirming that it was about slavery. Today Holocaust deniers control the public narrative in much of the Middle East. In both of those cases, the source material available to document what really happened was orders of magnitude larger than what remains pertinent to the atomic bombing of Japan. The Hiroshima revisionists would seem to have a much easier task. The amount of documentation it will be necessary for them to drop down the “memory hole” is a great deal smaller, and their attempts to construct a mythical reality may consequently turn out to be a great deal more successful than those of the Iranian theocracy, or the “Southern heritage” crowd.
History can and will be falsified. In the case of Hiroshima, those who are attempting to revise it are influential and determined. The antidote to revisionism is the preservation of facts. The truth is important. One must hope that enough facts about the atomic bombing of Japan will be preserved to give future generations at least a fighting chance of finding it.
UPDATE: This article by Richard B. Frank (hattip ChicagoBoyz), entitled “Why Truman Dropped the Bomb, which appeared in the Weekly Standard in 2005, is a must read for those seeking the facts about the atomic bombing of Japan. Money quote:
There are a good many more points that now extend our understanding beyond the debates of 1995. But it is clear that all three of the critics’ central premises are wrong. The Japanese did not see their situation as catastrophically hopeless. They were not seeking to surrender, but pursuing a negotiated end to the war that preserved the old order in Japan, not just a figurehead emperor. Finally, thanks to radio intelligence, American leaders, far from knowing that peace was at hand, understood–as one analytical piece in the “Magic” Far East Summary stated in July 1945, after a review of both the military and diplomatic intercepts–that “until the Japanese leaders realize that an invasion can not be repelled, there is little likelihood that they will accept any peace terms satisfactory to the Allies.” This cannot be improved upon as a succinct and accurate summary of the military and diplomatic realities of the summer of 1945.
Posted on May 28th, 2009 No comments
There are a plethora of sites out there for those whose tastes run to conspiracy theories and revisionist history according to which FDR knew all about the Japanese attack in advance, used masterful and insidious psychological tricks to provoke an otherwise peaceful nation, hoodwinked the American people, etc., etc. Examples can be found here, here, here, and here, along with the occasional sober voice to balance the scales. In fact, Roosevelt wasn’t the only one expecting an attack. People who were paying attention were aware it was coming at least as early as 1924. If the American people were “hoodwinked,” it was their own fault. As Exhibit A for the Defense, I cite an article from the “American Mercury,” issue of January 1924, entitled “Two Years of Disarmament,” authored by one Miles Martindale (nom de plume), pp. 62-68.
“Prior to 1854, Japan’s whole history was a sequence of efforts to prove herself independent of China. The influx of foreigners, backed by fleets of war vessels, brought the added fear of partition and domination by white men. Seventy years ago the Elder Statesmen advised avoidance of all disputes until Japan grew strong enough to deal with one rival at a time. This advice underlies the amazing modernization of Japan, centuries of development being compressed into decades. In accordance with the program, China was humbled in 1894, and Russia in 1904. Germany’s turn came in 1914, for to the peasant’s mind, the opera bouffe campaign of Tsing Tao bulks as large as if the entire war power of Germany had been engaged. The years ending in “4” were thus fixed in the Japanese mind as years of invincibility. The Americans were plotting war on Japan? Then let them have it; but it will be when we choose, and that is in 1924!
“Our lavish expenditure and great effort during the world war impressed even Chosiu (Japanese military party) with the difficulties of the program. The scheme of invasion through Mexico, once in favor, was abandoned, and the Japanese prepared for a swift blow without warning, like the naval blow with which they opened the war with Russia. (!) Seizing the Philippines, and isolating Manila Bay if it did not fall easily with the advantage of defense and distance, waiting for our attempt to recapture the islands. They counted two years as necessary for us to organize the required effort; expected a majority of our people to consider the Philippines not worth recovering; believed the war would be intensely unpopular in America and that we would ask for peace rather than undertake the pain and loss of fighting it out to the end. Whether their plan correctly appraised our psychology or not, it involved heavy losses on our part. To attack across several thousand miles of empty sea in a war involving land forces would require at least a 5-3 superiority in fighting ships, a million tons of auxiliaries and at least three million tons of transports.
“The war was not desired by the Japanese for aggrandizement, nor to provide extra room for their people. Japan has not yet filled some of her own home islands, notably Hokkaido and Saghalien. The war was simply a part of the Chosiu program, considered necessary to preserve the edivinity of the Emperor and the cohesion of the Empire. The Chosiu politicians were not over-optimistic, but they believed it was the safest course. Like the occupation of Belgium, it was planmässig, and the plan had three times succeeded in the past.”
So there you have it, as much ammunition as you need for proving the obvious: That high officials in the State Department suckered a junta of generals into suckering Roosevelt into suckering the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor. Have fun! In retrospect, one might add that a larger dose of oriental patience would have served Japan well. If she’d waited until the first decade of the 21st century, she could have relied on bloggers like Andrew Sullivan to egg the US on into attacking first, then morph into hand-wringing, hysterical defeatists as soon as the first shot was fired. Chosiu’s program would have been a sure thing.