by Noam Chomsky
The title and subtitle of this essay may seem unrelated; hence a word of explanation may be useful. The essay was written for a memorial number of Liberation which, as the editor expressed it, “gathered together a series of articles that deal with some of the problems with which A. J. struggled.” I think that Muste’s revolutionary pacifism was, and is, a profoundly important doctrine, both in the political analysis and the moral conviction that it expresses. The circumstances of the antifascist war subjected it to the most severe of tests. Does it survive this test? When I began working on this article I was not at all sure. I still feel quite ambivalent about the matter. There are several points that seem to me fairly clear, however. The American reaction to Japan’s aggressiveness was, in a substantial measure, quite hypocritical. Worse still, there are very striking, quite distressing similarities between Japan’s escapades and our own — both in character and in rationalization — with the fundamental difference that Japan’s appeal to national interest, which was not totally without merit, becomes merely ludicrous when translated into a justification for American conquests in Asia.
This essay touches on all of these questions: on Muste’s revolutionary pacifism and his interpretation of it in connection with the Second World War; on the backgrounds of Japan’s imperial ventures; on the Western reaction and responsibility; and, by implication, on the relevance of these matters to the problems of contemporary imperialism in Asia. No doubt the essay would be more coherent were it limited to one or two of these themes. I am sure that it would be more clear if it advocated a particular “political line.” After exploring these themes, I can suggest nothing more than the tentative remarks of the final paragraph.
In a crucial essay written forty years ago,1 A. J. Muste explained the concept of revolutionary nonviolence that was the guiding principle of an extraordinary life. “In a world built on violence, one must be a revolutionary before one can be a pacifist.” “There is a certain indolence in us, a wish not to be disturbed, which tempts us to think that when things are quiet, all is well. Subconsciously, we tend to give the preference to ‘social peace,’ though it be only apparent, because our lives and possessions seem then secure. Actually, human beings acquiesce too easily in evil conditions; they rebel far too little and too seldom. There is nothing noble about acquiescence in a cramped life or mere submission to superior force.” Muste was insistent that pacifists “get our thinking focussed.” Their foremost task “is to denounce the violence on which the present system is based, and all the evil — material and spiritual — this entails for the masses of men throughout the world…. So long as we are not dealing honestly and adequately with this ninety percent of our problem, there is something ludicrous, and perhaps hypocritical, about our concern over the ten percent of violence employed by the rebels against oppression.” Never in American history have these thoughts been so tragically appropriate as today.
The task of the revolutionary pacifist is spelled out more fully in the final paragraph of the essay.
Those who can bring themselves to renounce wealth, position and power accruing from a social system based on violence and putting a premium on acquisitiveness, and to identify themselves in some real fashion with the struggle of the masses toward the light, may help in a measure — more, doubtless, by life than by words — to devise a more excellent way, a technique of social progress less crude, brutal, costly and slow than mankind has yet evolved.
It is a remarkable tribute to A. J. Muste that his life’s work can be measured by such standards as these. His essays are invariably thoughtful and provocative; his life, however, is an inspiration with hardly a parallel in twentieth-century America. Muste believed, with Gandhi, that “unjust laws and practices survive because men obey them and conform to them. This they do out of fear. There are things they dread more than the continuance of the evil.” He enriched half a century of American history with a personal commitment to these simple truths. His efforts began in a time when “men believed that a better human order, a classless and warless world, a socialist society, if you please, could be achieved,” a time when the labor movement could be described as “that remarkable combination of mass power, prophetic idealism and utopian hope.” They continued through the general disillusionment of war and depression and antiradical hysteria, to the days when American sociologists could proclaim that “the realization that escapes no one is that the egalitarian and socially mobile society which the ‘free-floating intellectuals’ associated with the Marxist tradition have been calling for during the last hundred years has finally emerged in the form of our cumbersome, bureaucratic mass society, and has in turn engulfed the heretics.”2 And finally, still not “engulfed,” he persisted in his refusal to be one of the obedient, docile men who are the terror of our time, to the moment when our “egalitarian and socially mobile society” is facing a virtual rebellion from the lower depths, when young men are being faced every day with the questions posed at Nuremberg as their country devotes itself to enforcing the “stability” of the graveyard and the bulldozed village, and when the realization that escapes no one is that something is drastically wrong in American society.
In one of his last published essays, Muste describes himself as an “unrepentant unilateralist, on political as well as moral grounds.”3 In part, he bases his position on an absolute moral commitment that one may accept or reject, but that cannot be profitably debated. In part, he defends it on grounds that seem to me not very persuasive, a psychological principle that “like produces like, kindness provokes kindness,” hence an appeal to “the essential humanity of the enemy.”4 It is very difficult to retain a faith in the “essential humanity” of the SS trooper or the commissar or the racist blinded with hate and fear, or, for that matter, the insensate victim of a lifetime of anti-Communist indoctrination. When the enemy is a remote technician programming B-52 raids or “pacification,” there is no possibility for a human confrontation and the psychological basis for nonviolent tactics, whatever it may be, simply evaporates. A society that is capable of producing concepts like “un-American” and “peacenik” — of turning “peace” into a dirty word — has advanced a long way towards immunizing the individual against any human appeal. American society has reached the stage of near total immersion in ideology. The commitment has vanished from consciousness — what else can a right-thinking person possibly believe? Americans are simply “pragmatic,” and they must bring others to this happy state. Thus an official of the Agency for International Development can write, with no trace of irony, that our goal is to move nations “from doctrinaire reliance on state enterprise to a pragmatic support of private initiative,”5 and a headline in the New York Times can refer to Indian capitulation to American demands concerning the conditions of foreign investment as India’s “drift from socialism to pragmatism.” With this narrowing of the range of the thinkable comes an inability to comprehend how the weak and dispossessed can resist our benevolent manipulation of their lives, an incapacity to react in human terms to the misery that we impose.
The only useful way to evaluate the program of unilateral revolutionary pacifism is to consider what it implies in concrete historical circumstances. As a prescription for the United States in the mid-sixties, it is much too easy to defend. There is no particular merit in being more reasonable than a lunatic; correspondingly, almost any policy is more rational than one that accepts repeated risk of nuclear war, hence a near guarantee of nuclear war in the long run — a “long run” that is unlikely to be very long, given the risks that policy makers are willing to accept. Thus in the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy was willing (according to Sorensen’s memoirs) to accept a probability of 1/3 to 1/2 of nuclear war, in order to establish that the United States alone has the right to maintain missiles on the borders of a potential enemy.6 And who knows what “probabilities” the CIA is now providing to the Rostows and the Wheelers who are trying to save something from their Vietnam fiasco by bombing at the Chinese border? Furthermore, it does not require an unusual political intelligence to urge world-wide de-escalation on the great power that by any objective standard is the most aggressive in the world — as measured by the number of governments maintained by force or subverted by intrigue, by troops and bases on foreign soil, by willingness to use the most awesome “killing machine” in history to enforce its concept of world order.
It would be more enlightening to consider the program of revolutionary pacifism in the context of a decade ago, when international gangsterism was more widely distributed, with the British engaged in murderous repression in Kenya, the French fighting the last of their dirty colonial wars, and the Soviet Union consolidating its Eastern European empire with brutality and deceit. But it is the international situation of December 1941 that provides the most severe test for Muste’s doctrine. There is a great deal to be learned from a study of the events that led up to an armed attack, by a competing imperialism, on American possessions and the forces defending them, and even more from a consideration of the varying reactions to these events and their aftermath. If Muste’s revolutionary pacifism is defensible as a general political program, then it must be defensible in these extreme circumstances. By arguing that it was, Muste isolated himself not only from any mass base, but also from all but a marginal fringe of American intellectuals. Writing in 1941, Muste saw the war as
a conflict between two groups of powers for survival and domination. One set of powers, which includes Britain and the United States, and perhaps “free” France, controls some 70% of the earth’s resources and thirty million square miles of territory. The imperialistic status quo thus to their advantage was achieved by a series of wars including the last one. All they ask now is to be left at peace, and if so they are disposed to make their rule mild though firm…. On the other hand stands a group of powers, such as Germany, Italy, Hungary, Japan, controlling about 15% of the earth’s resources and one million square miles of territory, equally determined to alter the situation in their own favor, to impose their ideas of “order,” and armed to the teeth to do that, even if it means plunging the whole world into war.7
He foresaw that an Allied victory would yield “a new American empire” incorporating a subservient Britain, “that we shall be the next nation to seek world domination — in other words, to do what we condemn Hitler for trying to do.” In the disordered postwar world, we shall be told, he predicts, that “our only safety lies in making or keeping ourselves ‘impregnable.’ But that…means being able to decide by preponderance of military might any international issue that may arise — which would put us in the position in which Hitler is trying to put Germany.” In a later essay, he quotes this remark: “The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?”8
The prediction that the United States would emerge as the world-dominant power was political realism; to forecast that it would act accordingly, having achieved this status by force, was no less realistic. This tragedy might be averted, Muste urged, by a serious attempt at peaceful reconciliation with no attempt to fasten sole war-guilt on any nation, assurance to all peoples of equitable access to markets and essential materials, armament reduction, massive economic rehabilitation, and moves towards international federation. To the American ideologist of 1941 such a recommendation seemed as senseless as the proposal, today, that we support popular revolution. And at that moment, events and policy were taking a very different direction.
Since nothing of the sort was ever attempted, one can only speculate as to the possible outcome of such a course. The accuracy of Muste’s forecast unfortunately requires little comment. Furthermore, a plausible case can be made for his analysis of the then existing situation, a matter of more than academic interest in view of developments in Asia since that time.
As I mentioned, the point of view that Muste expressed was a rather isolated one. To see how little the intellectual climate has changed, it is enough to consider the lengthy debate over the decision to drop the bomb. What has been at issue is the question whether this constituted the last act of World War II or the first phase of American postwar diplomacy; or whether it was justified as a means of bringing the war to a quick conclusion. Only rarely has the question been raised whether there was any justification for American victory in the Pacific war; and this issue, where faced at all, has been posed in the context of the Cold War — that is, was it wise to have removed a counterweight to growing Chinese power, soon to become “Communist” power?
A fairly typical American view is probably that expressed by historian Louis Morton:
In the late summer and autumn of 1945 the American people had every reason to rejoice. Germany and Japan had been defeated, and American troops, victorious everywhere, would soon be returning home. Unprecedented evil had been overcome by the greatest display of force ever marshaled in the cause of human freedom….9
It is remarkable that such an attitude should be so blandly expressed and easily accepted. Is it true that in August 1945 the American people “had every reason to rejoice” — at the sight of a Japanese countryside devastated by conventional bombing in which tens of thousands of civilians had been massacred, not to speak of the horrifying toll of two atom bombs (the second being, so it appears, history’s most abominable experiment); or at the news of a final gratuitous act of barbarism, trivial in the context of what had just taken place, a thousand-plane raid launched after the Japanese surrender had been announced but, technically, before it was officially received?10 To Secretary of War Stimson it seemed “appalling that there had been no protest over the air strikes we were conducting against Japan which led to such extraordinarily heavy losses of life”; he felt that “there was something wrong with a country where no one questioned that.” What then are we to say of a country that still, twenty years later, is incapable of facing the question of war guilt?
It is not, of course, that the question of war guilt has gone out of fashion. No trip to Germany is complete, even today, without a ritual sigh and wringing of hands over the failure of the German people to face up to the sins of the Nazi era, or the German school texts which glide so easily over the Nazi atrocities and the question of war guilt. This is a sure sign of the corruption of their nature. Just recently, a group of American liberal intellectuals gave their impressions of a tour of West Germany in the Atlantic Monthly (May 1967). None failed to raise the question of war guilt. One comments that “however disparate our temperaments or our political emphases, we were plainly a group made coherent by our shared suspicions of Germany’s capacity for political health … we had not forgotten, nor could we forget, that we were in the country which had been able to devise, and implement, Nazism.” The same commentator is impressed with the “dignity and fortitude” with which young Germans “carry an emotional and moral burden unmatched in history: they have to live with the knowledge that their parent generation, and often their own parents, perpetrated the worst atrocities on the record of mankind.” Another, a fervent apologist for the American war in Vietnam, asks, “How does a human being ‘come to terms’ with the fact that his father was a soulless murderer, or an accomplice to soulless murder?” Several “were offended by the way the camp [Dachau] had been fixed up, prettified.” (Does the “prettification” of Hiroshima — or, to take a closer analogue, the prettification of Los Alamos — provoke the same response?) To their credit, a few refer to Vietnam; but not once is a question raised — even to be dismissed — as to American conduct in the Second World War, or the “emotional and moral burden” carried by those whose “parent generation” stood by while two atom bombs were used against a beaten and virtually defenseless enemy.
To free ourselves from the conformism and moral blindness that have become a national scandal, it is a good idea occasionally to read the measured reactions of conservative Asians to some of our own exploits. Consider, for example, the words of the Indian justice Radhabinod Pal, the leading Asian voice at the Tokyo Tribunal that assessed the war guilt of the Japanese. In his carefully argued (and largely ignored) dissenting opinion to the decision of the tribunal, he has the following remarks to make:
The Kaiser Wilhelm II was credited with a letter to the Austrian Kaiser Franz Joseph in the early days of that war, wherein he stated as follows: “My soul is torn, but everything must be put to fire and sword; men, women and children and old men must be slaughtered and not a tree or house be left standing. With these methods of terrorism, which are alone capable of affecting a people as degenerate as the French, the war will be over in two months, whereas if I admit considerations of humanity it will be prolonged for years. In spite of my repugnance I have therefore been obliged to choose the former system.” This showed his ruthless policy, and this policy of indiscriminate murder to shorten the war was considered to be a crime. In the Pacific war under our consideration, if there was anything approaching what is indicated in the above letter of the German Emperor, it is the decision coming from the allied powers to use the atom bomb. Future generations will judge this dire decision. History will say whether any outburst of popular sentiment against usage of such a weapon is irrational and only sentimental and whether it has become legitimate by such indiscriminate slaughter to win the victory by breaking the will of the whole nation to continue to fight. We need not stop here to consider whether or not “the atom bomb comes to force a more fundamental searching of the nature of warfare and of the legitimate means for the pursuit of military objectives.” It would be sufficient for my present purpose to say that if any indiscriminate destruction of civilian life and property is still illegitimate in warfare, then, in the Pacific war, this decision to use the atom bomb is the only near approach to the directives of the German Emperor during the first World War and of the Nazi leaders during the second World War. Nothing like this could be traced to the credit of the present accused.11
When we lament over the German conscience, we are demanding of them a display of self-hatred — a good thing, no doubt. But for us the matter is infinitely more serious. It is not a matter of self-hatred regarding the sins of the past. Like the German Kaiser, we believe that everything must be put to fire and sword, so that the war will be more quickly finished — and we act on this belief. Unlike the German Kaiser, our soul is not torn. We manage a relative calm, as we continue, today, to write new chapters of history with the blood of the helpless and innocent.
Returning to Muste’s radical pacifism in the context of 1941, recall that the first of his proposals was that there be no attempt “to fasten sole war-guilt on any nation.” The second was that measures be taken to assure to all peoples equitable access to markets and essential materials. The immediate cause of the attack on Pearl Harbor was the recognition, by the Japanese military, that it was “now or never.” The Western powers controlled the raw materials on which their existence depended, and these supplies were being choked off in retaliation for expansion on the mainland and association with Germany and Italy in the Tripartite Pact. Japan faced an American diplomatic offensive aimed at changing it “from a hostile expansionist empire, with great pride in its destiny and ambitious plans for its future, to a peaceful, contented nation of merchants subcontracting with the United States to aid America’s fight against Hitler”12 — precisely what was achieved by the war, if we replace “Hitler” by “the international Communist conspiracy.” To understand the Japanese predicament more fully, to evaluate the claim that Japan represented the forces of “unprecedented evil” arrayed against the American-led “cause of human freedom,” and to appreciate the substance of Muste’s radical pacifist alternative, it is necessary to look with some care into the backgrounds of Japanese imperialism.
Japan had been opened to Western influence by a threat of force in the mid-nineteenth century, and had then undertaken a remarkably successful effort at modernization. A new plutocracy replaced the old feudal structure, adopting the forms of parliamentary government. Mass participation in the developing political structure was minimal; it is doubtful that the living standards of the peasantry and urban workers rose during the period of transition from a medieval to a modern capitalist society. Japan joined the other imperialist powers in the exploitation of East Asia and took over Formosa, Korea, and parts of southern Manchuria. In short, by the late 1920s, Japan was what in modern political parlance is called a “democracy” and was attempting to play the normal role of a great power. A portent of danger lay in the virtual independence of the armed forces from the civilian government. The “dual diplomacy” to which this gave rise was shortly to have disastrous consequences.
The great European war of 1914-1918 gave Japan an opportunity to extend its “rights and interests” in China and provided new markets for expanding Japanese industry. The revival of European competition came as a severe blow, and postwar diplomacy attempted vainly to construct a new and stable international system that would integrate Japan with the other imperialist powers. In good faith, Japan accepted the subordinate role assigned it and consented, throughout the twenties, to be a well-behaved member of the imperialist club. The Washington Conference of 1921-1922 established the naval forces of America, England, and Japan in the ratio of 5:5:3, accepting the American position of “equality of security” rather than the Japanese goal of “equality of armaments.” As Schroeder comments, “the American argument was that Japan, a state surrounded on all sides by historic enemies and powerful rivals, had a superior natural situation for defense, while the United States, in the midst of two oceans without a powerful enemy on two continents, had defensively an inferior natural endowment.”13
The Washington Conference arrangements were renegotiated in the London Naval Treaty of 1930 involving Japan, Great Britain, and the United States. The matter is discussed in detail in a study by James Crowley.14 In the negotiations leading to this treaty, Secretary of State Stimson placed emphasis on “the unusual problems posed by the necessity of the United States to defend two coastlines and on the ‘great concessions’ which the American government had made at the time of the Washington Conference.” Crowley points out that “throughout the 1920’s, Japan faithfully adhered to the terms of the Washington Conference treaties.” At issue in the subsequent negotiations was the question whether Japan could maintain its primary objective: “supremacy over the American fleet in Japanese home waters.” The London Treaty, in effect, required that Japan abandon this objective. The London Treaty “did not render England a second-class naval power, nor did it endanger the safety of the United States or its insular possessions in the Pacific,” but it did compromise “the principle of Japanese naval hegemony in Japan’s own waters.”
The domestic opposition to the treaty in Japan was a very serious matter. It led to a strengthening of the role of the military, which felt, with reason, that the civilian leadership was seriously endangering Japanese security. The treaty also evoked the first of “the series of violent attacks on the legally appointed leaders of Japan which would characterize the political history of that country during the 1930’s” when Premier Hamaguchi, who was responsible for the treaty, was shot by “a patriotic youth” in 1930. An immediate consequence of the treaty was the adoption by the opposition party of a platform insisting on “the maintenance of Japan’s privileged position in Manchuria, and a foreign policy which discounted the necessity of cooperation with the Anglo-American nations in defense of Japan’s continental interests or in the cause of naval armament agreements.” In summary, it seems clear that the refusal of the United States to grant to Japan hegemony in its waters (while of course insisting on maintaining its own hegemony in the Western Atlantic and Eastern Pacific) was a significant contributory cause to the crisis that was soon to erupt. In later years, the Japanese came to feel, with much justice, that they had been hoodwinked more generally in the diplomatic arrangements of the early 1920s, which “embodied the idea that the Far East is essentially a place for the commercial and financial activities of the Western peoples; and … emphasized the importance of placing the signatory powers on an equal footing, thus ignoring the desirability of providing special relations between particular countries, especially between Japan and China.”15 A typical Japanese view of the situation was expressed by a delegate to the 1925 conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR): “Just as [Japan] was getting really skillful at the game of the grab, the other Powers, most of whom had all they wanted anyway, suddenly had an excess of virtue and called the game off.”16 A decade later, a delegate to the 1936 IPR conference was to reiterate:
The Japanese feel that Western countries are unfair in imposing the status quo on Japan and calling it “peace.” Their whole conception of diplomatic machinery and collective security is that it is simply a means to maintain that sort of peace, and to that degree the Japanese people are against it. This doesn’t mean that Japan would not participate in collective security if some machinery can be devised which provides for “peaceful change.” … Japan has a legitimate desire to expand. What are the means by which a nation can legitimately expand? Imperialistic advances are apparently out of date, but this is not understood by the Japanese people. The average reasoning of the Japanese people is that Great Britain and the other Western powers have done it, so why shouldn’t we? The problem is not so much to determine the aggressor as to provide ample opportunities for the necessary expansion peacefully.17
Through the mid-1920s the Japanese were, generally, the most sympathetic of the imperialist powers to the Kuomintang in its attempt to unify China. In 1927, Chiang Kai-shek stated that the Japanese policy differed from the “oppressive” attitude of Britain and the United States, and Eugene Ch’en, then a high Kuomintang official, contrasted Japan’s nonparticipation in the imperialist bombardment of Nanking to the “cruelty inherent in the Western civilization”; this “indicated Japan’s friendship for China.” The goal of Japanese diplomacy was to strengthen the anti-Communist elements in the Kuomintang and, at the same time, to support the rule of the warlord Chang Tso-lin over an at least semi-independent Manchuria. At the time, this seemed not totally unreasonable, although the legal position of Japan was insecure and this policy was sure to come into conflict with Chinese nationalism. According to one authority:
As of 1927 Manchuria was politically identifiable with China only insofar as its overlord, Chang Tso-lin, was also commander-in-chief of the anti-Kuomintang coalition controlling Peking. But Chang’s economic and military base in the Three Eastern Provinces was entirely distinct from China, and in the past he had occasionally proclaimed Manchuria’s independence.18
To the extent that this assessment is accurate, Japanese diplomacy was not unrealistic in aiming to prevent the growing nationalist movement in China from overwhelming Manchuria, and at the same time to curb the ambitions of the Manchurian warlord to take over all of China. This remained, in essence, the goal of the Japanese civilian governments even through the “Manchurian incident” of 1931-1932.
By 1931, it was becoming fairly clear that the relatively conciliatory diplomacy of the 1920s was unlikely to secure the “rights and interests” regarded as essential for Japan’s continued development. The effects of the great depression were immediate and severe (see below). The London Treaty had failed to provide Japan with military security vis à vis the other imperialist powers. Manchuria remained independent of the Kuomintang, but Chinese Nationalist pressures for unification were increasing. At the same time, the Soviet Union had significantly expanded its military power on the Manchurian border, a fact that could not fail to concern the Japanese military. Japan had a substantial investment in the South Manchurian Railway and, rightly or wrongly, regarded Manchuria as an extremely important potential source of desperately needed raw materials. Large numbers of Japanese19 as well as thousands of Korean farmers encouraged by Japan had settled in Manchuria, inflaming Chinese nationalism and, simultaneously, deepening the commitment of the Kwantung Army in Manchuria to “preserve order.” The future of the South Manchurian Railway — and with it, the associated investments as well as the welfare of the Japanese and Korean immigrants and residents — was very much in doubt, as Chinese pressures mounted both inside Manchuria and in Nationalist China. “Technically, under a 1905 protocol, China was barred from building any railway lines parallel to the South Manchurian Railway or from constructing any lines which might endanger the commercial traffic along it,”20 but China was quite naturally disinclined to honor this provision, and Japanese attempts to conduct discussions on railroad construction were frustrated, as the Kuomintang pursued its course of attempting to incorporate Manchuria within China and to eliminate Japanese influence, no doubt with the support of the majority of the Manchurian population. A number of fairly serious incidents of violence occurred involving Korean settlers and the Japanese military. A Japanese officer was murdered in the summer of 1931. In Shanghai, a boycott of Japanese goods was initiated.
Under these conditions, debate intensified within Japan as to whether its future lay in “the political leadership of an East Asia power bloc” guaranteed by military force, or in continuing to abide by “the new rules of diplomacy established by Occidental and satiated powers.”21 The issue was resolved in September 1931, when Kwantung Army officers provoked a clash with Chinese forces (the “Mukden incident”) and proceeded to take full control of Manchuria. China, not unexpectedly, refused the Japanese offers to negotiate, insisting that “evacuation is a precondition of direct negotiation.”22 Exercising the right of “self-defense” against Chinese “bandits,” the Kwantung Army established control by force, and in August 1932 the Japanese government, under strong military and popular pressure, recognized Manchuria as the new, “independent” state of Manchukuo, under the former Manchu emperor, Pu Yi. As Walter Lippmann commented, the procedure of setting up “local Chinese governments which are dependent upon Japan” was “a familiar one,” not unlike the American precedents “in Nicaragua, Haiti, and elsewhere.”23
The Manchurian events flowed over into China proper and Japan itself, and caused an international crisis. The boycott in Shanghai and a clash between Chinese troops and Japanese marines near the Japanese sector of the international settlement led to a retaliatory aerial bombardment by the Japanese. “This indiscriminate use of air power against a small contingent of Chinese soldiers dispersed among a congested civilian population generated a profound sense of shock and indignation in England and the United States.”24 In Japan, the Shanghai incident was seen rather differently. The Japanese minister to China at the time, Mamoru Shigemitsu, writes in his memoirs25 that he was responsible for the request that the government dispatch troops to Shanghai “to save the Japanese residents from annihilation.” In his view, the thirty thousand Japanese settlers and the Japanese property in Shanghai were at the mercy of the Chinese army, with its rather left-wing tendencies. Furthermore, “Chinese Communists” were starting strikes in Japanese-owned mills. For all of these reasons, Shigemitsu felt justified in requesting troops, which “succeeded in dislodging the Chinese forces from the Shanghai district and restoring law and order” — a “familiar procedure,” as Lippmann rightly observed, and not without present-day parallels.26
As far as Japan itself is concerned, the events of 1931-1932 were quite serious in their impact. According to the outstanding Japanese political scientist Masao Maruyama, “the energy of radical fascism stored up in the preparatory period now burst forth in full concentration under the combined pressure of domestic panic and international crises such as the Manchurian Incident, the Shanghai Incident, and Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations.”27 Furthermore, “the issue of the infringement of the supreme command,” raised when the civilian leadership had overruled the military leaders and in effect capitulated to the West at the London Naval Conference, “was a great stimulus to the fascist movement” (p. 81). In 1932 a series of assassinations of important political figures (including Prime Minister Inukai) contributed further to the decline of civilian power and the strengthening of the hand of the military.
The international reaction to these events was ambiguous. The League of Nations sent a commission of inquiry, the Lytton Commission, to investigate the Manchurian situation. Its report rejected the Japanese position that Manchukuo should be established as an independent state, and insisted on a loose form of Chinese sovereignty, at which point Japan withdrew from the League of Nations. The United States also found itself somewhat isolated diplomatically, in that the harsh anti-Japanese position taken by Secretary of State Stimson received little support from the other Western powers.
In a careful review of the point of view of the Lytton Commission, the Inukai government, and the central army authorities, Sadako Ogata demonstrates a considerable area of agreement:
… the central army authorities … insisted upon the creation of a new local regime with authority to negotiate settlement of Manchurian problems, but under the formal sovereignty of the Chinese National Government, a traditional arrangement. This was the arrangement that the world at large was willing to accept. The Lytton Commission proposed the constitution of a special regime for the administration of Manchuria possessed of a large measure of autonomy but under Chinese jurisdiction. Finally, when the State of Manchukuo declared its independence, the Government of Japan withheld formal recognition and thereby attempted to avoid a head-on collision with the powers, which by then had lined up behind the doctrine of non-recognition of changes caused by Japanese military action in Manchuria. The complete political reconstruction of Manchuria was achieved, then, at the hands of the Kwantung Army in defiance of the opposition of government and central military leaders.28
The Lytton Commission report took cognizance of some of the complexities in the situation. The report drew the following conclusion:
This is not a case in which one country has declared war on another country without previously exhausting the opportunities for conciliation provided in the Covenant of the League of Nations. Neither is it a simple case of the violation of the frontier of one country by the armed forces of a neighboring country, because in Manchuria there are many features without an exact parallel in other parts of the world.
The report went on to point out that the dispute arose in a territory in which both China and Japan “claim to have rights and interests, only some of which are clearly defined by international law; a territory which, although legally an integral part of China, had a sufficiently autonomous character to carry out direct negotiations with Japan on the matters which lay at the roots of this conflict.”29
It is an open question whether a more conciliatory American diplomacy that took into account some of the real problems faced by Japan might have helped the civilian government (backed by the central army authorities) to prevail over the independent initiative of the Kwantung Army, which ultimately succeeded in bringing the Japanese government to recognize the fait accompli of a Manchukuo that was more a puppet of the Kwantung Army than of Japan proper.
In any event, the success of the Kwantung Army in enforcing its conception of the status of Manchuria set Japan and the United States on a collision course. Japan turned to an “independent diplomacy” and reliance on force to achieve its objectives. The Japanese position of the mid-thirties is described as follows by Röyama. Japan’s aim is
not to conquer China, or to take any territory from her, but instead to create jointly with China and Manchukuo a new order comprising the three independent states. In accordance with this programme, East Asia is to become a vast self-sustaining region where Japan will acquire economic security and immunity from such trade boycotts as she has been experiencing at the hands of the Western powers.30
This policy was in conflict with Chinese nationalism and with the long-term insistence of the United States on the Open Door policy in China.
From 1928 there had been an increasing divergence between the policies of the civilian Japanese governments, which attempted to play the game of international politics in accordance with the rules set by the dominant imperialist powers, and the Kwantung Army, which regarded these rules as unfair to Japan and was also dissatisfied with the injustice of domestic Japanese society. The independent initiative of the Kwantung Army was largely that of the young officers of petit-bourgeois origin who felt that they represented as well the interests of the soldiers, predominantly of peasant stock. “The Manchurian affair constitutes an external expression of the radical reform movement that was originally inspired by Kita and Okawa,”31 who had developed the view that Japan represented an “international proletariat,” with an emancipating mission for the Asian masses, and who opposed the obvious inequities of modern capitalism. The fundamental law proposed for Manchukuo, in 1932, protected the people from “usury, excessive profit, and all other unjust economic pressure.” As Ogata notes,32 the fundamental law “showed the attempt to forestall the modern forms of economic injustice caused by capitalism.” In Japan itself, this program appealed to the Social Democrats, who blamed “Chinese warlords and selfish Japanese capitalists for the difficulties in [Manchuria]” and who demanded “the creation of a socialistic system in Manchuria, one that would benefit ‘both Chinese and Japanese living in Manchuria.’”33
Ogata cites a great deal of evidence to support the conclusion that the Kwantung Army never expected to establish Japanese supremacy, but rather proposed to leave “wide discretion to the local self-governing Chinese bodies, and intended neither the disruption of the daily lives of the Manchurian people nor their assimilation into Japanese culture” (p. 182). The program for autonomy was apparently influenced by and attempted to incorporate certain indigenous Chinese moves towards autonomy. “In the period immediately preceding the Manchurian Affair, a group of Chinese under the leadership of Chang Ku also attempted to create an autonomous Manchuria based on cooperation of its six largest ethnic groups (Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Mongolians, Koreans, and Manchurians) in order to protect the area from Japanese, Chinese and Soviet encroachment” (p. 40). The governing bodies set up by the Kwantung Army
were led by prominent Chinese with Japanese support. Reorganization of local administrative organs was undertaken by utilizing the traditional self-governing bodies…. Yu Chung-han, a prominent elder statesman of the Mukden Government, … was … installed as chief of the Self-Government Guiding Board on November 10. Yu had been the leader of the civilian group in Manchuria which, in contrast to the warlords, had held to the principle of absolute hokyo anmin (secure boundary and peaceful life). According to him, the protection and prosperity of the Northeastern Provinces assumed priority over all, including the relationship with China proper. Through tax reform, improvement of the wage system of government officials, and abolition of a costly army, the people in Manchuria were to enjoy the benefits of peaceful labor, while defense was to be entrusted to their most powerful neighbor, Japan. [Pp. 118-19]
In general, the Kwantung Army regarded the thirty million people of Manchuria — half of whom had immigrated since the initiation of Japanese development efforts a quarter of a century earlier — as “suffering masses who had been sacrificed to the misrule of warlords and the avarice of wicked officials, masses deriving no benefits of civilization despite the natural abundance of the region.”34 Furthermore, the Army regarded Manchuria as “the fortress against Russian southern advancement, which became increasingly threatening as Soviet influence over the Chinese revolution became more and more apparent.”35 With many Japanese civilians, it felt that “Under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek and with the support of the Western democratic powers which wanted to keep China in a semi-colonial state safe from the continental advance of the Japanese, China was rapidly becoming a military-fascist country”36 and had no right to dominate Manchuria. To use the kind of terminology favored by Secretary Rusk, it was unwilling to sacrifice the Manchurian people to their more powerful or better organized neighbors, and it engaged in serious efforts to win the hearts and minds of the people and to encourage the responsible Chinese leadership that had itself been working for Manchurian independence.37
In fact, a case can be made that “had it not been for Western intervention, which strengthened China, the Tibetans and Mongols would have simply resumed their own national sovereignty after the fall of the Manchu empire” in 1911, as would the Manchurians. With considerable Western prodding, the Nationalist government had abandoned the original demand for union with equality of Chinese, Manchus, Mongols, Moslems, and Tibetans and taken the position that China should rule the outer dominions. The West assumed that China would be under Western guidance and influence; “by confirming a maximum area for China it increased the sphere of future Western investment and exploitation”38 (a fact which adds a touch of irony to current Western complaints about “Chinese expansionism”). From this point of view, the independence of Manchukuo could easily be rationalized as a step towards the emancipation of the peoples of East Asia from Western dominance.
To be sure, the establishment of Japanese hegemony over Manchuria — and later, northern China as well — was motivated by the desire to secure Japanese rights and interests. A liberal professor of American history, Yasaka Takagi, observes that the general support for the Japanese military in 1931 was similar to the Manifest Destiny psychology underlying American expansion into Florida, Texas, California, Cuba, and Hawaii.39 He describes the bandit-infested, warlord-controlled Manchurian region, then subject to the clash of expansionist Chinese Nationalism and Japanese imperialism, as similar to the Caribbean when the United States justified its Caribbean policy. He asks why there should be a Monroe Doctrine in America and an Open Door principle in Asia, and suggests an international conference to resolve the outstanding problems of the area, noting, however, that few Americans would “entertain even for a moment the idea of letting an international conference define the Monroe Doctrine and review Mexican relations.” He points out, quite correctly, that “the peace machinery of the world is in itself primarily the creation of the dominant races of the earth, of those who are the greatest beneficiaries from the maintenance of the status quo.”
Nevertheless, it appears that few Japanese were willing to justify the Manchurian incident and subsequent events on the “pragmatic” grounds of self-interest. Rather, they emphasized the high moral character of the intervention, the benefits it would bring to the suffering masses (once the terrorism had been suppressed), and the intention of establishing an “earthly paradise” in the independent state of Manchukuo (later, in China as well), defended from Communist attack by the power of Japan. Maruyama observes that “what our wartime leaders accomplished by their moralizing was not simply to deceive the people of Japan or of the world; more than anyone else they deceived themselves.”40 To illustrate, he quotes the observations of American Ambassador Joseph Grew on the “self-deception and lack of realism” in the upper strata of Japanese society:
… I doubt if one Japanese in a hundred really believes that they have actually broken the Kellogg Pact, the Nine-Power Treaty, and the Covenant of the League. A comparatively few thinking men are capable of frankly facing the facts, and one Japanese said to me: “Yes, we’ve broken every one of these instruments; we’ve waged open war; the arguments of ‘self-defense’ and ‘self-determination for Manchuria’ are rot; but we needed Manchuria, and that’s that.” But such men are in the minority. The great majority of Japanese are astonishingly capable of really fooling themselves…. It isn’t that the Japanese necessarily has his tongue in his cheek when he signs the obligation. It merely means that when the obligation runs counter to his own interests, as he conceives them, he will interpret the obligation to suit himself and, according to his own lights and mentality, he will very likely be perfectly honest in so doing…. Such a mentality is a great deal harder to deal with than a mentality which, however brazen, knows that it is in the wrong.
In this respect, the analogy to current American behavior in Asia fails; more than one American in a hundred understands that we have actually violated our commitments, not only at Geneva but, more importantly, to the United Nations Charter. However, the general observation remains quite valid in the changed circumstances of today. It is very difficult to deal with the mentality that reinterprets obligations to suit self-interest, and may very well be perfectly honest — in some curious sense of the word — in so doing.
Alongside of those who justified the Manchurian intervention on the pragmatic grounds of self-interest, those who spoke of a new Monroe Doctrine “to maintain the peace of East Asia,” and those who fantasied about an “earthly paradise,”41 there were also dissident voices that questioned Japanese policy in a more fundamental way. As the military extended its power, dissidents were attacked — both verbally and physically — for their betrayal of Japan. In 1936, for example, the printing presses of the leading Tokyo newspapers were bombed and Captain Nonaka, who was in command, posted a Manifesto of the Righteous Army of Restoration “which identified those groups most responsible for the betrayal of the national polity — the senior statesmen, financial magnates, court officials, and certain factions in the army — proclaiming:
They have trespassed on the prerogatives of the Emperor’s rights of supreme command — among other times, in the conclusion of the London Naval Treaty and in the removal of the Inspector General of Military Education. Moreover, they secretly conspired to steal the supreme command in the March Incident; and they united with disloyal professors in rebellious places. These are but a few of the most notable instances of their villainies….”42
It is difficult to imagine such a development in the United States today. Difficult, but not impossible. Consider, for example, the column by William H. Stringer on the editorial page of the Christian Science Monitor on February 7, 1968, calling for an end to “that violent, discouraged, and anarchic thinking which disrupts government and adds to Washington’s already grievous burdens.” The final paragraph explains why the “carping and caterwauling from the pseudointellectual establishment” must cease:
Certainly this time of crucial decisions is a time to uphold the government — President and Congress — with our prayers. Yes, to see that no mist of false doctrine or sleazy upbringing can upset the constitutional order which gives thrust and purpose to our country. And to remind ourselves and affirm that our leaders have the utilization of ever-present intelligence and wisdom from on high, that they indeed can perceive and follow the “path which no fowl knoweth.” (Job 28) [Italics mine]
One would have to search with some diligence in the literature of totalitarianism to find such a statement. An obscure Japanese military officer condemns the disloyal professors and other betrayers who have trespassed on the imperial prerogatives; a writer for one of our most distinguished and “responsible” newspapers denounces the pseudointellectuals of false doctrine and sleazy upbringing who refuse to recognize that our leaders are divinely inspired. There are, to be sure, important differences between the two situations; thus Captain Nonaka bombed the printing presses, whereas his contemporary equivalent is featured by the responsible American press.
As Toynbee had noted earlier,43 Japan’s
economic interests in Manchuria were not superfluities but vital necessities of her international life…. The international position of Japan — with Nationalist China, Soviet Russia, and the race-conscious English-speaking peoples of the Pacific closing in upon her — had suddenly become precarious again.
These special interests had repeatedly been recognized by the United States. Both China and Japan regarded the Root-Takahira Agreement of 1908 as indicating “American acquiescence in the latter’s position in Manchuria.”44 Secretary of State Bryan, in 1915, stated that “the United States frankly recognized that territorial contiguity creates special relations between Japan and these districts” (Shantung, South Manchuria, and East Mongolia); and the Lansing-Ishii Notes of 1917 stated that “territorial propinquity creates special relations between countries, and consequently, the Government of the United States recognizes that Japan has special interests in China, particularly in the part to which her possessions are contiguous.”45 In fact, the United States for several years regarded the Kuomintang as in revolt against the legitimate government of China, and even after Chiang’s massacre of Communists in 1927, showed little pro-Nationalist sympathy. As late as 1930, the American minister to China saw no difference between the Kuomintang and the warlord rebels in Peking, and wrote that he could not “see any hope in any of the self-appointed leaders that are drifting over the land at the head of odd bands of troops.”46 At the same time, the United States insisted on preserving its special rights, including the right of extraterritoriality, which exempted American citizens from Chinese law. In 1928, there were more than 5,200 American marines in China protecting these rights (the Japanese army in Manchuria at the time was about 10,000 troops).47 The other imperialist powers were even more insistent on protecting their rights, and persisted in their anti-Nationalist attitudes right through the Manchurian incident.
In later years, when the Japanese had begun to use force to guarantee their position in China, they still retained the support of the American business community (as long as it did not itself feel threatened by these actions). In 1928, American consuls supported the dispatch of Japanese troops; one reported that their arrival “has brought a feeling of relief … even among Chinese, especially those of the substantial class.”48 The business community remained relatively pro-Japanese even after Japanese actions in Manchuria and Shanghai in 1931-1932; “in general, it was felt that the Japanese were fighting the battle of all foreigners against the Chinese who wished to destroy foreign rights and privileges … that if the organizing abilities of the Japanese were turned loose in China, it might be a good thing for everybody.”49 Ambassador Grew, on November 20, 1937, entered in his diary a note that the MacMurray Memorandum, just circulated by one of the main American spokesmen on Far Eastern affairs, “would serve to relieve many of our fellow countrymen of the generally accepted theory that Japan has been a big bully and China the downtrodden victim.”50 Commonly the American attitude remained that expressed by Ambassador Nelson Johnson, who argued that the American interest dictated that we be neither pro-Chinese nor pro-Japanese but rather “must have a single eye to the … effect of developments in the East … upon the future interests of America,” namely, “the fact that the great population of Asia offers a valuable outlet for the products of our industries and that as our industries develop we will be more and more interested in cultivating an outlet for them”.51 Also typical is his explanation of the attitude we should adopt “toward these oriental peoples for whose future we became responsible.” What we make of them will be “peculiarly the product of American idealism”; in their future “we shall continue to be interested as a father must be interested in the career of his son long after the son has left the family nest.”52 He was concerned, in fact, that native American altruism would be too predominant in our treatment of our Asian wards, and hoped rather that the “new period of American international relations” would be “characterized by the acquisitive, practical side of American life rather than its idealistic and altruistic side.”
As late as 1939 Ambassador Grew, speaking in Tokyo, described the American objection to the New Order as based on the fact that it included “depriving Americans of their long-established rights in China” and imposing “a system of closed economy.” Critics noted that nothing was said about the independence of China, and that it might well appear, from his remarks, that “if the Japanese stopped taking actions that infringed on American rights the United States would not object to their continued occupation of China.”53 In the fall of 1939, Secretary of State Hull refused to negotiate a new commercial treaty with Japan or arrive at a modus vivendi “unless Japan completely changed her attitude and practice towards our rights and interests in China.”54 Had this condition been met, so it appears, the situation would have been quite different.
The depression of 1929 marked the final collapse of the attempt of Japanese civilians to live by the rules established by the Western powers. Just as the depression struck, the new Hamaguchi cabinet adopted the gold standard in an attempt to link the Japanese economy more closely with the West, foregoing the previous attempts at unilateral Sino-Japanese “co-prosperity.” An immediate consequence was a drastic decline in Japanese exports. In 1931, Japan was replaced by the United States as the major exporter to China. Japanese exports to the United States also declined severely, in part as a result of the Smoot-Hawley tariff of June 1930, in part because of the dramatic fall in the price of silk.55 For an industrialized country such as Japan, with almost no domestic supplies of raw materials, the decline in world trade was an unmitigated disaster. The Japanese diplomat Mamoru Shigemitsu describes the crisis succinctly:
The Japanese were completely shut out from the European colonies. In the Philippines, Indo-China, Borneo, Indonesia, Malaya, Burma, not only were Japanese activities forbidden, but even entry. Ordinary trade was hampered by unnatural discriminatory treatment…. In a sense the Manchurian outbreak was the result of the international closed economies that followed on the first World War. There was a feeling at the back of it that it provided the only escape from economic strangulation.56
The infamous Yosuke Matsuoka stated in 1931 that “we feel suffocated as we observe internal and external situations. What we are seeking is that which is minimal for living beings. In other words, we are seeking to live. We are seeking room that will let us breathe.”57 Ten years later he was to describe Japan as “in the grip of a need to work out means of self-supply and self-sufficiency in Greater East Asia.” He asks: “Is it for the United States, which rules over the Western Hemisphere and is expanding over the Atlantic and the Pacific, to say that these ideals, these ambitions of Japan are wrong?”58
Western economic policies of the 1930s made an intolerable situation still worse, as was reported regularly in the conferences of the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR). The report of the Banff conference of August 1933 noted that “the Indian Government, in an attempt to foster its own cotton industry, imposed an almost prohibitive tariff on imported cotton goods, the effects of which were of course felt chiefly by Japanese traders, whose markets in India had been growing rapidly.”59 “Japan, which is a rapidly growing industrial nation, has a special need for … [mineral resources] … and is faced with a serious shortage of iron, steel, oil, and a number of important industrial minerals under her domestic control, while, on the other hand, the greater part of the supplies of tin and rubber, not only of the Pacific area but for the whole world, are, by historical accident, largely under the control of Great Britain and the Netherlands.”60 The same was true of iron and oil, of course. In 1932, Japanese exports of cotton piece-goods for the first time exceeded those of Great Britain. The Indian tariff, mentioned above, was 75 percent on Japanese cotton goods and 25 percent on British goods. The Ottawa conference of 1932 effectively blocked Japanese trade with the Commonwealth, including India. As the IPR conference report noted, “Ottawa had dealt a blow to Japanese liberalism.”
The Ottawa Commonwealth arrangements aimed at constructing an essentially closed, autarchic system; the contemporary American policy of self-sufficiency proceeded in a similar direction. The only recourse available to Japan was to try to mimic this behavior in Manchuria. Liberalism was all very well when Britannia ruled the waves, but not when Lancashire industry was grinding to a halt, unable to meet Japanese competition. The Open Door policy was appropriate to an expanding capitalist economy, but must not be allowed to block American economic recovery. Thus in October 1935, Japan was forced to accept an agreement limiting shipments of cotton textiles from Japan to the Philippines for two years, while American imports remained duty-free. Similarly, revised commercial arrangements with Cuba in 1934 were designed to eliminate Japanese competition in textiles, copper wire, electric bulbs, and cellophane.61
The 1936 IPR conference continues the story. Writing on “trade and trade rivalry between the United States and Japan,” William W. Lockwood observes that American preponderance in Philippine trade “is attributable in large degree to the Closed Door policy of the United States, which has established American products in a preferential position. Were Japanese business men able to compete on equal terms, there is no doubt but that Japan’s share of the trade would advance rapidly.”62 At the same time, American tariffs on many Japanese items exceeded 100 percent.
Japan did not have the resiliency to absorb such a serious shock to its economy. The textile industry, which was hit most severely by the discriminatory policies of the major imperialist powers, produced nearly half of the total value of manufactured goods and about two thirds of the value of Japanese exports, and employed about half of the factory workers. Though industrialized by Asian standards, Japan had only about one seventh the energy capacity per capita of Germany; from 1927 to 1932, its pig-iron production was 44 percent that of Luxemburg and its steel production about 95 percent.63 It was in no position to tolerate a situation in which India, Malaya, Indochina, and the Philippines erected tariff barriers favoring the mother country, and could not survive the deterioration in its very substantial trade with the United States and the sharp decline in the China trade. It was, in fact, being suffocated by the American and British and other Western imperial systems, which quickly abandoned their lofty liberal rhetoric as soon as the shoe began to pinch.
The situation as of 1936 is summarized as follows by Neumann:
When an effort to set a quota on imports of bleached and colored cotton cloths failed, President Roosevelt finally took direct action. In May of 1936 he invoked the flexible provision of the tariff law and ordered an average increase of 42 percent in the duty on these categories of imports. By this date Japan’s cotton goods had begun to suffer from restrictive measures taken by more than half of their other markets. Japanese xenophobia was further stimulated as tariff barriers [rose] against Japanese goods, like earlier barriers against Japanese immigrants, and presented a convincing picture of western encirclement. The most secure markets were those which Japan could control politically; an argument for further political expansion … against an iron ring of tariffs.64
It is hardly astonishing, then, that in 1937 Japan again began to expand at the expense of China. From the Japanese point of view, the new government of North China established in 1937 represented the intention of the Japanese to keep North China independent of Nanking and the interest of the Chinese opposed to colonization of the North by the dictatorial Kuomintang.65 On December 22, 1938, Prince Konoye made the following statement:
…Japan demands that China, in accordance with the principle of equality between the two countries, should recognize the freedom of residence and trade on the part of Japanese subjects in the interior of China, with a view to promoting the economic interests of both peoples; and that, in the light of the historical and economic relations between the two nations, China should extend to Japan facilities for the development of China’s natural resources, especially in the regions of North China and Inner Mongolia.66
There were to be no annexations, no indemnities. Thus a new order was to be established, which would defend China and Japan against Western imperialism, unequal treaties, and extraterritoriality. Its goal was not enrichment of Japan, but rather cooperation (on Japanese terms, of course). Japan would provide capital and technical assistance; at the same time, it would succeed in freeing itself from dependence on the West for strategic raw materials.
Japanese leaders repeatedly made clear that they intended no territorial aggrandizement. To use the contemporary idiom, they emphasized that their actions were “not intended as a threat to China” and that “China knows that Japan does not want a wider war,” although, of course, they would “do everything they can to protect the men they have there.”67 They were quite willing to negotiate with the recalcitrant Chinese authorities, and even sought third-power intervention.68 Such Japanese leaders as Tojo and Matsuoka emphasized that no one, surely, could accuse Japan of seeking mere economic gain. In fact, she was spending more on the war in China than she could possibly gain in return. Japan was “paying the price that leadership of Asia demands,” they said, attempting “to prevent Asia from becoming another Africa and to preserve China from Communism.”69 The latter was a particularly critical matter. “The Japanese felt that the United Front and the Sino-Soviet pact of 1937 were steps toward the destruction of Nationalist China and the Bolshevization of East Asia.”70 The Japanese were, furthermore, quite willing to withdraw their troops once the “illegal acts” by Communists and other lawless elements were terminated,71 and the safety and rights of Japanese and Korean residents in China guaranteed.
Such terminology was drawn directly from the lexicon of Western diplomacy. For example, Secretary of State Kellogg had stated United States government policy as: “to require China to perform the obligations of a sovereign state in the protection of foreign citizens and their property” (September 2, 1925). The Washington Treaty powers were “prepared to consider the Chinese government’s proposal for the modification of existing treaties in measure as the Chinese authorities demonstrated their willingness and ability to fulfill their obligations and to assume the protection of foreign rights and interests now safeguarded by the exceptional provisions of those treaties,” and admonished China of “the necessity of giving concrete evidence of its ability and willingness to enforce respect for the safety of foreign lives and property and to suppress disorders and anti-foreign agitations” as a precondition for the carrying on of negotiations over the unequal treaties (notes of September 4, 1925).72 Because of this “inability and unwillingness,” “none of the Treaty of Washington signatories gave effect to the treaty with respect to extra-territorial rights, intervening in internal Chinese affairs, tariffs, courts, etc., on grounds that their interests were prejudiced by lawlessness and the ineffectiveness of the government of China.”73
In 1940, Japan established a puppet government in Nanking under the leadership of Wang Ching-wei, who had been a leading disciple of Sun Yat-sen and, through the 1930s, a major figure in the Kuomintang. Its attempt to establish order in China was vain, however, as the United Front continued to resist — in the Japanese view, solely because of outside assistance from the Western imperialist powers. Japan was bogged down in an unwinnable war on the Asian mainland. The policy of “crushing blow — generous peace” was failing, because of the foreign support for the “local authority” of Chiang Kai-shek, while Japan’s real enemy, the Soviet Union, was expanding its economic and military power.74 How familiar it all sounds.
With all of the talk about benevolence and generosity, it is doubtful that Japanese spokesmen ever surpassed the level of fatuity that characterizes much of American scholarship, which often seems mired in the rhetoric of a Fourth of July address. For example, Willard Thorp describes American policy in these terms: “…we do not believe in exploitation, piracy, imperialism or war-mongering. In fact, we have used our wealth to help other countries and our military strength to defend the independence of small nations”75 (in the manner indicated in note 62, for example). Many similar remarks might be cited, but it is depressing to continue.
A wave of revulsion swept through the world as the brutality of the Japanese attack on China became known. When notified of the intention of the Japanese government to bomb Nanking, the United States responded as follows: “The Government is of the opinion that any bombardment of an extensive zone containing a sizeable population engaged in their peaceful pursuits is inadmissible and runs counter to the principles of law and humanity.”76 Now that these principles have been repealed, it is difficult to recapture the feeling of horror at the events themselves and of contempt for those who had perpetrated them. For an American today to describe these events in the manner they deserve would be the ultimate in hypocrisy. For this reason I will say very little about them.
In Manchuria, the Japanese conducted a fairly successful counterinsurgency operation, beginning in 1931.77 The record is instructive. In 1932,
the insurgents who menaced the people and obstructed the attainment of wangtao [the perfect way of the ancient kings, or the kingly way] had at one point reached 300,000, but the earnest and brave efforts of various subjugating agencies headed by the Japanese army brought about great results. Thus the number of insurgents declined from 120,000 in 1933, to 50,000 in 1934; 40,000 in 1935; 30,000 in 1936; and 20,000 in 1937. As of September, 1938, the number of insurgents is estimated at 10,000.78
The success was achieved in part by contingents of Japanese troops, in part by the national army of Manchukuo, and in part by the police. “Because of the success of these activities [which led to the winning of the support of the masses], the insurgent groups are now in an extremely precarious condition and the attainment of peace seems to be in sight.” The “native bandits” and “rebellious troops from the local armies” had been absorbed by the Chinese Communist party during this period, and were, by 1938, “under the Communist hegemony operating with the slogan of ‘Oppose Manchukuo and Resist Japan,’” with political leadership supplied from China. The goal of the insurgents was “to destroy the government’s pacification efforts” and to win public confidence and disturb public opinion “by opposing Manchukuo and Japan and espousing Communism. Their efforts lead the masses astray on various matters and significantly hamper the development of natural resources and the improvement of the people’s livelihood.” Through a combination of pacification and propaganda activities, their efforts were being countered and, the report continues, the “nation’s economy and culture” preserved.
The report emphasizes the strong distaste of the authorities for forceful means:
The use of military force against the insurgents is the principal means of attaining peace and order, in that it will directly reduce the number of insurgents. But this method is to be used only as a last resort; it is not a method that is compatible with our nation’s philosophy, which is the realization of the kingly way (wangtao). The most appropriate means suitable for a righteous government is that of liberating the masses from old notions implanted by a long period of exploitative rule by military cliques and feudalistic habits and of dispelling the illusions created by Communist ideology. Furthermore, the philosophy of the state calls for a proper understanding by the masses of the true nature of righteous government, the reasons behind the establishment of the state, and the current state of affairs. The insurgents should be given an opportunity to alter their misconceived notions and to become good citizens. This is why the operation for the inducement of surrender has such grave significance.
A continuing problem was the “nearly universal phenomenon in Manchuria that the insurgent groups return to their original state of operation as soon as the subjugation period is terminated and troops are withdrawn.”79 To counter this tendency, a number of methods were used, with considerable success. Communist groups were heavily infiltrated and alienation was created within the guerrilla groups. The formerly anti-Japanese Korean community was won over by “sociopolitical and accompanying psychological changes” (“revolutionary development,” in modern phraseology), specifically, by offering them “the possibility of owning land and escaping from the control of their Chinese landlords” (Lee, p. 23). Among the Chinese, the situation was different, and more difficult.
Through propaganda and example, the guerrillas awakened the patriotism of the people and convinced them that the guerrillas were the only true defenders of their interests. When necessary, the guerrillas terrorized the reluctant elements as a warning to others. An intricate network of anti-Japanese societies, peasant societies, and the like provided the guerrillas both with the necessary supplies and with vital intelligence. Farmers who were located in regions too remote to be protected by the Manchukuo authorities and the Japanese were forced to comply with the guerrillas’ demands, even if they had no desire to assist the insurgent cause. [Lee, p. 25]
The obvious answer to this problem was a system of “collective hamlets.” By the end of 1937, the Police Affairs Headquarters reported that over 10,000 hamlets had been organized accommodating 5,500,000 people. The collective hamlets, Lee informs us, were set up with considerable ruthlessness.
Families were ordered to move from their farm homes with little or no notice, even if the collective hamlets were not ready. Some farmers were forced to move just before the sowing season, making it impossible for them to plant any seeds that year, while others were ordered to move just before harvest. Many farmhouses seem to have been destroyed by troops engaged in mop-up operations before preparations had been made for the farmers’ relocation. The only concern of the military was to cut off the guerrillas’ sources of food supply and their contacts with the farmers. [Pp. 26 f.]
There is no point in supplying further details, which will be familiar to anyone who has been reading the American press since 1962.
The collective-hamlet program was fairly successful, though it was necessary to prevent insurgents from “assaulting the weakly protected collective hamlets and … plundering food and grain” and to prevent infiltration. According to a report in 1939, many of the residents of the hamlets continued to “sympathize with Communism and secretly plan to join the insurgents,” and the Communists continued to exploit the farmers’ grievances with skill (Lee, pp. 33 f.). Vice-Governor Itagaki formulated the problem succinctly: “We are not afraid of Communist propaganda; but we are worried because the material for propaganda can be found in the farmers’ lives. We are not afraid of the ignition of fire; rather we are afraid of the seeping oil” (p. 34).
The Japanese undertook a number of what are now called “population control methods,” including registration of residents, issuance of residence certificates, unscheduled searches, and so on.80 They also made use of the method of reward and punishment recommended by more recent theorists of pacification (see Lee, pp. 39-40).81 The Japanese understood that “it was totally unrealistic to expect reforms or innovations to be initiated by those who were already well off” and therefore replaced the former “local gentry” by “young and capable administrative personnel” who were “trained to assist the local administrators through the Hsueh-ho-hui, the government-sponsored organization to recruit mass support for the Manchukuo regime” (p. 46). Many abuses at the village level were also eliminated, in an attempt to wean the villagers from their traditional belief that the government is merely an agency of exploitation. Extensive propaganda efforts were conducted to win the hearts and minds of the villagers (cf. pp. 55 f.). In comparison with American efforts at pacification, the Japanese appear to have achieved considerable success — if these documents can be believed — in part, apparently, because Japan was not committed to guaranteeing the persistence of the old semi-feudal order and was less solicitous of property rights. The reports indicate that by 1940, the Communist guerrillas had been virtually exterminated in Manchuria.
A secret report of the office of information of the government of Manchukuo in April 1939 describes the achievements of pacification in Tunghwa Province in glowing terms:
It must be said that the economic and spiritual impact of the reconstruction activities on the citizens of the province has been very uplifting. We have observed an increase in the areas under cultivation as a result of the recovery of abandoned lands; an increase in agricultural production owing to improvements in seeds; an increase of farmers’ cash incomes as a result of improvement in market facilities; remarkable progress among merchants and industrialists assisted by government loans; and the winning of public support through medical treatment and the administration of medicine.82
A secret report of November 1939 describes the situation in a province where “revolutionary development” was not yet quite so successful and insurgents still operated:
…most atrociously, these insurgents pillage goods, and kill and wound men and animals. They are also systematically conducting Communist indoctrination operations in various villages. As a result, many villagers are led astray by the insurgents’ propaganda and begin to work for the insurgents, passively or politically. All this adds to the burden carried by the pacification forces.83
Farmers were fleeing from “insurgent-infested areas in a continuous stream,” though some continued to “sympathize with Communism.” However, plans were being laid to “establish confidence” and destroy insurgent forces, to carry out “relief of afflicted people,” and, in general, to extend the work of nation building.
I have no knowledge of the reaction in Japan to whatever information was transmitted to the public about these matters. No doubt, many Japanese deplored the excesses of the pacification program, though the more reasonable presumably continued to discuss the situation in balanced and unemotional terms, taking note of the violence carried out on both sides. If there were vocal advocates of Japanese withdrawal from Manchuria, they could be shown reports of the sort just quoted, and warned of the atrocities that would be sure to follow were Japanese troops to be removed and the Communist guerrillas given a free hand. Obviously, regardless of cost, the Japanese must continue to use limited means to secure law and order and to permit the responsible elements of Manchurian society to build an independent nation free from externally directed terror.
No one hated the necessary violence of pacification more than the Japanese officers in charge. Vice-Governor Itagaki described the moral dilemma that they faced in moving words:
The construction of the defense hamlets must be enforced — with tears. We issue small subsidy funds and severe orders [to the farmers], telling them to move to a designated location by such and such a date and that this is the last order. But it is too miserable [to watch] the farmers destroying their accustomed houses, and [to see] little innocent babies wrapped in rags and smiling on carts that are carrying the household goods away. A few days ago, a girl of sixteen or seventeen made me weep by coming to my office at the prefectural government and kneeling down to beg me to spare her house. She said, “Do we really have to tear down our house, councilor?” She had walked a long way to town thinking, “If I asked the councilor, something could be done.” Watching the bony back of the little girl who was quietly led out by the office boy, I closed my eyes and told myself, “You will go to hell.” The hardship of the Japanese police officers at the forefront who have to guide the coercive operation directly is beyond imagination. I was told many times while I was on my inspection tours of the front, “I cannot go on with this kind of wretched work. I will quit and go home.” These words, uttered [as we sat] around a lamp sipping kaoliang gin, sounded as though someone was spitting blood. In each case we had to console and keep telling each other that this was the last hill that needed to be conquered. The program was forced through mercilessly, inhumanely, without emotion — as if driving a horse. As a result, more than 100 defense hamlets were constructed throughout the prefecture. These were built with blood, tears, and sweat.84
In Manchuria, the problem of the terrorists and Communist bandits seems to have been solved by 1940. In China itself, pacification continued throughout the Pacific war. Chalmers Johnson summarizes these efforts briefly in a recent study.85 In both north and central China “the Japanese suffered from guerrilla attacks and from their inability to distinguish a guerrilla from a villager.” In the north the policy implemented was “the physical destruction of all life and property in an area where guerrillas were thought to exist … whereas in central China a policy of establishing so-called Model Peace Zones was pursued … [consisting] of expelling the Communists from certain very rich agricultural areas and then, following this military phase, of integrating the cleared area into the Japanese satellite economy.” The latter policy was far more successful, and it was possible to place the government in Chinese hands. There was also a “strategic hamlet” program, described in the following terms in a recent Japanese commentary:
… the Japanese Army tried its “Chinghsiang” (Clean Hamlet) operations in Soochow in Central China and its “Ailutsun” (Railway Defense Village) program in Shangtung Province in North China…. The concept of “Chinghsiang” lies in making the village or hamlet the basis for reforming government at the grass-root level; and, by concentrating all military, political, economic and ideological effort on a single village, in building it up into a peaceful, stabilized and secure area; then by using this village as a model district, in gradually extending security and stability to cover the whole “hsien” (county), the whole province and eventually the whole country.86
However, external interference made it impossible to carry through this program. With far greater power to enforce their efforts and a much smaller and weaker enemy, American political scientists were not unreasonable in looking forward to greater success.
So events proceeded through the terrifying decade of the 1930s. Seeking desperately for allies, Japan joined with Germany and Italy in the Tripartite Pact at a moment when Germany appeared invincible. With the termination of the Japanese-American commercial treaty in January 1940, Japan turned to “other commercial channels,” that is, to plans for occupation of French Indochina and the Dutch East Indies, and for gaining “independence” for the Philippines. The expiration of the treaty was the turning point that led many moderates towards support for the Axis powers.87
In July 1940, the United States placed an embargo on aviation fuel, which Japan could obtain from no other source,88 and in September, a total embargo on scrap iron. Meanwhile American aid to China was increasing. In September, the Tripartite Pact was signed, and Japanese troops entered northern Indochina. The goals were basically two: to block the flow of supplies to Chiang Kai-shek and to take steps towards acquisition of petroleum from the Dutch East Indies. On July 2, 1941, a decision was made to move troops to southern Indochina. The decision was known to the American government, since the Japanese diplomatic code had been broken. On July 24, President Roosevelt informed the Japanese ambassador that if Japan would refrain from this step, he would use his influence to achieve the neutralization of Indochina. This message did not reach the Japanese Foreign Ministry until July 27. On July 26, Japan announced publicly its plans to move troops to southern Indochina and the United States government ordered all Japanese assets in the United States to be frozen.89 On August 1, a total embargo of oil was announced by the United States. At this point, “Japan was denied access to all the vitally needed supplies outside her own control.”90
What slender hope there now remained to avoid war lay in the Hull-Nomura talks, which had been under way since February. The nature of these talks has been a matter of some dispute. Pal points out that the American position hardened noticeably in the course of the discussions, with respect to all major issues.91 The United States insisted on making the Axis alliance a major issue, though Japan persistently de-emphasized it. Schroeder argues that the American motive was in part “selling the anticipated war with Japan to the American people,” who might not “agree that an attack on non-American soil — on Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, or the Netherlands East Indies — constituted an attack on the United States.”92 It may be that the underlying motive was to justify the forthcoming American involvement in the European war. In any event, the American terms, by November, were such that Japan would have had to abandon totally its attempt to secure “special interests” of the sort possessed by the United States and Britain in the areas under their domination, as well as its alliance with the Axis powers, becoming a mere “subcontractor” in the emerging American world system. Japan chose war — as we now know, with no expectation of victory over the United States but in the hope “that the Americans, confronted by a German victory in Europe and weary of war in the Pacific, would agree to a negotiated peace in which Japan would be recognized as the dominant power in Eastern Asia.”93
On November 7, 1941, Japan offered to accept “the principle of nondiscrimination in commercial relations” in the Pacific, including China, if this principle “were adopted throughout the world.” The qualification was, needless to say, quite unthinkable. Hull’s final demand was that the principle be applied in the Japanese occupied areas and that Japan withdraw all forces from China and Indochina. The Western powers could not be expected to respond in kind in their dominions. A few days later came “the day that will live in infamy.”
This final exchange points clearly to what had been, for decades, the central problem. Japan had insisted that in its plans for “coprosperity” and then a “new order,” it was simply following the precedent established by Great Britain and the United States; it was establishing its own Monroe Doctrine and realizing its Manifest Destiny. It is revealing to study the American response to this claim. Hull professed to be shocked. In his view of the matter, the Monroe Doctrine, “as we interpret and apply it uniformly since 1823 only contemplates steps for our physical safety,” whereas Japan is bent on aggression.94 He deplored the “simplicity of mind that made it difficult for … [Japanese generals] … to see why the United States, on the one hand, should assert leadership in the Western Hemisphere with the Monroe Doctrine and, on the other, want to interfere with Japan’s assuming leadership in Asia,” and he asked Nomura, “Why can’t the Japanese Government educate the generals” to a more correct understanding of this fundamental distinction?95
American scholars were equally offended by the analogy. W. W. Willoughby, in a detailed analysis, concludes that no comparison can be made between the Monroe Doctrine and Japan’s plans.96 The United States, he asserts, has never resorted to the Monroe Doctrine to demand “that it be given special commercial or other economic privileges in the other American States.” Rather, “it has exercised its powers of military intervention or of financial administration for the benefit of the peoples of the countries concerned or of those who have had just pecuniary claims against them.” He cites with approval the discussion by G. H. Blakeslee in Foreign Affairs,97 which characterizes the main difference between the American and Japanese position in this way:
The United States is a vast territory with a great population vis-à-vis a dozen Caribbean republics, each with a relatively small area and population. Japan, on the other hand, is a country with a relatively small area and population vis-à-vis the vast territory and great population of China. An attitude which therefore appears natural for the United States to take toward the Caribbean States does not appear natural for Japan to take toward China.
This contribution to the history of imperialist apologia at least has the merit of originality. To my knowledge, no one had previously argued that attempts by one nation to dominate another are proper to the extent that the victim is smaller and weaker than the power that is bent on subjugating it. However, this argument is perhaps surpassed in acuity by Blakeslee’s next explanation of the fundamental error in the Japanese analogy:
The United States does not need to use military force to induce the Caribbean republics to permit American capital to find profitable investment. The doors are voluntarily wide open.
American willingness to submit to the people’s will in the Caribbean was, in fact, nicely illustrated in the fall of 1933, a few months after Blakeslee’s article appeared, when Ramón Grau San Martín came into power in Cuba with a program that interrupted what Sumner Welles described as the attempt to secure “a practical monopoly of the Cuban market for American imports.” As Welles noted, this government was “highly prejudicial to our interest … our own commercial and export interests cannot be revived under this government.” Consequently, Roosevelt refused to recognize the Grau government, and Welles commenced his intrigues (which he admitted were “anomalous”) with Batista, who was, in his judgment, “the only individual in Cuba today who represented authority…. This … had rallied to his support the very great majority of the commercial and financial interests in Cuba who are looking for protection” (Welles to Hull, October 4, 1933). The Grau government soon fell, with the result that “the pre-1930 social and economic class structure was retained, and the important place in the Cuban economy held by foreign enterprises was not fundamentally disturbed.”98
But the basic inadequacy of the Japanese analogy, as Blakeslee points out, is the difference in aims. The United States
aims to help the backward Caribbean countries to establish and maintain conditions of stability and prosperity. The United States does not wish to seize territory, directly or indirectly, or to assume political or economic control. And when it has seemed necessary to intervene in some revolution-tossed land, it has effected the necessary reorganization and has then withdrawn.
It is this benevolence of intent that the Japanese do not share. Consequently, their appeal to the precedent of American practice is entirely without worth. The matter is simply put in a recent study of postwar American foreign policy, which is very critical of its recent directions: “… the American empire came into being by accident and has been maintained from a sense of benevolence.” … “We engaged in a kind of welfare imperialism, empire-building for noble ends rather than for such base motives as profit and influence.” … “We have not exploited our empire.” “… have we not been generous with our clients and allies, sending them vast amounts of money and even sacrificing the lives of our own soldiers on their behalf? Of course we have.”99
In comparison with this long-standing record of benevolence, Japanese aggression stands exposed as the kind of “unprecedented evil” that fully merited the atom bomb.
This review obviously does not exhaust the issues. But it does serve, I think, to place in context the policy alternatives that were open to the United States in 1941 and in earlier years. The predominant American opinion remains that the only proper response was the one that was adopted. In contrast, “realists” of the Grew-Kennan variety take the position expressed by Schroeder, who argues against the mistake of basing policy on an “emphasis on meting out justice rather than doing good.” The “moralistic” position of Hull, the “too hard and rigid policy with Japan,” in Schroeder’s view, was not based on “sinister design or warlike intent, but on a sincere and uncompromising adherence to moral principles and liberal doctrines.” The “realistic” approach of accommodation favored by Grew would not have been immoral, he argues. “It would have constituted only a recognition that the American government was not then in a position to enforce its principles, reserving for America full freedom of action at some later, more favorable time.”100 Schroeder does not question that we were, in fact, “meting out justice,” but argues only that we were wrong, overly moralistic, to do so; he does not question the principles to which the United States adhered, but only our insistence on abiding by these principles at an inappropriate time.
In contrast to the alternatives of “realism” and “moralism,” so defined, the revolutionary pacifism of Muste seems to me both eminently realistic and highly moral. Furthermore, even if we were to grant the claim that the United States simply acted in legitimate self-defense, subsequent events in Asia have amply, hideously, confirmed Muste’s basic premise that “the means one uses inevitably incorporate themselves into his ends and, if evil, will defeat him.” Whether Muste’s was in fact the most realistic and moral position at the time may be debated, but I think there is no doubt that its remoteness from the American consciousness was a great tragedy. The lack of a radical critique of the sort that Muste, and a few others, sought to develop was one of the factors that contributed to the atrocity of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as the weakness and ineffectiveness of such radical critique today will doubtless lead to new and unimaginable horrors.
1. “Pacifism and Class War,” in The Essays of A. J. Muste, ed. Nat Hentoff (Indianapolis, The Bobbs-Merrill Co., Inc., 1967), pp. 179-85.
2. Daniel Bell, in “Ideology — A Debate,” Commentary, Vol. 38 (October 1964), p. 72.
3. “The Movement To Stop the War in Vietnam,” Essays, pp. 503-13.
4. Essays, pp. 180, 287.
5. Congressional Record, May 9, 1967.
6. The probabilities are meaningless with respect to the objective situation, but not with respect to the mentalities of those who use them as a guide to action. If anything can be more frightening than the behavior of the self-styled “pragmatic” and “tough-minded” policy makers of the Kennedy administration in this crisis, it is the attitude that remains, long after the crisis has cooled, that this was Kennedy’s “finest hour,” in which he demonstrated his skill at the game of “nuclear chicken” (cf. historian Thomas Bailey, New York Times Magazine, November 6, 1965).
7. “Where Are We Going?” Essays, pp. 234-60.
8. “Crisis in the World and in the Peace Movement,” Essays, pp. 465-78.
9.”The Cold War and American Scholarship,” in Francis L. Loewenheim, ed., The Historian and the Diplomat (New York, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1967), pp. 123-69. Morton goes on to develop the conventional view that the Soviet Union is solely to blame for the dimming of “the bright hopes for the future,” by “the subtle challenge of political subversion and economic penetration” (unthinkable to the West, of course), and by support of revolution, as in Greece, “in violation of allied wartime agreements that had placed Greece in the western sphere of interest.” As to the latter, he does not discuss the considerable evidence that indicates, rather, that Stalin was opposed to the Greek rebellion and adhered to the Churchill-Stalin settlement that divided Europe into spheres of influence. He also makes no mention of Truman’s statement, immediately after Nagasaki, that Bulgaria and Rumania, the two countries assigned predominantly to the Russian sphere in the Churchill-Stalin agreement, “are not to be spheres of influence of any one power.” Nor is there any reference to the American role except as one of “containment.” In a review in the Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 82 (December 1967), Arthur Schlesinger describes Morton’s essay as “an always intelligent account of the role of history and historians in the era of the cold war,” which “will disappoint those looking for a Studies on the Left exposé of the corruptions allegedly wrought in the writing of American history by the decision to oppose Communist aggression after 1945.”
10. See Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate, eds., The Army Air Forces in World War II (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1953), Vol. 5, pp. 732-33:
Arnold wanted as big a finale as possible, hoping that USASTAF could hit the Tokyo area in a 1,000-plane mission: the Twentieth Air Force had put up 853 B-29’s and 79 fighters on 1 August, and Arnold thought the number could be rounded out by calling on Doolittle’s Eighth Air Force. Spaatz still wanted to drop the third atom bomb on Tokyo but thought that battered city a poor target for conventional bombing; instead, he proposed to divide his forces between seven targets. Arnold was apologetic about the unfortunate mixup on the 11th and, accepting Spaatz’ amendment, assured him that his orders had been “co-ordinated with my superiors all the way to the top.” The teleconference ended with a fervid “Thank God” from Spaatz…. From the Marianas, 449 B-29’s went out for a daylight strike on the 14th, and that night, with top officers standing by at Washington and Guam for a last-minute cancellation, 372 more were airborne. Seven planes dispatched on special bombing missions by the 509th Group brought the number of B-20’s to 828, and with 186 fighter escorts dispatched, USASTAF passed Arnold’s goal with a total of 1,014 aircraft. There were no losses, and before the last B-29 returned President Truman announced the unconditional surrender of Japan.
For the reaction of a victim, see Makoto Oda, “The Meaning of ‘Meaningless Death.’” Tenbo, January 1965, translated in the Journal of Social and Political Ideas in Japan, Vol. 4 (August 1966), pp. 75-84.
In the afternoon of August 14, 1945, thousands of people died during a protracted and intensive aerial bombardment of an arsenal in Osaka. I was a witness to the tragedy. I saw dozens of corpses — loyal subjects literally consumed by service to a government which had already decided to accept the Potsdam Declaration’s demand for unconditional surrender. The only reason these people died was because they happened to have been in the arsenal or environs at the time of the air raid. After what seemed an eternity of terror and anguish, we who were fortunate enough to survive emerged from our shelters. We found the corpses — and the leaflets which American bombers had dropped over the destruction. The leaflets proclaimed in Japanese, “Your Government has surrendered. The war is over!”
11. Radhabinod Pal, International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Calcutta, Sanyal and Co., 1953), pp. 620-21.
12. Paul Schroeder, The Axis Alliance and Japanese-American Relations (Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University Press, 1958), p. 87.
13. Ibid., p. 7.
14. Japan’s Quest for Autonomy: National Security and Foreign Policy, 1930-1938 (Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1966), Ch. 1.
15. Masamichi Röyama, Foreign Policy of Japan: 1914-1939 (Tokyo, Japanese Council, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1941), p. 8. He goes on to argue that it was Japanese inexperience that led to passivity and acceptance of the American attempt, with British backing, to attain hegemony in the Pacific — an obvious consequence of “equality” among unequals.
16. Quoted in R. J. C. Butow, Tojo and the Coming of War (Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, 1961), p. 17.
17. W. C. Holland and K. L. Mitchell, eds., Problems of the Pacific, 1936 (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1936), p. 195.
18. Iriye Akira, After Imperialism (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1965), p. 160.
19. According to William L. Neumann, America Encounters Japan (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1963), p. 188, “over 200,000 Japanese were living along the South Manchuria Railway and in the Kwantung leased territory.” Japanese estimates for Manchuria as a whole are much higher. Yasaka Takagi estimated the number of Japanese in Manchuria as approximately one million (“World Peace Machinery and the Asia Monroe Doctrine,” Pacific Affairs, Vol. 5 (November 1932), pp. 941-53; reprinted in Toward International Understanding [Tokyo, Kenkyusha, 1954]).
20. Crowley, op. cit., p. 103.
21. Ibid., p. 110.
22. Ibid., p. 140.
23. Quoted in ibid., p. 154.
24. Ibid., p. 160. The progress of civilization is indicated by the reaction to the American destruction of cities of the Mekong Delta in early February 1968, for example, the destruction of Ben Tre with thousands of civilian casualties to protect 20 American soldiers (20 had been killed, in a garrison of 40), after the city had been taken over, virtually without a fight, by the NLF forces.
25. Japan and Her Destiny, ed. F. S. G. Piggott (New York, E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1958). Shigemitsu describes the Manchurian incident as, in effect, one aspect of an attempted coup, of which the domestic aspect failed. From his viewpoint, “Manchuria was an outlying district belonging to and colonized by China,” a “sparsely populated, backward country on the borders of China.” By 1930, the “revolutionary diplomacy” of China was attempting to reverse and overthrow the unequal treaties, including long-standing Japanese interests. At a time when the only solution to world problems was free trade, Europe was reverting to a closed autarchic economy and blocking trade between Japan and the colonial possessions of the European powers, and the League of Nations was following the policy of keeping the world static, in the interests of established imperialism. The Kwantung Army acted unilaterally, to protect what they took to be the legitimate interests of Japan in Manchuria. Later steps to defend Manchukuo were determined in part by the threat of ultimate Communist encirclement (by Communist Chinese and the Soviet Union), and in part as an attempt to “counter the world movement to closed economies,” which required that the Japanese must attempt “to attain self-sufficiency.” This view of the situation, to which I return below, was not unrealistic.
26. Shigemitsu, however, did not escape the Shanghai incident quite so lightly as did, say, American Ambassador to the Dominican Republic W. Tapley Bennett or Presidential Envoy John Bartlow Martin 23 years later, in not dissimilar circumstances. Shigemitsu was severely wounded by a terrorist (an advocate of Korean independence) and had a leg amputated.
27. Thought and Behaviour in Modern Japanese Politics, ed. Ivan Morris (New York, Oxford University Press, 1963), p. 30. Maruyama adds that “while there is no doubt that the Manchurian Incident acted as a definite stimulus to Japanese fascism, it must be emphasized that the fascist movement was not something that suddenly arose after 1931.”
28. Sadako Ogata, Defiance in Manchuria: The Making of Japanese Foreign Policy, 1931-1932 (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1964), p. 178.
29. Quoted in Pal, op. cit., p. 195.
30. Op. cit., pp. 11-12. Röyama is described by Maruyama (op. cit.) as “one of Japan’s foremost political scientists and a leading pre-war liberal.”
31. Ogata, op. cit., p. 132.
32. Ibid., p. 124. Cf. also p. 185.
33. Crowley, op. cit., p. 138. It should be added that among the complex roots of fascism in Japan was a great concern for the suffering of the poor farmers, particularly after the great depression struck. See Maruyama, op. cit., pp. 44-45, for some relevant quotations and comments.
34. Ogata, op. cit., p. 45, paraphrasing a Kwantung Army research report.
35. Ibid., p. 42.
36. Röyama, op. cit., p. 11.
37. Comparisons are difficult, but it seems that the Japanese were considerably more successful in establishing a functioning puppet government in Manchuria than the United States has ever been in Vietnam, just as the Germans were more successful in converting French nationalist forces to their ends in occupied and Vichy France than the United States has been in Vietnam. On the insurgency that developed in Manchuria, and the Japanese attempts to suppress it, see below.
38. Quotes and paraphrase from Owen Lattimore, “China and the Barbarians,” in Joseph Barnes, ed., Empire in the East (Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1934), pp. 3-36.
39. Op. cit. See note 19.
40. Op. cit., p. 95.
41. In addition, there were those who opposed any compromise or concession on the grounds that it would then be impossible “to face the myriad spirits of the war dead” (General Matsui, 1941, cited by Maruyama, op. cit., p. 113). It is painful to contemplate the question of how many have died, throughout history, so that others shall not have died in vain.
Another crucial factor, according to Maruyama (p. 124), was “the counsel of the Senior Retainers close to the Emperor, who had chosen war abroad in preference to class struggle at home, and who were then less afraid of losing that war than of risking revolution” — also a familiar pattern. [See, for example, “Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship” in Noam Chomsky, American Power and the New Mandarins (Pantheon, 1969).]
42. Crowley, op. cit., p. 245.
43. Survey of International Affairs (London, Oxford University Press, 1926), p. 386; cited in Takagi, op. cit.
44. A. W. Griswold, The Far Eastern Policy of the United States (New York, Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1938; paperback ed., New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 1962), p. 130. American scholarship generally agrees that these accords recognized the “special position” of the Japanese in the Manchuria-Mongolia region. See, for example, Robert A. Scalapino in Willard L. Thorp, ed., The United States and the Far East (New York, Columbia University Press, 1956), p. 30.
45. Both citations from William C. Johnstone, The United States and Japan’s New Order (New York, Oxford University Press, 1941), pp. 124, 126. The Lansing-Ishii Notes, however, contained a secret protocol which in effect canceled this concession.
46. Quoted in Iriye, op. cit., p. 271.
47. This is as large a force as the United States maintained in Vietnam in 1962. In late 1937, the Japanese had 160,000 troops in China. One tends to forget, these days, what was the scale of fascist aggression a generation ago.
48. Iriye, op. cit., p. 218.
49. Johnstone, op. cit., p. 214.
50. Cited in Dorothy Borg, The United States and the Far Eastern Crisis of 1933-1938 (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1964), p. 590.
51. Ibid., p. 42.
52. Officers of the Japanese army in China expressed the same solicitude. General Matsui, departing to take up his post as commander-in-chief of the Japanese expeditionary force in Shanghai in 1937, stated: “I am going to the front not to fight an enemy but in the state of mind of one who sets out to pacify his brother.” At the Tokyo Tribunal he defined his task in the following words: “The struggle between Japan and China was always a fight between brothers within the ‘Asian family.’… It has been my belief all these years that we must regard this struggle as a method of making the Chinese undergo self-reflection. We do not do this because we hate them, but on the contrary because we love them too much. It is just the same as in a family when an elder brother has taken all that he can stand from his ill-behaved younger brother and has to chastise him in order to make him behave properly.” Quoted by Maruyama, op. cit., p. 95.
53. Johnstone, op. cit., p. 290.
54. Quoted in Francis C. Jones, Japan’s New Order in East Asia (New York, Oxford University Press, 1954), p. 156, from The Memoirs of Cordell Hull (New York, The Macmillan Company, 1948), Vol. 1, pp. 725-26.
55. Cf. Iriye, op. cit., pp. 260 f., pp. 278 f., for discussion of these events.
56. Shigemitsu, op. cit., p. 208 (see note 25). The racist American immigration law of 1924 had been a particularly bitter blow to the Japanese. In addition there were immigration barriers in Canada, Latin America, Australia, and New Zealand. It is worthy of mention that the Japanese effort to insert a racial-equality paragraph into the League of Nations resolutions endorsing the “principle of equality of Nations” and “just treatment of their nationals” had been blocked by Britain. Woodrow Wilson, then in the chair, ruled that it should not be instituted “in view of the serious objections of some of us” (Pal, op. cit., pp. 317 f.). Only Britain and the United States failed to vote for this resolution. See Neumann, op. cit., pp. 153-54.
57. Quoted in Ogata, op. cit., p. 35.
58. Quoted in Shigemitsu, op. cit., p. 221.
59. Bruno Lasker and W. L. Holland, eds., Problems of the Pacific, 1933 (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1934), p. 5.
60. Ibid., p. 10.
61. See Robert F. Smith, The United States and Cuba: Business and Diplomacy, 1917-1960 (New York, Bookman Associates, 1960), p. 159.
62. Holland and Mitchell, op. cit., p. 220. Parenthetically, we may remark that American postwar Philippine policy served to perpetuate what United Nations representative Salvador López calls the prewar “system rooted in injustice and greed” which “required the riveting of the Philippine economy to the American economy through free trade arrangements between the two countries,” and which, in “tacit allegiance with the Filipino economic elite” led to a “colonial economy of the classical type” (“The Colonial Relationship,” in Frank H. Golay, ed., The United States and the Philippines [Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966], pp. 7-31). Furthermore, this “shortsighted policy of pressing for immediate commercial advantage” interrupted the Philippine revolution that was under way at the time of the American conquest. This “interruption” continued, for example, with the policies of Magsaysay, who “cleared away the ambivalence which had arisen in the persistent experimentation with public corporations of various kinds by a firm avowal that public policy would reflect faith in and dependence upon private enterprise” (Frank H. Golay, “Economic Collaboration: The Role of American Investment,” in ibid., p. 109). One effect of this “improvement” in “the political and economic aspects of the investment climate” was that from 1957 to 1963 “earnings accruing to American foreign investors were in excess of twice the amount of direct foreign investment in the Philippines,” an interesting case of foreign aid. In fact, the preferential trade relations forced on the Philippines in 1946 virtually guaranteed American domination of the economy. Two Filipino economists, writing in the same volume, point out that “acceptance of the Trade Act by the Philippines was the price for war damage payments. In view of the prevailing economic circumstances, Filipinos had no alternative but to accept, after considerable controversy and with obvious reluctance” (p. 132). But the “compensating” rehabilitation act was itself something of a fraud, since “the millions of dollars of war damage payments … in effect went back to the United States in the form of payments for imports, to the benefit of American industry and labor” (p. 125).
63. Figures from John E. Orchard and H. Foster Bain, in Barnes, op. cit., pp. 39-83, 185-212.
64. Op. cit., pp. 226, 233.
65. Röyama, op. cit., p. 120. He adds that the new government was “provisional,” and willing even to accept members of the Kuomintang if they would join.
66. Ibid., p. 150.
67. Cf. Lyndon B. Johnson, August 18, 1967. In noting the all-too-obvious parallels between Japanese fascism and contemporary American imperialism in Southeast Asia, we should also not overlook the fundamental differences; in particular, the fact that Japan really was fighting for its survival as a great power, in the face of great-power “encirclement” that was no paranoid delusion.
68. “Despite the vigor of the Japanese government’s efforts to convey the idea that they wanted American aid in achieving a quick settlement [in 1937], United States officials again failed to understand the situation” (Borg, op. cit., p. 466). Unfortunately for the Japanese apologists, they were unable to use some of the devices available to their current American counterparts to explain the failure of the Chinese to accept their honorable offers. For example, the director of Harvard’s East Asian Research Center, John King Fairbank, thoughtfully explains that “when we offer to negotiate we are making an honorable offer which, in our view, is a civilized and normal thing to do,” but the Asian mind does not share our belief “in the supremacy of law and the rights of the individual protected by law through due process” and is thus unable to perceive our honorable intent and obvious sincerity (Boston Globe, August 19, 1967). It is only those rather superficial critics who do not understand the Asian mind who insist on taking the North Vietnamese literally when they state that negotiations can follow a cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam, or who point out the moral absurdity of the plea that both the victim and his assailant “cease their violence.”
69. Cf. Butow, op. cit., pp. 122, 134.
70. David J. Lu, From the Marco Polo Bridge to Pearl Harbor (Washington, Public Affairs Press, 1961), p. 19.
71. Butow, op. cit., pp. 273 f.
72. Cf. Pal, op. cit., p. 212.
73. Ibid., p. 213. The United States was the least offender in this regard, abandoning its control over Chinese tariffs in 1928. Germany and the Soviet Union had relinquished extraterritoriality in the 1920s (the United States did so in 1942). Japan relinquished these rights in the puppet state of Manchukuo.
74. Cf. Shigemitsu, op. cit., p. 190. Also Lu, op. cit., p. 34.
75. In Thorp, op. cit., p. 7. He deplores the fact that this is not well understood by Asians. Thorp, formerly Assistant Secretary of State and member of the UN delegation, and at the time a professor of economics at Amherst, also draws the remarkable conclusion, in 1956, that one of the major international problems is the demonstrated willingness of the Soviet Union to support aggression in Indochina. The conference whose proceedings he was editing concluded finally with the hope that “the Chinese people will one day regain their liberties and again be free” (p. 225), but did not specify when the people of China had previously possessed their liberties and lived in freedom.
76. September 22, 1937. Quoted in the Documents of the World Conference on Vietnam, Stockholm, July 1967, Bertil Svanhnstrom, chairman.
77. See Chong-sik Lee, Counterinsurgency in Manchuria: The Japanese Experience, RAND Corporation Memorandum RM-5012-ARPA, January 1967, unlimited distribution. I am indebted to Herbert Bix for bringing this study to my attention. As is very often the case with RAND Corporation studies, it is difficult to determine whether it was written seriously or with tongue in cheek. There is no reason to question the scholarship, however. The original documents translated in the memorandum are particularly interesting.
78. Pacification Monthly Report of the Office of Information, Government of Manchukuo, October 1938 (Lee, op. cit., pp. 189 f.). The kill ratio is omitted.
79. Report of the Military Advisory Section, Manchukuo, 1937 (Lee, op. cit., p. 12).
80. For an updating of such methods, see William A. Nighswonger, Rural Pacification in Vietnam (Praeger Special Studies; New York, Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1967).
81. For some discussion, see page 54 of Chomsky’s American Power and the New Mandarins (Pantheon, 1969).
82. Lee, op. cit., p. 305. Such reports illustrate a phenomenon noted by Maruyama, in his analysis of the “theory and psychology of ultranationalism”: “Acts of benevolence could coexist with atrocities, and the perpetrators were not aware of any contradiction. Here is revealed the phenomenon in which morality is subtly blended with power” (op. cit., p. 11). Again, the reader will have no difficulty in supplying contemporary examples.
83. Lee, op. cit., pp. 307 f.
84. Secret Report of the Office of Information of the Government of Manchukuo, April 1939, entitled: “Pacification Activities in the Communist Bandit Area (Personal Reflections)” (Lee, op. cit., pp. 217 f.).
85. “Civilian Loyalties,” in Wilson C. McWilliams, ed., Garrisons and Governments (San Francisco, Chandler Publishing Co., 1967), pp. 86-87.
86. Shizuo Maruyama, “The Other War in Vietnam: The Revolutionary Development Program,” Japan Quarterly, Vol. 14 (July-September 1967), pp. 297-303. The author, a Southeast Asian specialist and editorial writer for Asahi Shimbun, notes the similarity to earlier Japanese efforts, but feels that the prospects for the American program are dim for a number of reasons, among them the following: “… the wounds inflicted on Nature, so ruthlessly destroyed for this, are too brutal to see. Beautiful grasslands, the verdant forests and the rich crops have all been burned by flame throwers, napalm bombs and chemical defoliants. The great earth has been gouged and dug over. The ugly land, no longer green, has lost its power to attract people and to stir deep in the hearts of people a love for their birthplace and their motherland.” There is, he feels, little chance that revolutionary development will succeed “when Nature has been turned into a scorched earth and the system and the traditions born of a race of people have been destroyed.”
87. Lu, op. cit., p. 67.
88. Cf. Nobutaka Ike, ed., Japan’s Decision for War: Records of the 1941 Policy Conferences (Stanford, Calif., Stanford University Press, 1967), p. 11.
89. The timing of these events is given in this order in Lu, op. cit., p. 188. According to Ike, op. cit., p. 108, the order to freeze assets was given on the evening of July 25, the announcement that troops would be moved south at noon on the 26th. The reasons for the delay in transmission of Roosevelt’s offer to the Japanese Foreign Ministry are obscure. It appears that there was still some room for diplomatic maneuver at this time.
90. Schroeder, op. cit., p. 53. He quotes General Miles as saying that the United States “today is in a position to wreck completely the economic structure of the Japanese empire,” and Admiral Stark as predicting that this move (the freezing of assets) would probably lead directly to war.
91. Op. cit., p. 545.
92. Op. cit., pp. 100 f.
93. Ike, op. cit., Introduction.
94. April 20, 1940; cited by Schroeder, op. cit., p. 170.
95. Memoirs of Cordell Hull, Vol. 2, p. 1032.
96. Japan’s Case Examined (Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1940), pp. 128 ff.
97. “The Japanese Monroe Doctrine,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 11 (July 1933), pp. 671-78.
98. Bryce Wood, The Making of the Good Neighbor Policy (New York, Columbia University Press, 1962), p. 109.
99. Ronald Steel, Pax Americana (New York, The Viking Press, 1967). As Steel observes, this generosity is the price we must pay to enjoy our imperial role. Compare the remarks of H. Merivale, cited on page 58 above. Perhaps the introductory chapters of this book, from which these remarks are selected almost at random, are meant as parody, in which case they serve as witness to, rather than evidence for, the pervasive self-delusion of our highly conformist and ideologically committed society. In American scholarship dealing with the international role of the United States, it is often difficult to determine what is irony and what is sentimentality.
100. Schroeder, op. cit., pp. 203 ff.