Has the History Profession Awarded a Prize to Another Flawed Book?Historians/History
Editor's Note Last week at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) announced that Tsuyoshi Hasegawa has won the Robert Ferrell Book Prize for Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan. The award attracted the notice of Professor Hasegawa's critics, including Robert P. Newman. We asked Mr. Newman to explain his objections. After we had his piece in hand we sent it over to Professor Hasegawa for a response. Click here for Professor Hasegawa's response.
Now that The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations has shot itself in the foot by awarding the Robert Ferrell Prize to Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, it is time for another attempt to moderate the stultifying bias of the history establishment. A year ago, Corey Robin in the London Review of Books articulated the truth that of all human motivations, none is as lethal as ideology:
"The lust for money may be distasteful, the desire for power ignoble, but neither will drive its devotees to the criminal excess of an idea on the march. Whether the idea is the triumph of the working class or of a master race, ideology leads to the graveyard."
The ideology of the history establishment, praising Hasegawa's Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan, leads to the graveyard of truth about the Japanese surrender in 1945. Perhaps these worthies did not read Hasegawa's concluding chapter, where be finally reveals his objective: to put all the participants in the Pacific War on the same moral plane. Tojo and Anami were no worse than Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. "Thus this is a story with no heroes but no real villains either - just men."
I know some heroes. They trained with me before losing their lives in the Philippines and Okinawa (I was lucky enough to be sent to the Saar and Rhineland). And I know some villains: they conducted the Bataan Death March, the Rape of Nanjing, and Unit 731's biological warfare. Did Ernie May and John Dower not read this monstrosity before endorsing Hasegawa? And did they swallow Hasegawa's many other demonstrably false claims, such as that the Soviet entry in the war took the Japanese government by complete surprise; the Ketsu-go defense plan presupposed continued Soviet neutrality in the war; and the most naive claim of all, "After all, morality by definition is an absolute rather than a relative standard." My Oxford ethics tutor would choke on that.
But the history establishment loves Hasegawa. He supports the antinuclear stance with no recognition of the benefit to the thousands - possibly millions - of Asians being killed in the death throes of the Japanese empire, who were saved by the shock of the atom. I will put my antinuclearism against Hasegawa's any day; the destructive decision which has poisoned the world was not the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but building the H-bomb, which ended no war and saved no lives.
Ideology has plagued the argument over Truman's decision since the beginning. The first wrong-headed book about the decision, by a brilliant physicist but ignorant polemicist, P. M. S. Blackett, was based on a fraud: Paul Nitze's claim in the United States Strategic Bombing Survey report that Japan would have surrendered before our scheduled invasion of Kyushu with no bomb, and no Soviet entry. Blackett, accepting Nitze's "official" report as gospel truth, did not check out the whole USSBS series of reports, which showed clearly that the early surrender hypothesis was pure imagination. And a gullible American graduate student in politics at Cambridge, Gar Alperovitz, latched onto Blackett and arranged for the physicist to come up to Cambridge from London as oustide examiner for his dissertation defense. Alperovitz then set the pattern for all the anti-Truman literature that followed: the hierarchy of AHA and OAH bought Nitze, Blackett, and Alperovitz with no careful scrutiny whatsoever.
Dissenters were given short schrift. Sadao Asada, easily the most knowledgeable student of Japan's surrender, presented the evidence that shows Japan would fight to the finish until the Nagasaki bomb proved to Anami that the U.S. did have more bombs. Then, and only then, did Anami give in to the emperor and accept surrender. The Pacific Historical Review carried Asada's article in November, 1998. The establishment paid no heed. In April 2004, the American Historical Review printed Yukiko Koshiro, also arguing that"Japan had neither the intention nor the resources to resist a U.S. invasion of the home islands." The 700,000 troops on Kyushu were there to greet us warmly, presumably.
Comes now Hasegawa, posing as the only student of the Pacific War to incorporate documents from U.S., Soviet, and Japanese sources. Check out these documents. Hasegawa is not only highly selective, he distorts and misrepresents consistently. Scholars of the Truman administration knew Truman was not the bad guy. Robert Ferrell, after whom the SHAFR prize is named, was quite clear that Hasgawa's is an "unfortunate contribution" about the end of the war. Over the long haul, my money is on Asada and Ferrell. The history establishment will find that its knee-jerk acceptance of Hasegawa was as stupid as its award of a prize to Bellesiles for his falsified narrative about possession of firearms in the early U.S.
Peter Charles Hoffer and Jon Wiener have exposed the bias of historians extensively. Those who endorsed Hasegawa's Racing the Enemy were not listening, nor were they checking out his fidelity to the evidence. Do I expect them to ever change their minds? No, only to be embarrassed at their gullibility.
Michael Kort: Is the latest revisionist account right about Truman & Hiroshima? Lance Gay: Hiroshima bomb didn't end war, according to Soviet archives Robert Newman: What Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin Got Wrong About Hiroshima Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin: The Myth of Hiroshima D.M. Giangreco: Did Truman Really Oppose the Soviet Union's Decision to Enter the War Against Japan? HNN Debate: Hiroshima ...Harry Truman on Trial
comments powered by Disqus
Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008
Jeff writes (#88567) that you are “busy imputing responsibility for various acts to the people who didn't commit them …” He’s right. At the same time, you are with the multitudes on this one.
You write (#88573) “many people believe that common sense dictates that the militarists in Japan, who embarked on a harsh, brutal campaign of murder and conquest in Asia, bear responsibility for what befell the Japanese people in the natural, foreseeable reaction by the United States.”
You’re right. Almost all, people would agree with you here. And that’s the problem. It is one of the many reasons, as Jeff suggests, that “law is an ass.” It is illegal to murder babies at random in any American community. It is legal, however, to murder babies in other communities, depending on who is responsible for administering those communities. We refer to this as a double standard, both legally and morally. It is the cause of much misunderstanding in the world, and the cause of many mass murders.
You suggest earlier that it would have been very difficult to kill the Japanese militarists who were leading the Japanese adventure in Asia. I suppose it would have been. It wasn’t all that easy to kill those we did kill in the hundreds of thousands, but we did it. I don’t believe there was any serious effort made to kill those Japanese who were directly responsible for mass murder. But then, when did we ever start at the top?
In (#88484) you write (with regard to the deliberate murder of the core civilian populations of Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Tokyo) “What you haven’t done, Bradley, is suggest a realistic alternative to what Truman did.”
Well, you’re right. I don’t know how to run the world. I am aware that that mess did not begin with Truman, who only carried out the duties of his office in the traditional manner. It was thought Japan was wrong to invade Korea, but there was no sustained outcry over the American invasion of the Phillipines—one of the real roots to the Bataan “death march.” It was wrong for Japan to invade China, but which U.S. administration ever argued forcefully that the British were wrong in their occupation of India?. Or the French wrong in their occupation of Indo-China? Or the Dutch wrong in the occupation of Indonesia?
The double standards that we employ, following the traditional calculous of invasion, occupation, and the intentional mass murder of persons who have committed no crimes, lead to war after war, mass murder after mass murder, yet people think that this is a “common sense” way to handle such matters. I don’t think so.
I am reminded here that when Mr. Hitler invited America into the European war (a brilliant move on his part—he didn’t have any other problems) Mr. Roosevelt could have said: “No. No thank you, Sir.” But, following the logic of the traditional calculous of politics and war, Mr. Roosevelt said: “Of course, Mr. Hitler. We’ll be glad to join you in the cooperatvie mass slaughter of innocent, unarmed civilians. And thanks for the invite.”
The attack on Pearl Harbor created a different, more difficult situation psychologically. Still, in the long run it could all have been taken care of on the high seas, with a tiny percentage of American, and probably Japanese dead. I cannot argue this point, having no expertise in the matter. But it was the obligation of the U.S. administration to keep us out of that canpaign, not get us into it.
There are those, and they are in the overwhelming majority in America as well as the rest of the planet. who argue that we should do unto our enemies what our enemies do unto us. I believe it is obvious that that doesn’t work. For myself, I am inclined to do to our enemies what we would have our enemies do to us—that is, leave us alone. That’s not pacifisim, but the simple idea that you do not initiate force against others for – any reason whatever. The babies in Nagasaki did us no harm, but we”legally” incinerated them anyway. I should think it’s time to look around for some other way to behave.
The law is an ass because it is created by an “ass” species. Garbage in, garbage out. I am only suggesting that we find some way to judge the deliberate incineration of live babies in some way other than how we judge it now. There are very few who display an interest in such a discussion.
Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008
You write that Mr. Hasegawa, in his final chapter, “… finally reveals his objective: to put all the participants in the Pacific War on the same moral plane. Tojo and Anami were no worse than Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman …” You quote Hsaegawa writing that: “… this is a story with no heroes but no real villains either - just men."
This is a perspective you appear to find contemptable. Not because the Americans are “just men,” but because in your view, apparently, the Japanese were not. You write: “I know some heroes. They trained with me before losing their lives in the Philippines and Okinawa … And I know some villains: they conducted the Bataan Death March, the Rape of Nanjing … “
So you disapprove of Japanese brutality against American military prisoners, you disapprove of Japanese brutality against innocent, unarmed Chinese civilians, but appear to accept with some equanimity the intentional, brutal, incineration of the innocent, unarmed core populations of Nagaski, Hiroshima and (by implication) Tokyo. You’re theory is: the intentional murder of these innocent, unarmed civilians was morally correct because, if your theory is correct, it saved the lives of many other innocent unarmed civilians in other places at other times.
And then there is your undisguised sentimentality over the deaths of “some heroes” you trained with while preparing to fight in that war, which ignores the fact that among those who killed them were very likely “some heroes” who happened to be Japs—or just men, as Hasegawa has it.
You write that Hasegawa's most naive claim of all, that "… morality by definition is an absolute rather than a relative standard," would make your old Oxford ethcis professor choke. I wonder about this one. I’m not certain exactly what Hasegawa intends to say here. On the one hand, his observation may be too broad to be realistic. There is always the situation to hand, which in every case is unique, which suggests that moral absolutism is an impossible concept. But then there is the problem of when it is morally right, or morally wrong, to murder babies by the thousands and tens of thousands. I would argue that the moral prohibition aganst such acts would be, well, “absolute.”
I’m willing to be convinced that I am wrong about this.
Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008
Steve et al: I am going to try to put together a few statements from this thread that I feel are provocative. I understand that this could be done in various other ways. I write as an American, and consider my primary responsibility to judge myself and my own culture before I come to judgment about others.
“The atomic bomb was a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war." Although the ‘peace advocates’ were few, their hand was strengthened immeasurably by the A-bombing. Mitsumasa Yonai, the navy minister at the time, described the A bombs as a "gift from heaven."
It was indeed a “gift from heaven” for those who did not personally experience this gift directly, and who themselves survived by not risking their own lives against those by whom they were being administered. I find this a poltroonish expression of relief, while it was probably expressed with real sincerity.
“Ultimately, the only persons who can bear responsibility for any act are the ones who commit it.” This must be true, if we do not count those who support those who commit the crime. And that is where we get into a world of interpretive trouble. My father was a Roosevelt Democrat and supported the Roosevelt administration. What was his role in the intentional murder of the babies in Nagasaki, etc? The State, and its stupidities, compromise us all.
“ … if you commit a felony and someone is killed during the commission of said felony, even if you had no direct hand in the killing, you become responsible for that murder, my friend. That is how it is and that is how it should be.”
This is indeed how it is with a “felony.” Is the mass murder of a few hundreds thousand innocent, unarmed Japanese civilians a “felony?” If not, why not? There will certainly be a legalistic response available to this question, and the response will certainly forward the idea that the State can kill whomever it wants for whatever goal it has decided is for the “greater good” for – whom? Exactly? It was, after all, the primary responsibility of the Roosevelt administration to keep us out of war, not manage the affairs of State so that what happened happened..
“… for many today, your point (prior acts) has no weight because for them, the war didn't begin until the spring of 1945.”
This is a pertinent observation. There are many who do work from that proposition, thinking perhaps that you have to start somewhere. I’m trying to argue that it is better to not kill the innocent for the deeds of the guilty than it is to kill them. Because of the traditional calculous of war (I love that phrase, thank you very much) this is a matter that is not taken seriously. Maybe it’s not a serious matter, and I am wasting everyone’s time addressing it. But ….
Why is it that the State always chooses to do it’s murdering from the bottom up, rather than the top down? Example: how much time, money, effort and blood were put into killing those who were administering the Japanese war effort, rather than those who were (overwhelminly) forced to serve it? Maybe it is because I am not well-read on the subject to hand that I have heard nothing whatever about this. But it appears to me that it was thought, using the traditional calculous of war, that it would be better to kill a hundred thousand here, a hundred thousand there, than it would be to kill those who were administering those who we did kill.
I don’t get it. I don’t understand the moral justification of such a policy, and I don’t understand why it would not have been easier, everything taken into consideration, to start at the top rather than the bottom. I guess I have just asked a question. If it is a stupid question, I suppose I am going to be told why.
Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008
In this instance, those who were incinerated were incinerated. Those who were "saved" are the imaginative construct of those who carried out the incineration. Just as the necessity for the "invasion" is a theoretical construct, which can be debated. This "odd calculous of war," while the norm, is not one to adhere to, but one to get over. One day we might be able to agree that you do not intentionally murder the innocent for the deeds of the guilty. If we were to agree to that, it would not make us less human.
Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008
Your final question: “What number.is . . . “ is a perfectly natural one, and of course it cannot be answered in a rational way. Nevertheless, I would answer that one does not intentionally kill innocent, unarmed civilians for a “greater good.” I understand that in the calculus of war, intentionally killing the innocent for the deeds of the guilty is the way it has always been.
I was originally sturck by Professor Robert P. Newman’s self-indulgent sentimentality in recalling that while he had friends who sacrificed their lives fighting the Japanese, the Japanese had treated Americans badly during the Bataan Death March. Bataan would have to be classified as very small potatoes, even on a midget’s plate, compared to Nagasaki and the other vast intentional slaughters of innocent, unarmed civilians by the Americans. Let’s say the Japanese behaved badly toward the Americans on Bataan. How should we describe the behavior of Americans who burned children alive by the tens of thousands?
These double standards of moral justification are one of the primary tools used to promote the “calculous of war” that we have followed and lived with for so long. I am only suggesting that we question bad habits. And that we begin, just begin, to use the same moral standards to judge our own behavior that we use to judge that of the others, only a fraction of whom are truly our “enemies.”
Jeff Riggenbach - 5/10/2006
"Jeff, I have never claimed that the US government “can do no wrong.”"
You're right, Steve. My bad. What you claimed was: "I have already stated my believe [sic] that the responsibility for what befell Japan is upon those that began the war-the Japanese militarist [sic]. That belief is grounded in the law that properly holds people accountable for the logical and foreseeable consequences of their actions."
In other words, what you claimed was that people should be held accountable for the logical and foreseeable consequences of their actions, unless those people are running (or working for) the U.S. government.
Jeff Riggenbach - 5/10/2006
"What’s clear, Jeff is that you are impervious to facts, logic or reason. All you really have is a pathetic need to get the last word in."
And so the pot calls the kettle black. Who knows? Perhaps my need to get the last word in will make Steve so angry that he'll be "forced" to destroy an entire city or two. If so, then I'm sure it will be *my* fault. Right, Steve?
God, what a moron!
Steve Broce - 5/10/2006
--“You know nothing about my birth date, Steve -- just as you know nothing about anything else.’
Well, Jeff, you’re right. I don’t know your date of birth. Based on your reasoning abilities, I think you were probably born last night. But that’s just a guess.
--“I know that morons like yourself, wedded to the idea -- fundamentally a religious idea, impervious to reason -- that the U.S. government can do no wrong,”
Jeff, I have never claimed that the US government “can do no wrong.” What I do claim is that they were not wrong to drop the bombs.
--“Yes, because the U.S. government, in the years leading up to that attack, refused to mind its own business.”
So you claim. Without offering any details of the “endless provocations” you claim that Roosevelt visited on the Japanese.
--“ By the way, Steve, are you actually such a numbskull that you think the U.S. government is "we" and that an attack on a U.S. government installation is an attack on "us"?’
Yes, Jeff, I do .
As for what an intellectually vacuous dim-wit like you thinks of me, I care not at all. Actually, I take some comfort in the fact that a dipstick like you disagrees with me. I can’t be very wrong if that’s the situation.
What’s clear, Jeff is that you are impervious to facts, logic or reason. All you really have is a pathetic need to get the last word in.
Jeff Riggenbach - 5/10/2006
"Of course, to Harry Truman and the millions of Americans who actually had to fight WWII, estimating Japan’s capabilities and intentions wasn’t 'irrelevant crap'?"
No one "had to fight WWII," Steve. They chose to do so. But then, you wouldn't understand that, would you, Steve? To you, other people's actions "force" you to commit mass murder, which is then their fault. Have I understood your almost unbearably stupid philosophy correctly?
"Because of your birth date, Jeff, you get to post your drivel on HNN instead of fighting in WWII."
You know nothing about my birth date, Steve -- just as you know nothing about anything else.
"I’ve listened to every imbecilic thing you’ve said. It’s just that your brand of stupidity is not very persuasive."
This is unsurprising. I know that morons like yourself, wedded to the idea -- fundamentally a religious idea, impervious to reason -- that the U.S. government can do no wrong, cannot be persuaded of anything. The condition is usually known as "invincible ignorance."
"Well, the Japanese didn’t give us that alternative [the U.S. government minding its own business, letting events on the other side of the world take care of themselves, and staying out of the war entirely]. They brought 'events on the other side of the world' to our side of the world by attacking us and then declaring war."
Yes, because the U.S. government, in the years leading up to that attack, refused to mind its own business.
By the way, Steve, are you actually such a numbskull that you think the U.S. government is "we" and that an attack on a U.S. government installation is an attack on "us"? You think the people and land area of America are the same as the U.S. government? You may be even stupider than I'd previously thought.
Steve Broce - 5/10/2006
--“.. Steve, throwing up a smokescreen of irrelevant crap (plans for children wearing dynamite to counter U.S. tanks -- that sort of thing”
This passage of your latest comment illustrates my point perfectly. To you, lounging around on your ass, 60 years after the fact, what the Japanese were likely to do to resist an invasion is “irrelevant crap”, largely because you didn’t have a stake in the outcome. Of course, to Harry Truman and the millions of Americans who actually had to fight WWII, estimating Japan’s capabilities and intentions wasn’t “irrelevant crap”?
Because of your birth date, Jeff, you get to post your drivel on HNN instead of fighting in WWII. Do you see how that works?
You continue to insist “human beings cannot foretell the future”, as though that has some relevance. I have never claimed that humans CAN foretell the future. What humans CAN do, however, is use past actions to predict future behavior. In fact almost all humans, consciously or unconsciously, do that very thing. That you advocate otherwise is really no surprise to me.
I know that “humans can’t predict the future”, Jeff, but allow me one prediction. Tomorrow, the sun will NOT rise in the West. Trust me on that.
By any measure, the Japanese had given no hint that they would do anything other than fight any invasion ferociously and to the death.
--“I've told you that before, too, but you're too busy justifying mass murder to listen to anything I say.”
You’ve got me wrong, Jeff. I’ve listened to every imbecilic thing you’ve said. It’s just that your brand of stupidity is not very persuasive.
--‘The alternative to dropping the bombs was for the U.S. government to mind its own business, let events on the other side of the world take care of themselves, and stay out of the war entirely.”
Well, the Japanese didn’t give us that alternative. They brought “events on the other side of the world” to our side of the world by attacking us and then declaring war.
Jeff Riggenbach - 5/10/2006
You spend a good deal of your time (and, unfortunately, mine), Steve, throwing up a smokescreen of irrelevant crap (plans for children wearing dynamite to counter U.S. tanks -- that sort of thing), instead of addressing any of my main points. One of those -- in case, in your abject stupidity, you've been unable to grasp it -- is that human beings cannot foretell the future. This means that all your learned "estimates" of what *would have happened* are nothing but empty verbiage. They mean exactly nothing. All we *know* is what did happen and what is happening. There's no way to know what "would have happened," and those who appeal to that standard to judge their actions are merely looking for a way to justify what they know is unjustifiable. I'm sorry to repeat myself, Steve, but you appear to be too dense to grasp anything I tell you.
In your case, what you want is a way to justify the following attitude: "If someone picks a fight with me, I am thereafter allowed to commit any atrocity I want to commit and bear no responsibility for it. All responsibility belongs to the one who 'made me do it.'" I'm sure this philosophy worked well for you on the fourth grade playground, but as a philosophy of international relations, it is pathetic.
My alternative to dropping the bombs, Steve? I've told you that before, too, but you're too busy justifying mass murder to listen to anything I say. The alternative to dropping the bombs was for the U.S. government to mind its own business, let events on the other side of the world take care of themselves, and stay out of the war entirely.
At this point you're supposed to start crying crocodile tears about something neither you nor anyone else could possibly know -- what *might* have happened to someone or other if things had been different. Here's your cue, moron.
Steve Broce - 5/9/2006
‘Neither are the people who carried out the order. No, the people responsible are some other people over there -- people who neither ordered the bombing nor carried it out.”
Actually, Jeff, a better summary of my argument would be:
‘The people who started the war-the Japanese militarists-are the ones who are responsible for creating a situation where dropping the bombs was the best option from a group of hard choices’
Actually, Jeff, you are the one who is merely repeating yourself over and over again.
Do you have any plausible alternatives to dropping the bombs? Do you have any evidence to support the alternatives?
Jeff Riggenbach - 5/9/2006
"I have already stated my believe [sic] that the responsibility for what befell Japan is upon those that began the war-the Japanese militarist [sic]. That belief is grounded in the law that properly holds people accountable for the logical and foreseeable consequences of their actions."
Gee, Steve, I'd say the logical and foreseeable consequence of dropping an A bomb on someone is to blow up and/or incinerate that someone. Yet, in your world, the person who ordered that bombing is not responsible for its logical and foreseeable consequences. Neither are the people who carried out the order. No, the people responsible are some other people over there -- people who neither ordered the bombing nor carried it out.
Your belief is actually grounded in a law that runs something like this: If you dare to cross this line, YOU are responsible for anything I might do!
Steve Broce - 5/9/2006
The reason I don’t address your counter argument is because YOU MAKE NO COUNTER-ARGUMENT.
You make unsupported assertions, like “Roosevelt got the Japanese to attack us through ‘endless provocation’ ”
You make petulant, pithy little statements like “the law is an (sic) ass” (actually the quote is “the law is A ass”. I point that out only because YOU are such an ass about these matters)
You make moralistic statements about Roosevelt and Truman, all the while never uttering one word of opprobrium against the Japanese.
No counter-arguments there.
You also make a lot of muddled, simplistic observations.
“This somewhat comical statement is, as I have mentioned before, predicated on the assumption that if we find a few hundred thousand people who had nothing at all to do with the behavior of the Japanese government in its relations with other East Asian countries in the 1930s and if we blow up or incinerate these people, then we will have, in some apparently inexplicable manner, "solved" the "problem of the Japanese conquest of East Asia."
Utter nonsense, Jeff.
The war against Japan involved many battles against JAPANESE SOLDIERS who were engaged in brutal occupations of a number of Asian countries. Most of the fighting involved conventional, albeit extremely costly, campaigns. What you have done in this quote is to distill US efforts into “we killed a bunch of people who weren’t involved in the war to ‘solve’ the problem.” This is either sophistry on your part, Jeff, or ignorance of the facts of WWII on a galactic scale. I won’t venture a guess which, but either way it’s silly.
The A-bombs didn’t represent the sum total of our war effort against Japan and your glossing over of the many conventional battles that soldiers, airmen and marines fought against Japanese soldiers is inexplicable.
“Whatever the facts, proclaim victory, proclaim success, and it is yours.”
What is your point? Do you question that there was a victory over Japan? Do the Japanese still brutally occupy their neighbors? Do they still attack other nations? Is Japan still dominated by militarists? Does the Emperor still receive absolute fealty from his subjects?
Of course there was a victory over Japan. It is now a thriving , peaceful democracy because of that victory. That is why “victory was declared”
“Proclaim that moral responsibility for the murder of the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki lies with people who did NOT commit that murder, and it is the truth.”
Jeff, I have already stated my believe that the responsibility for what befell Japan is upon those that began the war-the Japanese militarist. That belief is grounded in the law that properly holds people accountable for the logical and foreseeable consequences of their actions. Your unpersuasive counter—the “law is an (sic) ass”, is not a counter argument, it’s a tantrum masquerading as an argument.
“Proclaim that murdering those actual, living people is made acceptable because someone *conjectures* that more, *purely hypothetical* people *might* have died if that murder hadn't been committed, and -- presto! -- murder is acceptable.”
More nonsense. The decision to drop the bombs was made with the very recent and very real experiences of the battles of Okinawa, Iwo Jima and Saipan. At Okinawa, more people were killed than were killed by both A bombs COMBINED. At both Okinawa and Saipan, hundreds, if not thousands of Japanese civilians chose suicide over capture.
Can there be any doubt that far more people would have died in an actual invasion of the Japanese home Islands? Where’s YOUR evidence to support your implication that FEWER people would have died?
If you really doubt that the Japanese were preparing to fight to the bitter end, read something about the Ketsu-Go defense plan, Jeff. Thousands of Kamikaze aircraft with millions of gallons of stockpiled avgas. Two million Japanese troops. Millions more Japanese civilians pressed into “home guard “ service. School children being prepared to charge American tanks with dynamite strapped to their bodies. Suicide submarines. What evidence or logical argument can you offer that refutes the notion that far more JAPANESE civilians would have died as a result of invasion?
You can cry and moan all you want that “these are ‘hypothetical’ deaths” or “ these civilian deaths are only conjecture”. But here’s the key point, Jeff; you get to make your argument while sitting on your fat ass, responsible for doing absolutely nothing all the while carping about a decision made by someone who had to do something. A decision which involved the likely loss of millions of lives balanced against the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.
If you really believe that there was a reasonable alternative to dropping the bombs, why don’t you offer a REAL counter–argument and identify what that alternative was and then cite some persuasive reasons to believe that fewer deaths would have resulted.
Jeff Riggenbach - 5/8/2006
This is becoming more than a little tiresome, Steve. You say the same thing over and over and over and you never deal with any of my counter-arguments. Thus, you write:
"There is no doubt that the US government COULD solve the problem of the Japanese conquest of East Asia. They could and they did."
This somewhat comical statement is, as I have mentioned before, predicated on the assumption that if we find a few hundred thousand people who had nothing at all to do with the behavior of the Japanese government in its relations with other East Asian countries in the 1930s and if we blow up or incinerate these people, then we will have, in some apparently inexplicable manner, "solved" the "problem of the Japanese conquest of East Asia." It is solution by definition. It is a more than a little reminiscent of George W. Bush's preposterous declaration three years ago on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln that the U.S. government's "mission" in Iraq had been "accomplished."
Whatever the facts, proclaim victory, proclaim success, and it is yours. Proclaim that moral responsibility for the murder of the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki lies with people who did NOT commit that murder, and it is the truth. Proclaim that murdering those actual, living people is made acceptable because someone *conjectures* that more, *purely hypothetical* people *might* have died if that murder hadn't been committed, and -- presto! -- murder is acceptable.
What a wonderful world you live in, Steve. Remind me to avoid it like the plague.
Steve Broce - 5/8/2006
“But I'm realistic enough to understand that I can't solve all the problems of the world, and neither can the U.S. government.”
That YOU can’t solve all the world’s problems (or most of your own, for that matter) is not under debate. That the US government can solve all the world’s problems has never been asserted. There is no doubt that the US government COULD solve the problem of the Japanese conquest of East Asia. They could and they did.
Ultimately, your argument boils down to the proposition that the world would have been a better place if the United States had let the Japanese ( and the Germans, I suppose) have their way. That is a proposition that few people accept.
You claim that Roosevelt endlessly provoked the Japanese into attacking the United States. In reality, what you claim as “endless provocation” were attempts to get the Japanese to moderate their barbarism in East Asia. When the Japanese realized that Roosevelt was no longer going to sell them the raw materials that allowed them to ravage the rest of Asia, they decided to attack. When they did, it was standing room only at the induction centers.
Your description of the US military as an “army of slaves” is silly and a disservice to the people who actually fought WWII. Most young people fought to get into the military. I don’t doubt that a half-wit like you has a hard time understanding the attitude that people in the 1940’s had with respect defending their country. For you it must be a mystery.
“In any case, no, I don't approve of murderous rampages against the Chinese, or against anybody else.”
You apparently don’t approve of anyone doing anything to stop it either.
With respect to the incineration of old people and babies, I don’t revel in the use of the A-bomb. I view it as a sad necessity that undoubtedly saved millions of Japanese lives.
As for my spelling, Jeff, since you seem much more able to critique spelling, than to advance your moronic ideas, why don’t you drag yourself down to SNN-the Spelling News Network.
What’s clear, Jeff, is that your continued presence here at HNN is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot..
Jeff Riggenbach - 5/8/2006
I guess it must be your abject stupidity, Steve -- I can't imagine what else could account for your apparent inability to comprehend anything you read.
I never said "that Roosevelt got the Japanese to invade all those East Asian countries" you're so exercised about. I said he got the Japanese to invade U.S. territory, so he'd have a pretext to conscript an army of slaves and enter a war that was none of the U.S. government's business.
But then, to you, there's no difference there, right? ALL territory is U.S. territory. ALL disputes are U.S. disputes. There is no such thing as a war that is none of the U.S. government's business.
"Guess its okay with you as long as the victims are Chinese."
Gee, Steve, your spelling is about as shaky as your grasp of history, isn't it? Why am I not surprised?
In any case, no, I don't approve of murderous rampages against the Chinese, or against anybody else. But I'm realistic enough to understand that I can't solve all the problems of the world, and neither can the U.S. government. So, unlike you, when I hear about a problem halfway around the world, I don't immediately throw all my support behind a plan to enslave my fellow Americans and pick their pockets in an effort to solve that problem. Nor do I advocate that a bunch of old people and babies who never had anythng to do with creating the problem should be incinerated alive. Nor, once they've been incinerated, do I argue that their murder somehow solved the problem. Nor do I attempt to pin the blame for their murder on someone who didn't commit it.
Steve Broce - 5/8/2006
“I don't approve of murderous rampages -- Harry Truman's, or anybody else's. It's YOU who does approve of such rampages. I'd say, if either of us is likely to undertake such a rampage himself, it's probably you.’
Really, Jeff? I figured after your sappy apology (“finally gave into FDR's endless provocations”) for Japanese murder in East Asia in the 30’s and 40’s , that you were a big fan of murderous rampages. Guess its okay with you as long as the victims are Chinese.
What I approve of is standing up to murderous regimes, like the Japanese militarists of the 30’s and 40’s. You know, Jeff, the ones that you claim were not responsible for the consequences of their own actions.
Now, about that conspiracy theory of yours, how was it that Roosevelt got the Japanese to invade all those East Asian countries again, Jeff?
Jeff Riggenbach - 5/8/2006
"It occurs to me, Jeff, that there was a British politician that shared your views. His name was Chamberlain. His name is now synonymous with appeasement."
Yes, it is, Steve -- among ignoramuses like you.
"As for the militarists not bearing any responsibility for that which they wrought on the Japanese people by starting the war, that’s about what I’d expect from you. Let me give you some advice, Jeff. Do not go on a armed rampage in your neighborhood."
I assure you, I won't to on "a [sic] armed rampage," Steve. As you might have noticed, if you hadn't been so busy working yourself up into a snit over my laughter at your ridiculous religion, I don't approve of murderous rampages -- Harry Truman's, or anybody else's. It's YOU who does approve of such rampages. I'd say, if either of us is likely to undertake such a rampage himself, it's probably you.
Steve Broce - 5/7/2006
Jeff, I guess if I cared what a moron like you thought, I would have asked in my first comment.
Of course, not having made any progress advancing you silly arguments civilly, you now decide to get personal. If anyone has delusions, Jeff, it’s you. Delusions of adequacy.
Not having any logic to argue, you now reach for the conspiracy theory “Roosevelt bated the Japanese into war”. What tripe. But I’ll play your game, Jeff. How’d Roosevelt get the Japanese to attack China, invade Singapore, attack the Dutch East Indies, sign a pact with Nazi Germany, attack Australia, attack Sri Lanka, invade Burma, seize Guadalcanal and Tulagi and occupy Korea?
The Japanese had a plan, Jeff, which included the conquest of East Asia. The Japanese also realized that Roosevelt was going to oppose that plan. That opposition is what apologists for Japanese murder like you call “endless provocation”. As though the world would be a better place “if only the Americans, the Russians and the British had just given the Japanese and the Germans what they wanted”.
It occurs to me, Jeff, that there was a British politician that shared your views. His name was Chamberlain. His name is now synonymous with appeasement. His appeasement didn’t work out so well for tens of millions of people. Your argument differs little from his.
As for the militarists not bearing any responsibility for that which they wrought on the Japanese people by starting the war, that’s about what I’d expect from you. Let me give you some advice, Jeff. Do not go on a armed rampage in your neighborhood. If you do, don’t expect any sympathy if the authorities have to hurt you in order to stop you. Except, of course, from other fuzzy thinkers who apply the “Riggenbach Principle” of non-responsibility.
Jeff Riggenbach - 5/7/2006
As you were saying, the "militarist Japanese" finally gave into FDR's endless provocations and did what he had wanted them to do all along -- attack Pearl Harbor (or maybe the Philippines, it didn't really matter that much to the Roosevelt administration) and thus provide a pretext for dragging the U.S. taxpayer (and an army of conscripted slaves) into a war that was fundamentally none of his business, and into which he didn't really care to be dragged. Then, a few years later, a failed haberdasher from Missouri with delusions of grandeur dropped a bomb on a few tens of thousands of old people and children who never had anything at all to do with the fact that the "militarist Japanese" had finally caved in to FDR's provocations.
Do I "really question that they [the "militarist Japanese] bear some responsibility for what happened to the Japanese people as a result of starting the war?" I think they bear no responsibility at all for Harry Truman's murder of several tens of thousands of children and old people.
Do I think you're a pompous, uninformed ass, Steve? I do.
Steve Broce - 5/6/2006
Many people, me included, believe that if you scream racial epithets, as you bash in the skull of a black man, then your crime was likely racially motivated. In the short-hand of criminal jurisprudence, this is sometimes called a “hate crime”. Do you object to this application of “common sense”?
Likewise, if you burn a cross on a black person’s lawn or draw a swastika on a synagogue, common sense would indicate that your crime was motivated by racial or religious bigotry—AKA a “hate crime”. What’s your problem with using common sense to divine motive in a crime?
Likewise, many people believe that common sense dictates that the militarists in Japan, who embarked on a harsh, brutal campaign of murder and conquest in Asia, bear responsibility for what befell the Japanese people in the natural, foreseeable reaction by the United States.
In short, the militarist Japanese, declared war, then attacked…oops, got that reversed. As I was saying, the militarist Japanese attacked, then declared war on the United States. Do you really question that they bear some responsibility for what happened to the Japanese people as a result of starting the war. If you do, I suggest that you will find many employment opportunities in Japan in the history text book publishing field.
Jeff Riggenbach - 5/6/2006
Steve, perhaps you've heard of the concept of "hate crimes"? Or perhaps you've been too busy imputing responsibility for various acts to the people who didn't commit them? Perhaps you were too busy to notice?
Steve Broce - 5/6/2006
Jeff, I’ve never heard a theory in criminal jurisprudence that suggests that it is possible to determine “what people were thinking”. Many people, of course, believe that it is possible to discern a person's motives by the application of common sense.
If someone shoots a person in the head 5 times, common sense would indicate that the shooter’s motive was to kill the victim. Got a problem with that, Jeff?
Another thing that many people believe, Jeff, is that a person or country is responsible for the natural and foreseeable consequences of its actions. That is why I believe that when Japan started the war in Asia, and then conducted it in a brutal and harsh way, killing millions of people, primarily other Asians, it became responsible for its own fate.
Since you like to quote dead people, try this one:
“I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve”
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto,
Chief architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor, shortly after learning of the success of the attack
How right he was.
Jeff Riggenbach - 5/5/2006
"Jeff, criminal jurisprudence recognizes the falsity of your claim, with such things as the 'felony murder rule.'"
Steve, criminal jurisprudence believes all sorts of ridiculous things. It believes, for example, that it is possible to determine what people were thinking, what their "motives" were in particular cases, etc. As Charles Dickens famously observed, "The law is an ass."
"That is how it is and that is how it should be."
I'm confident that people like you, who are bound and determined to place the blame for an action on someone other than those who committed it, will agree wholeheartedly.
Steve Broce - 5/5/2006
"I find this a poltroonish expression of relief, while it was probably expressed with real sincerity."
No, what it is a realistic appraisal of the hellish situation that would have been visited on far more people if the bomb had not been dropped.
“Is the mass murder of a few hundreds thousand innocent, unarmed Japanese civilians a “felony?” If not, why not?”
It is not, if it is committed in the course of fighting a war that was began by the Japanese and if the taking of those lives resulted in the saving of many times that number.
“It was, after all, the primary responsibility of the Roosevelt administration to keep us out of war, not manage the affairs of State so that what happened happened..”
In my view, this is nonsense. It was the duty of the Roosevelt administration, and every administration, to manage the affairs of state of the United States in a way that is best for the long-term interests of the United States. The Japanese and the Germans declared war on us, not vice–versa. Could Roosevelt have refused to engage the Japanese and the Germans? Perhaps, but at what cost to the US and the rest of the world. I believe that ultimately the world is better for having confronted and defeated the tyranny.
Do you doubt it?
“Why is it that the State always chooses to do it’s murdering from the bottom up, rather than the top down?”
Some attempts were made to “cut off the head” of the Japanese war machine, with minimal results. Based on intercepts of Japanese naval communications, a plane carrying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the principal architect of the Pearl Harbor attack and the Commander in Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, was intercepted by American fighter aircraft and shot down. Yamamoto was killed , but the results were mainly physiological on both sides.
The problem was not that Japan was lead into war by a few militarists, who could be assassinated. The problem was in Japan, fealty to the Emperor was total. Could we have killed the Emperor? Not likely. The technology did not exist then nor does it exist now, for that matter, to precisely place an individual in a hostile foreign country and assassinate him. If we had, it probably would have made the Japanese even more determined to fight to the death. Besides, it was the Emperor who was ultimately convinced to surrender.
“But it appears to me that it was thought, using the traditional calculous of war, that it would be better to kill a hundred thousand here, a hundred thousand there, than it would be to kill those who were administering those who we did kill.”
This is simply naïve. As I have said, no technology existed at the time to simply “kill those who were administering” the war, without also killing the millions who surrounded them.
“I’m trying to argue that it is better to not kill the innocent for the deeds of the guilty than it is to kill them.”
This isn’t an argument against what Truman did, this is a lament that the world wasn’t different than it was. What you haven’t done, Bradley, is suggest a realistic alternative to what Truman did.
D. M. Giangreco - 5/4/2006
Dear Mr. Broce: I sympathize with your plight in trying to argue this out, but you must remember that, for many today, your point (prior acts) has no weight because for them, (1) the war didn't begin until the spring of 1945, and (2) it involved only Americans and Japanese with the skyrocketing death toll among Asians and prisoners / slave laborers of all nationalities either invisible or irrelevant.
Steve Broce - 5/4/2006
Jeff, criminal jurisprudence recognizes the falsity of your claim, with such things as the “felony murder rule”
To wit, if you commit a felony and someone is killed during the commission of said felony, even if you had no direct hand in the killing, you become responsible for that murder, my friend.
That is how it is and that is how it should be.
Jeff Riggenbach - 5/4/2006
"Ultimately, the Japanese militarists must bear the responsibility for Hiroshima and Nagasaki."
Ultimately, the only persons who can bear responsibility for any act are the ones who commit it.
Steve Broce - 5/4/2006
“Nevertheless, I would answer that one does not intentionally kill innocent, unarmed civilians for a ‘greater good’.”
The question as to whether innocent lives would be lost was settled when the Japanese embarked on their quest to conquer East Asia. There would be. The only question that remained was how the United States could take the fewest innocent lives. That was not an issue, of course, that concerned the Japanese.
“Bataan would have to be classified as very small potatoes, even on a midget’s plate, compared to Nagasaki and the other vast intentional slaughters of innocent, unarmed civilians by the Americans.”
Of course, you gloss right over the larger point that Newman made. Japanese atrocities did not begin or end with the Bataan death march. The United Nations puts the death toll of the Japanese during WWII at 17 million. The Chinese estimate twice that number. In Manila alone, the Japanese murdered over 100,000 innocent civilians in the last few months of the occupation.
I challenge you to document your implication that America was responsible for more deaths of innocent, unarmed civilians than was Japan.
Furthermore, the dropping of the a-bombs, in my estimation, saved many times the number of lives that were lost.
I’ll tell you something else, Bradley. Before the bombs were dropped, Japan was warned that sufficient force was being marshaled to lay waste to Japan. The Allies called on Japan to surrender to avoid certain destruction. The Japanese treated the warning with contempt. Ultimately, the Japanese militarists must bear the responsibility for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
I’ve always been struck by the work of Japanese historian Sadao Asada of Doshisha University in Kyoto. Asada reported the views of Japanese wartime “peace advocates” on the use of the A-bomb. Hisatsune Sakomizu, chief cabinet secretary in 1945, was quoted “The atomic bomb was a golden opportunity given by heaven for Japan to end the war." Although the “peace advocates” were few, their hand was strengthened immeasurably by the A-bombing. Mitsumasa Yonai, the navy minister at the time, described the A bombs as a "gift from heaven."
Thus, some of the people involved with the Japanese wartime government seem to feel that the bomb was necessary to prevent a much larger holocaust.
Oscar Chamberlain - 5/3/2006
Giangreco has a rotten prose style, at least when he is being sarcastic. I find this letter slow going.
So far I have worked my way through his "ellipsis" argument concerning Truman's account of a conversation with Stalin. Quite honestly I don't think the omission did change the meaning of Truman's statement.
Having said that I don't consider the statement, complete or edited, as conclusive proof that Truman thought Stalin's entry would be the most important force that ended Japanese resistance.
However, Truman might have thought it would be the last straw, if one was needed.
Don Gilmore - 5/3/2006
Re: "Is their clear evidence that either historian has gone beyound that sort of principled disagreement and into dishonesty?"
Well, actually, yes. Isn't that the whole point of the article that HNN links to here D.M. Giangreco: Did Truman Really Oppose the Soviet Union's Decision to Enter the War Against Japan? ?
A reading of another one of the linked articles Michael Kort: Is the latest revisionist account right about Truman & Hiroshima? makes it clear that even if the repeated manipulations of sources and quotes is not intentional, Hasegawa's book at best display's remarkably poor scholarship. What Newman is saying is that partisans are frequently all too willing to turn a bling eye to even flagrant distortions.
D. M. Giangreco - 5/3/2006
It is worth noting that there is a bit more to it than Hasegawa's characterization that this matter is being generated simply by ideologues "not happy with the fact that my book received SHAFR’s Robert Ferrell award." The driving force behind the recent, and somewhat closer, examination of Racing the Enemy is the fact that the announcement that Hasegawa had just won the Robert H. Ferrell Book Prize coincided with the publication of Ferrell's new book Harry S Truman and the Cold War Revisionists. Ironically, Ferrell is highly critical of Hasegawa's work and this drew immediate attention from as far afield as the Times of London ( http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/23664.html ), and Fred Allen at American Heritage ran, with my permission, two notes I sent him on this ( http://www.americanheritage.com/blog/20064_11_172.shtml ). Ferrell's view is cited by Newman in his closing, but ignored by Hasegawa.
Ferrell acknowledges that "The literature in English regarding the effect of Soviet entry upon [Japan’s World War II] surrender is slight" and adds that Hasegawa maintains the surrender came "because of the shock of the Russian entry.” After examining Hasegawa's material closely, however, he gently suggested that "Hasegawa may have speculated in this regard." Ferrell goes on to say: "The Hasegawa book seems an unfortunate contribution in another way, for it places the responsibility for use of nuclear weapons evenly on Japan, Russia, and the United States. The author ignores the behavior of the Japanese Army in its conquests beginning with the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, in which the death toll of prisoners and civilians alike ran into the millions; the United Nations figure is seventeen million, the Chinese thirty. For the Americans this meant the Bataan death march, among many other hostilities. In 1945, with the imminence of the attack on Kyushu, the vice minister of war sent out an order that when the first American landed on one of the home islands there should be the immediate execution, by any means, of all Allied prisoners held within the empire, whose numbers were estimated at one hundred thousand.”
Robert Ferrell's comment is on pages 114-115 of Harry S Truman and the Cold War Revisionists, available from the University of Missouri Press, and he is being honored at this summer's SMH conference ( hnn.us/roundup/entries/23830.html ).
Oscar Chamberlain - 5/3/2006
I think Bruce may be onto something.
Stripped of the emotion, is the difference between Hasegawa and Newman any greater than, say, the difference between those historians who argue that ethno-cultural divisions played the dominant role in midwestern politics in the 1830s and those who argue that class played the dominant role?
Each group comes to the table with assumptions about the way the world and individuals interact and each group judges the evidence they find in the light of those assumptions. As a result the events that seem to be conclusive evidence to one group may be dismissed by the other as being of little importance.
Is their clear evidence that either historian has gone beyound that sort of principled disagreement and into dishonesty?
Steve Broce - 5/2/2006
“Those who were "saved" are the imaginative construct of those who carried out the incineration.”
I can’t agree with your analysis, Bradley. The decision to use the bomb was made with the very real and very recent experiences of Okinawa, where more people died than were killed by BOTH a-bombs combined, and Iwo Jima.
Is it realistic to expect that FEWER people would have been killed in an assault on the main Japanese islands themselves?
As for: “Just as the necessity for the "invasion" is a theoretical construct, which can be debated.”, I can only ask, what history of surrender did the Japanese demonstrate prior to the dropping of the bombs? The fact is, we took very few Japanese prisoners during WWII, because the Japanese, almost invariably, chose death rather than surrender.
“This "odd calculous of war," while the norm, is not one to adhere to, but one to get over”
And yet, what other calculus is more reasonable? Isn’t it always better to kill the fewest people. What number IS reasonable to save a million other peoiple?
Steve Broce - 5/2/2006
“You’re theory is: the intentional murder of these innocent, unarmed civilians was morally correct because, if your theory is correct, it saved the lives of many other innocent unarmed civilians in other places at other times.”
That is the odd calculus of war.
Is it better to kill 200,000 civilians in a brutal show of force than 2,000,000 or 20,000,000 in a brutal invasion? I would argue that it is.
Peter Kovachev - 5/1/2006
I see it as, "This book is junk history and propaganda, therefore it doesn't deserve a price."
Bruce Boyden - 5/1/2006
As far as I can tell, the argument of this essay seems to be, "I disagree with Hasegawa's conclusions; therefore his book did not deserve a prize."
Tom Mach - 5/1/2006
Fine response to Hasegawa's work and the field's uncritical evaluation. Yet I take issue with the notion that ideology is the culprit. Ideology drives both the problematic thesis and the proper critique. Bad ideology is the problem and it must be critiqued from a rather absolute standard. In this case, the field has standards that Hasegawa violated (ie, good methodology). I believe it goes even deeper than that, but that is the subject of another essay. The noble dream of objectivity lives on, and we ought to strive for it to avoid works like this, but let's not pretend that ideology is the culprit.
- Historian David Kaiser says the most exciting day of his life was JFK’s election
- Michael Bliss, Historian Who Dispelled Myths of Insulin’s Discovery, Dies at 76
- Jill Lepore: Americans Aren't Just Divided Politically, They're Divided Over History Too
- AHA joins protest of Trump’s plan for drastic cuts to the NEH
- Diane Ravitch says the Democrats paved the way for the education secretary's efforts to privatize our public schools