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Monday, December 7, 2009

Pearl Harbor

Today is the anniversary of the Japanese attack on O'ahu and specifically on the US Navy ships at Pearl Harbor.  It was the act that forced the United States into open participation in World War II.

In light of that, there was an article Sunday in The New York Times on the diplomatic interactions leading up to the attack and includes a discussion of how President Theodore Roosevelt played a big role in the evolution of Japanese diplomatic and policy thinking.  And there was an insight into how President Teddy Roosevelt earned his Nobel Peace Prize.

The author of the Opinion Piece is James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers.

Once again, things are not as straight forward as they seem.  But, at the same time, there is no doubt, at least in my mind, that Japan took the step that caused the United States to engage in bitter and savage warfare across the Pacific, ending up with the use of nuclear weapons to bring that war to a close.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The more I read the more I wonder about the Nobel Peace Prize.  This is not a comment on President Obama, but the other winner, besides President Theodore Roosevelt.  That would be President Woodrow Wilson and we all know how his peace efforts turned out less than twenty years later.

1 comment:

C R Krieger said...

Someone EMailed me on the side, saying:  "Your item today talks about Teddy Roosevelt in the same breath as the Pearl Harbor attack.  Wasn't FDR in office at that time?"

Short answer is yes, FDR was in office at the time.

The long answer is that the writer of the opinion piece thought that it was the actions of President Teddy Roosevelt that lit the powder train that led up to Pearl Harbor.  The problem with all such actions is that (1) it might have been some other powder train and (2) not everyone agrees.

One former WoPo history Professor thinks the argument is all hogwash—"And remember, the Great White Fleet was originally intended to give the Japanese a stiff brush-back pitch.  England was getting too deep in Europe in their naval arms race with Germany (see Dreadnaught:  Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War, by Robert Massie for the story of that series of developments) and had to pull in their horns in the Far East to allow a concentration in European waters, which left NZ/AUS and the other holdings short. Roosevelt conceived of the fleet tour as a message to Japan:  "Don't even THINK about it.  Got it?"  Which was the whole reason for consolidating nearly 100% of our power into one fleet and then sending it through the Pacific.  It was the essence of the display of the "Big Stick" while still speaking softly."

History is so hard.  Harder even than climate change.

Thanks, Bill

Regards  —  Cliff