Friday, September 2, 2005

Forgotten lessons from the Pacific War

Today is the 60th anniversary of the formal end of the Second World War. Philippe Pons brings up some analogies for today.

Asia's history up until the day after the War in the Pacific is especially rich in lessons about mistakes. Thus, Japan's creation in 1932 of the puppet state of Manchukuo presents - in spite of the obvious differences - troubling analogies with Iraq: both cases were the work of rightist radicalism from a superpower (regional, in Japan's case, global, in America's) combined with a manipulation of public opinion and defiance of international rules, notes the political scientist Kang Sang-jung. In both cases, a war of aggression was waged in the name of a messianic vision (the "liberation" of Asia; the "democratization" of the Middle East) and out of a conviction that military superiority would conquer all: the creation of the state of Manchukuo in fact marked the beginning of a fifteen-year-long war.
Finally, George Bush's messianic "vision" singularly recalls the redemptive message of Japanese militarists when they invaded Asia: "Without conveying the United States' pretensions to universalism, Japanese Imperialist ideology drew from the same source," writes American historian and Japanese history specialist Herbert Bix, author of Hirohito and the Making of a Modern Japan (Harper Collins), "The Japanese were taught to believe in their moral superiority and to be proud of the Light of which they were the bearers. Like Americans today. And when they encounter resistance in the country they invade, they behave no better than the Japanese in China." Decidedly not so distant, the Pacific War...

I absolutely differ with "...they behave no better than the Japanese in China." Our troops don't bet on how many civilians they can behead in a given period or kill millions of people, at least I hope not. Other than that, food for thought.

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