Friday, December 10, 2010

Pearl Harbor Was Not What it Seemed

A brilliant piece at Lew Rockwell by Robert Higgs on the skullduggery by Roosevelt before Pearl Harbor.

Sixty-nine years ago, Japanese forces attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, provoking the United States to declare war against Japan. When Japan’s ally Germany declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941, the United States immediately reciprocated. These actions brought the United States into open warfare against the Axis powers and made it a full-fledged participant in the greatest war ever fought. For most Americans, this story is simple: they attacked us; we fought back and defeated them.
Historians have always known, however, that the true story was nothing like this patriotic fable dispensed each year on December 7 for popular consumption. 


Along with the myth of Munich, the myth of the Pearl Harbor attack has performed magnificently in keeping Americans dumb and belligerent and in preparing them to sacrifice their children’s lives in the service of the ruling oligarchy. Unless the American people can rise above these historical myths, they stand little chance of freeing themselves from those who would make them the living, breathing but unthinking means for the attainment of their masters’ ends.

Reprinted from the Independent Institute.


Rob Pugh said...

Am I missing the link to the Higgs' article? All I see is the link to the Rothbard/revisionism one...

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Thanks Rob! Sorry I missed that. Here it is.

Rob Pugh said...

It's a good article, and it makes a lot of salient points [in the article it links to, as well.] And I've read the arguments that FDR backed the Japanese into an economic corner in order to force their hand. Most importantly, people should learn history in its complexity and not the simple whitewashed mythologies.


The part of it I've never bought is that 'economic warfare' strikes me as a misnomer and inaccurate bit of rhetorical flourish. Economics isn't warfare. Refusing to engage in trade doesn't excuse physical violence. You can't make war on a nation because they have something you want and they refuse to sell it to you, anymore than I can take my neighbor's car at gunpoint because he won't sell it to me.

That very concept seems anti-libertarian... this idea that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is almost justified because we 'forced' them to economically.

I agree it behooves everyone to understand the true nature of the geopolitical chicanery that was at work, I just don't buy the subtext. As in all things, imho/fwiw. Cheers.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Thanks Rob,

Well... Under International Law, an oil embargo is considered an act of war. But your point is well taken.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Also, there's a few more that are acts of war that the USA committed before Pearl Harbor.

I can't remember them all but one that sticks out is US pilots "volunteering" to fly bombing missions of Japanese forces in the famed Flying Tigers (They "volunteered" all the while still being paid by the US government as service members). That was a blatant act of war too.

Rob Pugh said...

"Under International Law, an oil embargo is considered an act of war" - that's actually a fairly 'unusual interpretation of the text,' as they say. I don't think you can really argue that unless you think the US should've attacked OPEC several times over. The "America forced us to attack them with their embargoes" really only has traction among conservative Japanese historians or liberal Western ones. The only ones who really claim an embargo is tantamount to an act of war is the Japanese in the context of Pearl Harbor Embargoes are diplomatic, trade and economic tools.

What's more, embargoes against Japan were in response to Japan's invasions of China and Indochina against nations/powers considered American allies. Inane geopolitical maneuvering, to be sure, but certainly not without context.

And you're talking about a time and place before commonly understood "international law" was, at best, hazy & tenuous. It's like saying, I don't know, because cocaine is illegal now, that's why Coca-Cola was illegal when it was first created. And it's about an age before GATT/WTO/mandatory free trade... The US was under no obligation to sell their steel & oil to Japan. And the idea that producers are *required* to provide their goods or services to anyone somewhat offends my libertarian-ish sensibilities :) Consumers have no right to demand you sell them something if you don't want to. Fundamentally and over simplistically stated, of course.

I agree with Suprynowicz's assessment - "...The Roosevelt administration embargoed oil shipments to Japan. The Japanese didn't want to conquer America; they wanted to seize the oil-rich islands of the South Pacific. But they knew Roosevelt would come to the aid of the Dutch and British there if they tried.

So, declaring the oil embargo an act of war (as though we had some obligation to sell our oil to anyone), figuring they had to "use their fleet or lose it," they struck first..." -

Also, the Flying Tigers were mercs who were paid and run by CAMCO. They'd resigned/been discharged from the military. Whether CAMCO or the Tigers were intel fronts carrying out the wishes of the USGov with respect to supporting China against the Japanese invasion in the Sino-Japanese war is, at best, arguable, but lacks clear evidence one way or the other. Either way, the Tigers didn't fly combat ops till after Pearl anyways.

Little doubt that FDR was trying to hamstring economically and/or provoke the Japanese, and that gives PH greater context and better historical understanding than the simplified spoon fed mythology we're given in the US. But
saying the embargoes and American 'acts of war' caused PH is like saying because I called you a name and gave $20 bucks to another guy you don't like, you get to punch me in the face :)

I imagine we'll probably have to agree to disagree... But thanks for the thought provoking exchange and chance to flex my keyboard ranting abilities. :)

mike in tokyo rogers said...

No, Rob, it wasn't just an embargo, the USA blockaded any and all countries from shipping oil to Japan.

It was an embargo and a "Blockade"... Undoubtedly and act or war. Please look it up.


mike in tokyo rogers said...

Thanks Rob,

But our embargo was not due to Japan's actions in China. We never warned them at all:

Embargo as act of war: Media Blackout: The Armada in the Gulf by Gary North
27 Aug 2008 ... Because imposing an embargo was an act of war, and because Iran would have no particular reason to settle with the United States on terms that are in any way favorable to the United States, the Iranians need only bide ...

Anyhow, please go to LRC or Mises and discuss this with Ralph Raico. I've followed his arguments and types like yours for decades....

An embargo IS considered an act of war (you can call it embargo or blockade or quarantine... Whatever.)

Take care!

Rob Pugh said...

Huh, I've appeared to touch a nerve. If so, apologies. Served in the military, enjoy a bit of history, love a good conspiracy theory and enjoyed my time teaching in Japan... so I figured I'd add my 2 yen here.

"But our embargo was not due to Japan's actions in China. We never warned them at all"

The way I read the article you linked to, it debunks the idea that the embargo was a step against further expansion in the region, but doesn't really refute or address the idea that the embargo was punitive for actions already taken. Also, the idea that a warning is required strikes me as a logical fallacy/unrelated.

But the major point I'd like to address is this - a blockade is a far far different thing from an embargo or sanctions, both by military and political definition. A blockade requires the use of military force to sink vessels [naval blockade, leastways] considered in violation.

It was my understanding, and I have followed your advice to "Please look it up" that a military blockade of Japan didn't occur prior to PH. Googling like a fiend to make sure I'm not misremembering or just didn't know my facts, this is the general consensus of what I found - "In October, 1940, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox sent for Admiral J.O. Richardson, Commander-in-Chief of the American fleet in the Pacific. Knox advised him that the President wanted him to establish a patrol of the Pacific—a wall of American naval vessels stretched across the western Pacific in such a way as to make it impossible for Japan to reach any of her sources of supply; a blockade of Japan to prevent by force her use of any part of the Pacific Ocean. Richardson protested vigorously. He said that would be an act of war, and besides, we would lose our navy. Of course Roosevelt had to abandon it." -

An embargo is considered by some historians, politicians and pundits as an 'act of war' - like your links show - but there's nothing in International Law, that I can find, that says that that is so. And what constitutes an 'act of war' is no hard, fast and clear cut thing. But instead casus belli is a fluid [and often self serving] and general consensus kind of deal. Military blockades are generally considered acts of war and embargoes aren't. Except, usually, by embargoed nations looking to justify military retaliation. Hell, the US in the last decade in the Gulf is a perfect example of manipulating what constitutes an "act of war."

Honestly, if you've got links or refs to show that the US, by military force prevented other nations from providing oil & fuel to Japan - which would constitute a military blockade - or that an embargo is considered an 'act of war' under international law - and not just by politicians or pundits trying to sway opinion - I'd love to be proven wrong/learn something new. [Because my paltry Google Fu can't find those points validated.]

I think, in general, we'd probably agree more than disagree on this matter [maybe.] FDR was absolutely trying to provoke and manipulate the US into WWII, as opposed to the simple minded 'Sneaky Japan was trying to take over the world, attacked us out of nowhere and forced us to defend freedom' tripe that passes as education, but on whether military response by Japan was appropriate to economic provocation, we'd disagree.

Last word to you, obviously, and shan't darken your doorstep on this matter again. Will indeed "go to" elsewhere and "discuss" with others if the topic happens to pique my interest in the future. Cheers.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Thanks Rob!

I do thank you and appreciate your input to this... Many people won't post their comments (they write directly to me or comment only on Facebook) so yours being open in discussion here is a breath of fresh air! Thanks!

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