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Clark blames America for Pearl Harbor

When we last checked in on former Australian diplomat and current vice-president of Akita International University Gregory Clark, he was sticking up for the right of Japanese businesses to racially discriminate against foreigners.

Now, Clark is back, commenting on tensions between Japan and its Asian neighbors. He argues that Japan fails to completely distance itself from its wartime past, as Germany has done, because it actually sees itself as a victim of World War II. Attempts to force "war guilt" on Japan, he writes, only embolden its more nationalistic politicians.

An interesting thesis, perhaps, but it soon drowns in Clark's trademark brand of bizzarre assertions and anti-Western rhetoric. He claims Japan was pushed into war by the West, and, in particular, (wait for it...) America:

Even allowing for the emotionalism and ad hoc manner in which Japan conducts much of its diplomacy, it is hard to believe that Tokyo wants deliberately to antagonize its neighbors. Some other factor must be involved, and I suggest that deep down it goes back to Japan's largely unstated view of itself as a victim of obstinacy and insensitivity from others.

In the catalog of Western postwar myths and mistakes toward Asia — that China attacked India in 1962, that the Vietnam War was sponsored by Beijing, that there was a Tiananmen "massacre" — high on the list has to be the naive view that the West had no responsibility for Japan's 1930-40s' push into Asia and its 1941 Pearl Harbor attack.
Wow. It may not be possible to cram more misinformation into a single sentence. Let's look at Clark's first three "myths":

(1)  China attacked India in 1962
After some small skirmishes, Chinese forces launched coordinated attacks against Indian troops on October 20, 1962 and, over the next month, pushed into territory inarguably held by India. Clark apparently takes the view that China was merely responding to Indian provocations in the two countries' disputed border lands. But the disputed border lands only got that way when China repudiated the McMahon line to India's north, and marched into Tibet to its northeast.

(2)  The Vietnam War was sponsored by Beijing
China, along with the Soviet Union, supplied arms to the North Vietnamese. Case closed. In fact, one reason why Nixon tried to improve relations with China was to have China reduce its support for the Viet Cong. It's hard to imagine on what grounds Clark can dispute this. Maybe's he's talking about official advertising sponsorship, like at the Olympics?

(3)  There was a Tiananmen "massacre"
This one is really low, even for Clark. Earlier in the article, he blames the Tiananmen protesters for the violence, saying they "clashed with troops sent to remove the Tiananmen students." And in a previous op-ed, "The Tiananmen Square massacre myth", he claimed the thousands of killings took place just outside Tiananmen Square, rather than in the square itself. This may be technically correct, but surely that makes them no less significant or tragic.

So far, Clark is 0-for-3. Next up, his claim that Western nations drove Japan to invade China and attack Pearl Harbor:
As many Japanese see it, both were the inevitable result of Western pressures.

For centuries the Western powers had been pushing their colonial expansions closer to Japan. But the same powers objected when Japan set out to gain its own colonies nearby, in Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria. Japan's late 1930s' push into China is condemned outright in the West. But many conservative Japanese see it as provoked by Western inspired anti-Japan boycotts and incidents in China going back to the early 1930s.

Racist anti-Japanese policies in the U.S. and Australia during the 1930s rankled deeply. Then came the U.S.-imposed 1941 embargo on exports of needed fuel and raw materials to Japan — a declaration of economic war if ever there was one. The final insults were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki followed by the flawed Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal passing arbitrary judgments on alleged Japanese war criminals.
Let's give Clark the benefit of the doubt on some amazingly sloppy writing: I don't think he really meant to say that Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the war crimes tribunal led to Pearl Harbor.

But the remainder of his comments are nearly as ludicrous. Japan was "pressured" and "provoked" into invading China, because some Western nations had colonies elsewhere. And Japan was forced to attack Pearl Harbor because the U.S. wouldn't sell it the oil it needed to further extend its empire. That's like a mass murderer saying he had no choice but to shoot a gun shop owner who wouldn't give him more ammo.

Clark expands the culture of personal unaccountability to cover an entire nation. He pins responsibility for Japan's war of aggression on the West, on America, on peer pressure, on racism, on economics — in short, on everything but Japan itself.

Glossing over Japan's past aggressions is one thing. Blaming them on America is quite another.

Interestingly, the idea that WWII's aggressors were actually its victims is gaining ground in Germany.


Anonymous said...

While I agree with some of your points, I just wanted to comment about one thing. It was not the case that the US withheld oil that the Japanese needed solely to extend their empire. The US supplied approximately 80% of the Japanese oil imports at the time, and was pressuring Indonesia to stop supplying Japan as well. Even without the expansionist efforts, Japan would likely have run out of oil within about 1 year of the US embargo (according to leading Pacific War scholar Richard Minear).
As such, the embargo did repressent a threat to the sovereignty of the Japanese nation, and following Western precedents was cause enough for aggressive action. 

Posted by Shannon

Anonymous said...

The U.S. would not have embargoed oil shipments to Japan if Japan had not been aggressively expanding its empire.

Japan's national sovereignty has never included the right to subjugate the rest of Asia. When Japan chose to step outside its borders and launch wars of conquest, it lost any right to demand American support for its actions.

Japan chose a military solution to a problem caused by its own militarism. It's wrong to lay the blame for its decision at the feet of America. 

Posted by GaijinBiker



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