by Tyler Cowen
on January 2, 2014 at 12:06 pm
1. Kurt Schuler on Japan and Pearl Harbor.
2. A dolphin megapod.
3. Eric Posner now has a blog.
4. 338 Australian sharks are on Twitter.
5. George Will on Ilya Somin and democratic ignorance.
“#1. Kurt Schuler on Japan and Pearl Harbor.”
“Quite a few libertarians of my acquaintance have trouble thinking straight about World War II in the Pacific. The recent anniversary of Pearl Harbor brings them out with their arguments that U.S. government provoked the Japanese government into starting the war.”
That’s a silly stance. Japan was itching for a fight and the US governments actions weren’t particularly provocative. War was inevitable.
” A large-scale though undeclared war soon resulted in which Japanese forces were defeated by Mongolian and Soviet troops (the Nomonhan Incident).”
That was Zhukov, a first rate armor strategist. The Japanese were way out of their league in that contest. Their armor was second rate, their armor and logistical strategy based upon a minimal infantry support doctrine and they had nobody at Zhukov’s level. About the only thing they had going for them was the first rate Japanese Air Force.
A lasting and durable peace with Japan was easily doable. The US would just have to agree to abandon all US interest in China, give Japan a free hand, surrender the Philippines, Guam, and everything west of Hawaii, and sign an agreement to supply Japan with whatever resources they required. I am sure that if we agreed not to recognize any European colonial interests in Asia, Japan wouldn’t have pestered us over Howland Island or Johnston Atoll for decades, though Guam was inherently a provocation.
Actually in 1941 ending the embargo would have been enough, Japan was really bogged down in China. If we gave them a free hand in the East Indies and Malaya we would have remained at peace for decades.
Of course all of that was too much for a great power with huge interests in the Pacific to give, but it is not even close to what BDS is asking of Israel.
Peace was totally doable in the Pacific, all we had to do was give Asia to Japan.
Serbia could have stopped WWI by turning over Tankosic and the other leaders of the Black Hand, of course Serbia would never do that, but if they did the Austrians would not have invaded.
I hooted with laughter at “Hong Kong, Singapore, what is now Malaysia (British colonies), Indonesia (a Dutch colony), the Philippines (scheduled under American law to become independent in 1945) …”. Has he no self-awareness?
Actually the Japanese weren’t exactly itching for a fight with the US since they figured they’d lose any medium to long term conflict with the US. They gambled that they’d have some early military successes and that the US would seek some kind of settlement.
Isn’t that the same thing as itching for a fight? They just wanted a fight that was quick and successful.
“I’m not itching for a fight! I just want to kick your butt and get outta here!”
I am reading Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings, and he pretty much concurs with what you say about Japanese colonial intentions and their attitude to Asia. It makes you wonder why they attacked the US though. The Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) was the fourth largest oil exporter at the time and had huge supplies of rubber. The Japanese successfully invaded and occupied the country in about three months starting in December 1941. They attacked Pearl Harbor first to eliminate the US Pacific Fleet in expectation that we would have declared war. I wonder if they would have been better off attacking Indonesia without attacking us. Would we have entered the war? Maybe not. Then they would have all of the resources they needed and not had us an enemy.
I wouldn’t call that peace in the Pacific though. It would have just been a war that we weren’t involved in.
Why the Japanese actually went through with their attack on the US is a fascinating topic. The only decent response I’ve been able to wrangle from an historian was that an über hawkish faction within Japanese Army high command were blind to reality and acting irrationally.
Probably the truth, actually.
Factions of the Japanese government were convinced that the United States would (a) Intervene to protect European colonial interests in Asia and (b) Were going to be joining the European conflict soon, anyway. Given that, they wanted to get the first blow in and severely weaken the US position.
Evidence for (a) is thin. The United States was unlikely to intervene in the Far East to protect British and Dutch colonial possessions. The Japanese probably didn’t understand US domestic politics well.
Evidence for (b) is pretty strong. The USN was already involved in a de facto shooting war with the German U-Boat fleet, trying to supply Britain.
The strategic logic then goes something like: “We need oil. We need to take the Dutch East Indies and British possessions to get it. The USA will be allied with Britain soon. We might as well get our licks in early.”
@robbbbbb (I counted the b’s)
What’s so sad is that so many millions of lives were (and are) lost as a result of gross miscalculation. Even with a successful Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese would not have been able to severely weaken the US position.
Building several fleet carriers per year, the US industrial production dwarfed Japan’s decade output every year.
“In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.” – Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
The comments threads on that post seems to be muddled by the question of what constitutes an act of war. The US did not embargo oil imports into Japan, in the sense of imposing a blockade: to do that it would have to have had sent the US Navy to stop any ship of any nation carrying oil into Japan, or achieved the same end by alternative coercive means. In International Law such a blockade is an act of war. (I presume it was then, too.) All she seems to have done is refused to export her own oil (and other resources) to Japan. Nowadays we might call such an embargo “sanctions”. That’s not an act of war.
I don’t know when last a blockade was successfully applied to a country. One example in my lifetime was the US blockade on Cuba, back in 1962: that was an act of war in international law. But since the US had already supported an invasion of Cuba perhaps she was already at war with Cuba.
We may get to see another blockade, perhaps in the Persian Gulf, sometime in the next decade though!
The fact that Yamamoto had to say that, in an attempt to forestall his superior’s insane desire to attack the US, indicates that the Japanese were in fact itching for a fight.
5. It’s not clear why political ignorance is a problem in democracy if one considers that informed voters are the ones who disagree and split along party lines the most. Even if all voters were informed, theyd still all process that information differently; not clear we’d have better political outcomes.
Do you seriously think that it’s informed voters who decide elections?
No, but it’s not clear at all that the most informed voters make wiser voting decisions than the least. The most informed voters tend to be those who believe the most bullshit.
I disagree that informed voters choose party sides.
Then you disagree with the data.
#5…George Will seems to be arguing that because people are ignorant, we should devolve more power into their hands. Presumably, the fewer ideas a Person can entertain, the better they will be at governance. There are good, if not always decisive, reasons for smaller and simpler government, but trumpeting human ignorance isn’t one of them.
You missed the point – people are ignorant about the Federal Government, because it is so vast, complicated, and far away. They are not ignorant about the decisions they make in their own lives.
Is there any evidence that local governments are better? They don’t seem any better. Also it’s been my observation that smarter people are more likely to know what is going on around the world than to know about, say, city politics. What’s going on in Turkey is more interesting than what’s going on downtown. Do I really want people who watch the local news and read the local paper to have more power?
Why local government? Can’t we just agree that some things aren’t up for vote?
I think we can all agree on that.
This seems like a non sequitur… how do “we” decide what is and is not up for a vote?
@mike, easy, we vote on it.
Sometimes. I love the idea of local government, but they are also where the most corruption is. At higher levels there is always an opposition party trying to sniff out any scandal (even where there isn’t one).
I’m not sure what conclusion I can reach from this, though.
The conclusion that I sense is that the control of the Two Party system on our political system is such that at Federal levels it produces extreme bipolar competition, while local levels are completely devoid of competition.
Point is that a smaller government touches our lives less.
Maybe or maybe not. Among the general populace, the most informed are those who consume information for pleasure. World affairs are generally more interesting than purely local affairs, so it is hardly surprising that people who derive pleasure from knowing stuff would know more about the interesting stuff than the less interesting stuff. Furthermore, people have very little control over even strictly local affairs, so it makes little sense to follow the news for any other reason than the pleasure associated with doing so.
#1 is unconvincing because it seems to implicitly assume that the United States was obligated to oppose Japan’s attempted conquest of China and likely future conquests of other East Asian territories and peoples. There is a very strong moral argument to be made for such an obligation, and the stronger strains of libertarian ideology are weaker for denying that (or, equivalently, for disallowing any means of meeting such an obligation). But libertarians can hold a consistent, rational view that the obligation does not exist and that, absent such an obligation, the United States could have conducted its policies in East Asia such that there would likely have been no war between the United States and Japan. This view needs to be addressed with something more than trivial dismissal.
The United States did, knowingly and deliberately, provoke war with Japan as a means of preventing Japan from conquering China and probably slaughtering a hundred million or so innocents. And perhaps also as a means of ensuring US involvement in the war against Germany. I believe that the world is a better place because of this, but libertarians are not wrong when they state that this is what happened.
“The United States did, knowingly and deliberately, provoke war with Japan as a means of preventing Japan from conquering China…”
I’ve never read anything that really backs up that statement. What actions did the US take to “deliberately, provoke war with Japan”?
As already repeatedly noted, the oil embargo. Really, a complete trade embargo including seizure of Japanese assets in the United States and coordinated with pretty much every other nation in the region. There was no possibility that this would lead to any outcome other than war, and it is I believe amply documented that the United States Government knew that this would inevitably lead to war between the United States and Japan.
This is not to say that the Japanese were justified in attacking the United States – provocation does not imply or require justification. Nor does it necessarily require intent, though again in this particular case it is pretty clear that the United States knew generally what was going to happen and preferred that to any other plausible outcome. Though, for any Pearl Harbor conspiracy theorists out there, it is pretty clear that FDR expected and would have preferred the first Japanese attack have been heroically repelled by US forces in and about the Philippines.
The Japanese had two years of oil. They could have just invaded Indonesia and ignored the US/British.
Insofar as the Dutch government-in-exile had restricted oil shipments to Japan in parallel with the United States and against their own interests, the Japanese believed that the Dutch East Indies were de facto allied with the United States and that any Japanese invasion of those islands would inevitably result in war with America.
In this, they were correct.
“[FDR] replied that if the Japanese attacked Thailand, or the Kra Peninsula, or the Dutch East Indies we would not enter the war … but that they could not always avoid making mistakes and that as the war continued and that area of operations expanded sooner of later they would make a mistake and we would enter the war”, President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, Charles A. Beard, 1948, citing eyewitness testimony by Admiral James Richardson.
Roughly speaking, the United States Navy would send lots of expendable destroyers to “observe” the waters where Japanese warships were busy sinking Dutch warships, and lots of reporters to cover the slant-eyed oriental devils slaughtering blonde-haired blue-eyed white people. At that point, there is no doubt as to the outcome, only as to who will get to pick the time and place of the first battle.
The oil embargo was in response to Japan’s seizure of French Indo-China. So, I see your point, but that never felt as if it amounted to a deliberate provocation of war.
We opposed Japan out of raw national interest. The prospect of the China market, tin and particularily rubber supplies in Malaya, our colonial interests in the Philippines, national prestige, and of course racial paranoia on the US West Coast. The fact that Japan was a genuinely unpleasant regime aligned to a nation that was both far more threatening and already at war with everyone of the US’s potential great power allies just sealed the deal. Beating Japan made the US the great power of the Pacific. Imagine a world where there was no WWII in Europe. The one in which the US defeated Japan in a Pacific war would be a far better result for the US in power and national wealth. Even with such utter defeats for US policy as Communist China and the economic disaster of the Philippines.
Yes, but what were the actions that the US took that deliberately, provoked war with Japan?
oil sanctions. Bastiat “if goods don’t cross borders, armies will”
and this “free banking” blogger can’t seem to draw the connection between central banks and war. to not be anti-war at all cost means you are essentially a central bank advocate, blogging on a free banking website.
Just because ones actions provoke a war doesn’t mean you aren’t right to take those actions. And then there is escalation, if you provoke someone for years, they finally respond and then you declare war on them, it doesn’t mean they started the war. The sanctions were imposed for a lot of good reasons. Aside for support for China, Japan had destroyed American trade in China, interfered with American interests, violated treaties, and attacked and killed American citizens before the sanctions were imposed.
That the US did not feel those actions required war, does not mean the US was wrong to impose sanctions.
I don’t agree that the US deliberately provoked war with Japan, but would say that sending the Flying Tigers to South East Asia early in 1941 to defend China and/or its supply lines, would be provocative if the Japanese knew about it. Cannot recall if they did.
Two paragraphs of garbage. Japan planned on attacking Pearl Harbor for years and had spies all over Hawaii collecting information to make the attack successful. In your distorted view Japan’s back was against the wall and they had to do something to get out of it. Totally false. You are just apart of an effort to make Japan look like the victim in World War II and Allied Forces the bad guys. Japan from the 1860s to the 1930s sought and got transfers of European military technologies and turned around each time to start wars.
As the war continued, banana money became worth increasingly less on the black market, and by the end of the war it was almost worthless in all the countries where it had been issued. Japan’s monetary policy in the outer yen zone was the monetary counterpart of its brutal military and political policies.
I wonder if banana money could have been used to buy Japanese war bonds. My parents lived in Hawaii after the war, and they knew a Chinese guy who was going around buying Japanese war bonds, which everybody considered worthless. Lots of Japanese-American families had them. He said “The Japanese are an honorable people, they will pay them off.” He was right. It took a long time, but the Japanese government paid them off.
Don’t forget that the original black gold was vulcanized rubber. Without the technology to produce (efficiently) styrene-butadiene (or poly-isoprene) rubber the Japanese, by seizing SE Asia rubber production, put it to us at least as hard as we put it to them. Read about the U.S. Plancor SBR facilities to understand our response and what Eisenhower was really talking about when he fretted about the “military industrial complex.”
No, it’s raw, uncured rubber. Vulcanization takes place in the mold and is irreversible. After vulcanization, you have a finished good like a tire or a gasket. It cannot be remade into another finished rubber good.
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