Foreign Policy

Some Pearl Harbor Day Heresy

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Pat Buchanan at American Conservative revives some old arguments about the foreign policy manuevers on the U.S.'s part that led up to Pearl Harbor, hooked off the new book Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover's Secret History of the Second World War and its Aftermath, edited by conservative historian George Nash. Basically, it argues that more intelligent diplomatic maneuvers and not freezing Japan's assets and embargoing oil and metal shipments to it could likely have avoided Pearl Harbor and its aftermath.

There is a rich history of such revisionist arguments about blame and heroism leading up to World War II, and such thinking used to be a significant element of the inchoate libertarian movement in the 1940s and '50s, though little discussed today. Two of my own biggest libertarian influences, novelists Robert Heinlein and Robert Anton Wilson, both found the war revisionist historians influential on their own ideological development, in complicating the heroic narrative usually told about your own government. 

Looking twice at exactly how U.S. choices and behaviors may have exacerbated the conflict that led to Pearl Harbor is not the same as arguing specific foreknowledge of the specific Pearl Harbor attack on the part of FDR, as per John Toland and Robert Stinnett.

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183 responses to “Some Pearl Harbor Day Heresy

  1. Somebody linked that article earlier today, and found it an interesting enough read that I might deign to read it for free over several evenings at the local bookstore.

  2. It’s amazing that some idiots think the US can pursue massively interventionist foreign policy, and it will have no negative consequences, ever.

    1. Yeah, no shit. Even if those consequences are merely perceived.

      The U.S. could just sit there with its hands between its knees, and we’d still be blamed for everything. To think that if we actually did intervene in every other nation’s business and it wouldn’t have consequences?

    2. Re: BakedPenguin,

      It’s amazing that some idiots think the US can pursue massively interventionist foreign policy, and it will have no negative consequences, ever.

      You should have seen the comments on Pat’s article in Townhall.com. Talk about scary jingoism.

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    3. While moving the the fleet from the west coast to Pearl Harbor was clearly an interventionist and belligerent move, the steel and oil embargoes, which were the direct causes of the Japanese attack, are a bit grayer. I’m pretty sure that Japanese oil and steel usage at the time was overwhelmingly for military purposes — i.e., the war in China. Is it “interventionist” to balk at supplying something as aggressive and brutal as Japan’s attempt to conquer China? Had Hitler been able to access our markets in 1939, would it have been unjustified interference to not want to sell him oil for the panzer divisions?

      1. This. Steel and oil in Japan were almost universally dedicated toward military purposes — and the US was almost the sole supplier of oil — and refusing to supply them was not a belligerent act but a peaceful one. IIRC, we demanded that they end the war with China before reopening exports. Japan instead chose to kill 2400 Americans during negotiations.

        I’ve heard this same argument, that the oil embargo was an act of aggression, a dozen times in Japan. It’s shocking there aren’t more/any libertarians here, given what the government actually did to its citizens.

        1. You hit it when you said that we demanded that they take action. We have no right to demand that they do anything.

          If merchants wanted to voluntarily stop selling them steel & oil, then cool. But for the gov’t to declare that they are not allowed to set the stage for the attacks.

          What the Japanese do in China is not our business, any more than the gun store owner is responsible for the robbery that his gun might later be used for.

          1. Gojira|12.7.11 @ 7:45PM|#
            You hit it when you said that we demanded that they take action. We have no right to demand that they do anything.”

            Uh, nope. If I demand you stop beating on my friend before I sell you something, that’s my choice.

            1. You are correct, Sevo. And if the USG owned that oil and steel, then they would have a case. But as OM points out below, they did not. They ordered private owners to cease selling to a willing client against their wishes.

              1. Since those exports were essential to the unprovoked mass murder of Chinese, then, I suppose you would be fine if we merely charged the US oil companies as accessories to war crimes then, correct? If the US oil companies had still sold to Japan during 1942-45, would a charge of treason be just or would it be an imposition on the right to mutual exchange?

                It’s hardly as transparent as, say, refusing to let McDonald’s sell French fries in Iran. We’re talking about providing a product without which the Japanese would have been unable to conduct one of the most brutal wars in history. Oil companies were happy to sell only as long as they bore no responsibility for any of the extreme and logical consequences.

                1. Prosecuted for war crimes by whom? The Chinese, after the war is over? The United States had to authority to try war criminals involved in a conflict in which we had no part.

                  Your second scenerio involves assuming that we would have gone to war with Japan anyway, so it’s probably moot because the discussion we’re having involves not providing the Japanese the provocation they needed to fight. But since you ask, I don’t believe in treason, because I don’t believe in the legitimacy of any government.

                  Lastly, you keep harping on how brutal the war against the Chinese was. I agree. It was terrible. The Rape of Nanking was awful. But it’s still none of my business. Unless you live in China, and/or want to fight them voluntarily, with your own money, or provide voluntary aid to the Chinese forces, in which case the gov’t still doesn’t have a reason to be involved.

                  This seems to boil down to you thinking we should intervene to stop Very Bad Things?. I disagree. It doesn’t matter how horrible something is, I have no right to force others to interfere (which is what gov’t is; it forces everyone who pays taxes to interfere).

                  1. Sorry, the above should read: “The United States had no authority to try war criminals involved in a conflict in which we had no part.”

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                  2. Prosecuted for war crimes by whom? The Chinese, after the war is over?

                    And this is exactly why proponents of war crimes/genocide prosecutions depend on the principle of universal jurisdiction. Without it, the easiest way to evade responsibility for genocide would, after all, be to be 100% successful at it.

                    Your second scenerio involves assuming that we would have gone to war with Japan anyway,

                    It doesn’t assume such a thing; we did go to war with Japan, and US companies didn’t sell them oil or aviation fuel. If Japan had had those, they could have mounted a better fight. Should US companies have been allowed to sell?

                    1. And this is exactly why proponents of war crimes/genocide prosecutions depend on the principle of universal jurisdiction. Without it, the easiest way to evade responsibility for genocide would, after all, be to be 100% successful at it.

                      Of course even with universal jurisdiction, if you’re 100% successful (i.e. wipe out your opponents to the last, as in checkers), there’ll be noone left to blame you, so the only difference this makes is that your success (and consequent ambition) must be that much greater.

                  3. Lastly, you keep harping on how brutal the war against the Chinese was. I agree. It was terrible. The Rape of Nanking was awful. But it’s still none of my business.

                    When you get down to it, practically everything we discuss here is none of your business.

                2. Re: Amakudari,

                  Since those exports were essential to the unprovoked mass murder of Chinese, then, I suppose you would be fine if we merely charged the US oil companies as accessories to war crimes then, correct?

                  What’s with this “we” business, Kemosabe? “We” won’t charge anybody of anything, unless you pretend to argue that a person that sells gas for the car of the bank robber is ipso facto an accessory to a crime. It doesn’t work that way.

                  If the US oil companies had still sold to Japan during 1942-45, would a charge of treason be just or would it be an imposition on the right to mutual exchange?

                  China was not a member of the Constitutionally-formed Union, A. There is no charge of “treason” that can be argued, no matter how much you want to stretch the word.

                  1. No, I mean that if US companies had sold oil to Japan for war against the US, would that be treason or mutually beneficial exchange?

                    1. Re: Amakudari,

                      No, I mean that if US companies had sold oil to Japan for war against the US, would that be treason or mutually beneficial exchange?

                      The US Government certainly did not accuse GM executives of treason.

                    2. The question is not whether our government loves GM, but whether it’s treason or mere exchange.

                      I’d be hard-pressed to consider historical US government treatment of GM as anything approximating capitalism.

                  2. unless you pretend to argue that a person that sells gas for the car of the bank robber is ipso facto an accessory to a crime.

                    Nope, but the guy who waits outside in the car to drive them away is.

                    1. Re: Amakudari,

                      Nope, but the guy who waits outside in the car to drive them away is.

                      I don’t understand your analogy.

                    2. That people who don’t commit the crime per se still be responsibility.

                      For another example, right, the gas station owner whose fuel was unknowingly used to rob a bank bears no responsibility. If the police call ahead to a gas station in Death Valley about a fugitive, giving the tag numbers and all, and the gas station owner goes right out and pumps his gas for him, he’d be accused of aiding a fugitive. It depends on context. Oil in particular had an exclusive use beyond Japanese-controlled supplies: the mass murder and rape of civilians. That’s a crime.

                      To the extent that supplying oil, aviation fuel, scrap metal, steel, etc. was known to be used to murder Chinese civilians in an elective war, morally the vendors are absolutely culpable. Noting that countries do have jurisdiction to prosecute the abetting of foreign war crimes from domestic soil, the companies could have been prosecuted (what’s one small crime multiplied by tens/hundreds of millions of victims?), had the exports banned, or had trade ignored. In the latter case, in my opinion, we’re simply enabling the commission of crimes overseas.

                    3. “To the extent that supplying oil, aviation fuel, scrap metal, steel, etc. was known to be used to murder Chinese civilians in an elective war, morally the vendors are absolutely culpable.”

                      Yes, *IF* those fungible goods could be shown to do that and none other.
                      Can’t be shown.

                    4. Oil in particular had an exclusive use beyond Japanese-controlled supplies: the mass murder and rape of civilians.

                      Not unless it was all being used to boil them in oil. As long as something like that is fungible, if even one drop was used for peaceful purposes, how do you know that what you’re selling them wasn’t that drop. If you supply the gasoline to drive the murderer to the scene of the crime, the murderer might still have changed hir mind up until the last minute after driving there, and/or might’ve stopped to buy a doughnut on the way, which would have required the gasoline to get there too, for a peaceful activity.

                    5. By the way, did they boil Chinese in oil? Kewl! When you turn the corner from just blandly evil to super-villainy, that earns points with me.

                    6. Erm, we’re not talking about mom and pop stores selling mason jars of oil to the Japanese. IIRC almost all foreign oil to Japan at that time was from two companies: Standard Oil and Shell (Dutch, obviously).

                      As for fungibility (which is being brought up here in a very ROADZZZ-like manner), if you give money to al-Qaeda, it doesn’t matter whether those bills (or the marginal impact, although the marginal impact here was funding war) were used to buy weapons or donuts. The question is of intent and then reality. Sellers to Japan intended to supply its military campaigns, and those campaigns occurred, with the vast majority of its oil consumption being military. Keep in mind that the Empire of Japan was a military dictatorship with almost no natural resources.

                      In any case, it seems like a fairly mundane exercise to demonstrate that without American oil imports Japan would have to set off its pan-Asian invasion. Or to trace a particular shipment used to transport supplies or weaponry to the front lines. Or find some used to make TNT. It doesn’t matter; among the many possibilities for oil usage, a very large number of them were to destroy property to which Japan had no claim and people who had not aggressed against Japan.

                      Fungibility is a fine excuse when a product is misused against a provider’s beliefs about its usage, especially when the provider is one of many or it’s a small amount. It’s not a great excuse when without oil Japan would have been absolutely incapable of waging war.

              2. Gojira|12.7.11 @ 8:25PM|#

                You are correct, Sevo. And if the USG owned that oil and steel, then they would have a case. But as OM points out below, they did not. They ordered private owners to cease selling to a willing client against their wishes.”

                See my reply to OM below.

          2. Most guns are not used to commit crimes. If a gun store owner is knowingly providing guns to gang members (as their exclusive supplier, no less), then he is absolutely responsible for aiding them. Legally, he would probably be held responsible, and morally, certainly so.

            FWIW, Japan’s economy would have struggled only modestly with the embargo in place but withdrawing from China — they had sufficient oil for a peacetime economy — so in effect all of the marginal oil was being diverted to the war effort. This is like selling guns that would only be used in the commission of homicides.

            People knew exactly what much of the oil and steel were being used for: a war that killed around 20 million Chinese, with the end goal being the imposition of a military dictatorship on several hundred million by a clearly belligerent nation, thus far the only modern one that’s shown a willingness to attack the US on its own soil.

            I, for one, have no problem with one aspect of national defense being refusal to fund either side of a war.

            In any case, my original point is that Japan had no moral claim to the implements used to kill Chinese, nor a cause for any of its wars in the first place. To say that the US aggressed against Japan by refusing to support brutal, elective wars is to take a strange position on aggression.

            1. I disagree about the gun owner. As soon as the gun leaves his hand, he no longer has any moral agency in it’s use.

              But leaving aside the philosophical argument there, you, like Sevo, are conflating the USG with the private owners of the commodities.

              The government cannot morally command it’s citizens to not use their property as they see fit. If Japan is willing to buy, and the owners are willing to sell, that’s it, the end. The people making those sales have to live with the blood of the Chinese on their hands. And if they can live with that, then you just have to realize that having freedom sucks whenever people don’t choose to use it in a way which you personally find acceptable.

              1. Come on, knowingly and directly aiding and abetting genocide should be classified as a crime, absolutist libertarian views on property rights be damned. Supplying materials to murder someone knowing explicitly that’s what you’re doing is rightly a crime. If you’re going to take the extremist view that property rights trump other peoples’ rights to life, you might as well support the right to keep knowingly stolen property you didn’t personally steal, the right to privately own nuclear weapons, the right to kill mailmen for trespassing, the right to threaten and plot to assassinate the president (or anyone) as long as you don’t actually do it, the right to falsely shout “fire” in a crowded theater or slander and libel someone under your right to free speech, and the right to let your children starve to death because you shouldn’t be forced to feed them. Some of you might, and you’re nuts who don’t actually think the law should respect the human rights of others affected by these actions.

                Sorry, but the right of 20 million Chinese people to live free of murder supercedes the property rights of a company to make bank off their murder.

                1. Supplying materials to murder someone knowing explicitly that’s what you’re doing is rightly a crime.

                  And if 100% of all materials given to Japan went straight into murdering Chinese, you might have a point.

                  If you’re going to take the extremist view that property rights trump other peoples’ rights to life, you might as well support the right to keep knowingly stolen property you didn’t personally steal,

                  That doesn’t follow, because the person who sold it to me didn’t legitmately own it and so has no right to transfer the title.

                  the right to privately own nuclear weapons,

                  I would support such a right if one acquired it free of force or fraud.

                  the right to kill mailmen for trespassing,

                  I would support such a right if mail service was voluntary, I opted out of it, and the mailman insisted on coming onto my property anyway.

                  the right to threaten and plot to assassinate the president (or anyone) as long as you don’t actually do it,

                  I support such a right. Threatening someone with no intention of doing anything should not be a crime. Plotting as long as it is not carried out should not be a crime. Those are thought-crimes.

                  the right to falsely shout “fire” in a crowded theater or slander and libel someone under your right to free speech,

                  People should absolutely be allowed to shout fire in a crowded building. That’s freedom of speech. Freedom’s a bitch sometimes, ain’t it?

                  And the rules on libel should only be invoked if material damages can be ascertained.

                  and the right to let your children starve to death because you shouldn’t be forced to feed them.

                  I don’t see how this follows. Children are dependents. The Chinese were not dependents of the U.S.

                  Sorry, but the right of 20 million Chinese people to live free of murder supercedes the property rights of a company to make bank off their murder.

                  No, it doesn’t. Because those companies are not making bank off of their murder directly. Every Chinese death did not magically result in a dollar appearing in their bank account. They chose to freely use their property to give to someone else, who diverted a large portion (but not 100% of it) to murder. How can you parse what was used for murder with what was used for civilian gasoline, steel for civilian buildings, etc?

                  Again, you sound like you’re volunteering my tax dollars and possibly my sons in a draft to stop Very Bad Things? in foreign places.

                  Sorry, but while I would try to raise awareness of the atrocities against the Chinese, raise money for them, urge boycotts of businesses that do business with them, etc., I’m not willing to force others to agree with my point of view at the point of a gun (gov’t), which you seem to be willing to do.

                  If you don’t want 20 million Chinese to die, then go fight the Japs on your own dime. Explain to me where you get the right to force other people who may not care one bit about genocide to prevent it because you personally wish it would stop. If the Chinese are having their rights violated by Japan, then the Chinese can settle it with Japan. No America needed.

                  1. Ok, so in conflicts of rights, you’re going to side with the rights of the irresponsible, the aggressors and the dangerous instead of the rights of those whose only recourse in the event that line is crossed and they are unable to defend themselves would be their family seeking compensation after they’re dead, if possible. Sorry, that’s not the kind of libertarianism I want to be a part of.

                    Really, it is truly absurd you’d say it is a “thought crime” to crack down on a credible, full scale conspiracy to murder up until the conspirators are about to actually pull the trigger?! Yes, I suppose the police need training in telepathy so they can figure out how serious you really are?

                    Back to China, I believe in human rights and global liberty, and I can give less of a damn whether the victim of government aggression is a US citizen or a Chinese citizen. Borders are relatively irrelevant when it comes to maximization of rights for me. Military intervention should always be the very last resort (as that tends to minimize human rights), but blocking domestic companies from contributing directly to a genocidal invasion is, on the scale of violated rights, infinitesmally small compared to the scale and depth of rights that would have been violated otherwise.

                    This is exactly the sort of logic that makes libertarianism politically unsuccessful. Maximization of liberty will still involve prioritizing rights where conflicts occur, and too many libertarians pick the wrong side and come off as avaricious, nihilistic fools without perspective or realism.

                    1. Proprietiest, I’m not siding with anybody. As I believe I’ve repeatedly made clear, I would sympathize with the Chinese.

                      But that does not give me the right to force you to help them at the point of a gun, which is what you’re advocating.

                      I don’t believe in borders, either. I’m a freakin anarchist. That means that I don’t consider myself at war with Terrorism, because nobody I know was attacked on 9/11. See how that works? I don’t feel that I can force others to defend NYC any more than I can force others to defend Nanking.

                      And as someone points out below, what about food aid? That directly enables nefarious regimes to continue to persecute their own people, yet if you withhold it, those same people might starve. It’s not as clear-cut as you’re making it out to be.

                      Look, it can be boiled down to this: you believe that if you consider something bad enough, that you can force others to adhere to your view and to aid the afflicted party, even against their wills. I’m not sure what kind of libertarianism that is, but I don’t want any part of it. You seem like a sharp guy, so I desperately hope you don’t fall for the delusion that democracy is somehow good or that it validates government since “the people” vote for it. If you use that logic, then everything the government does is good, because the people either voted for it, or failed to vote out those who voted for it.

                    2. I’m sure your sympathies would mean a lot to those on the brink of genocide. There’s a severe difference between a ban on selling weaponry and war materials to the genocidal government and military vs. a blanket embargo on all goods that would cause the people to starve.

                      Here’s my proposal that still defends your ludicrous notion of absolutist property rights without a straight up ban:
                      – The U.S. government announces to the producers that Japan is using their materials to commit genocide (of course, they already know but as a legal formality).
                      – The U.S. government says that they are free to sell arms and supplies to the Japanese government, but if the Chinese victims file a “material support for genocide” lawsuit and criminal charges against them in the future, the owners and all employees of those companies will be fully individually liable and may be extradited to the Chinese government for prosecution, as they knew that was exactly what they were doing.

                      Solved. If libertarians were not so privy to socialize liability via state incorporation, this sort of trade likely would not happen in the first place.

                    3. I’d be fine with that. If there’s a legal case to be made that the providing of materials directly and knowingly contributed to harm, then the victims of that harm are free to seek restitution, and the USG has no business using any resources defending them.

                      See, reasonable people can come to accomodation.

                2. you might as well support the right to keep knowingly stolen property you didn’t personally steal

                  I do! So does Walter Block.

                  What, you think it’s better that stolen goods be removed from the economy entirely? Why should everybody suffer forever after, just because somebody committed a crime once?

                  1. If you want a practical example, probably most real estate was stolen at some time or other. Do you really want a world where nobody can have secure title to land because we know it was stolen centuries earlier and never gotten back?

                    1. As a geolibertarian, I don’t think land should be classified as private property for that very reason.

                      By the way, if eminent domain is theft by government, and the government gives your property to, say, Bruce Ratner, I guess you should just give up, as Mr. Ratner needn’t return your stolen property.

                  2. Ok I steal your car. As the police are about to kick in my door and arrest me, I give the car to my brother, who knows I stole it. I go to jail for theft. You, the victim, can attempt to get payment from whatever assets I may happen to have – after I’m convicted two years later, but my brother keeps your car.

                    Seriously? That this sort of stupidity comes from seemingly intelligent people who claim they are maximizing property rights baffles me to no end. It’s why I left the LP, their obscurity fully explained in a nutshell.

                3. Proprietist|12.7.11 @ 10:01PM|#
                  “Supplying materials to murder someone knowing explicitly that’s what you’re doing is rightly a crime.”

                  So providing food to No. Korea is a crime?
                  Are you familiar with the term “fungible”?

                  1. You purists are funny. None of our business what the Japanese were doing in China and the Pacific. Would be our business when they hit Australia?

                    Or, better to wait until they nail down all those places. Once they control the entire Pacific, they certainly wouldn’t come after us?

                    How was it Japanese business where we moved our fleet within our own territory?

                    1. Re: Drake,

                      Would be our business when they hit Australia?

                      No, that would be the business of the Australians.

                      Once they control the entire Pacific, they certainly wouldn’t come after us?

                      They did – remember that. And they lost. Don’t forget that. The issue is not if Americans should not defend America, the issue is that the Japanese had no intention before 1940 to pick a fight with America. Instead, FDR CLEARLY sought to pick a fight with them, all for nothing.

                    2. So it would have been easier to beat the Japanese without Australia and New Zealand?

                  2. I never said we should embargo every brute dictatorship out there. Trade is required to bring about long term change in those countries. Dictators in Cuba and North Korea haven’t been hurt by our long term embargo.

                    I said we should specifically embargo military regimes actively engaging in genocidal wars of aggression where the materials sent would expand their aggression.

                    1. WHO IS “WE”? You’re driving me crazy with your collectivist dogma. You do not get to make decisions for me unless they affect your rights, anymore than I get to make decisions for you. If you don’t like genocide, then go volunteer yourself and your money to fight it. Try to convince others to do the same. But tell me why you get to order me into your fight? Why is your opinion correct that some regimes deserve food aid and others deserve embargoes based on what their actions at the moment are?

                      I have a consistent basis for mine; no one can force someone else to aid a cause against their wills. Yours seems to be an arbitrary line you’ve drawn regarding behavior that makes sense to you, so you would seek to impose it by force upon everyone else. In short, a statist.

                    2. “We” being the government of the US, which sets our national foreign policy. I am not an anarchist, but a liberty maximalist. I don’t live under a delusion that eliminating government will minimize force and fraud.

                      War doesn’t maximize liberty, and neither does blanket embargoes on every country we have a beef with. However, in an extreme example, like a genocidal invasion, I’m all for ordering domestic companies not to do business with that government, especially when there is a high risk those supplies could eventually be used against us. I’m for telling Lockheed Martin not to sell Iran, North Korea or al-Qaeda nuclear weapon equipped warplanes, for a perfect example. Also, I’m not ordering you into a fight – I’m ordering you not to knowingly contribute to genocide and to endangerment of national security. If that makes me a statist and impure, I’ll gladly accept the label.

                      I’m a non-interventionist, but the likely destructive outcome of this action violates far more rights far more seriously than preventing the action itself does. Where conflicts of rights exist, utilitarianism has some role in determining priority of which rights take precedence.

                      In my view the primary role of government is to protect violations of life, liberty and property from force or fraud, and I have no problem with the State banning endangerment, extreme irresponsibility and threats that hold high potential for violation of rights either.

                    3. I don’t live under a delusion that eliminating government will minimize force and fraud.

                      I never claimed it would. What it will do, is eliminate my being forced to participate in a massive boondoogle that claims to minimize force and fraud on my behalf whether I wish it to or no. I want the ability to hire the firms that I wish to perform thosee functions, instead of being forced to use the only agency around with a monopoly of force, which also happens to be massively corrupt and inefficient. That does not maximize liberty.

                      but the likely destructive outcome of this action violates far more rights far more seriously than preventing the action itself does.

                      The problem is you are not equipped any more than anyone else to get to decide that.

                      Utilitarianism can be used to justify literally anything. People in Germany in the late 1930s sincerely thought that by getting rid of a few million Jews, they would get to maximize liberty for many hundreds of millions of Germans. Of course that’s absurd and we know they were wrong. But the point is, they sincerely believe that at the time and used it to justify their actions.

                      You can’t assume that you’re so much more intelligent and superior than any other highly educated nazi at that time. You are not equipped to make moral judgements on the behalf of others. Your road, if followed, can lead to internment camps and the very genocide you claim to be against.

                    4. The problem is you are not equipped any more than anyone else to get to decide that.

                      It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see clearly that giving nuclear weapons to genocidal maniacs who threaten to use them will end up violating more rights more severely than the President would by telling a company not to sell to them. That’s a perfectly justified excuse for utilitarianism based action by government. Note I’m only for utilitarianism when it involves conflicting rights that need to be prioritized. I prioritize victims whose basic rights were severely violated over the irresponsible, polluters, fraudsters, theives, profiteers and killers. You have no choice but to make those decisions if you believe in justice.

                      Of course, in your anarchist society, justice would be bought via might makes right and the more powerful mafias and armies of the wealthy could extort everyone else into poverty and kill off those who don’t do their bidding. I’ll take my chances with a democratic miniarchist government ideally based on consistent protections of rights for all, thank you.

                      And come on, no Nazi believed they were massacring Jews for Aryan freedom. That’s the great straw man criticism of rational utilitarian arguments.

                4. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I try to consider myself a libertarian for my belief in small government, low taxes and personal and economic freedoms. But then I see the anarchist nutcases who claim to be the “true libertarians” and I question my choices and wonder what the hell I just stepped into. You guys should go back to your cabin in the mountains and put the tin-foil back on your heads and unplug from the grid. The FBI is probably zeroing in on your location right now just because you posted online.

        2. Did you even read the fucking article?! Hoover’s thesis is: after the embargo was started, Japan indicated acceptance of American demands to end the war with China and leave Vietnam as late as September 1941. The US ignored the Japanese doves, when it appeared the US would prefer war, the Japanese hawks got the reins and decided to attack the US.

          1. The book is probably an interesting read, but it’s by no means authoritative.

            The “peace proposal” was a joke, and Konoe had no support back home (I mean, you can’t even find it in Japanese history texts, which love to revise its culpability). The Americans may have had no intention of bargaining, but neither did the Japanese. Konoe did, but political leadership in Japan nonetheless depended on military support. (Furthermore, in Japan, the office of the PM has historically been weaker than several of its ministries.) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had more power at the time and never intended to negotiate seriously, and the MOFA was just a front for the military. Japan’s parliamentary system may have provided the illusion of democracy, but after the Taisho era it was effectively a government run by the military, plus some coups and assassinations.

            If you want one example, the directives to Konoe included acceptance of Japan’s war with China (not a mere end to the war) and recognition of Vietnam as territory. TPTB didn’t like his concessions, didn’t want any form of withdrawal (even in name only) from Asia, etc. It’s interesting to suggest otherwise, but it doesn’t stand up under scrutiny.

      2. Re: Umbriel,

        While moving the the fleet from the west coast to Pearl Harbor was clearly an interventionist and belligerent move, the steel and oil embargoes, which were the direct causes of the Japanese attack, are a bit grayer.

        How can these actions by the FDR administration, which amounted to the undue transfer of title from the owners of that property to the government [i.e. THEFT] be caused by whatever the Japanese did?

        Is it “interventionist” to balk at supplying something as aggressive and brutal as Japan’s attempt to conquer China?

        It IS interventionist to take property from people under the guise of a false outrage. The U.S. Government had, just a few decades before, brutally put down a rebellion in the Philippines, yet no country took then a similar action against the U.S. as the FDR Administration did against the Japanese.

        Had Hitler been able to access our markets in 1939, would it have been unjustified interference to not want to sell him oil for the panzer divisions?

        It would have been totally unjustified to tell Americans to whom they could sell their property and to whom they could not.

        1. See, the capitalists really ARE willing to sell us the rope with which to hang them!

          1. Re: Stupid Idiot,

            See, the capitalists really ARE willing to sell us the rope with which to hang them!

            While the Marxists can’t even feed themselves, let alone make rope.

            1. ^^ The above poster has admitted on several occasions to practice coprophagia.

              That is all.

            2. “While the Marxists can’t even feed themselves, let alone make rope.”

              Yep, the marxists can’t make rope. They never manufactured anything nearly that complicated. Tanks, planes, submarines…sure. But rope? Get outta here!

              1. Re: Stupid Idiot,

                Yep, the [M]arxists can’t make rope. They never manufactured anything nearly that complicated.

                It’s not the complication, witless.

                Tanks, planes, submarines…sure. But rope? Get outta here!

                You can’t eat tanks.

                1. How many strawmen can you demolish? I never said you could eat tanks.

                  You specifically said that they cannot make rope. I counter that yes, they can. They have the technology, the factories, and the raw materials to make rope.

                  Why you believe that has anything on earth to do with food production is beyond me.

                  1. Re: Stupid Idiot,

                    You specifically said that they cannot make rope. I counter that yes, they can. They have the technology, the factories, and the raw materials to make rope.

                    Well, now that you have bended over backwards to show that Marxists can make rope, what was then the point of your silly aphorism?

                    By the way, the problem is not how complicated is to make rope, you nitwit; it’s the fact that Marxists cannot calculate, which is why to do something as straightforward and simple as feeding themselves has become a losing struggle. So would making rope.

                    1. I was just arguing against your incredibly stupid contention that somehow a nation which can make nuclear weapons is incapable of producing rope because they can’t “calculate” (impressive how they made ICBMs without being able to calculate anything!), and your further absurd attempts to somehow link such ability to food production, which has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not one can make a rope.

                    2. Re: Stupid Idiot,

                      was just arguing against your incredibly stupid contention[…]

                      Oh, right. More or less stupid than “See, the capitalists really ARE willing to sell us the rope with which to hang them!”?

                      The aphorism implies that Marxists cannot make rope. I was AGREEING with you. You’re simply back-peddaling.

                      that somehow a nation which can make nuclear weapons is incapable of producing rope because they can’t “calculate”

                      Oh, they can’t. Making nuclear weapons is not evidence of their grasp of priorities, as their numerous FAMINES show.

                      and your further absurd attempts to somehow link such ability to food production, which has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not one can make a rope.

                      You’re right, making rope is not related to food production. Neither is making tanks, as the numerous FAMINES have shown.

              2. To be fair, the Communists have proven themselves remarkably incompetent at agriculture. They managed to put things in space but struggled with grains. Should I start with the Great Leap Forward or Holodomor?

        2. Well, then, consider the flipside of the Pearl Harbor scenario — the US during WWI. We offered to trade with all parties during that war, but it was a pretty empty offer so far as the Central Powers were concerned, because of the British blockade. Our support to the Allies was sufficiently vital that Germany considered us part of their strategic problem, and put out feelers to Mexico regarding starting a war with us to divert our resources from shoring up Britain. The “Zimmerman Telegram”, which revealed that plot, precipitated our entry into WWI.

          My point being that while cutting off trade may be considered an act of war by some nations, free trade may be considered an act of war by others. Which, then, is the “non-interventionist” stance?

          And for what it’s worth, I am generally in favor of non-interventionism and libertarian small government. My “devil’s advocacy” here is intended to point out that these issues are less black and white than they may seem.

          1. You still don’t get it. He is saying that it is not the government’s business who people trade with. If you don’t like companies that trade with Imperial Japan then refuse to do business or invest in them and encourage others to follow you in a boycott. Of course you’ll have to decide how evil is too evil to support as every government in history has their own problems and even trading with non-governments you’ll have to think about where taxes are going. This being a complicated decision it should be left up to each individual to decide for themselves what to do.

            1. Yes, but what if individuals making their own decisions bring on war, which was not an individual deicision? If a foreign power treats those individual decisions as a collective responsibility, then isn’t the prudent thing to do to involuntarily collectivize those decisions to avoid war if possible?

              1. Starker example: The gangster next door threatens to kill everyone in your bldg. if one tenant doesn’t get rid of their barking dog — or their non-barking dog. But that tenant doesn’t want to. For the sake of everyone’s safety, shouldn’t you force the tenant to get rid fo the dog?

                1. No, you and everyone else should arm yourself against the gangster.

                  What if the gangster demanded that someone kill their child, in order for him not to murder everyone in the building? Would you, for the sake of everyone else’s “safety”, for the tenant to kill their child?

                  1. A starkly dumb example. A nice window into the collectivist mind though.

                  2. Hell, yes! And that tenant should fight it out with them too.

                    Sometimes you can pose a situation where there are no real winners, and the best you can say is, everyone for hirself. Somebody says, one of you kill the other or I’ll kill you both, should they do it? Why the fuck not? They’d be fools not to.

          2. Re: Umbriel,

            We offered to trade with all parties during [WWI], but it was a pretty empty offer so far as the Central Powers were concerned, because of the British blockade.

            Consider that the British were blocking trade between American sellers and German buyers, a clear act of war, a more visible action against Americans than anything the Germans had done until then, with the exception of submarine warfare. Consider however just the kind of sanctimonious, anglophillic little tyrant that was in the presidency.

            The “Zimmerman Telegram”, which revealed that plot, precipitated our entry into WWI.

            The Zimmerman telegram was a British-created fake.

            My point being that while cutting off trade may be considered an act of war by some nations, free trade may be considered an act of war by others.

            It doesn’t matter what “others” think. Do you take opinion surveys before making choices as a moral actor, or are your convictions solid enough to think for YOURSELF?

            Which, then, is the “non-interventionist” stance?

            a) Not invding countries that did not attack you would be nice;
            b) Not exprorpiating people’s property [i.e. THEFT] for a political cause would be nice, too.

            1. “The Zimmerman telegram was a British-created fake.”

              Lol, Whut?

            2. Old Mexican|12.7.11 @ 8:42PM|#
              “The Zimmerman telegram was a British-created fake.”
              Cite missing.

              1. I actually have never heard that, either. I’d be interested in the source.

              2. Re: Sevo,

                I can only offer my conclusion: The telegram itself (the original) was not a fake, but the deciphering was done by the British which means they could have embellished it – the original German document being forever lost, making any comparisons impossible. The timing of it was simply too perfect, and when something is too good to be true… it usually is.

                1. “they could have embellished it”
                  Uh, sorry, not worth any real response.

                  “The timing of it was simply too perfect”
                  If “coincidence” had no meaning, you might have a point. Problem is, it does.

                2. “The telegram itself (the original) was not a fake, but the deciphering was done by the British which means they could have embellished it – the original German document being forever lost, making any comparisons impossible.”

                  Sure, ok, except that Zimmerman admitted that the telegram was real.

                  In any event, its a long way from “The Zimmerman telegram was a British-created fake.” to “they (the British) could have embellished it”

            3. The “others” I was concerned about were not my peers in terms of judging the ethics of my choice, but the foreign nations who might attack me because they consider my ironclad policy of non-intervention in trade, however morally sound I might consider it, to be an act of war.

              To the extent that such a policy would have had the US siding with Nazi Germany against Great Britain in WWII, I think you’ve nicely made my point that following the clear dictates of ones inflexible moral conviction could give one some unpleasant bedfellows.

              1. Umbriel, I think you keep anthropomorphizing nations. I would never be bedfellows with Nazi Germany…but that doesn’t mean I have a right to stop other people from doing so if that is their wish. In a truly free situation, there is no, “The United States is bedfellows with Nazi Germany”. It is only, “Such-and-such citizens are helping Nazi Germany, and such-and-such citizens are against them.”

                There is no collective guilt, responsibility, or rights. Only individuals have those things, stemming from self-ownership.

          3. Which, then, is the “non-interventionist” stance?

            Whichever one blames America.

        3. Old Mexican|12.7.11 @ 7:47PM|#
          “It would have been totally unjustified to tell Americans to whom they could sell their property and to whom they could not.”

          Valid point. But I wonder if the denial of trade to the European belligerents wasn’t a market distortion, absent which would have accomplished the same without a government ban on those trades.
          I.e. wouldn’t have priced Japan out of the market.
          Oh, and vermin food/shit.

      3. I don’t understand what we are supposed to do with arguments like the one Buchanan makes.

        Japan and Germany probably would not have messed with us if we hadn’t done anything to impede (and in the case of the oil embargo, continued to de facto aid) their conquest of the rest of the world. They would have left us alone until it was our turn. This is an argument in favor of what?

        1. It’s an argument in favor of keeping morally consistent principals?

          When it was “our turn”, then we are justified in fighting in self-defense. Until then, we have no standing to interfere in the affairs of other nations, no matter how badly they are treating their own people.

          1. If your neighbor is being robbed you have no standing to interfere, no matter how badly the mugger is beating him.

    4. Just another Marxist who hates freedom and wants our children to die.

    1. More laughs in a related article:

      “They’re worried if we engage in a detailed discussion of this case with Grassley’s staff, that they’ll just keep pushing for more and more information. But I think we need to come down hard and firm and say that the allegation is BS,” Weinstein tells Burke.

      Emails indicate some Justice Department officials were concerned with making sure the facts provided to Congress were entirely accurate. One official with the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s office asked whether defenses being proposed were “absolutely true.” “Yes, absolutely true,” answered another.

      After the Justice Department’s Weinstein led the internal charge to toughen ATF’s defense, he received an email of appreciation from ATF’s Congressional liaison Greg Rasnake, who has since left that position. “Whether or not they buy in, you are the man for supporting us like that,” writes Rasnake.

      Eventually, the Justice Department sent Sen. Grassley a letter stating ATF would never intentionally allow guns to walk. The Justice Department now admits that assertion was false, and Congress has been asking who’s to blame.

      Justice Department officials have testified that in drafting the inaccurate response, they unknowingly relied on bad information provided to them by “others.”

  3. There is a rich history of such revisionist arguments about blame and heroism leading up to World War II, and such thinking used to be a significant element of the inchoate libertarian movement in the 1940s and ’50s, though little discussed today.

    It’s encouraging to know that the 9/11 Truthers will go away by around 2070.

    1. Criticism of Roosevelt policy that lead up to WWII was hardly the marginalized concern then as it is today. Don’t forget, we were being lead by the nose. FDR tried to get a declaration of war against Germany only a month before Pearl Harbor based upon forged documents created by British Intelligence. Your analogy fails. It would be more apt if in 2070 critics of Bush’s Iraq venture were considered the marginal party, and it was considered common knowledge that Iraq got that yellow cake that forced GW’s hand.

      1. GWB’s hand.

      2. chris|12.7.11 @ 8:00PM|#
        “Don’t forget, we were being lead by the nose. FDR tried to get a declaration of war against Germany only a month before Pearl Harbor based upon forged documents created by British Intelligence.”

        Cite?
        I’m no fan of FDR, but I’ve yet to see the ‘smoking gun’.

        1. I’ve e-mailed my source on the BI fake documents for his sources. In the meantime, here is a ver susceptible FDR agitating for war:
          Form Time Magazine
          Battle Stations
          Monday, Nov. 03, 1941

          The U.S. is at war with Germany.
          Franklin Roosevelt this week did not declare war — only Congress can do that.

          But he said plainly in a fighting speech, at a Navy League dinner in Washington:

          “We have wished to avoid shooting. But the shooting has started. And history has recorded who fired the first shot.”

          It was the President’s first major statement of U.S. policy in five months –since that night last May when he proclaimed a state of unlimited emergency.

          Much had happened since that night in the spring. U.S. forces had occupied Iceland. U.S. bombers had begun to shuttle like suburban trains across the Atlantic.

          A U.S. mission had flown to Moscow.

          U.S. freighters stretched a lengthening line of supplies to all the enemies of Adolf Hitler. U.S. destroyers ranged the Atlantic, hunting down Nazi submarines.

          Two of those destroyers had been attacked.

          Eleven U.S. sailors had died in action.

          In a fighting speech, Franklin Roosevelt explained what all this meant. “The purpose of Hitler’s attack,” said he, “was to frighten the American people off the high seas. . . . This is not the first time he has misjudged the American spirit. That spirit is now aroused. . . . Our ships have been sunk and our sailors have been killed. I say that we do not propose to take this lying down.” He chose a significant night to tell his story. Navy Day is the birthday of another fighting Roosevelt, who worked hard to build up U.S. power on the sea. It was this day that Franklin Roosevelt picked. In the vast Gold Ballroom of Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, flanked by Generals and by Admirals in gold braid, the President told how it came about that the U.S. is now fighting a war at sea.

          Secret Documents. Hitler attacked first, said President Roosevelt,.reciting the bloody tale of the U.S.S. Kearny.* He added grimly that it will not matter who fired the first shot: “All that will matter is who fired the last shot.” The attack on the Kearny was no chance encounter, said the President. It was part of a long-range Nazi plan — first to drive U.S. shipping off the seas, then to dominate the Americas. For proof, he men tioned a secret map which, he said, “I have in my possession . . . made in Ger many by Hitler’s Government ? by the planners of the New World Order. It is a map of South America and a part of Central America, as Hitler proposes to reorganize it. … The geographical experts of Berlin . . . have divided South America into five vassal States, bringing the whole continent under their domination.

          And they have also so arranged it that the territory of one of these new puppet States includes the Republic of Panama and our great lifeline?the Panama Canal.”

          The President went on to describe another secret Nazi document. “It is a plan to abolish all existing religions?Protestant, Catholic, Mohammedan, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish alike. The property of all churches will be seized by the Reich. … In the place of the churches of our civilization, there is to be set up an international Nazi church. … In the place of the Bible, the words of Mein Kampf will be imposed and enforced as Holy Writ. And in place of the Cross of Christ will be put two symbols?the swastika and the naked sword. . . .”

          Decks Cleared. All this, said President Roosevelt, explains why the U.S. has been forced against its will into a war to defeat Hitler. That Hitler can be stopped, the President did not doubt. “The facts of 1918 are proof that a mighty German Army and a tired German people can crumble rapidly and go to pieces when they are faced with successful resistance.” To the U.S. people, on Navy Day, Commander in Chief Roosevelt reported his order of the day. “In the face of this newest and greatest challenge, we Americans have cleared our decks and taken our battle stations. We stand ready in the defense of our nation. . . .”

          * At another Navy Day celebration in Philadelphia, Under Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal for the first time reported details of the terrific blast that damaged the Kearny, worse than any other destroyer ever was damaged without sinking. Said he: “The Kearny suffered a direct hit from a torpedo abreast of the boiler room on the starboard side, and the resulting explosion not only opened up that side of the ship but blew out the deck overhead and part of the superstructure. Yet, in spite of this very substantial damage, the ship not merely remained afloat but proceeded under its own power to port.”

          1. That should read:

            http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/…..evelt.html

            Squirrels are seriously pissing me off.

        2. Here you go.

          http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=british intelligence in the mexican invasion second world war&source=web&cd=13&ved=0CC8QFjACOAo&url=http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/stafford-roosevelt.html&ei=WzrgTqqdPKbi0QGLrayrBw&usg=AFQjCNGd-kbGfnIpdaRn5sOEVKDZ0DmxaA&cad=rja

          1. Chris,
            In the first wall-of-words, how about a quote that supports your claim?
            The second link didn’t link.

    2. It’s encouraging to know that the 9/11 Truthers will go away by around 2070.

      Decades ago, as a fledgling libertarian, I wandered into the National LP convention that happened to be in my city at the time. One of the first booths I stumbled across was one arguing that the Nazi holocaust never happened.

  4. Craig Shirley said on Fox today that no serious historian thinks FDR had foreknowledge of the attack.

    Nothing to see here. Move along.
    There is an historian consensus. The history is settled. Pay no attention to the foreknowledgers.

    1. FDR and his staff clearly had foreknowledge of an imminent Japanese attack, but everyone assumed that the attack would be on the Philippines. The only conspiracy was one of groupthink.

      The real question in my mind his how MacArthur and his staff in the Philippines were so utterly caught napping, given the the general expectation of a Japanese attack there, coupled with the several hours notice of something being up that the Pearl Harbor attack should have provided. Again, the answer seems to have been institutional paralysis.

      1. Re: Umbriel,

        The real question in my mind his how MacArthur and his staff in the Philippines were so utterly caught napping, given the the general expectation of a Japanese attack there[…]

        This is not the case. The U.S. government was incresing its forces in the Philippines in anticipation to a war with Japan. Several squadrons of modern P-40B fighters and new B-17C and B-17D bombers were being flown over to replace older and obsolete equipment, and the number of troops garrisoned there was increased. There is no doubt the FDR administration was expecting a war if not actively seeking to provoke one.

        1. “There is no doubt the FDR administration was expecting a war if not actively seeking to provoke one.”
          There is not a shred of evidence that FDR (damn his sole) wanted to provoke a war with Japan.
          Which doesn’t release MacArthur from blame for his shameful ‘defense’ of the Philippines. More so than Kimmel and Short, since he had warning, he deserved to be fired.
          Politics said otherwise, and the result suggests that just plain utility was served. Regardless of his culpability.

          1. Re: Sevo,

            There is not a shred of evidence that FDR (damn his sole) wanted to provoke a war with Japan.

            There’s plenty of evidence, Sevo. For starters, the oil and steel embargo IS an act of war in itself. Remember Bastiat’s warning?

            1. “There’s plenty of evidence, Sevo. For starters, the oil and steel embargo IS an act of war in itself.”

              Nope. Wrong, but not an act of war. No one can demand someone sell something to them.
              Not a shred of evidence.

              1. Re: Sevo,

                Nope. Wrong, but not an act of war.

                Sevo, the U.S. government itself expropriated [i.e. abridged the title rights over private property] specifically offered by private parties to buyers in Japan. That’s the same as a BLOCKADE, or sanctions. THAT’S AN ACT OF WAR – if the Mexican government had done that against the U.S., how fast do you think the US Government would have intervened to change that?

                No one can demand someone sell something to them.

                No ONE can make another not sell his own property to someone else.

                1. “That’s the same as a BLOCKADE, or sanctions. THAT’S AN ACT OF WAR”

                  All CAPS doesn’t change facts. Nope.

                2. No ONE can make another not sell his own property to someone else.

                  The government has the moral obligation to do so if the buyer is a threat to American rights. Japan was and it was FDR’s (polio be blessed) only good call.

                  1. “The government has the moral obligation to do so if the buyer is a threat to American rights.”
                    My *opinion* is different than yours. I see nothing that suggests your claim is other than an opinion.

  5. I enjoy the consumption of human feces, both alone, and for sexual stimulation with members of both the opposite and same sex. Should I seek help for this condition, or is it within the bounds of accepted normalcy, particularly amongst this esteemed readership?

  6. I always use the U.S.’s policies leading up to Pearl Harbor as an excellent example of the general, frivolousness, shortsightedness and incompetence of U.S. foreign policy in the 20th century.

    Step 1. The Roosevelt Administration takes an emotionally driven and politically calculated (China Lobby), albeit probably morally justified, stance on the Japanese invasion of China. Does not intend to fight, as it is instead focused on Europe.

    Step 2. Completely miscalculates Japanese perceptions, provokes a surprise attack and military disaster (despite a wealth of pre-strike intelligence) that draws the U.S. into a war on the opposite of the globe than the area where it intended to fight.

    Step 3. (Happens to get lucky that Hitler declares war on his own out of frustration, largely due to the undeclared war in the Atlantic.)

    Step 4. Fights a war all over the Pacific, except over the country (China) its primary policies in the Pacific were designed to defend, leaving China in civil war. Retreating Japanese armies leave thousands of tons of arms that are passed to Communist Chinese forces by invading Soviets.

    Step 5. Conducts incompetent negotiations between Nationalist and Communist forces, destroying the momentum of Nationalist forces.

    Step 6. China is taken over by Communist forces.

    Summary: U.S. intervenes against Japan in China. Fights massive war in Pacific. China winds up with a tyrannical mass murdering government, anyway.

    Epilogue Step 7. Forget the entire basis of U.S. pre-war Pacific diplomacy, declare victory for supposed Masters of Universe in Washington.

    1. Two disagreements:
      “Step 4. Fights a war all over the Pacific, except over the country (China) its primary policies in the Pacific were designed to defend, leaving China in civil war.”
      It was impossible for the US (US troops) to fight in China; the economics of transport and the incompetent efforts of the Brits in SE Asia made that impossible.
      But the US poured tons of aid into Chiang’s corrupt regime, only to see much of it ‘disappear’. Until even FDR had to admit it was a rat-hole.

      “Step 5. Conducts incompetent negotiations between Nationalist and Communist forces, destroying the momentum of Nationalist forces.”
      The negotiations were only “incompetent” since there was no possibility of success.
      They were “naive”.

      1. “It was impossible for the US (US troops) to fight in China; the economics of transport and the incompetent efforts of the Brits in SE Asia made that impossible.
        But the US poured tons of aid into Chiang’s corrupt regime, only to see much of it ‘disappear’. Until even FDR had to admit it was a rat-hole.”

        Well, that’s partially the point. The Roosevelt Administration allowed itself to be put into a position where it couldn’t even focus on the supposed priorities that led it into war. And in fact where it felt it had to legitimize a Soviet invasion of Manchuria (that possibly unnecessary anyway, giving the success of the bomb), and the events that followed. That’s to a large extent a result of their incompetence, not an excuse for it.

        “The negotiations were only “incompetent” since there was no possibility of success.
        They were “naive”.”

        Again, that’s partially the point. Naivety and putting yourself in well over your head is a sign of incompetence. They interrupted a civil war, showing the normal American “all we need to do is talk and we can all get along” naivety, with little understanding of the issues involved, or the limitations of their influence. To add insult to injury, the U.S. pressed for negotiations when the Nationalist forces held the upper hand, cutting off aid (that did have some impact, even if as you note some of it fell through the cracks) in the process. And in the process helped facilitate the victory of political forces that proved much more murderous and more corrupt than the Nationalists. (Not the last time this would happen in the 20th century, mind you.)

        1. Interesting discussion:
          “To add insult to injury, the U.S. pressed for negotiations when the Nationalist forces held the upper hand, cutting off aid (that did have some impact, even if as you note some of it fell through the cracks) in the process.”
          I’m not sure the KMT ever held the upper hand; cite?

          “And in the process helped facilitate the victory of political forces that proved much more murderous and more corrupt than the Nationalists. (Not the last time this would happen in the 20th century, mind you.)”
          Sad, sad, sad.
          Mao’s forces (AFAIK) really didn’t strip the countryside of food. Until they came to power.
          Again, AFAIK, they did have popular support, based on the lie that they and Mao could provide free stuff.
          Sounds like you’ve done some research here and I’d love to see the sources.

          1. “Sounds like you’ve done some research here and I’d love to see the sources.”

            Some. I’m paid to follow foreign/military affairs, and I have a religious love of history.

            In general, I just need to say upfront that U.S. policy towards China in 1945-1949 is a historical minefield for two reasons:

            1. The question of who lost China became a huge political hot potato, with major domestic political partisan ramifications.

            2. Many of the most prominent early Cold War-period academics and journalists who followed Chinese affairs were, at best, politically naive regarding the Communist Chinese, or at worst, completely in the tank for them. This was one of the reasons for the growth of the fuzzy notion among U.S. policy makers that the Chinese communist party was a bunch of romantic urban reformers. (This view didn’t disappear until they intervened in the Korean War.)

            3. There’s a general lack of reliable information on the Chinese civil war in general. Which isn’t difficult to explain considering the size of the country, and the lack of access that most Westerners had to it.

            In that sense, you’re right, I probably exaggerated the certainty when I said that Nationalist forces had the upper hand. It probably depends on the source you want to pick. However, I’ve seen it in a few places. Brian Crozier’s book on Chiang Kai Shek, for example, makes this argument. Arthur Waldron also argues it in his piece in the book “What If?” :

            “Late the previous year, after the surrender of Japan, the generalism had begun to airlift his best roops in Manchuria, which the Communists had made their stronghold. The Reds resisted, but were no much for the Natinoalists’ battle-hardened veterans, who moved quickly north, smashing Communist resistance at Singjie in May 1946, after a month of fighting.. Southern Manchuria was now recovered and the Communists were on the run … But with advanced units already in sight of [Harbin], the security key to the North, Chiang Kai-shek halted his attack. It was an error from which he would not recover … What explains Chiang’s action? In two words: American pressure. His mistake was effectively forced on him by the revered George Marshall, who was then in China on the mission impossible of brokering peace between the Communists and Nationalists.”

            He then makes the (obvious point) that, whatever gives Marshall had, he had little to no knowledge about China, and therefore little justification to be leading the mission in the first place. But so goes amateur hour.

            “Mao’s forces (AFAIK) really didn’t strip the countryside of food. Until they came to power.
            Again, AFAIK, they did have popular support, based on the lie that they and Mao could provide free stuff.”

            Part of this ties into the general unreliability of information on early Communist rule. Setting aside how many people were actually on the ground the Communists were extremely good at co-opting journalists, many of whom already with the impression that they were dealing with rural reformers, who were merely upset with the much more obvious (and reported) faults of the Nationalists.

            The early conventional wisdom, such that it existed, was that the Communists were romantic guerillas who rose to power by winning over the population. Some of this probably happened, and you’re probably right that, like the Soviets in 1918, they promised the world and heaven on earth to the peasants under their control. However, as someone who has studied guerilla organizations and low-intensity conflict a good deal, it probably wasn’t all just roses and happy talk. That just isn’t how those sorts of wars are fought, particularly in rural violent countries like China was at the time. They’re usually extremely dirty. When you add to that the rest of the 20th century’s experience with Communist guerillas and rule and I find it hard to believe that those promises didn’t come with a lot of bloody coercion, both broad and narrow.

            But I admit a lot of that’s based on conjecture. There’s a book that recently came out on the Civil War that I hope to get when the price drops:

            http://www.amazon.com/Third-Ch…..0415673860

            1. As you can see, I violated the Perry rule: Never number the contents of a list, unless you’re sure it’ll equal said number.

              1. And, setting aside all of the typos (typing that passage was monotonous), “romantic urban reformers” = romantic rural reformers.

            2. MIR,
              Too late for me to follow your comments after some enchiladas and beers. But I will.
              And respond in case you remember to check the thread again.

              1. Well, I will give it a shot:
                “What explains Chiang’s action? In two words: American pressure. His mistake was effectively forced on him by the revered George Marshall, who was then in China on the mission impossible of brokering peace between the Communists and Nationalists.”
                I’ll get that book, but Chiang didn’t much yield to “pressure” unless it was cutting off the cumshaw. So the claim is somewhat circular.

                “When you add to that the rest of the 20th century’s experience with Communist guerillas and rule and I find it hard to believe that those promises didn’t come with a lot of bloody coercion, both broad and narrow.”
                I, too, lost my rose-colored-lenses a while back, and have no doubt it was very ‘dirty’ (See “Mao” on the long march). The question faced by the peasants is whether this was more or less nasty than what history told them the KMT offered.
                My argument is that the KMT, by dint of their obvious corruption, handed Mao the moral high ground on a gold platter; he simply didn’t have the resources at the time to equal their corruption.

      2. Notion of USA not being involved with China in WWII isn’t accurate.

        USA bombed Japan with B-29’s first from China. That was actual initial plan; counterattack Japan with our Chinese buddies to at least being in range of bombers. Only after couple years (1943-ish, post Tehran conference) did everyone realize how hopeless Chiang was as an ally and America was going to be bomber-close island-side to Japan.

        Stillwell – an American general – was commander of all Chiang’s military forces by 1944; the Chinese had to put up with that because of the giant ‘loan’ Chiang got from Uncle Scam via notorious insider T.V. Soong, from a sympathetic Roosevelt who thought himself quite the Sinophile owing to his family history being involved with the old Chinese Tea/Dope trade.

        I highly recommend Barbara Tuchman’s Stillwell and the American Experience in China. Easily the best book about the beginnings of modern China and its relations with rest of world that I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a few).

    2. “Step 2. Completely miscalculates Japanese perceptions, provokes a surprise attack and military disaster (despite a wealth of pre-strike intelligence) that draws the U.S. into a war on the opposite of the globe than the area where it intended to fight.”

      As said elsewhere on this thread, the fact that the winds of war were blowing were obvious to everyone, and the fact that the Pearl Harbor commands weren’t on anything resembling a war footing despite an explicit war warning is an inexcusable error.

      That said, the Pearl Harbor attack was a disaster for the *Japanese* side, because for one, they didn’t follow it up (because they couldn’t) and for two, they missed the most important strategic targets, the carriers, which were at sea, and the subs, repair facilities and (at that point most important) fuel bunkers, which are the things that would have *really* crippled the Pacific Fleet.

      As it was, by destroying all the Battleships, the IJN forced the USN into a better operational mode of using carrier aviation rather than big deck guns, and made Plan Dog decision (made a year earlier) actually the only option.

      1. “Pearl Harbor commands weren’t on anything resembling a war footing despite an explicit war warning is an inexcusable error.”

        yea they were, they actually had prepared extensively for an act of war for at least a month. They just were not very good at it.

        1. HI, for reasons of intelligence bureaucracy, was prepared for war in the Philippines.

        2. Based on At Dawn We Slept, they were expecting an attack, they were just expecting completely the wrong kind of attack. The military leadership at Pearl Harbor seems to have been obsessed with the idea of local saboteurs or a local Japanese-American uprising, which in retrospect was idiotic and even at the time must have looked pretty blinkered.

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  8. John McCain’s Facebook status: “On this 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, we should never forget the price we paid for not being prepared.”

  9. “Basically, it argues that more intelligent diplomatic maneuvers and not freezing Japan’s assets and embargoing oil and metal shipments to it could likely have avoided Pearl Harbor and its aftermath.”

    This rather presumes that FDR was looking to avoid something like the Pearl Harbor raid happening. The US was doing everything short of war in the months preceding the attack. My grandfather’s journal from stint in the Navy say that his destroyer was already in a hot war escorting British shipping and depth charging German U-boats in August of ’41. FDR was trying to pick a fight with the Axis without being too obvious about it as the voters were in an isolationist mood at the time.

    1. “FDR was trying to pick a fight with the Axis without being too obvious about it as the voters were in an isolationist mood at the time.”

      You’re presuming to know what someone wanted. Opinion, yes. Evidence, no.

      1. That FDR was biased toward the Allies between 1939-1941 and bent Neutrality Acts and then Lend Lease past the point of breaking is hardly in dispute from the historical record.

        In most other periods of American history, the Reuben James sinking by itself would have been enough to start a ‘real’ war.

        1. And you point is?

          1. Evidence. I haz it.

            1. Also, that arguing on Hit and Run about WW2 on Pearl Harbor day is an old internet tradition for me.

              1. Though, I didn’t have as good of a grasp back then on how untennable the PI position was, and what a threat American presence in the Philippines posed to Japanese supply lines between the Home Islands and South East Asian oil fields.

            2. “Evidence. I haz it.”
              Evidence of what?

      2. Ok Sevo, I have to jump in here . . . it seems to me that you are looking for a smoking gun. There will never be a smoking gun of the type you seek. There is, however, a ton of persuasive evidence of the sort cited above that in its mass accumulation is shaped . . . like a smoking gun. How much more evidence do you need that FDR was was well aware of what was coming and was attempting to aid Britain by placing American forces in harm’s way in order to provoke a response as a pretext to war? If you insist upon there being some scribbled note in FDR’s hand to the same effect, then no one can help you. But then Sevo, how much of what is written in the history books do you believe? I am curious to know what criteria you use to determine the motives of Ghengis Khan. Sometimes you just have to look at the whole picture – the broad strokes.

        1. “How much more evidence do you need that FDR was was well aware of what was coming and was attempting to aid Britain by placing American forces in harm’s way in order to provoke a response as a pretext to war?”
          Anything that shows “intent” other than someone’s opinion of what FDR was thinking.
          Never presume conspiracy where stupidity will suffice.

          “Sometimes you just have to look at the whole picture – the broad strokes.”
          Uh, right. And not use your presumptions as a basis.

    2. ^^^^^

      FDR wanted to play toy soldiers with the rest of the big boys.

      1. “FDR wanted to play toy soldiers with the rest of the big boys.”

        My *opinion* is that he was an anglophile, he admitted he hated Germans (having spent time in Germany), and that he (properly) despised Hitler.
        Shame he wasn’t as realistic about Stalin…

        1. Being no. 1 draws admiration. The UK was the worldwide hegemon. Lots of leaders were philic of that action.

          Imagine being President of the greatest industrial power on Earth, but a power the citizens of which wanted to stay out of other countries’ business. Must have been frustrating to an ambitious leader.

          1. OK, an opinion. Disagreed but not worth arguing.

            1. Eat my yankee doodle you hawk.

        2. So your *opinion* is that FDR was an anglophile? Shows how little you really know, and should make every person who has gone toe to toe with you on this thread confident that they’ve won every exchange. Yeah, and my *opinion* is that Eisenhower was a Communist sympathizer.

  10. If the US had stayed out of WW2 (if for instance, Roosevelt’s health would have gone south much earlier), the second half of the 20th century would have been dominated by a two-front Cold War with Imperial Japan and the Third Reich, with an endgame that may not have been as sanguine as the one that happened in this here universe.

    1. You’d have to build an edifice of conjecture founded on supposition decorated with assumption to ‘prove’ that claim.
      My *opinion* is drastically different.

      1. Pedantry anyone?

        1. Silly claims, anyone?

    2. Um, the Germans were going to lose WWII no matter what. Hitler ran the war with such immense stupidity that they were bound to lose eventually to the British and the Russians.

      The British defeated the Germans over the English Channel and in North Africa before the US sent its troops in. And the Japanese would have face near constant insurgency in China and other occupied territories, so I can’t imagine thier conquest of the Pacific ending well at all for them.

      1. A Serious Man|12.7.11 @ 9:50PM|#
        “Um, the Germans were going to lose WWII no matter what. Hitler ran the war with such immense stupidity that they were bound to lose eventually to the British and the Russians.”

        It wasn’t “running the war”, it was “starting” it. Economically, the Axis didn’t have a chance in hell and parties in all the Axis governments knew it.

        1. True, but at the same time Hitler single-handedly ensured the defeat of Rommel’s Afrika Korps by ordering him to fight Montgomery at El-Alamein rather than fall back to a more tenable defensive position.

          And then of course there was his no retreat standing order in Russia and pretty much all other theatres of war regardless of the military situation. In other words, Germany may not have won in the long-run, but a more competent and sane leader could have ended the war on very favorable terms for Germany.

          1. “True, but at the same time Hitler single-handedly ensured the defeat of Rommel’s Afrika Korps by ordering him to fight Montgomery at El-Alamein rather than fall back to a more tenable defensive position.”

            Doesn’t matter. If Hitler had made every “right” decision after starting the war, the Axis still would have lost.

            1. We could argue this for ages, but I think it depends on what you mean by “after starting the war”. After invading Poland? I suspect that even after that, Germany could probably have convinced the Allies that fighting was pointless and they should just accept the defeat of Poland as a fait accompli. Even after the fall of France, Germany could probably have fought the Allies to a standstill, but embarking on Operation Barbarossa was just a colossal act of stupidity.

              Now, if Germany had avoided getting engaged in North Africa, and had chosen to fight the Russians first, he might have had better luck…apparently he wanted to “clear his back” before invading Russia, but if he’d positioned himself as more of an anti-Bolshevist, he might not have had to worry about the Western Allies opposing an invasion of Russia.

      2. The Russians don’t win without American trucks, (and other supplies provided by Lend-Lease).

        Britain never gets invaded, tis true, but never is able to form any kind of offensive operation either. The Battle of the Atlantic is indecisive, with U-boats picking off transports bound for England, while a lot of them get picked off themselves. The Brits in any case lose the (non-white majority parts) of its empire.

        With no Russia and a weak Britain, who’s going to be providing arms to an Anti-Japanese insurgency? (esp in the early years when anti-(white) colonial sentiment was sometimes receptive to Japanese incursion)

      3. The Brits would have gotten pretty hungry without American food shipments and would have had trouble keeping everything fueled without America as well.

        As for the Russians, they got a hell of a lot of technology from the Brits. It would have been much more difficult for the Brits to send that technology without American made ships.

      4. How was FDR in 1941 supposed to know the extent of Hitler’s stupidity? The Germans had rolled through western Europe and even staged a successful (but costly) airborne invasion of Crete.

        They were damn scary in 1941.

    3. Nah. Either way, USA was going to get atom bomb first (we had all the German talent bar Heisenberg who flubbed neutron transport through graphite already by then).

      And atom bomb wins every time if the other guy doesn’t have one.

      Every time.

      1. Getting it first does nothing for you unless you use it first.

        1. It did nothing for us in Korea as we fought two nations with the bomb.

  11. Basically, it argues that more intelligent diplomatic maneuvers and not freezing Japan’s assets and embargoing oil and metal shipments to it could likely have avoided Pearl Harbor and its aftermath.

    And basically they’re wrong. Japan long had designs on Hawaii and the Pacific, which they viewed as theirs under delusions of grandeur. Japan had an inferiority complex/superiority complex stemming from their status as basically a failed nation in the late 1800s. FDR was right to prep for war and stop trade with Japan it was one of the very few righteous things he did.

    Noninterventionism is a religion.

    1. Interventionism is a mental disease.

  12. Doherty, you do Buchanan’s article a fucking disservice, the balme isnt the embargo, or bad diplomacy. IT’S THE ARROGANCE OF FDR TO IGNORE EVERy JAPANESE EFFORT TO COMPLY WITH AMERICAN DEMANDS.

  13. Of course, World War II – all our fault.

    If only we had been more understanding of the poor maligned Imperial Japanese…

    Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo-fucking-hoo.

    Now I understand the why Libertarians are brainless on foreign policy – it’s spillover from the use of hallucinogens.

    1. No one here has argued that we had to “understand” them or that they were “maligned”.

      What we have said is that a government does not have the right to tell private citizens whom they may and may not conduct transactions with.

    2. Mark – It is their belief that Japan conquering Asia and the Pacific while Germany conquered Europe was none of our business.

      Minding our own business and keeping our defense spending low surely would have convinced them to leave us alone once they had won their respective wars.

      1. Minding our own business and keeping our defense spending low surely would have convinced them to leave us alone once they had won their respective wars.

        The really sad thing about threads like this is that I can’t tell if people are being serious when they make comments like this.

        1. I was being sarcastic and making fun of the head-in-sand isolationists.

          I’m pretty isolationist, but you have to be able to recognize when a giant shitstorm is headed your way.

          1. Indeed. There is a difference between what I’d consider non-interventionism (ie: only go to war when necessary, and in self-defense) and isolationism/pacifism (never go to war, period). Many of the isolationists/pacifists seem to have no problem coming up with excuses to justify warmaking by brutal dictatorships against free nations, particularly the United States.

  14. this is a ridiculously inaccurate characterization of the article’s contents. e.g.:
    “At a Nov. 25 meeting of FDR’s war council, Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s notes speak of the prevailing consensus: “The question was how we should maneuver them (the Japanese) into ? firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.”
    I really don’t know why you would link to an article but write a blurb that makes it sound about 1000x less interesting than it is. Is there some kind of “no conspiracy theory rule” at reason? why would you even link to it if you’re gonna make it sound like some boring-ass policy article for old people?

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  15. It’s amazing how even among professed libertarians there reigns the taboo over even hinting that the U.S. government MIGHT have done something wrong when it comes to “The Good War”.

    1. America did make mistakes that contributed to the situation, but of the main countries involved, we were certainly the least guilty party and not the aggressors.

  16. More so than Kimmel and Short, since he had warning, he deserved to be fired.

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  27. I was being sarcastic and making fun of the head-in-sand isolationists.

    I’m pretty isolationist, but you have to be able to recognize when a giant shitstorm is headed your way.

  28. The really sad thing about threads like this is that I can’t tell if people are being serious when they make comments like this.

  29. Minding our own business and keeping our defense spending low surely would have convinced them to leave us alone once they had won their respective wars.

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