The Pursuit of Power in Modern Japan, 1825-1995

By Chushichi Tsuzuki | Go to book overview

14
From Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima

THE ‘ABJECT SLIDE’ INTO WAR

In emphasizing Japan's effort in the summer of 1941 to come to terms with the Unites States while pursuing her aim of setting up a new order in East Asia, Iriye Akira has stated that her policy was ‘more opportunistic than dogmatic, and more ambiguous than systematic’. The indecisiveness which Iriye attributes to ‘Japan's continued reliance on external events as a guide to policy as well as its inability to achieve anything through its own initiative’1 can also be discerned in ‘the abject slide’ into the war2 and the more abject way in which the war ended. Takagi Sokichi, naval historian and formerly rear-admiral of the Imperial Navy, wrote: ‘What I feel strongly about the Pacific War is the inaction, passivity, and insensibility on the part of the politicians and the military men who assumed the highest responsibility for the war.’ ‘The conspicuous fact about staffofficers and junior commanders’, he declares, ‘is the hardening of their spiritual arteries, while the extent of arbitrariness and the lack of objectivity in the judgement of situations made by the imperial headquarters, and the constant changes and absence of flexibility in their plans and systems, seem in retrospect appalling.’3 Although the Pacific War was fought mainly against the Americans and the British, the shadow of Russia was present at all times; especially before its opening, and at its close, too, the Red Army inflicted heavy blows on Japanese forces in Manchuria. The frontier wars of the 1930s had been more than ‘sideshows’ to the later Asia-Pacific War; they illustrate the process of the ‘abject slide’ into the war.


FRONTIER WAR WITH RUSSIA

The Kwantung Army created in 1919 in the midst of the Siberian intervention regarded a Sino-Japanese war as a preliminary to war with the United States and/or the Soviet Union. The staff of this army was more or less convinced that Russia would not intervene in Manchuria, even in

1 Akira Iriye, Power and Culture: The Japanese-American War 1941–1945 (Cambridge,
Mass, 1981), 13, 14.

2 Ienaga, Japan's Last War (Oxford, 1979), 3.

3 Sokichi Takagi, Taiheiyo Kaisenshi (Naval History of the Pacific War), p. ix.

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