Pearl Harbor Attack *theoretically* justified?

May 2018
1,023
Michigan
I recently finished Jeremy Yellen's The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. An extremely good read, as Yellen takes a lot of Japanese sources and makes them digestible for an English speaking audience. Yellen also goes out of his way to explore the motivations of the Japanese, while still acknowledging the fact that the Sphere ended up being a big Nazi-like war crimes party...except someone brought cocaine instead of meth.

However, what is undeniable is that when the U.S. basically "sanctioned" Japan, they cut off 88% of their oil supply. Granted, this oil was being used to enslave Korea and Manchukuo, but cutting off 88% of a country's oil supply is, in a lot of ways, a de facto declaration of war in and of itself.
Japan was not as industrialized as the West, and probably had less "oil dependence", so to speak. However, cutting 88% of someone's oil is a pretty big diplomatic broadside that I'd have trouble interpreting in any terms other than hostile. Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack that we probably should have seen coming (and many did, even absent the oil factor).

Note: exploring the theoretical justification of the Pearl Harbor attack, often labeled as a "dishonorable sneak attack" in the US, does not mean to imply that the U.S. oil embargo was in any way not justified, or that Japan wasn't mostly evil during WWII.
 
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Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,884
T'Republic of Yorkshire
Justified from what point of view?

Morally, strategically, diplomatically?
 
May 2018
1,023
Michigan
Justified from what point of view?

Morally, strategically, diplomatically?
Certainly not from a legal standpoint, more from an informal moral standpoint. More things along the lines of "Well, it wasn't legal. But FDR/whatever policymaker should have anticipated a warlike response when depriving an industrialized nation of their oil."

Its kinda like, "Yeah, you can taunt a guy that you slept with his wife for for days on end. Its illegal if he punches you, but don't be surprised if the guy kicks your ass."
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,983
However, what is undeniable is that when the U.S. basically "sanctioned" Japan, they cut off 88% of their oil supply. Granted, this oil was being used to enslave Korea and Manchukuo, but cutting off 88% of a country's oil supply is, in a lot of ways, a de facto declaration of war in and of itself.
No it is not. Not even close. Not even remotely close. A Blockade that stops trade or particularly food could be seen as such. Japan was free to buy Oil from Romania, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, The British Empire.

Is Rumanian refusal to sell Oil to Japan a de facto declaration of War?
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,884
T'Republic of Yorkshire
It's one thing to punch a man for coveting your wife, it's another to do so for refusing to let you buy his ass.
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,384
Kansas
Note: exploring the theoretical justification of the Pearl Harbor attack, often labeled as a "dishonorable sneak attack" in the US, does not mean to imply that the U.S. oil embargo was in any way not justified, or that Japan wasn't mostly evil during WWII.
And that is purely a cultural thing. Surprise, sneaky innovative attacks have been SOP for Japanese military thinking for 500 years
 

redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,950
Stockport Cheshire UK
No it is not. Not even close. Not even remotely close. A Blockade that stops trade or particularly food could be seen as such. Japan was free to buy Oil from Romania, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, The British Empire.

Is Rumanian refusal to sell Oil to Japan a de facto declaration of War?
Both the British and the Netherlands government based in London had joined the oil sanctions imposed on Japan, while Germany and Romania were simply in no position to supply any oil to the Japanese.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,884
T'Republic of Yorkshire
And that is purely a cultural thing. Surprise, sneaky innovative attacks have been SOP for Japanese military thinking for 500 years
And the Japanese had only joined the international system for less than 80 years at that point.
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,384
Kansas
And the Japanese had only joined the international system for less than 80 years at that point.
Yeah I sometimes wonder how different things would have been if the US had some experts capable of explaining the Japanese world view at the time. For example the US stacked up naval units in Hawaii as a show of strength. All the Japanese saw was an even better target lol