Pearl Harbor Attack *theoretically* justified?

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,958
San Antonio, Tx
The USA was not gioing to accept Japanses expansion and cntrol of China and South East Asia.
Japan could not win a war against the United States.

Japan just refused to tailor their foreign policy to the reality of their situation.

The Japanese Leadership was fundamental delusional about what was possible.
Can’t help but wonder: the Japanese were pretty careful and detailed in the operational planning - maybe way too detailed - but were, it seems to me, woefully incomplete when it came to strategic planning. The few Japanese officials who “knew” the capacity of American industry were unceremoniously shoved aside in favor of the bellicose and uninformed about attacking those “lazy” and “undisciplined” Americans.

What Japanese military planners didn’t grasp or understand is that the US was capable of fighting a global war on two vastly different fronts and still win.
 
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MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,350
Kansas
Can’t help but wonder: the Japanese were pretty careful and detailed in the operational planning - maybe way too detailed - but were, it seems to me, woefully incomplete when it came to strategic planning. The few Japanese officials who “knew” the capacity of American industry were unceremoniously shoved aside in favor of the bellicose and uninformed about attacking those “lazy” and “undisciplined” Americans.

What Japanese military planners didn’t grasp or understand is that the US was capable of fighting a global war on two vastly different fronts and still win.
Well a book that came out a few years ago explored this exact question from a Japanese perspective. Turns out the Japanese really thought they would lose a war and pretty quickly. The object was to try to find a way to reset their diplomatic standing in the world. Basically nobody trusted them and most nations hated them.

What happened was they became victims of their own success and really did begin to think they could win the war for the reasons you mentioned at the top of your post.

History shows how that played out :(
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,786
T'Republic of Yorkshire
In the strictest sense, the type of Empire building they were doing wasn't outside the Victorian-era norm, and considering what countries like Belgium did in the Congo (Leopold pulled Holocaust-level numbers before Hitler), they weren't even exceptionally brutal for a non-British or American Western Power. The U.S. had certainly humiliated them, but I believe that a large factor in the modernization of Japan was to prevent such a thing happening again. Japan would be completely justified in building up their military for the purpose of preventing the U.S. from doing what they did with Perry.

But its one thing to sail into someone's port and demand they sign an unfavorable trade treaty. It is quite another to bomb Chinese cities with biological weapons solely to test them, ...nanking..., comfort women etc... Both are ******* moves, but one is clearly different than the other, and I wouldn't use one to justify the other.
It's not just a case of an unequal treaty. The Japanese were utterly humiliated on a national level, and in a culture that worships pride and face, that was absolutely intolerable. In other times, people died for insults like these - in fact, Kagoshima was caused by one such insult, when a British trader refused to bow to a passing daimyo. The Japanese couldn't even enforce respect in their own country.

The way they were treated after WW1 further reinforced that perspective, that the west still did not see or treat Japan as an equal.

I think it's important to understand how deep the Japanese sense of shame was at the way they had been, and were being treated. It's at least understandable why they reacted the way they did to being (from their POV) dictated to by the west again.
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,350
Kansas
I think it's important to understand how deep the Japanese sense of shame was at the way they had been, and were being treated. It's at least understandable why they reacted the way they did to being (from their POV) dictated to by the west again.
Especially after they had taken a chunk out Russia's hide at the beginning of the century. They really felt they had proved they could mix it with the big boys after the complete destruction of the Second Pacific squadron.
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,257
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.
Well surprise attacks have become the norm since ww2.. The US itself has done that countless times, the latest being yesterday against some militia in Iraq (in violation as Iraq claims, of Iraqi sovereignty) without any formal declaration of war.. No one seems to bother much with declarations of war anymore.

I have seen it argued that Israel's attack in 1967 was justified by the egyptian closure of the straits of Tirian and other "hostile" acts of arab nations...There was likewise some very "thin" argumentation re attacks on Serbia over Kosovo or Libya over Benghazi and many others (including the US staged gulf of Tonkin incident)

So by modern standards, it would be considered justified.. By WW2 standards, not... It was still considered that the "right way" to go to war involved a formal process and that embargoes were not sufficient cause to start this process..
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,970
It's not just a case of an unequal treaty. The Japanese were utterly humiliated on a national level, and in a culture that worships pride and face, that was absolutely intolerable. In other times, people died for insults like these - in fact, Kagoshima was caused by one such insult, when a British trader refused to bow to a passing daimyo. The Japanese couldn't even enforce respect in their own country.

The way they were treated after WW1 further reinforced that perspective, that the west still did not see or treat Japan as an equal.

I think it's important to understand how deep the Japanese sense of shame was at the way they had been, and were being treated. It's at least understandable why they reacted the way they did to being (from their POV) dictated to by the west again.
Was Japan treating China as an Equal?

So Japan wanted to be treated fairly and equlaly by powers it perceives as greater, but free to do as it like to those it percives as weaker...
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
6,091
Was Japan treating China as an Equal?

So Japan wanted to be treated fairly and equlaly by powers it perceives as greater, but free to do as it like to those it percives as weaker...
Well, that was how the 19th c. Great Power concert generally operated, wasn't it? Countries deemed not fit for independence were acceptable for empire and colonisation.

And since the LN and post-WWI attempt at a different sort of rules-based international politics never really worked (US out), and by the 1930's started to rapidly completely unravel (Italy, Japan, Germany, USSR), there was a reversion to it in the lead up to WWII.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,970
Well, that was how the 19th c. Great Power concert generally operated, wasn't it? Countries deemed not fit for independence were acceptable for empire and colonisation.

And since the LN and post-WWI attempt at a different sort of rules-based international politics never really worked (US out), and by the 1930's started to rapidly completely unravel (Italy, Japan, Germany, USSR), there was a reversion to it in the lead up to WWII.
Japan wanted it both ways.
 
May 2018
1,019
Michigan
@Naomasa298 My academic sympathy for the Japanese can only go so far. However, it is important to note that regardless of how bizarre the Japanese were acting, the responsibilty was still on the U.S. State Dept to get it right and understand these things. I can forgive Japanese arrogance and pride probably farther than most, largely because they managed an unaparalled feat in history: they went from a nation of medieval rice farmers to global power in less than 50 years. But it was that same national pride and arrogance that was their downfall: the Midway victory for America was assisted greatly by large amounts of miltiary arrogance, unrealistic assessments, poilitical infighting and no small amount of hubris.

@pugsville That's the real problem with Japan's complains about "western hypocrisy": they were just as much hypocrites as the west. They didn't want to liberate Asia so much as they wanted lebensraum.