Peter A Goldsbury
Erick Mead wrote:
... there was no inevitability in the war with the U.S. from the Japanese side
Will you give me some indication of the sources you have in mind here. I think that Herbert Bix and Donald M. Goldstein & Katherine V Dillon present a rather different, more nuanced, picture.
Is there nuance to inevitability?
I have a perspective on Japan's attitude that you, an overseas Briton does not. My great great grandfather fought in a bitter war (with many injustices in its nature on our side) that was also lost to an invading nation. I am a southerner born and raised and nurtured in our own lament over the perennial "Lost Cause." Southerners natively get the Japanese schizophrenia over the War and its consequences. We lost and hindsight says it was a likely good thing, and may have been inevitable, may be not. I don't have to ignore the warts and brutal excesses on the Japanese side to acknowledge the difficulty of their position and the legitimately torn sensibilities underlying their concerns, however ill-pursued or unjustified we now deem most of them.
As to Bix, I assume you mean his policy criticism of letting Hirohito off the hook for his involvement in the War generally, as a bad precedent. My own point is not without nuance on that score. By no means do I see Hirohito as a puppet in the War. I've' considered Bergamini's book relating Kido's diaries. By no means do I think that he was absolved on any basis other than McArthur's political expediency and his dislike of having to administer the novel "war crimes" process. Btu I don't trust what Kido said (even privately), as he said it, becasue he knew his diaries would be used later, and thus they contain ura aspects that must be dealt with. I gained no senisbility that Bergamini tried to deal with this aspect. Bix seems the kind that might, if he followed up.
I trust in what they did, and what they tried to do and failed. Hirohito did not want the Tripartite alliance, and by all measures it resulted in nothing but reversals for Japan from an early stage.
Despite Yonai's valiant efforts to organize the absolution brigade (including Tojo himself) during the war crimes investigations it is diffcult to conclude anything other than that Hirohito succumbed to war adventurism early on without regard for its consequences, first in Manchuria, then China and then the wider war into SE Asia.
What is interesting though is that Yonai's efforts result in a tale told that fixes his shift to opposition -- at the point that Yonai lost the premiership to Tojo. That is telling. His role changed and became personally critical -- in council, to the point of demanding that a last notice of intent to attack if the embargo was not lifted ( which was "delayed" by Tojo or someon and was not received. Rather blunt imperial behavior, rather than communicating via the Household or trusted go betweens. The way it is reported has internal appeal as even being true. After all if you want to really protect him from war crimes -- you make him out to be a victim and stooge from Mukden onward, or maybe just before Nanjing. As it is the reports say he only became directly critical in the events relating to the 1941 ultimatum and as to the loss of Yonai ( the pro-American) and as premier.
At that point in time all that the war programme had gotten him was further widening of the war programme. And the U.S. had been among the most respectful treaty powers of Japan (since well before Portsmouth). Maybe that was his revelation of budo. Maybe not. We will likely never know, but considering the possibility is useful for us, that perhaps he did. Was it too late? For him, personally, ethically, without question, in any objective sense.
Was it too late to stop the progress of war and wider war. No, I don't think it was. It need not have happened. And there is a point for budoka in that.