An Exchange of Empires
by Gary North: Blind
Men's Bluff: FED-Defending, Gold-Hating Economists
7, 1941, the naval forces of the Empire of Japan launched one of
the most ill-conceived, boneheaded military ventures in history,
one exceeded only by Adolph Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union
the previous June. (Hitler then one-upped Japan again, four days
later, when he declared war on the United States, although he was
not required to by the terms of the Axis pact, since Japan had initiated
led to the destruction of the empire in 1945: the utter humiliation
of the military; the reversal of the nation's centuries-long honoring
of military valor; the permanent transformation of Japan's desire
to succeed by war and the adoption of a new goal, to succeed by
peaceful economic competition; and the abolition of the national
armed forces, which persists to this day. This laid the foundation
of the greatest post-war economic recovery in history.
led to a military response from the United States, which in retrospect
marked the triumph of the forces favoring the creation of an American
empire over a persistent tradition of a non-interventionist foreign
policy. It led to a wartime increase in the federal government's
debt on a scale not seen since the Civil War. It transformed the
military budget from one that can be described as a near-starvation
diet in 1941 to a seventy-year bloat never seen before in man's
history. It led to the nation's retroactive honoring of the conscripted
millions who went to war as "the greatest generation." It led to
the creation of an empire that has 1,000 military and spy bases
outside the territorial United States, and the creation of an aircraft
carrier-based Navy that patrols the world in search of monsters
to destroy, to quote John Quincey Adams.
me to a controversial conclusion: Through the defeat of the Japanese
military, Japan won the war in the Pacific. The United States lost
leaders of the Empire in the 1930s viewed the international economy
in terms of a military-like, top-down chain of command. Japan needed
raw materials. It needed oil. To secure these vital assets, the
military planners designed a program of conquest. The armed forces
of Japan had been in control of Korea ever since 1910. Japan invaded
China in order to set up the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
This would be a trading empire in which Japanese arms would extract
raw materials and cheap labor.
did not see the free market as the primary source of the raw materials
the economy needed. They did not see the world in terms of Adam
Smith's giant auction, in which the high monetary bid usually wins.
They saw it in terms of the domestic Japanese economy: a system
of interrelated, family-related cartels. Even the military's high
command was parceled out in terms of families. One group of families
was primarily naval. The other was tied to the army.
This view of
economic growth placed the civil government at the center. The military
was seen as the center of the civil government. There was no developed
tradition of democratic rule, which was a Western import.
on a military mindset led to a jiu-jitsu toss by the Americans.
The American central planners for domestic political reasons needed
to get Japan to fire the first shot. America's central government
revoked the right of manufacturers to export machine tools, airplane
parts, and aviation fuel to Japan in 1940. In 1941, America's government
further interfered with the free market and embargoed oil shipments
to Japan. These were acts of provocation. They worked. The Japanese
military high command took the bait.
was carefully planned for almost a year in advance. The flyers were
trained well. The carrier fleet was able to position itself so that
its planes would arrive on Sunday morning, when the men on board
ships were either recovering from hangovers, getting ready for church,
or just sleeping in.
The story is
well known. The scenes in Tora,
Tora, Tora are etched into most American movie-goers' minds.
The attack was regarded by both sides as a tactical success: few
planes lost, many ships sunk.
It was in fact
a tactical disaster.
for the disaster was known at the time. The carriers were not in
port. The planes sank strategically obsolescent battleships and
The main reason
is rarely mentioned. It got some consideration in Edwin T. Layton's
co-authored account, And
I Was There (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1985). Layton
was at Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. He spoke and read
Japanese. On page 498, he tells of an informal visit in 1949 between
Capt. Roger Pineau, a co-author of the book, and several high- level
Japanese officers in 1941. Pineau was a Japanese-speaking naval
officer assigned to work as a researcher for Samuel Eliot Morison's
definitive history of the U. S. Navy in World War II.
this remarkable summary. Pineau asked one of the planners, Rear
Admiral Sadatoshi Tomioka, what the Japanese naval planners had
estimated would be the lag time between the Pearl Harbor attack
and an American offensive response. Tomioka said 12 to 18 months.
Pineau then asked how long it had taken for the American fleet to
respond. Layton said that Tomioka did not respond immediately. He
was deep in thought, as if no one had ever asked him this before.
Then he said that it was the carrier-based attacks in the Marianas
and Gilberts. That was in February 1942. Response time: two months.
showed him photographs of the attack on Ford Island. The Admiral
recognized the location. Pineau then pointed to some white objects
in the background. Did Tomioka know what those were? He did: fuel
tanks. He asked the Admiral how many planes had been assigned to
take out those tanks. The answer: none. "Only your capital ships
and airfields were assigned as targets." Pineau then explained that
if the planes had taken out all of the tanks in the area, the American
carriers could not have sailed out of Pearl. Pearl had to be re-supplied
from California. If the Japanese Navy had Japanese placed submarines
east of Oahu to sink the oil tankers, the fleet would have been
immobilized for 12 to 18 months.
there, stunned. So did the other staff officers. Then he responded,
"Pineau-san, you should have been in the Japanese navy" (p. 499).
could have taken out 4.5 million barrels of oil. They could have
taken out the machine shops, where the carriers were later repaired.
planners had done what military planners do: design the confrontation
to eliminate the enemy's weapons of war. But they forgot to follow
the chain of cause and effect back to the first cause. They forgot
to plan for a way to cripple the source of the weapons' power: fuel
and repairs facilities.
On June 5,
1942, planes from three U. S. carriers sank all four of Japan's
largest carriers, the ones that had carried the planes to Pearl.
The Americans lost one carrier. That was the battle of Midway, the
greatest naval victory in American history. How was this possible?
Three things: fuel, repair facilities, and IBM machines and punch
cards, by which a code-breaking team cracked enough of Japan's naval
code to know when and very close to where the Japanese fleet would
arrive at Midway.
has enormous weaknesses. It always leaves out crucial facts. It
produces results the opposite from what the planners had planned.
Pearl Harbor is a fine example.
In 1945, the
Empire of Japan ended. It has never revived.
Empire began early, no later than the Louisiana Purchase. The annexation
of Mexican territory in the war with Mexico, 1846-48, was surely
an expansion of empire. But the process made a quantum leap in the
aftermath of the Spanish-American War in 1898. America took over
the remnants of Spain's faltering empire: Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
The American suppression of the Philippine insurgents, 1898-1902,
gets little or no space in the history textbooks. About 4,000 American
troops died, maybe 20,000 Filipino troops, and 500,000 civilians.
Then the Empire
ceased to expand much. For the next four decades, it went into a
kind of consolidation phase.
World War II
ended this. In the aftermath of the War, the United States signed
its first mutual defense treaty, NATO (1949), the first since the
abrogation in 1800 of the treaty with France of 1778. The Cold War
led us into a series of wars that Congress did not bother to declare,
in opposition to the Constitution.
is still involved in one of these wars. The other officially ends
this month with the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, at
the request of the government of Iraq. We are politely being thrown
out. The "cakewalk"
will at long last come to an end, except for the $750
million embassy and thousands of Iraqi
mercenaries who are still on the U.S. payroll.
government launched a sneak attack on the United States in 1941.
In response, the United States military waged a successful war against
lost face in 1945. Representatively, the entire nation lost face.
This made the nation easier to rule in the six-year occupation that
followed. It changed the moral outlook of the people. It ended militarism.
There are few examples to match it in history, and none on a scale
this large or so rapid.
gift that America's Occupation gave to Japan was the trio of advisors
sent by Bell Laboratories to advise the Allied Command regarding
the restoration of the nation's communications system. They arrived
in 1945. They stayed. One of them gave Japanese industry its first
quality control manual in 1950. The statistical management promoter,
W. Edwards Deming, was also in Japan at the time, but he did not
have the influence of these three. They were backed by the Occupation
forces. Their story is told in chapter 10 of the Hopper brothers'
crucial book on the triumph and decline of American management,
Puritan Gift (2007).
Japan has been
defended militarily by the United States ever since. Defended from
whom? This is not clear. What is clear is that Japan has not had
to finance a military establishment ever since 1945. This freed
up capital for more productive purposes.
We have paid
to defend Japan since 1945. We have kept our carriers in Japanese
ports. We have been the conquering empire.
of Japan on the battleship Missouri in 1945 marked the exchange
of empires. Japan has never looked back.
we. A pity.
North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible.
2011 Gary North
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