Browsing "Prescient Warnings"

No Indissoluble Union

Before the war, Senator Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana was insulted by a Boston newspaper which wrote: “We ask whether the Jews, having no country of their own, desire to put other nations in the same unhappy condition.”  He shrugged off anti-Semitic comments of other Northern critics as he did a reference to him as one of the “Israelites with Egyptian principles.”

Senator G.G. Vest of Kentucky quoted Benjamin’s response to a Senate opponent: “It is true that I am a Jew and when my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate hand of the Deity, amidst the thunderings and lightning of Mount Sinai, the ancestors of the distinguished gentleman who is opposed to me were herding swine in the forest of Scandinavia.”

No Indissoluble Union

“Benjamin’s reasoning, with that of most of the other conservatives who saw no alternative but secession, was that upon the North American continent were two peoples, one building an industrial empire and the other content to remain a race of planters and staple producers.

Each could best work out its own destiny . . . And as long as the two were bound into one country, there would be strife. Since they had so little in common, the sensible solution to the impasse they had reached would be the severance of political ties. Certainly he felt he was not without precedent in holding the federal compact to be terminable at the will of its member States. He saw scarcely any evidence that it was intended by those who wrote it to be anything more.

The simple truth is that he aligned himself against the North at least partly because he felt he could not subscribe to the principle of an indissoluble Union. The North embraced the principle of nationality – the South sought, in Benjamin’s words, divorcement “from a compact all the obligations of which she is expected scrupulously to fulfill, from the benefits of which she is ignominiously excluded.” It was as simple as that to him.”

(Judah Benjamin: Mystery Man of the Confederacy, S.I. Neiman, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1963, excerpt pp. 92-93)

Mar 6, 2021 - Prescient Warnings, Southern Statesmen, Southern Unionists    Comments Off on Washington’s Warning on Foreign Influence

Washington’s Warning on Foreign Influence

Washington’s Warning on Foreign Influence

“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful woes of republican government.

But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it.  Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.

Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their influence.

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfectly good faith. Here let us stop.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent us from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations . . . that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigues, to guard against the postures of pretended patriotism . . .”

(The Speeches, Addresses and Messages of the Several Presidents of the United States, Robert DeSilver, editor, Thomas Town Printer, 1825, excerpts pp. 1110-112)

Who is Encircling Whom?

The following exchange between Senator William J. Fulbright and General James M. Gavin occurred during Foreign Relations Committee hearings in early February 1966.  A scholar as well as a US Senator representing Arkansas, Fulbright’s deep knowledge of history and the political past set an example few have emulated, and to our country’s detriment.  Fulbright no doubt understood Lee’s postwar statement regarding Northern victory, that “the consolidation of the States into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of the ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.”

Who is Encircling Whom?

“Every night for the past week or so, Fulbright had been reading with a growing fascination the classic works on China, its history and culture in anticipation of the forthcoming Committee hearings on China with the top American scholars. Out of this reading was emerging a view somewhat different than the standard clichés.

So he asked General Gavin, “In what respect are [the Chinese] aggressive, contrasting what they say with what they do?”

The General answered him, “I have been exposed to the filmed reports coming out of China of their militancy, of their training their youth and their industrial workers and their people in the use of arms, in the military tactics and so on.”

“Do you consider that aggressive necessarily?” Fulbright insisted. “The training of their troops in China, is that an act of aggression?”

“No, no.”

“Is there evidence that they moved troops into Vietnam?”

“There is not at this time.”

“I understand they have made many threats,” Fulbright said, pursuing this, “Normally we use the word ‘aggression’ very loosely.

The Senator spoke of a “very interesting article” by a New York Times correspondent from Hong Kong. “The whole purport is that the Chinese are alleging they are being encircled,” he remarked.

General Gavin replied, “I would be inclined to agree that the Chinese think they are being pretty well hemmed in” [referring to American military bases and nuclear submarines girding China in an arc from Thailand through South Vietnam, the Philippines, the China Seas, Taiwan, Okinawa, South Korea and Japan].

“Is it a fact, do you think, that relatively speaking they are more encircled today than we are?” Fulbright pressed.

“There is no question about that.”

[Fulbright] asked the leading question, “You know a great deal about both military and political history. Have the Chinese as a nation over the last one hundred or two hundred years been especially aggressive? I use that word to mean military, overt aggression on their neighbors?”

“No. They haven’t been to my knowledge.”

“Who aggressed whom during the last century? Was it China attacking the Western nations or vice versa?”

“The other way around. The Western nations attacking China.”

“Was this to a very great extent?” [asked Fulbright]

“Yes. I remember quite well reading about the moving from Tientsin in the Boxer Rebellion, and reviewing the life of Gordon and the British occupation of major segments of China as well as that of other European nations.”

“As a matter of fact, various Western nations practically occupied and humiliated and decimated China throughout almost a century, did they not?”

“That is absolutely true.”

“Don’t you think that might not be a significant element in our present situation?”

“Indeed, surely.”

(Senator Fulbright: Portrait of a Public Philosopher, Tristam Coffin, E.P. Dutton & Company, 1966, excerpt, pp. 284-285)

Modernist Architecture’s Immense Damage

What is called “Modernism” in architecture was simply a response, primarily Marxist in its call to eradicate Western symbolism and meaning, to the rise of industrial manufacturing as man’s chief economic activity. The factory workers were deracinated country folk and their descendants bound to a new kind of slavery; their homes an industrial slum. But Marxist ideology would lift this new industrial man, who would attain control of “the means of production” with all class distinction abolished as life is reorganized by the Politburo.

Modernist Architecture’s Immense Damage

“When speaking of the faults of our surroundings we are naturally inclined to blame “bad architecture,” because buildings are easy to see in the landscape. Architects, just as naturally, inclined to dismiss this point of view as boobery. It is true that the mess we’ve made of places where we live and work is not solely the result of bad buildings, though there are plenty of them.

But that hardly lets architects off the hook. Rather, with the hubris of religious zealots, they set out on a great purifying mission that damaged the whole physical setting for civilization in our time.  The dogmas that guided them went by the name of Modernism. Heretics and skeptics were anathematized as systematically as the opponents of the fifteenth-century Vatican.

Modernism did its immense damage in these ways: by divorcing the practice of building from the history and traditional meanings of building; by promoting a species of urbanism that destroyed the age-old social arrangements and, with them, urban life as a general proposition; and by creating a physical setting for man that failed to respect the limits of scale, growth, and the consumption of natural resources, or to respect the lives of other living things.

The result of Modernism, especially in America, is a crisis of the human habitat: cities ruined by corporate gigantism and abstract renewal schemes. Public buildings and public spaces unworthy of human affection, vast sprawling suburbs that lack any sense of community, housing that the un-rich cannot afford to live in, a slavish obeisance to the needs of automobiles and their dependent industries at the expense of human needs, and the gathering ecological calamity that we have only begun to measure.

(The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape, James Howard Kunstler, Simon & Schuster, 1993, excerpts pp. 59-60)

Jan 27, 2021 - Abolitionists & Disunionists, Democracy, Prescient Warnings, Southern Conservatives    Comments Off on Democracy and Liberty

Democracy and Liberty

George Fitzhugh, a Virginian born in 1806, never progressed in formal education “beyond the old field school” and his learning in the law was picked up on his own. His real education came from independent and wide reading, including what he described as “whole files of infidel and abolition papers” such as the New York Tribune and Liberator. In the early 1850s he wrote that “Liberty and equality are new things under the sun,” that France and the Northern States had proved the experiment was “self-destructive and impracticable.” He saw “half of mankind [as] but grown up children” and it was apparent that “liberty is as fatal to them as it would be to children.”

Democracy and Liberty

“Democracy and liberty are antagonistic; for liberty permits and encourages the weak to oppress the strong, whilst democracy proposes, so far as possible, to equalize advantages, by fairly dividing the burdens of life and rigidly enforcing the performance of every social duty by every member of society, according to his capacity and ability.” George Fitzhugh

(Cannibals All! Or, Slaves Without Masters, George Fitzhugh, Harvard University Press, 1960, excerpt, pg. 82)

Military Government Perfected

“Lee, indeed, saw an analogy between the Revolution of 1776 and the Revolution of 1861. In ’76 the Colonists threw off the yoke of Great Britain, in ’61 eleven Southern States threw off the yoke of the North. In each instance the act was one on revolution. Lee maintained that a government held together by coercion – such as Lincoln’s call for troops would create – was but a semblance of a government. He remembered that Washington himself had declared, “There is nothing which binds one country or one state to another but interest.”

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made an impression upon Robert E. Lee. He understood the significance. Lincoln intended to win the war and to preserve the Union regardless of consequences.  When he was inaugurated he had affirmed that he had neither the power nor the disposition to interfere with slavery. He had now reversed himself. But thereby his military government was made perfect.

This view Lee expressed to [President Jefferson] Davis. “The military government of the United States has been so perfected by the recent proclamation of President Lincoln, which you have no doubt seen, and civil liberty so completely trodden under foot, that I have strong hopes that the conservative portion of [the Northern] people, unless dead to the feelings of liberty, will rise and depose the party now in power.”

Yet while Lee was penning this letter to Davis he was signing and delivering a deed of manumission to the three hundred Custis slaves [he had inherited through marriage]. This act antedated Lincoln’s proclamation by three days; Lincoln’s proclamation became operative January 1, 1863, Lee’s manumission papers had been in effect since December 29 previous.”

(Robert E. Lee: A Biography, Robert W. Winston, William Morrow & Company, 1934, excerpts pp. 96; 208-209)

President Buchanan’s Last Annual Message

President James Buchanan’s last annual message of December 3, 1860, placed the blame for the country’s sectional divide squarely upon the Republican party and its adherents. Below, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Patriot and Union cited and commented upon the message in its December 6, 1860 issue.

President Buchanan’s Last Annual Message

“At no previous period of our national history has the message of the President of the United States been looked for with more solicitude than was the last annual message of Mr. Buchanan; for it was felt that upon his recommendation might depend the future of the country, and that the issues of peace or civil war were, to a great extent, in his hands.

If any man in the country has the right to speak with authority to the South it is JAMES BUCHANAN, as President of the United States and head of the Democratic party; for in his official capacity he has ever been faithful to all his constitutional obligations, and as a party leader has endeavored to bring about those just concessions which, had they been granted, would have saved the country from the perils that now environ it.

The President traces our present difficulties to their true source when he attributes them to the persistent agitation of years against the system of Negro slavery as it exists in the Southern States, and to the alarming sense of insecurity growing out of that agitation . . . growing and extending, until it culminated in the formation of a sectional Northern party, thoroughly imbued and entirely controlled by hostility to the institutions of the Southern States.

It is true that the platforms and creeds of the Republican party profess loyalty to the spirit of the Constitution, and disclaim any intention of interfering with the domestic institutions of the Southern States. But professions weigh nothing when contrasted with facts.

Since the organization of the Republican party the Abolitionists have ceased to exist in this latitude as a separate party, because they merged themselves in the Republicans, deeming that the best means of promoting their ultimate objects.

Every form and degree of Abolitionism has flourished and developed under the fostering care of this Republican party, which, when confronted with the fruits of its own teaching, meekly points to its platform, and says, “we mean no harm to the Southern States.”—Turning from fair words to foul deeds, the Southern people find that the consequences of Republicanism are—the encouragement of Abolitionism, which does not hesitate to avow hostility to slavery wherever it exists; the enactment of unconstitutional laws by Republican Legislatures to nullify the fugitive slave law; the circulation of incendiary publications throughout the South, calculated, if not designed, to encourage servile insurrections, and endanger the lives of the Southern people; the promotion of John Brown raids, and the subjection of the Southern States and people to a position of inferiority.

These are unmistakably indicated as the consequences of the existence of the Republican party, which, however moderate its professions, cannot escape direct responsibility for what it promotes or encourages, and is naturally judged by the Southern people from its fruits, and not from its platforms.

The President shows conclusively that secession is not a remedy conferred upon any State by the Constitution against the encroachments of the General Government, but that it would be a revolutionary step, only justifiable “as the last desperate remedy of a despairing people, after every other constitutional means of conciliation has been exhausted.”

Notwithstanding that the message takes grounds against the constitutional right of any State to secede from the Union, the position is maintained that the Constitution has delegated to Congress no power to coerce a State into submission; and this doctrine is fortified with powerful arguments. We do not see how they can be controverted.

The proceedings of the Convention that framed the Constitution—the very highest authority—show that “Mr. Edmund Randolph’s plan, which was the ground work of the Constitution, contained a clause to authorize the coercion of any delinquent State. But this clause was struck out at the suggestion of Madison, who showed that a State could be coerced only by military force; that the use of military force against a State as such would be in the nature of a declaration of war; and that a state of war might be regarded as operating the abrogation or dissolution of all pre-existing ties between the belligerent parties, and it would be of itself the dissolution of the Union.” Thus it appears that the idea of coercing disobedient States was proposed in the Constitutional Convention and rejected.

But the President advances one step further in the argument. Suppose a State can be coerced, how are we to govern it afterwards? Shall we invite the people to elect Senators and Representatives after they are subdued and conquered? Or shall we hold them as subjects, and not as equals? How can we subdue the unconquerable will? And how can we practically annul the maxim that all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed? Such a process would undermine the foundations of the government and destroy the principles upon which it is reared more certainly than to admit the want of coercive power in the general government.

The President concludes that portion of the message relating to our domestic troubles by suggesting that they may be settled by amending the Constitution, in the way provided by that instrument, so as to secure to the South the rights for which she contends.

Let the South pause before striking the last fatal blow at the Union, and await the time when a returning sense of justice shall induce the North to concede all her just demands . . . Let the North cease its unmanly aggressions—repeal its unconstitutional statutes—stop its reckless agitation against an institution for which it is not responsible and over which it has no control—overthrow any man or party that seeks to perpetuate strife—and the Union may yet be preserved, and even made stronger and more enduring by reason of the shock it has endured.

But without this spirit of concession and mutual forbearance, there is nothing to hope for in the immediate future but contention and disunion.”

(The President’s Message: Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Daily Patriot and Union, December 6, 1860)

 

Jan 2, 2021 - America Transformed, Antebellum Realities, Newspapers, Prescient Warnings    Comments Off on An Unmitigated Curse

An Unmitigated Curse

An Unmitigated Curse

“Every day’s experience and observation more and more convinces us that that great institution, the magnetic telegraph, instead of being a blessing, is a curse to the country. No doubt, under the control of honest and conscientious men, and confined in its operations to the transmission of facts as they really exist, and events as they really and truthfully transpire, it would be productive of much good, and be an efficient medium of communication. But this is not the case, and hence the manifold and pestilent evils that have flowed from its invention and its general and universal use.

The telegraph is a money-making institution—the mercenary element is interwoven with every tissue and fiber of the vast web which it has woven and stretched over the country. Just as its agents and correspondents multiply words—whether those words be true or false—and send them over the wires for publication in sensation newspapers, under the headings of display type and half-column captions, just in that proportion are its revenues augmented and its thrift enhanced.

Does not everyone see at a glance how completely its interests are at variance with those of the public? And does not everyone see at a glance, likewise, the tremendous power it must wield, as long as implicit reliance is placed in the statements it furnishes as news?

We warn the people to beware of this new power in our midst, more potent than an “army with banners.” Its whole stock in trade consists in the perpetual excitement of the community—in a morbid appetite for startling news and a monomania for extravagant and almost incredible rumors; because this diseased condition of the public mind furnishes a market for the sale of improved “extras” and “sensation” newspapers—bringing grist to two mills—the telegraph and the printing office.

In fact, so far as its communications for the public eye are concerned, it is almost an unmitigated curse. No news which it sends over the wire is reliable, save what transpires in legislative bodies, and in the transactions of the money and other markets. One half of its “reports'”, and “rumors” are the pure inventions of the imagination, and “like the baseless fabric of a vision, leave not a wreck behind,” save the painful memory of deceit and imposition.

As far as its transmission of intelligence, respecting men and measures, helps to form that public opinion, which is the basis of political action, the telegraph, as abused, is a positive nuisance. Unless it is shorn of its strength, by unbelief in all it says and does, it can bring upon us a war at pleasure; it can cry down the good and elevate the bad; it can achieve the success of any party; it can elect any man, almost, President of the United States; and it can render uncertain almost any investment of the capitalist, and play, as with a football, with the great interests of labor and industry.”

(The Telegraph and Its Abuses: Philadelphia Morning  Pennsylvanian, February 6, 1861)

Remembering Pearl Harbor

The sacrifices of those who served in the American military in December, 1941 should be recounted often for us all to ponder and appreciate that the 3000 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor should not have perished in vain.  The sincerest memorial to those who fought and died in this tragedy (and others in American history) is to analyze and discuss the multitude of reasons why it happened and how we ensure that American servicemen are not knowingly put in harm’s way for political purposes ever again. 

As there is far too much information available today for the surprise attack myth to survive even cursory scrutiny, and thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and declassification of hundreds of thousands of decoded Japanese messages, we can now get a very clear picture of how events unfolded in 1940-41.

The myth reported by our historians and the media is that the United States was minding its own business until the Japanese launched an unprovoked attack at Pearl Harbor, thereby dragging a reluctant US into a world struggle.  In reality, the US under FDR had been deeply involved in Far Eastern affairs for some time, and those policies actually provoked the Japanese attack. 

As Oliver Lyttleton, British Minister of Production stated in 1944…”Japan was provoked into attacking America at Pearl Harbor.  It is a travesty to say that America was forced into the War.”

After FDR’s numerous provocations toward Germany without retaliation (while the US was neutral) he switched his focus to Japan and had assistance with Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, who stated in October 1941 that “for a long time I have believed that our best entrance into the war would be by way of Japan.” 

And as early as January 27th, 1941, US Ambassador to Japan in Tokyo, Joseph C. Grew noted in his diary that “there is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the US, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor.  Of course, I informed our government.”  Even Admiral Ernest J. King wrote a prescient report on 31 March 1941 that predicted a surprise Japanese dawn air attack on Hawaii as the opening of hostilities. 

The US had prepared for a Japanese-American conflict since 1906 with “War Plan Orange” which predicted the Philippines as the expected target, attacked by surprise as the Japanese were notorious for.  By early 1940 Claire Chennault, an American airman hired by the Chinese, was urging General Hap Arnold and Roosevelt to provide bombers with which to firebomb Japanese cities in retaliation for their attacks on China.

While we cannot excuse Japan’s aggressiveness in Asia in the 1930’s, those in high position in the United States government continually provoked the Japanese by freezing assets in the US, closing the Panama Canal to her shipping and progressively reducing exports to Japan until it became an all-out embargo along with Britain’s. 

The Philippines, by 1941, were reinforced to the point of being the strongest US overseas base with 120,000 troops and the Philippine Army had been called into service by FDR.  General MacArthur had 74 medium and heavy bombers along with 175 fighters that included the new B-17’s and P-40E’s with which to attack or defend with.  The mobilization of troops and munitions has always been recognized as preparation for attack and we thus assumed this posture to the Japanese.

The US then implied military threats to Tokyo if it did not alter its Asian policies and on 26 November 1941, FDR issued an ultimatum that Japan withdraw all military forces from China and Indochina as well as break its treaty with Germany and Italy.  The day before the 26 November ultimatum was sent, Secretary of War Stimson wrote in his Diary that “the question was how we should maneuver [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot.” 

The bait offered was our Pacific fleet.

In 1940, Admiral J.O. Richardson, then commander of the Pacific Fleet, flew to Washington to protest FDR’s decision to base the fleet in Hawaii instead of its normal berthing at San Diego. His concern was that Pearl Harbor was vulnerable to attack, was difficult to defend against torpedo planes, lacked fuel supplies and dry docks.  Richardson came away from his meeting with FDR “with the impression that, despite his spoken word, the President was fully determined to put the US into the war if Great Britain could hold out until he was reelected.”

Roosevelt relieved Richardson of command with the comment that the admiral “didn’t understand politics.” He replaced Richardson with Admiral Husband Kimmel, who was still concerned about Pearl Harbor’s vulnerability but did not challenge FDR.

Also to be considered was the April, 1941 ABD Agreement FDR concluded with the British and Dutch in Indochina which committed US troops to war if the Dutch East Indies were invaded by the Japanese.  Add to this the 1940 $25 million loan and Lend-Lease aid provided to China.

The Dutch and British were of course eager for US forces to protect their Far Eastern colonial empire from the Japanese while their military was busy in a European war.  And FDR’s dilemma was his 1940 election pledge of non-intervention (unless attacked) to the American people and the US Constitution, which allowed only Congress authority to declare war.  

One of the most revealing elements in FDR’s beforehand knowledge of Japan’s intentions was breaking of the Japanese diplomatic and naval operations codes as early as mid-1939. Copies of all deciphered Japanese messages were delivered to Roosevelt and the Secretaries of War, State and Navy, as well as Army Chief of Staff Marshall and Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold Stark. 

With no deciphering machines in Pearl Harbor, though three machines went to Britain, the commanders in Pearl Harbor were left completely dependent upon Washington for information.  It must be understood that with this deciphered information, our government officials could not have been better informed had they had seats in the Japanese war council.

It is in this bare political light that Pearl Harbor should be examined and judged for historical perspective.  Our military should not be pawns used by presidents to initiate war, the very fundamental reason the Founders deliberated extensively on the establishment of a standing army which might be used as such.

As nothing happens in a vacuum and the post-World War One US Neutrality Acts were in place to avoid the political machinations that dragged us into that conflict, FDR’s steady erosion of US neutrality and secret agreements led to that unnecessary loss of brave American service-men.  We hopefully have learned from this.  Bernhard Thuersam

Sources:

Betrayal at Pearl Harbor, Rusbridger & Nave, 1991, Summit Books

The Years of MacArthur, Vol 1, D. C. James, 1970, Houghton Mifflin Company

Blankets of Fire, Kenneth P. Werrell, 1996, Smithsonian Institution Press

Desperate Deception, Thomas E. Mahl, 1998, Brassey’s Books

Pearl Harbor: The Secret War, George Morgenstern, 1947, Devin-Adair Co.

Ten Year’s in Japan, Joseph C. Grew, 1944, Simon & Schuster

Defending British Interests in the Orient

Contrary to mainstream textbook histories, FDR faced stiff opposition in Congress and the military with regard to Japan.  As a committed Anglophile, Roosevelt allowed a neutral US to supply munitions to a belligerent England and sought a backdoor to the European war by luring Japan into shooting first. Admiral J.O. Richardson, commander of the US Pacific fleet in 1940, was relieved of command when he twice criticized FDR’s order for the fleet to remain at Pearl Harbor as obvious bait, instead of steaming back to the safety of San Diego.

An early warning of Japanese intentions was sent by US Ambassador Joseph C. Grew on January 27, 1941: “There is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the United States, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course I informed our Government.” (Ten Years in Japan, Grew, Simon & Schuster, 1944, pg. 368)

Defending British Interests in the Orient

“In mid-August General Douglas MacArthur, the Army Chief of Staff, had told Secretary of War Hurley that, “While this country may conceivably become engaged in a war in the Pacific or with other countries of this hemisphere, such a war under present conditions is not probably and in any event would not be of such a magnitude as to threaten our national safety.”

A bit later he and [Admiral William] Pratt assured the President that Japan could be defeated were war to eventuate; how long it would take depended on whether Great Britain were an active ally of the United States. The views of MacArthur, that war with Japan was “improbable,” reflected a species of folk wisdom extant in the country at that time. There had been no crises in Japanese-American relations since the [California] Immigration Act of 1924, and considerable cooperation had been manifested since 1927.

As an institution, the [US Navy] General Board had long accepted as fact that Japan was the national “enemy” (today the term would be “threat”) and eventually the conflict of interests between the two nations would lead to war. In 1927 the board accepted the premise that Japan’s goal was “political, commercial and political domination of the Western Pacific.”  The events of 1931-1932 merely confirmed this premise.

Led by Rear Admiral Bristol, a former Asiatic Fleet Commander (1927-1929), the Board stood foursquare for maintaining the Open Door [China policy], resisting Philippine independence measures, and promoting American commerce in the Orient. On the other hand, Admiral Taylor, the current CINCAF; his relief in 1933, F.B. Upham; and the respected Rear Admiral W.D. Leahy, destined to become Chief of Naval Operations in January 1937, all shared a common feeling that the United States had so few genuine interests in China that it was foolish to be needling the Japanese. Leahy summed up a lot of [naval] service opinion when he wrote in his diary:

“I do not understand what the Japanese are trying to do . . . It would seem that the United States has little interest there but may be drawn into a war in the Orient by the desire of Europe to have somebody else preserve its trade advantages in China.  It would be wise for America to keep hands off before it is too late.

“Today press news by radio brings us information that the training squadron and all available ships in the Atlantic have been ordered into the Pacific Ocean “for maneuvers . . .”

“Lacking any information as to a reasonable excuse for getting into trouble in the Orient at this time it seems that a movement of all ships to the Pacific can only intensify the existing unfavorable attitude of the Orient toward us. It definitely looks like a bluff that the other side may have to call whether it wants to or not.”

When writing to his brother, Admiral Taylor felt China was “up to its old tricks trying to get someone, preferably the U.S., to fight her battles for her.” A year later he concluded that Secretary [of State Henry] Stimson had “botched” things badly because he had forgotten that legalistic judgment against Japan was worthless unless the public and a sheriff backed the verdict.  “It seems to me that one of the most dangerous persons in the world is a lawyer turned diplomat . . . So in diplomacy, treaties can be quoted, but what is their value as a deterrent to a nation determined on a course of action unless violation brings in its train the international police represented by fleets and troops.”  

Admiral F.B. Upham . . . had a simple prescription: the United States should clear out of the Orient and close its markets to Japanese products.  

(Admiral William V. Pratt, US Navy, A Sailor’s Life (excerpts), Gerald F. Wheeler, Naval Historical Division, 1974, pp. 340-349)

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