The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Flyboys redux

Some time ago, I mentioned the book "Flyboys" by James Bradley (who also wrote "Flags of Our Fathers"). Having run out of books to read after the last volume in Dean Koontz' "Frankenstein" series*, I picked up "Flyboys" to re-read. The only thing I didn't like about the book the first time through was his justifying Japan's growth into a militaristic and expansionist empire with America's own Manifest Destiny period. Re-reading that section didn't alter that reaction.

You see, you can't stop with America. We inherited that expansionist mindset from our former ruler, England, who learned it from Rome, who learned it from the Greeks and Persians, and so on back into the dawn of human emergence. I was especially irked by the part which centered on the Mexican-American War. I don't justify that war. We pretty much wanted it, worked toward it, and made sure it came to pass. The end result was our taking control of what are the southwestern states of today. It stops there. He does not mention that Mexico was in control of that land because Spain had done the same thing. Spain had taken over what is now Mexico, much of Central and South America, killed or enslaved the natives it found, and created a huge empire in the Americas. The French had done this in what is now called Canada and the central region of the United States. Why should the blame start or end with the U.S.? He doesn't blame only the U.S., he also blames all the Western Powers for their racist treatment of Asians, choking off little Japan and keeping them in their place. But it's America which seems to represent the main impetus for Japan's expansionism.

It is true that we did try to hold Japan back. And I am sure our motives were not "pure"... in the sense of protecting weak and fractured China or European-dominated southeast Asia "nations" (colonies). There were solid commercial interests involved. Colonialism was morphing into something different, something we might call economic colonialism.

One of the great things about World War II was that it brought about a change in human civilization. Instead of conquer and acquire, trade became the new tactic. Instead of taking military control of a region or nation, trade agreements would be established. Certainly, these agreements we negotiated from a position of strength with regions/nations which needed the trade and, therefore, in a weaker position. But the militarily imposed regimes, preceded by the wanton destruction that is war, became "wrong" in the eyes of the world. In fact, the end of World War II was the dawn of of age of shrinking physical empire and the beginning of independence for the colonies of of the Western Powers.

Maybe World War II was a necessary step in the evolution of civilization.

The U.S. was not in existence when Japan first met with outside influence; the Americas had yet to be discovered by Europe. In fact, the famed Kamikaze legend came from attacks from the Asian mainland by Kublai Khan in 1274 and 1280. In the 1500's, the European, not American, powers arrived in Japan, introducing Christianity and guns. Soon after, Japan began experimenting with expansionism into Asia.

Why stop with America's sordid period of expansion? Why seemingly blame America's Manifest Destiny for Japan's rise as a world power? Possibly because that was the main thrust of Japanese justification for their expansionism. America was the "Big Dog" that had the best chance to halt Japan's ambitions in the Pacific.

I have no pie in the sky view of my country's past but I understand it in the context of the times in which these sordid events occurred. Just as today administrations do what they believe is in the best interests of the country, so did those administrations. We often judge the past through the filter of current mores and knowledge. It doesn't change the past, we can't actually undo our mistakes. When we try, we usually make worse ones in the process.

In spite of that slant, I do love this book. And that slant is important in understanding the traditions which were distorted and used by the militarists who ran Japan and brought it to the brink of destruction with World War II.

I recommend the book to anyone interested in what I consider the most interesting period in the last 100 years.

*If you like Koontz and you like Frankenstein, this series is excellent. Koontz at his best, I think, and the tale of Frankenstein modernized.

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