American Elephants

Wars Are To Be Won, They Are Not Playing Fields for Theorists. by The Elephant's Child

Japanese Surrender

President Obama has long seemed to believe that the only reason for our presence in the Middle East was to get revenge on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda for the attack on 9/11. He has put Afghanistan high on his foreign policy list, and he even stated in the past, that invading Pakistan might be necessary.

On Thursday, in a TV interview with ABC News, President Obama said that “victory” in Afghanistan is not necessarily the United States goal.

I’m always worried about using the word “victory” because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur.

The enemy facing U.S and Afghan forces isn’t so clearly defined, he said.  “We’re not dealing with nation states at this point.  We’re concerned with al Qaeda and the Taliban, al Qaeda’s allies,” he said.  “So when you have a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like al Qaeda, our goal is to make sure they can’t attack the United States. So that is defined by what, precisely?  Seems like a shadowy goal for our troops who are fighting in Afghanistan.  It’s a very odd statement from a president when we are in the middle of a war.

Mr. Obama’s historical gaffes are numerous.  He thought the Berlin Airlift was a collective European effort; seems to think that Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East is somehow responsible for the backwardness of it’s neighbors; and when he was in Moscow, he received a lengthy lecture on the Cold War from Vladimir Putin. The Russian version, that is.

The Emperor Hirohito, of course, did not come down to the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay for the surrender ceremonies.  To misunderstand that demonstrates a lack of understanding of the Pacific War and the relationship of the Emperor to the Japanese people. In their 2000 year history, the Japanese had never surrendered to anyone.  Japan was determined to fight on, even after Okinawa was lost.  The Japanese navy had effectively ceased to exist, but an all-out defense of the homeland beachhead was planned.  Rebellious army officers planned a palace coup which was put down.  On August 14, 1945, the Emperor recorded a speech which was broadcast to the nation at noon on the following day, August 15.

The Japanese people were stunned.  They had never before heard the Emperor’s voice.  The formal surrender ceremony took place aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945. The Japanese representatives on board the Missouri were Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu (wearing top hat) and General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff.  Behind them are three representatives each of the Foreign Ministry, the Army and the Navy.

Japanese Surrender2

Worth noting is an article from The New York Times that quoted  Toshikazu Kase, a 100-year-old veteran of the Imperial Japanese government. (Second from right in middle row in the top hat).  He would write in his memoirs about the surrender to MacArthur on the deck of the Missouri:

Here is the victor announcing the verdict to the prostrate enemy.  He can impose a humiliating penalty if he so desires.  And yet he pleads for freedom, tolerance and justice.  For me, who expected the worst humiliation, this was a complete surprise.  I was thrilled beyond words, spellbound, thunderstruck.

Understanding the history of our relations with Japan is crucial to understanding our relationship and friendship with Japan today. Understanding the history of Israel and Palestine helps to keep from making mistakes about who our friends are and why.  Understanding the history of Latin America keeps a president from siding with some of the region’s worst dictators, and confusing our Constitution and laws with the constitution and laws of Honduras.

These things matter, and if the President does not have the background, it should be included in briefings. If his speechwriters don’t have the background, they should look it up.  And if the State Department doesn’t have the background, God help us .

(the headline comes from a quotation from Ralph Peters)

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