what's in the making?

Stephen Walt:  There is one feature of the East Asian security environment that is worrisome, however, though it bears little resemblance to pre-war conditions in 1914. Today, conflict in East Asia might be encouraged by the belief that it could be confined to a naval or air clash over distant (and not very valuable) territories and thus not touch any state's home territory or domestic population. All Asian countries would be exceedingly leery of attacking each other's homelands, but naval and air battles over distant islands are precisely the sort of military exchange one might use to demonstrate resolve and capability but at little or no risk of escalation.  That's the scenario that I worry about, but that is not what happened back in July 1914.

DTN News - JAPAN / CHINA NEWS: Geopolitics, Resources Put Maritime Disputes Back On Map

Gibbon:  The American public remembers little more than movies and sports and the American media little more than that.  On April 7, 2002 the Japan Times, which represents the interests of the Japanese Foreign Ministry and other Japanese ministries carried the comments by Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa that Japan could easily become a nuclear power. He stated Japan had enough plutonium to make 3 to 4 thousand nuclear weapons.  “If that should happen, we wouldn’t lose (to China) in terms of military strength. What would (China) do then?”   Not one word appeared in the American press that concentrates its resources on Israel and the Middle East.  One must ask what the Chinese thought and even what Americans would have thought if they had known.  If a German party leader had made a similar remark about the Russians, the New York Times would have pushed Israel off the front page.

In 1995 when Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama visited Peking he was met by an accusation in the People's Daily, the newspaper of the Chinese government, that 35 million Chinese died due to brutality of the Japanese.[i]  Within days the New York Times had an article written by their Tokyo correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner which credited only 10 million Chinese dying due to Japanese depredations.[ii]  Who would want to quibble over 25 million dead Chinese?  It must be noted this number was over four times the number of Jews killed by the Nazis and occurred in the period remembered by Jews as the Holocaust to the exclusion of other people dying and by most of the rest of the world as World War II.  The Chinese have never forgotten this, and one must assume one day they will make sure the rest of the world does not either.  This most certainly must include the United States.

James Reston asked Chou En Lai if China were really worried about Japan, and Chou's reply was that China had suffered for fifty years which was a rather long time.  Chou also pointed out to Reston that in the two world wars of this century the United States benefited greatly while suffering rather small losses.  Reston in many ways the most influential newsman of his generation confided to Eric Sevareid of CBS News that one of the most appealing things about his American countrymen was "that we have no memory".[iii]  Reston claimed we were struck at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, but we have no hatred of the Japanese, or the Germans either - "we are forward looking people".  This provoked Sevareid to state he did not understand China's long range thinking about Japan.

The United States needs more realistic responses and policies to world events and if we are to pivot to Asia, we should pivot from the Middle East.  China will not tolerate a Japan with nuclear weapons.  What will be the American response?

[i].  NYT, May 7, 1995, pE3
[ii].  NYT, May 21, 1995, p4
[iii].  New York Times: Report From Red China, pp92-4 & 346 (Quadrangle Books, 1971)


If we are going to remember, let's remember:
● For a century, tens of thousands of American medical missionaries wen to China. For generation after generation they devoted their entire lives, and those of their families, to the Chinese people.  
● The US was the only participant in the Boxer Rebellion, that refused to pocket the shameful reparations extorted from the Chinese. Instead she used the money to endow some of China's best universities and to establish scholarships that brought tens of thousands of Chinese to America to study. 
● Let us also not forget that the reason Japan attacked Pearl Harbor was because the US had embargoed Japan. She was denied strategic materials like oil. And why? Her occupation of China. Japan had to either withdraw from China or die of thirst for fuel and other key resources. She chose to fight. In short, we suffered Dec 7 on behalf of China and fought that war, at least in part, to liberate China. Chenault's Flying Tigers were an early effort in that direction. 

What we are getting in return is China slyly using her North Korean vassal, to threaten us with nukes on ICBMs.

 Nathan C Langston  Gibbon 
Magister Nathan criticizes KathleenGalt above for going off the topic of WWI, but then yammers on about Pearl Harbor, ICBMs, and other anachronisms. Well, there are rules for the lesser orders, and more favorable rules for the Magisterium . 

But some of his assertions warrant reply. Nathan surrounds his historical points with his usual churchillian bodyguard of lies. He neglects to remark that the majority of those medical missionaries in China were first and foremost Christian proselytizers, i.e. religious imperialists. The Chinese were happy to take the doctoring, thank you very much. They were, however, disinclined to accept the Christianity. (There were notable and influential exceptions, such as the Soong family, and their delectable daughter, the formidable Madame Chiang. More anon on that danger.)

In themselves, the missions were inconsequential;  but their propaganda effect back on the farm occasioned great harm and the most extravagant expectations. Barbara Tuchman writes: "Congregations all over the United States listened to the returned missionary with his lantern slides tell of the deserving qualities of the Chinese people and of the great reservoir of future Christians. Along with the public impression that America had saved China's integrity by the doctrine of the Open Door, missionary propaganda helped to create the image of China as protégé, an image which carries an accompanying sense of obligation toward the object of one's beneficence."

So effective was the  propaganda that even isolationists in the Midwest came to consider the Chinese as their saintlike, crypto-Christian brethren. In this they were encouraged by the biased journalism of Henry Luce and the sentimental literary inelegancies of Pearl S. Buck. Yet those heartland Primitives did not succeed in getting FDR's administration to intervene in China, where the Japanese had been since 1931. (The mischief would come later, in the form of the postwar China Lobby, which exacted gruesome political retribution for the "loss" of that country.) Japan was by necessity a maritime power; China, to the extent it had power of any sort under Chiang--except the power to extract money from the peasantry--was a continental power. When Japan occupied southern Indochina in 1941, providing it a pied-à-terre from which to bomb and invade the oilfields of the Dutch Indies, the threat in America's Pacific Pond was manifest, and the embargoes--casus belli--against her were expanded. FDR, Stimson, Welles, and the rest were not only realists, but had some knowledge of Asia and the Pacific. In short, China was but incidental to the Peal Harbor bombing and the US declaration of war.

Chennault was a brave man, a  brilliant tactician of pursuit aviation, a masterly cultivator of his own legend, apparently a whoremonger, and insubordinate in the opinions of Marshall, Arnold, and Stilwell. He was also a strategic incompetent, repeatedly trying to sell his superiors on his plan to bomb Japan to submission with just 200 airplanes, flying from Chinese land bases defended by--what? In any case, the Allies made China-Burma-India the last priority among its theaters of war--deservedly so, given the incompetence and corruption of the KMT. The US supported, wanly,  the wrong side--was there a right side to support?--and failed to heed the words Stilwell wrote in his diary after the Japanese surrender: "We ought to get out--now!"

Nathan's requisite but unrelated coda--stoking panic about China's vassal, North Korea--is a bit puzzling, given that the DPRK appears far from ready to deliver a nuke to Mt. Fuji, much less Mt. McKinley or Mt. Rainier. Does he realize that China might support the Kim regimes to avoid a refugee crisis, or the descent into chaos of an armed neighbor, or for any number of reasons other than annoying the US? Perhaps Nathan is agitating for a revival of the China Lobby, that virulent  disease of the American body politic that I hoped had died along with Joseph McCathy's liver.

 FranzLiebkind  Nathan C Langston I agree and appreciate most of what you write, but I must stop with Barbara Tuchman.

Barbara Tuchman gained fame and favor by espousing the interpretation of events so favored by the New York literati even if lies and deceit are used.  She complimented Denmark on their resistance to German rule.  In April of 1940 when Germany invaded Denmark, the Danes made virtually no resistance.[i]  It was not until 1943 that the Germans executed the first Dane for resisting their rule.  On October 1, 1943 the Germans had scheduled the arrest and deportation of the 7000 Jews in Denmark.  The commander of the German troops in Denmark, General Best, had informed his maritime attache, Georg Duckwitz, of the decision to deport Jews to the concentration camps.  Duckwitz with the tacit approval of General Best informed his friends among the Danish government who arranged for the flight of these Jews.  On a very warm October 1 while wearing winter coats and all their jewelry, many Jewish ladies rode the train from Copenhagen to the coast.  As most Danish Jews lived in Copenhagen, and there was only one train line to the coast, Herbert Pundik, then 16 years of age, remembered the train being "loaded with Jews".  In not one case did German officials attempt to check the identity of even one Jew.  One who did escape remembered Germans having an observation post near where his boat had left.  Another remarked that the escape could not have happened without the connivance of the Germans.  Explanations of the behavior of the Germans have revolved around the fact that Denmark was furnishing the German Reich with ten percent of its food needs, and General Best had determined that continued tranquility in Denmark was his most important consideration.  Mr. Pundik later an editor of the newspaper Politiken thought the reason the truth of the escape from Denmark took fifty years to emerge was that the myth was too satisfying, and people did not want to smash it.[ii]  For those who might want to sneer they should ask if Americans would have behaved any more nobly.

          British historian, John Keegan, reminded readers of the ineffectiveness of the Resistance in Europe.  While he applauded the Danes, Mr. Keegan noted that far more Danes, Walloons, Norwegians, Flemish and Belgians were enthusiastic soldiers in ethnic formations of the Waffen SS on the Eastern Front.  Mr. Keegan went to the heart of the matter when he stated that many would like to believe "on moral grounds alone, the Resistance ought to have triumphed".[iii]

Barbara Tuchman wrote a letter to the New York Times of May 30, 1967 when Arab countries, principally Egypt, were attacking Israel.  While her state of Israel was engaged in battle, Ms. Tuchman baldly stated "the integrity and security, not to say its survival is a closer concern of ours than that of South Vietnam".  Forthrightly she wrote of America's reputation being at stake and of the need for America to take straightforward independent action with courage and conviction.[iv]  That there were almost a half million troops of America in Vietnam did not concern Ms. Tuchman, nor did the possible effects on these troops by an effort to help Israel by the United States.  She appraised the goyim as distinctly secondary considerations. 

In assessing the performance of John Kennedy to the Bay of Pigs invasion Ms. Tuchman stated JFK showed "admirable resolve" in making the hard decision to not send in Marines or the Army to rescue men who were left to perish.[v]  Ms. Tuchman's senses of compassion and honor were narrowly funneled to issues involving Jews. 

[i].  William Shirer, The Collapse of the Third Republic, p567 (Simon & Schuster, 1969)
[ii].  NYT, p3, Sep 28, 1993
[iii].  Times Literary Supplement, p15, May 8, 1992
[iv].  NYT, May 30, 1967, p20
[v].  Barbara Tuchman, March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, p284 (Ballantine, 1985)

 Gibbon  Nathan C Langston 

I am well familiar, from my readings on the life of Niels Bohr, with the saga of the Jews escaping Nazi-occupied Denmark. (I was after all trained as a physical chemist.)  I also had a good friend whose father was in the Danish resistance. I believed her when she said that he was in the resistance, but nodded silently at her insistence that he was one of those freed by the RAF Mosquito raid on the Copenhagen SS headquarters. I'm sure there are thousands of such Danish family war stories. Like you, am skeptical of the effectiveness of the various resistance organizations.

Obviously, over 90% of Denmark's Jews could not have saved themselves by spontaneous organization. Once Bohr and other notables had secured Sweden's agreement to receive them, the path was clear. The local Nazis commanders had no desire to spoil their sinecures, nor to starve Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg.   So they at least looked the other way.  

I will not defend Tuchman's entire opus. Much of it cannot be defended. As you point out, "The March of Folly" was Camelot-addled; it reflected her late-career moralism and sloppiness. In "Writing History," her celebration of the IDF in the immediate aftermath of the Six-Day War is as lacking in objectivity as any panegyric to the Heroes of the Red Army penned by Ilya Ehrenbug. "Bible and Sword," a very early work about centuries of British attitudes toward the Jews and Palestine, is lame--as much because of its romantic Anglophilia as its Zionism. Tuchman was, after all, a daughter of American Zionist royalty, and niece of the author of the Morgenthau Plan.

Her biography of Stilwell, however, holds up well four decades later. It is especially impressive during its composition she had no access to the archives of the USSR and PRC, nor to much of the US intelligence record. (If she had access to the ONI records, she would likely have portrayed the KMT as even more murderous.)


Perhaps "Stilwell" succeeds because Zionist concerns were altogether remote from the China-Burma-India theater that was its subject. 

The book  is simultaneously a biography of the General, a history of WWII China, and a thinly-disguised allegory of US involvement in Indochina.  Its most important  influence was on David Halberstam, whose "The Best and the Brightest" was, after the Pentagon Papers, the most influential book in influencing a broad American audience to question the Vietnam War. It was only in later editions that Halberstam fully acknowledged his book's debt to Tuchman in informing him of the persistent  influence of the China Lobby--and of JFK and LBJ's fear of being smeared as "soft" by that lobby--in the decisions to escalate in Vietnam.

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