Monday, July 9, 2012

James Madison's USA and...Hideki Tojo's Japan?

Hideki Tojo 1884 - 1948
James Madison 1751 - 1836
















What could the U.S. President James Madison and Imperial Japan's wartime Prime Minister, Hideki Tojo, possibly have in common?  Much more than you might suppose.  James Madison (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Madison) was the fourth President of the United States and is widely regarded as the "father of the U.S. Constitution".  Hideki Tojo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hideki_Tōjō) was the Prime Minister of Japan who led a militarist regime into war against the USA with the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941 and who was hanged for war crimes in 1948.

In 1812, almost exactly 200 years ago this summer, Madison launched the United States into a war of choice against the greatest naval, military and economic power in the world at the time -- Great Britain. (see earlier post, War of 1812, 4/1/12).  The USA had already been fighting a brutal war of extermination against the native American's prior to this on the north American continent.  The Americans had a great sense of racial and moral superiority over their aboriginal enemies.  The Americans were full of overconfidence that led them to believe that the conquest of Canada was, in Thomas Jefferson's words, a "mere matter of marching" (Jefferson wrote in an August 1812 letter, "The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next, and the final expulsion of England  from the American continent.") and that they would be met with open arms by the numerous former Americans who lived in Canada.  The Americans were, in truth, not nearly as well prepared as they ought to have been before the commencement of operations.  They relied too much on unproven militia who would, at times, refuse to cross state borders.  Moreover, Madison was far better as a legislator and political theorist than he was a commander-in-chief.  He relied on a succession of incompetent commanders during the course of the war.

American Ally 1812
By launching this war, Madison allied himself with a united Europe that was controlled by a tremendously successful military dictatorship.   In 1812, for a time, Napoleon I ruled from Madrid to Moscow directly and with his allies.  The Austrian Emperor, Francis II, who had fought two wars against him (1805 and 1809) was now his father-in-law.  The Austrian princess, Marie Louise, had given him a new son and male heir to the throne.  His empire was at its zenith.  In 1812, Napoleon was on the verge of invading Russia and putting an end to all opposition in Europe.  Napoleon couldn't lose.

Europe in 1812 (Napoleonic Blue)
The war did not, of course, go quite the way that Madison had hoped for.  U.S. forces botched multiple invasions of Canada.  Northern Maine and upstate New York were, in turn, invaded by British and Canadian forces.  America's de facto ally, Napoleon, experienced his greatest military setback with the disastrous Russian campaign in 1812.  British forces occupied Washington D.C. and burned the White House in 1814, in retaliation for the American burning of York, Canada.  The War of 1812 was so unpopular in New England that it launched a secessionist movement (see earlier post, Two Views of the Hartford Convention, 4/18/12) and the governor of Massachusetts, Caleb Strong, attempted to negotiate a separate peace with Britain -- an action that bordered on treason.   Had it not been for the fortuitous (from the American perspective) deaths of Tecumseh, the Indian warrior, and Isaac Brock, the best British commander in Canada, an Indian buffer nation barring America's path to the Pacific might well have been created.

A hot time at the White House 1814
As it was, the English, after more than twenty years of war with Napoleon and the French Revolutionary forces, were tired of war and a treaty returning the ante-bellum status quo was agreed to in Ghent ending the War of 1812.

Japanese Zero, Paine Field (FHC, Everett WA)
In December of 1941, Hideki Tojo launched Imperial Japan into a war of choice against the greatest economic and industrial power in the world, the USA.  Japan was already engaged in a brutal war of extermination against the Chinese which had started in 1937.  The Japanese had few doubts about their ethnic superiority over the Chinese. While the Americans were not "pressing" Japanese sailors and merchantmen, they were fighting a crippling economic war against the Japanese Empire.  The sale of oil, gasoline and other strategic commodities was embargoed.

Europe in 1941, (Hitler in Red)




In launching this attack, Tojo aligned his nation with a united Europe controlled by Hitler's Germany.  By late 1941, Hitler seemed truly invincible.  Poland, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Greece and Yugoslavia had all been conquered by the German blitzkrieg.  A distracted Britain would be unable to defend her imperial outposts in Hong Kong and Singapore.  The resource-rich Dutch east indies was a headless body with the Netherlands now occupied by the Germans.  India was restive for independence from the British imperial yoke.  The mood in the USA was dominated by isolationist and pacifist sentiment.  The President of the United States was a cripple while Britain was led by a cigar-smoking drunkard.  The Philippines and Guam would be ripe plums there for the picking by Japan after the destruction of the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor.  The Japanese anticipated that many Asian people would greet them as liberators from the white imperialist oppressors.
Japan "ran wild for six months" in its war against the allies just as Admiral Yamamoto had predicted.  The year 1942, however,  saw a complete reversal of fortune with the Axis powers.  General Paulus' 6th army was captured at Stalingrad.  The Japanese carrier superiority was squandered at the battle of Midway which took place June 4 - 7, 1942.  Allied industrial superiority began to produce massive quantities of weapons that would shatter the Axis nations and grind their cities into dust.  Just as Washington D.C. was burnt by the British in 1814, Tokyo was fire-bombed by the allies in 1945.  Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to push the Japanese into unconditional surrender, followed by occupation by allied forces.

Tokyo Fire-bombed, 1945
Winston Churchill
What lessons does Commander Kelly draw from the examples of Madison and Tojo?  First and foremost, we are reminded of the perils and uncertainties attendant upon the launching of any war.  Recall what Churchill (see earlier post, Winston Churchill quotes, 6/2/12) had to say about war after his experiences in the Great War, "Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. Antiquated War Offices, weak, incompetent, or arrogant Commanders, untrustworthy allies, hostile neutrals, malignant Fortune, ugly surprises, awful miscalculations — all take their seats at the Council Board on the morrow of a declaration of war. Always remember, however sure you are that you could easily win, that there would not be a war if the other man did not think he also had a chance."

Second, invading Russia has never been a good idea.


Third, history may not always repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

Finally, one must give long consideration about the advisablity of allying oneself with a "United Europe".





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