Thursday, August 14, 2008

Happy V-J Day

It's hard to believe it has been 63 years since Emperor Hirohito relayed to the allies that he was willing to unconditionally surrender his empire in order to stop the bloodshed that was soon to come through invasion of the islands that make up Japan. Certainly, the bombs that dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have influenced that decision, though there are many who contend that before the bombs dropped, that the Emperor was consulting with his high command over the possibility of surrender.

It is easy to criticize Truman's decision to drop the bombs on civilian targets. I think it is clear that the new President really had no idea just what he was using to end the conflict. But I find it instructive, that this horrific weapon has not been used in a conflict since then. But the development of nuclear weapons has loomed like a shadow upon our civilization. Nuclear proliferation continues to be a major threat. And as the people of our nation, as well as the people of many other nations, have become more religious, and more prone to seeing the world through other-worldly eyes, one wonders at what point will a mushroom cloud signify our own Brunhilde's float down the Rhine.

Certainly, the Japanese learned an important lesson- it is cheaper to buy raw materials than to invade other countries to acquire them. As Germany imports oil from the caucuses region where Army Group South stalled in the summer of 1942, it's clear that Germans of the last 60 years learned a similar lesson. Japan, a nation with few raw materials, has bounced back to become a manufacturing mega-success and a nation that has not taken up the sword since the last kamikazees gave their all to their emperor.

There are lessons to be learned from World War II. One of those lessons, is how a nation can be galvanized when they are attacked without provocation. Japanese could certainly argue that our embargo of them left them few options, but few Americans would have seen it that way as they saw their fleet and their citizens attacked on the Island of Oahu. Americans rallied from the early set-backs in the Phillipines and in Algeria, and went on an offensive that ended along the Elbe and with two mushroom clouds over Japanese cities.

Americans seem to have lost a sense of who they are and what they are about. Hopefully, lessons of the past will illuminate where we need to go in the future.

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