Pearl Harbor: The Missing Motive
Japan's surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor was an audacious strike. It was a futile military operation. The Japanese started a war they knew they would lose, and did so in a way guaranteed to enrage the enemy. Why? Not oil; that was obtainable in other ways. Conflicts old and new, from both within and without, forced a hard choice on Japan's leaders. More
t was an audacious attack. The Sunday morning bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy tore the heart out of the proud Pacific Fleet and dealt the Americans a stunning defeat.
It was a futile attack, made against a nation the Japanese could not defeat, and done in such a way as could only enrage the Americans. No military goal was advanced by the operation. The Japanese were well aware of all this, none more so than Admiral Yamamoto, Commander of the Imperial Fleet. Yet in 1941, against the advice of the entire Japanese naval command, this adamant opponent of conflict with the United States insisted on beginning a war against the British and Dutch with a surprise attack on the Americans.
Why? Not oil. Yes, the Americans had stopped selling oil to Japan, cutting off 80% of their supply, but the Japanese could have countered the embargo in several ways.The book details the alternative paths Japan could have taken to obtain oil without getting into a war with the United States.
Japan has been a polity for seventeen hundred years, Precedent counts for much. Getting to a good account for the Pearl attack requires a bit of background material. This includes a recapitulation of Japan's past, including relations with its neighbors. The real story behind the Pearl attack is deeply rooted in the history of Japan and East Asia. It is a result of the struggle to protect Japan's modern liberal democracy from foes both within and without. Pearl Harbor: The Missing Motive details the compelling logic that drove Yamamoto and others to this difficult choice.
Bonus: This book's long term scope makes it a good background brief for today's Pacific hemisphere headlines, from Washington to Tokyo to Singapore.
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