The Sun Will Rise Again…

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto is a policy analyst and part-time dungeon master. When not talking endlessly about matters of public policy, he is a dungeon master on the NWN World of Avlis

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  1. Avatar James K
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    I think it’s not sufficiently appreciated what the German people did after World War 2. Eschewing justifications and apologies, the German people owned what their government did. That takes tremendous moral courage.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to James K
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      I think it’s insufficiently appreciated how the modern descendants have owned the sins of their parents, grandparents, et al, but I’m not entirely sure the people contemporary with those events were doing such a great job owning it. There was a lot of attempt to shift blame, whether it be on “Prussianism” or just Nazis in general. Explanations how “not everyone knew about the camps” etc.

      Their children had the moral fortitude to own up to the crimes and try to remember them. I do wonder how long that might last, though.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James K
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      I think that the fact that Germany owed up to what they did more than the Japanese did has to do with a lot of geo-political realities more than moral courage. West Germany owed up to the deeds of the Nazis because they were dependent on the UK, France, and the United States for economic and security reasons. The Allies were in a position to make West Germany not forget what they did. The East Germans were different. The East German government whipped their hands of the Nazis and said it wasn’t them. This was because their alliance with the USSR allowed this.

      Japan was dependent on the United States for security. However, the victims of Japanese imperialism were economic basket cases. China and North Korea were in throughs of some of the inform ideological intense forms of Communism. South Korea was an economic and political mess till the 1980s. Same with Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. Japan wasn’t dependnet on their victims in the same way that West Germany was dependent on the Allies. This allowed Japan not to owe up to what they did.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to James K
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      And it’s, as far as I know, unique. Certainly not the Turks.Report

    • Avatar Matty in reply to James K
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      There is a very moving museum in Berlin on the site of Gestapo headquarters. One of the inscriptions by the door says something to the effect of “Our image of ourselves as a peaceful democratic nation depends on being able to face the truth about when we were not”Report

  2. Avatar BlaiseP
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    Perhaps, in the course of time, Americans will learn about the Mexican War, an equally unprovoked and savage fight, a covetous and rapacious grabbing of land which never belonged to us. We saw it, we took it, we did horrible things to the otherwise inoffensive residents — and it’s a offensively blank spot in the American history books.

    Sometimes we see the Mexican War as a prequel to the American Civil War, all the men who would later fight each other at Gettysburg and the Wilderness, only on that occasion on the same victorious side. The US Marine Corps still proudly sings of the “Halls of Montezuma”. Faulkner once said:

    When the shadow of the sash appeared in the curtains it was between seven and eight oclock and then I was in time again, hearing the watch. It was Grandfather’s and when Father gave it to me he said I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire; it’s rather excrutiatingly apt that you will use it to gain the reducto absurdum of all human experience which can fit your individual needs no better than it fitted his or his father’s. I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.

    Perhaps, like the victim of a particularly bad accident, mankind suffers from a sort of amnesia. The moment of impact is never remembered. If Japan does not remember the victories in Korea, Manchuria, China and the Pacific islands, it is not triumph we remember but loss and defeat. American triumph in WW2 involved burning entire cities to cinders, or in the cases of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to plasma and poisonous ashes. The fire tornadoes which burned Hamburg, America’s hypocritical recruitment of all those Nazi scientists…..

    It is pointless to beat our breasts for the sins of our fathers. It is equally ridiculous to adorn their evil with the garlands of remembrance. But there is a use for Yasukuni as a shrine for a similar class of heroes, a great contribution to international peace and goodwill. I propose Yasukuni Jinja should also induct Bomber Harris, the great destroyer of cities. George Armstrong Custer is a worthy candidate, his kami is still strong. Wernher von Braun, whose rockets were built with Nazi slaves, then later went to the moon, a full member of the SS: his heroic name should never be forgot. The list of such heroes is very long and all who served with similar distinction should be immortalised, lest they pass into oblivion.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BlaiseP
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      Quite so. It’s interesting to me that American highschool kids almost all read Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” but virtually none of them learn much about the conflict that prompted it. Divested of the fact that the United States was deeply in the wrong, it all just turns into a bunch of mushy angst.Report

      • Avatar Pub Editor in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        Well said. Ofttimes items like Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” become unmoored from their specific temporal contexts. People are likely to forget Tolstoy’s opposition to the Russo-Japanese War, or (maybe?) Gandhi’s position vis-a-vis the war effort of the British Empire in World War II.

        One of the pleasant surprises of reading Benjamin Thomas’s Abraham Lincoln: A Biography
        was learning about Congressman Lincoln’s opposition to the Mexican War (along with many other Whigs).Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Pub Editor
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          Thoreau is a dead letter these days. He’s no longer taught. Thoreau is the sort of author one bright kid hands to another saying “You have to read this, dude!”

          His most famous bit, On Walden Pond might lead the unwary to think he was deep in the woods. He was even then on a few acres of land in suburban Boston. The land had been logged out a century before: he was Communin’ with Nature in second growth forest. For those of us who’ve read Civil Disobedience, we know about that rude old tax collector.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to BlaiseP
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      Like many Americans, appreciating the naked aggression of the Mexican War is particularly painful because I live in territory that was conquered in that conflict, and I am on balance please with what we have done with that territory.

      But there was dishonor earned in getting it, no question.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko
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        I’m not particularly pleased with what we’ve done with the place over the intervening years. It was mostly a war waged so slavery could expand to the West and everyone understood it to be so at the time. Lincoln, writing to Herndon, summed it up pretty nicely, a stern bit of prose all our Commanders in Chief ought to read.

        Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If, to-day, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, “I see no probability of the British invading us” but he will say to you, “Be silent; I see it, if you don’t.”

        The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood. Report

        • Avatar Pub Editor in reply to BlaiseP
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          In a similar vein, here’s Grant, writing in his memoirs some 35+ years later (and after some of those conquered territories had become states):

          Generally, the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to BlaiseP
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          Well done, Blaise-by-proxy. Nailed it.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP
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      Like we’ve been telling you, Southern California was evil from its birth.Report

    • Avatar Matty in reply to BlaiseP
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      Perhaps, in the course of time, Americans will learn about the Mexican War

      I may not be American but I was a little shocked on finding the Ninos Heroes memorial in Chatapultec Park. I’d had no idea how totally Mexico was defeated or how close America came to annexing the whole lot.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to BlaiseP
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      It creeps me out that the main thing people seem to remember Polk for was “He kept all of his campaign promises! Why can’t we have more presidents like that!”

      He launched a completely unjustifiable war for territorial conquest, but it’s overlooked because he won, stunningly. It’s easier to admit historical wrongdoing by one’s country when there aren’t major and obvious ways you benefited from them.Report

  3. Avatar Kim
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    We celebrate terrorists (and reactionaries) every Hanukkah.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kim
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      Were the Hasmoneans really that reactionary compared to the Selucids? Selucid culture was more hedonistic than Jewish culture but it wasn’t that much better on things like gender equality or equal rights as we understand them today. Both were very patriarchal. The Selucids were in some ways more unfriendly towards women than Jewish culture. Infanticide, especially of unwanted female children, was practiced by practically every culture but Jews and Persians at the time. Women arguably had more rights in marriage and property under Jewish law than Selucid Greek law and Jewish law was more human towards the poor, widows, and orphans. Its really a stretch to call the Hasmoneans reactionary. Prudes yes, reactionaries no. Its kind of like a more ancient version of the Round-heads and the Cavaliers in the English Civil War.Report

  4. Avatar Pub Editor
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    Nob, have you seen any trailers for “Emperor” yet? I’d be interested in your impressions.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley
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    Outstanding post, Nob. And I agree with BP that we Americans have our own whitewashed history. I’ve rarely been as irritated by an op-ed piece as I was when Michelle Malkin not only denied that the U.S. had stolen the southwest from Mexico, but expressed outrage that anyone would say so.Report

    • Avatar Lyle in reply to James Hanley
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      Actually the Mexicans were only sort of owning it with little control. Consider the Mormons settled with no involvement with the Mexican Government which was 2000 miles away. The British were looking at getting Ca as well, with talks occuring with local British reps, looking for control of San Francisco as the best harbor on the ne pacific coast. The actual conquest of the area was almost a walk thru, the real battles happened in Mx, There were the battles near Monterrey, and then when there was no mexican government willing to negotiate, the US invaded and took Mexico city to set one up, that would negotiate. (Before this negotiating with the US was a good way to get shot)
      So although the land was nominally mexican it was not occupied, and at least in the 19th century point of view if land is unoccupied it is free for the taking. (Read Seizing Destiny for more on this)Report

      • Avatar Matty in reply to Lyle
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        Unoccupied? Does the name Geronimo mean anything to you?Report

        • Avatar Lyle in reply to Matty
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          Given that the major reason for the war was to gain California according to Jame K, Polk, and the land between was little known (1/2 of New Mexico, 1/3 of Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Arizona) its not clear even how much the folks in Washington knew about the intermountain natives (indeed the intermountain states where almost blank paper on the map, just space between the US and California. ) Anyway the natives in Ca had been “civilized” by the spanish and the missions (along the coast which was the only part of California that was known at the time)Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Lyle
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            America did know those intermountain natives very well. Since Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark west to explore their new purchase from Napoleon (who had sold Spanish possessions on the cheap to fund his wars) the USA had been continuously probing west, bullying where they could and trading where they had to — the native peoples were fairly well understood, at least where there was river access.

            America sent emissaries out to the intermountain people, trying to get them to fight for us or at least rebel against the Mexicans. The Americans made all sorts of promises to them and would break them all, over time. Those native peoples knew the score: they knew of all the promises we’d made to the tribes to the east, when those peoples had to decide between the various powers-that-were: the British, the French, the Americans and to a lesser extent the Spanish.

            But some of those emissaries, especially John Fremont, found willing ears. The Bear State Revolt starts in 1846, one of the opening salvos of the Mexican-American War.

            Those people didn’t especially like the Spanish or the Mexicans for that matter. Benign neglect had set in: the Spanish (and the French who would later put in some time in Mexico ) were mostly interested in extending their own empires into the New World and they didn’t care who they found there as long as they could beat some tribute out of them and exploit them. Once the gold was gone, so were most of the conquerors.

            But once gold was discovered in California in 1848, it was all over but the crying and there wasn’t much of that. The native peoples of California were so utterly destroyed, it’s hard to pick up the pieces.Report

  6. Avatar Glyph
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    Nob – can I ask a question about your addendum:

    I think the likes of Hideki Tojo, Seishiro Itagaki, etc. should be disinterred from Yasukuni. We should then just stick their busts onto the statues of Lee, Stonewall Jackson, et al. (And yes, perhaps it does mean I put those war criminals in the same plane as those confederate “heroes”)

    I am not familiar with all the history in all cases, but I wonder about the conflation of “war crimes” with “fighting for the wrong side”. Isn’t it possible to fight honorably for the wrong side (and dishonorably for the right side), or are you always automatically a “war criminal” if you fought for the wrong side (and not one if you fought for the right one)?

    That is, Sherman was on the right side, and what he did arguably worked (as, arguably, did the atomic attacks on Japan), but I am still not 100% sure that these things weren’t “crimes” (even if, in the end, possibly excusable ones).Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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      Shoot, I failed to close the , can somebody please fix?Report

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Glyph
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      I think one of the many evil things about war is that any attempt for redress of grievances after the war, or for postwar punishment of crimes committed during the war, will be tainted by the idea that any punishment represents a “victors’ vengeance.” I don’t know how one can escape from that problem.

      So, I guess I don’t really have an answer to your question.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Pierre Corneille
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        Yeah, this, and I wonder about the incentives that the idea of “war crimes only belong to the losing side” create.

        If I know that if I lose, I will be prosecuted for war crimes, but if I win, it will be just “what had to be done”, why not fight in the most vicious scorched-earth way, all the time? Don’t we want to preserve the idea that even if you are fighting for the wrong side, there are still right and wrong ways to go about that, and it’s best to go about it in the right way?Report

        • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Glyph
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          I think I would want to preserve that idea. (And to be fair, sometimes one side might punish its own war criminals. Cf. Lt. Calley–he ultimately got only a slap on the wrist, but at least it was some punishment. It’s probably the exception that proves or tests the rule, however.)

          It does seem to me that the architects of Nanjing and the rest of the second Sino-Japanese War were criminal* , both in their goals and in the way they executed those goals. On the other hand, the Allies may have–and probably did, although I’m ignorant of the details–committed crimes, but their most immediate goal was to stop things what Japan and Germany were doing.**

          Again, I’m leaving most of your questions unanswered because I don’t have an answer. Can one fight honorably for a bad cause? Can one fight honorably for a good cause? Is killing always wrong, even when it is necessary and therefore the person who kills with justification has also done something wrong? I don’t know, and as far as I’m personally concerned, I hope those questions remain theoretical.

          *At least in the sense of “should be considered criminal”….I have a hard time identifying a “crime” when war is, supposedly and by at least some definitions, the absence of law.
          **Of course, the Allies had their own more self-interested and not always laudable goals, too.Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to Pierre Corneille
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            Well, and Blaise makes this point loudly and often…war IS a goddamned crime. But I don’t think we want that to mean that all things are then permissible within it.

            I don’t know why, but I can excuse Sherman and the atomic attacks. Because they appear to have broken the will of the enemy and hastened the wars’ ends, and arguably overall preserved lives on net.

            But what if you proposed to line up an equivalent # of civilians, and pour gasoline on them one-by-one, and strike a match and burn them to death, to the same intended end? I don’t know why, but that is clearly out of bounds for me.Report

            • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Glyph
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              Same here, I see Sherman’s march to the sea and his burning down Atlanta, and the atom bomb as permissible, or at least arguably so (assuming they were what was required for the stated aims, etc.).

              But I the last scenario seems out of bounds to me, too.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph
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              Sherman was too nice.

              The atomic attacks weren’t half as bad as what we did bombing Germany.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Glyph
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              To my way of thinking, war the underlying reality. The rule of law is a beautiful illusion, perpetuated only in peacetime. Society drives along the road built on top of a mountain ridge: to one side, the canyon of Manifest Destiny and Lebensraum and Co-Prosperity Spheres — it has many names.

              On the other side, we have Flowerpot Canyon, the flowerpot that rests in the middle of negotiation tables where much is said and nothing is accomplished, the homage vice pays to virtue. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.

              There is no justification for what is done in war. In war, there is no justice, whatever Augustine and Aquinas and the rest of those skim-milk eunuchs might say of it. Funny you should quote Sherman:

              There will soon come an armed contest between capital and labor. They will oppose each other, not with words and arguments, but with shot and shell, gun-powder and cannon. The better classes are tired of the insane howling of the lower strata and they mean to stop them.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
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      “War crimes” is a misnomer. We excoriate the Confederacy for what it stood for. Even if it hadn’t murdered black POWs and kidnapped free blacks when the opportunity arose, fighting for it still meant fighting to perpetuate slavery. Likewise, the crimes of Nazi Germany were largely crimes against civilian populations. They wouldn’t have a different character if they’d happened during peace time.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling
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        Mike, I am not sure if you are replying to me or Nob’s original point, but it seems to me possible that one can excoriate the Confederacy/Nazi Germany while still excusing certain of its individual military leaders of “war crimes”, as long as they fought honorably (whatever that means) on the battlefield.

        Like, it seems Rommel was probably worthy of respect, despite who he fought for (and of course, he was linked to assassination plots against Hitler, which got him killed.)

        Or is this what you are saying? This was why I questioned Nob’s addendum to begin with, because it seems to conflate two different concepts.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
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          Other than fighting for a regime that wanted to murder and/or enslave much of the population it conquered, what did Rommel ever do to anybody? And if we all excuse Lee for the general unpleasantnesses of the Confederacy, why is there so much Southern Heritage BS claiming, with no substantiation whatever, that he was personally opposed to slavery?

          That is,

          1. “War crimes” is a poor term for crimes against civilians that happen to occur during war time.
          2. Supporting a criminal regime is in itself a crime, and being a top officer in its military is an example of that.Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling
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            But w/r/t Rommel, what if (and I don’t know if this is the case, so treat as hypothetical) he was a military person that predated the rise of the Nazis to political power, and did not know (and again, I have no idea if that is true) exactly what they were getting up to back home?

            From wiki (so, saltgrains aplenty):

            Rommel is regarded as having been a humane and professional officer.[4] His Afrika Korps was never accused of war crimes, and soldiers captured during his Africa campaign were reported to have been treated humanely.[5] Orders to kill Jewish soldiers, civilians and captured commandos were ignored.[6] Late in the war, Rommel was linked to the conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Since Rommel was a national hero, Hitler desired to eliminate him quietly. He forced Rommel to commit suicide with a cyanide pill, in return for assurances that Rommel’s family would not be persecuted following his death.

            Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
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              If he ignored the criminal orders, he knew that they were being given and not ignored elsewhere.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling
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                So ignore that. Treat this as hypo: Assume he never got any specific orders about Jews at all, and due to the vagaries of communication at the time, didn’t know what was going on at home.

                Still a criminal, because he fought for a criminal regime?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph
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                I suppose that if the criminality of the regime were such a well-kept secret that its chief military officers were unaware of it, sure. But that seems really far-fetched.Report

              • In our military, does the injunction to obey only lawful orders mean that one can refuse lawful orders if the same person giving those orders gives unlawful ones to others?

                It’s a semi-serious question. (As far as Rommel is concerned, I have a hard time excusing him completely. After all, he presumably could have resigned, I imagine, and I agree he probably knew the nature of the Nazi regime regardless of whether he participated directly.)Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Pierre Corneille
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                If it’s not clear, maybe Rommel’s not the best case study/hypo, I don’t know.

                It just seems possible to me that a military man could *fight* honorably, albeit for a dishonorable regime.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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                And conversely, that fighting for an honorable regime does not make all actions taken in support of that regime honorable.Report

          • Avatar Fnord in reply to Mike Schilling
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            What about Imperial Japan, then? Probably not a pleasant place to live, I’ll grant you. But it wasn’t, for the most part, engaging in the same kind of large scale crimes against its own residents as the pre-Civil War southern US or Nazi Germany. Some of the civilian mistreatment in occupied areas (particularly the forced labor and human experimentation) might fall into a similar category. But most of the mass killings, even those executed against civilians rather than POWs, were either part of the process of invasion and occupation, or part of systematic looting and scorched earth tactics preceding withdrawal in the face of invasion.

            This is not to say that the tactics were anything less criminal atrocities. But they were part of the war itself.

            This sort of division is even more clear before the modern era, where atrocities in warfare were not uncommon even for (relatively) enlightened regimes.Report

  7. Avatar zic
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    Nob, what a beautiful thing to write.

    I don’t know nearly enough about Japanese culture to speak here. But what little I do know (and this from knowing people, not from TV and Godzilla movies) speaks to the importance of honor.

    So I wonder, how difficult does owning past wrongs become due to honor, to the perceptions of how one should maintain honor? And based on the answer to that, the second question might be how does assuming and embracing past wrongs as a way of future rights become an honorable thing to do?Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to zic
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      Okay, totally-half-assed reading of Japanese history, here, but there is a problem that Japan exemplifies more than even the Prussian officers or the French officers of WWI, who are other culprits (there are others, this is not ethnically linked as much as it is culturally linked).

      There is nothing inherently wrong with the philosophy of the warrior. There are lots of things that can be honorable about being a warrior (I know, this puts me at odds with my agreement with Blaise’s statement upthread that there is no justice in war, but hold onto that for a second).

      When it gets dangerous is when the philosophy of the warrior turns into the cult of the warrior, with the belief that there is always death before dishonor.

      Because the result of that is at the end of the day, you are shown your dishonor and you have no penance. No absolution. You dishonored, and you’re still here. The only two outcomes that are acceptable are to kill yourself or convince yourself that you didn’t actually dishonor in the first place.

      I think there’s a powerful link between that and some of our longest-standing conflicts. We cannot admit that we have done horrible things, because that would require penance, which would require us to pay our enemies blood price, and we cannot do that because our enemies killed our grandfathers.

      The Vikings had it right, with wergild.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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        thanks, Patrick.

        I asked because of an experience a friend had. For many years, she’s had international students board with her; mostly Japanese. One, a beautiful, intelligent, and lively young girl, was date raped; given a drug, raped, didn’t remember, but all the signs of rape were there.

        Over the course of the next two weeks, she tried to commit suicide — because of the loss of honor — dozens of times. Her mother was called here, took a few weeks for her to arrive, and then we witnessed the strange situation of the mother reinforcing the notions of honor lost, and an increase in suicide attempts by this poor young girl.

        She was hospitalized for a week, treated with anti-psychotic/anti-depressive medications, and then released to her mother’s care and taken back to Japan. I do not know what happened to her after. In the intervening 18 years, I’ve often wondered about her.

        I had never considered, before, how concepts of honor could be so important that they make some actively seek out an end of life. Faced with Nob’s post, I can only take this one story and amplify it, and ask: how much does honor matter here? What don’t I know of it’s cultural shaping?Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to zic
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          I’ve heard stories like this and I confess while I get how humans do this sort of thing intellectually it seems utterly lacking in humanity from an empathy perspective.

          Ending your life due to an ending of your honor seems to me to be ultimately a coward’s way out, an injust way out. It absolves you of the burden of trying to re-establish your honor. (I understand that this thinking is very likely my Western philosophy biases, so I don’t claim that it’s anywhere near the only way of looking at these sorts of things.) At the least, though, it has the merit of being your honor vs. the wronged party. You did something wrong. You’re choosing to act to correct it. It’s alien to me, but only by a bit (the action chosen, largely dictated by your cultural norms).

          Ending your life due to an ending of your perceived honor seems to me to be ultimately dehumanizing and just wrong. In these sort of particular cases, you’ve put the perceived honor of the rape victim – which is largely the judgement of your culture – the cost of the crime, on the victim rather than the perpetrator. Honor killings in some other cultures are another case. I can’t wrap my head around the idea that because a large body of someones think that someone else’s actions have reflected on you, that you bear the responsibility to act. That’s just completely effed.Report

        • Avatar Pinky in reply to zic
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          I made a (vague, clumsy) comment below about the role of honor/shame versus law/guilt in cultures. It’s a difference that we overlook for some reason. I’d love to see someone more schooled in sociology make a comment about the subject.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to zic
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          I don’t pretend to speak for how Japanese people feel, though I’ve known an American kid raised in Japan who committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. I knew him well enough to say what motivated him: despair and alienation, mostly.

          Nob can correct me here, but I wouldn’t conflate the seppuku of the WW2 era with what’s going on today. They’re two separate motivations. In F’s case, he’d lost his faith, lost his girlfriend, lost his way generally. He was really more Japanese than American, an excellent calligrapher, deeply bound up in Japanese tradition and ethos. I read his suicide note. I won’t go into it specifically but he felt he was internally bankrupt, that he’d lost his reasons for living.

          We declare bankruptcy in America and don’t commit suicide as often. But in Japan, bankruptcy is almost impossible. Creditors are horribly persistent. Suicide seems to be a form of bankruptcy. hasan, tousan, awful words in Japanese, literally topple-property, defeat-property. That second character, san which implies property and factory production is also the word to give birth, to spawn.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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        says:

        The Vikings had it right, with wergild.

        Not so sure about this.

        1.) Did Vikings build a lasting civilization?

        2.) Are they remembered fondly by the non-Viking societies they interacted with, or is “Viking” pretty much synonymous with “rape/pillage” in those societies?

        3.) Following on #2, the ability to pay weregild, much like the ability to buy indulgences or make confession, seems likely to me in some cases to INCREASE bad behavior; because any sin now, can always be paid for later, in money or in Hail Marys.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Glyph
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          says:

          The Russians and to some extent the Germans remember them well. Nothing to steal, much to trade. [HONEY!]Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Glyph
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          says:

          (1) Nope.
          (2) Nope. Yep. But their concept of wergild didn’t extend outside their society, so that’s why. But it worked internally. That’s not a process failure, it’s a problem domain failure. The concept is sound.
          (3) Well, the thing is that there is no path to long term reconciliation without acknowledging the wrong. People are going to misbehave. If the victims never get compensation, they feel wronged. And sooner or later, they misbehave. Shoot, do we need to list all of the examples?

          While you might get the occasional, “Screw it, that guy needs killin’, I’ll pay for it.” exception, I think that will happen not so much more than, “Screw it, that guy needs killin’, I’d go to jail for it.” which is what we have now, and at the very least the next generation gets the money.

          I’m not advocating wergild as a general system of justice, mind you. I’m saying that conceptually, it’s a good block on preventing the philosophy of the warrior from becoming the cult of the warrior.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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        says:

        The cult of the warrior, at least bushido, carries three characters:

        The first, mu/bu is pretty obvious: military.
        The second is a titular form, meaning gentleman in some cases, but usually seen in combination with other prefixed characters, as in this case bushi, a samurai. A knight is kishi, horse-gentleman. A Ph.D., hakushi, dissertation/exposition-gentleman.

        shi carries a weight of honour. Not every title gets a shi suffix. shi is gentry.

        do you can guess already. It means a path or a method, a technique. But it’s not really ethics, not yet, though it does appear in doutoku, ethics == way-virtue. And it’s almost never seen alone, it’s a radical. Most of the time you see it, it’s paired up with some other concept.

        There’s no honour in war. There are courtesies, certain useful conventions evolved over time. Honour? Not a bit of it. It’s a glorious flag-draped coffin full of rotting meat. Those gloves the pallbearers wear? Guess how they evolved that convention. War has to be smelled to be believed. War doesn’t obey our nice civilian conventions. That’s why we have an entirely separate justice system, UCMJ, for just such cases: soldiers to sit in judgement of other soldiers, seeing if they’ve violated the Military Gentleman’s Way of Doing Things.

        The politicians who start these wars, the legislatures which perpetuate them with money and men, the war industries which benefit from those wars, the whores and thieves and camp-followers — when the Union Army was marching to Gettysburg, the vultures were circling overhead, knowing a feast would follow. That’s what I think about the people who start these wars. They never fight them but they all end up fat and sleek as a result of them.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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        says:

        You’d do well to remember the lesson of the Danegeld.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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        says:

        I see pinkies twitching… and spurting blood.
        I disagree.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Patrick Cahalan
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        says:

        “There is nothing inherently wrong with the philosophy of the warrior. There are lots of things that can be honorable about being a warrior (I know, this puts me at odds with my agreement with Blaise’s statement upthread that there is no justice in war, but hold onto that for a second).”

        Great Warrior? Hmmmm… Wars not make one great.

        I don’t know exactly what the philosophy or beliefes of the warrior a, but I suspect that there is a lot wrong with it.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Shazbot5
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          says:

          There is a difference between a warrior and a soldier, between the philosophy of the warrior and the cult of the warrior, between violence used for honorable purpose and not.

          I agree with Blaise, ultimately, that war – itself – is unjust, and there is no honor to be had in waging it.

          But if there is one thing that humans are good at, it’s waging war on each other. And there is also no honor in refusing to defend you and yours if someone wages war upon you.

          I do think that there is a place where one can approach the act of becoming and being a warrior with honor, without attempting to gloss honor onto the act of acting as a warrior. It’s a very fine distinction and one that most people (including warriors) don’t examine enough, granted.Report

  8. Avatar Pinky
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    says:

    Germany had a law-based culture. They did wrong and admitted it. Also, they had the advantage (I guess you’d call it) of knowing that excess pride after a military loss was what got them into WWII in the first place.

    Japan and parts of the US South have honor-based cultures.

    There was a split in the North about how to handle the South after the war. The radical reconstructionists wanted to break their spirit, but Johnson and others tried to reintegrate them into the US as soon as possible. A culture of honor is very reluctant to admit its failure.

    In Japan, there was an additional aspect that the Americans were sensitive to, the religious implications of criticizing dead relatives. So the US went out of its way to treat the Japanese respectfully. As you’d expect, this gave them a bit of a shield against self-examination.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Pinky
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      says:

      There are other problems with comparing Germany, Japan and the Confeds. The Germans were not all thrilled with going back to war in WW2. They had suffered plenty in WW1 and were war weary also. Yeah they were some who wanted Lebensraum and revenge, but plenty of Germans did not want to fight. The Japanese and Confeds hadn’t recently fought a giant brutal war like the Germans had in WW1 and were much more devoted to their cause. They marched to war much more enthusiastically. Also the Germans saw the concentration camps after the war. They were brought face to face with the horrors of the Nazis. The horrors of the Japanese occurred in China and distant islands. They didn’t have to see them. The Confeds never thought their cause was wrong. They didn’t change how they felt about slavery. They remained pro-slave and , through the KKK, were more than happy to reinstate white supremacy.Report

  9. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    Boy, this is really excellent Nob.

    Great Friday posts all around.Report

  10. Avatar KatherineMW
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    says:

    Incredibly good post, and stunning well-written. Many other nations have come to terms with the historical atrocities they’ve been responsible for. Japan can, and should, do so as well, and the more Japanese people there are who say so publicly, the better.

    I really can’t think of anything else to add.Report

  11. Avatar Ken
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    says:

    I’m reminded of a story I recently read (title forgotten) that involved an intervention in North Korea. There was a little throwaway line, to the effect that Japan provided material but not troops, because “they knew better than to ever again put troops anywhere the Pacific touched land.”

    I know little of modern Japanese politics, is there any significant faction calling for the JSDF to become more active? I do know that some of our more clueless American politicians (but I repeat myself) sometimes say that Japan should help with the Korean DMZ or similar operations.Report

  12. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    says:

    It’s a myth that works to whitewash atrocities, portray civilians in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki as victims.

    But they were. Some of them, at least. Victims as much or more of the Japanese government as of the American government, but victims nevertheless. I find it hard to believe that every one of them were willing and enthusiastic supporters of the Japanese government’s actions.

    I reject the idea of racial responsibility. I applaud your condemnation of the evil done by your countrymen, but you were not marching into Nanjing along with them, were you? Did you cheer them on from the homefront? Did you willingly work to support them? No? Then what do you have to apologize for? How can you apologize, when the guilt is not yours to bear?Report

    • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to Brandon Berg
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      says:

      I generally agree with what you say, and I almost wrote something similar. However, I do think Nob’s primary concern is more about how some present-day Japanese have tried to remember, and in effect laud, this criminal past.

      But again, I agree. While I think that Nob might have some responsibility to critique the cult of the old empire–just like I believe I have a responsibility to critique, or at least not be complicit with the cult of the lost cause–he also bears no personal blame for what he did not do.Report

  13. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    In the interests of full disclosure and to tangent off BlaiseP, when are we Americans going to own up to our behavior in agitating for war, embargoing Japan, the disception at Pearl Harbor, and our refusal to accept Japan’s conditional surrender? When are we going to admit that we need not drop two atom bombs on that country?

    When are OUR war criminals going to be dug up and their monuments removed?Report

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