Thursday, August 13, 2015

The August follies

In the years following its surrender in August 1945 — abetted by breast-beaters in the West — Japan did a brilliant job of portraying itself as one of the war's primary victims because of the atomic bombs that ended it. (And saved the lives of several hundred thousand Japanese, not to mention the American, British, Chinese, and other lives that would have been lost if the war had gone on for another six months, as everyone expected.) So now, every August, we have the twin spectacles in which Japan first parades its anti-nuke bona fides, then ties itself into knots trying to make an adequate apology for having started the war in the first place. It's particularly amusing this year, on the 70th anniversary of Little Boy and Fat Man on August 6/9, and the Showa emperor's broadcast on August 15. 

Even in 1945, the emperor carefully refrained from admitting any war guilt, or even to admit that he was surrendering. ("The war situation," he said in one of history's greatest understatements, "has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage.") Since then it has only gotten worse, to the point where historians joke that most people know only two things about the Pacific War: that the Americans dropped and atomic bomb on Hiroshima, so the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Prime Minster Abe even now is writing his apology, about which we know that it will anger Japanese nationalists while at the same time failing to satisfy any of Japan's neighbors. In South Korea, 98 percent of the population doesn't think previous apologies have gone far enough; in China, 78 percent think so. Elsewhere in Asia, the nay votes are under 50 percent, but only in Japan does a plurality (48 percent to 28 percent) think the country has apologized enough. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford


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