November 09, 2003


The 1982 Lebanon War is a far, far closer comparator. I hope the planners are reading into it a bit.

(Saw a documentary on TV the other night, about how Ariel Sharon, then the defence minister, wanted to create a "zone of peace" from Cairo to the north of Lebanon, by installing a pro-Israeli government in Beirut and expelling the PLO... it was what could only be called today a Wolfowitzian vision. If nothing else, it's fair to say "success" by the Americans in Iraq would mean they accomplished what Sharon attempted and failed two decades ago... )

Posted by BruceR at 02:32 AM


Another long essay by Den Beste, with another error that just has to be pointed out... this time the reasons for Germany's declaration of war on the United States on Dec. 11, 1941:

Den Beste writes:

"After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese ambassador in Berlin had hinted to Hitler that if Germany were to declare war on the US, Japan might in turn declare war on the USSR and open a second front against the USSR out of Manchuria. Hitler took the bait and declared war on the US... the Japanese ambassador had gamed Hitler nicely."

Unfortunately, this is not how Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister recalls it. His explanation is found in Shirer's Rise and Fall, and it's quite different:

"I told him (Hitler) that according to the stipulation of the Three-Power pact, since Japan had attacked, we would not have to declare war, formally. The Fuehrer thought this matter over quite a while and then he gave me a very clear decision, 'If we do not stand on the side of Japan,' he said, 'the Pact is politically dead. But that is not the main reason. The chief reason is that the United States already is shooting against our ships. They have been a forceful factor in this war and through their actions have already created a situation of war.' The Fuehrer was of the opinion at that moment that it was quite evident that the United States would now make war against Germany."

Hitler was referring to Roosevelt's "shoot on sight" order against German warships in American waters on Sept. 11, 1941, after a German U-Boat had attempted to torpedo an American naval vessel. The two sides had been involved in escalating naval clashes since April, and U-Boat commanders were begging Hitler to let them launch unrestricted submarine warfare on the Americans, whose ships were by that point escorting British shipping up until the Atlantic midpoint.

With considerable material resources already flowing to Britain and Russia, Hitler concluded, probably rightly, that this was sooner or later going to devolve into a shooting war, and preferred he choose the time and place... which is the main reason why he joined the Japanese right after Pearl Harbour. No Japanese promises with regard to the Soviets were required.

The Japanese were not in the least interested in a war on Russia... they had signed a neutrality treaty with Stalin in April, in fact. (Den Beste elsewhere refers to it as a "de facto" truce, when it was clearly "de jure.") Currently on Hitler's desk on Dec. 7 was an unsigned amendment to the Germany-Japan-Italy Tripartite Pact that prevented the nations from making separate peaces with common enemies... anticipating the Pacific conflict to come. Basically Japan wanted a guarantee that Hitler would not make peace with Britain or the U.S., freeing them to help the other nation in the Pacific. (The only "common enemy" the two sides were guaranteed to have after the Japanese went to war was the British; however, the Japanese evidently saw a U.S.-German war as inevitable, sooner or later too, and wanted to prevent a separate German-U.S. peace for the same reasons.) By Dec. 7, the Germans had only assented to this verbally, and there was some concern on the Japanese side that the surprise of Pearl Harbour (which Germany had not been informed about) would lead them to renege.

For someone who has studied so much bushido, manga, etc., to attribute this kind of trickery to the neo-samurai Japanese national leadership in the first half of the century is... a little odd. Tojo, et al almost certainly would have regarded a proposal to fake the Germans into a war alongside them as dishonourable in the extreme.

(Indeed, some historians have argued Hitler was less interested in a Japanese attack on Russia, which in early December of 1941 still seemed superfluous given the success of Barbarossa, and was pushing the Japanese instead to engage the British in their Far Eastern possessions and India, to take some of the pressure off him and Mussolini in the Mediterranean. He would have considered a Japanese offer to go to war with the Soviets as a strategic mistake on their part and likely would have argued against it, if asked.)

Posted by BruceR at 02:16 AM