The Pacific War
ON THE WORLD TODAY
THE full significance of the decisions made at Casablanca are slowly becoming apparent. The simple words “unconditional surrender” tie together the loose strands of our political war in Asia. They give meaning to our promises; they put into proper proportion the things we have said and those we have not said.
The Casablanca Conference marks the turning point of our political struggle in Asia. At long last we have come to bedrock; on this we can build. Proof that we are seizing the political initiative can be seen from the fact that the enemy in the Pacific has changed his tune.
First, Japan has switched over from the confident, arrogant, world-conquering Axis line of the past to the “fortress” psychology of Germany. Second, Japan has been forced more and more to accept the political battle on our terms.
Premier Tojo’s speeches should be watched as closely as those of Hitler. The keynote of his speech to the Diet was that the United States and Great Britain, “which vaunt their wealth and strength to the world,” are out to dominate the world. Instead of stressing the older line of Japan’s mission to rule the world, he talked of the island Empire’s ideal of enabling all countries to enjoy peace and security.
Japan now stresses her “strategic superiority” and her success in securing powerful “unsinkable aircraft carriers.” Japan is now, apparently, a “have” nation, not a “have-not.” Because the Anglo-Saxon powers are short of vital war resources, they “come forth for decisive battle, even by risking strategic disadvantages.” While still determined to crush America, General Tojo denies territorial ambitions in the Western Hemisphere.
Japan promises the earth
In political warfare Japan acknowledges our latent strength by promising to conquered countries the same things which we have promised. Burma and the Philippines, for example, are both promised independence. During the current year Japan intends to recognize “the creation of a Burma state.” Independence will be accorded to the Philippines if the Filipinos coöperate with Japan in the establishment of the East Asia Coprosperity Sphere. In these countries where, according to Tojo, the “inhabitants are entering a happy and reassuring life, hitherto unknown” conditions contrast with those in India, towards whose leaders and people Japan extends her heartfelt sympathy. The people of Thailand are described as being valiantly engaged with Japan in the subjugation of the United States and Great Britain. Japan has accepted our own political line.
The effects of the Japanese shift should not be underestimated. We have built up over many years a great deal of sentiment around such symbols as independence, freedom, and equality. These symbols must be part of our own case because they arise out of our own civilization as they do not out of the Japanese national character.
Japan, however, can use them without any sense of responsibility. By promising independence to Burma and the Philippines, by going through the pantomime of surrendering rights of extraterritoriality in China, and by building up the Wang Ching-Wei puppet regime at Nanking, she can do much to neutralize the power of symbols which mean so much to us.
The strategy of lowering the value of all political currency — of creating inflation, as it were, in political symbols — will work to the advantage of the Japanese only so long as their military power remains unbroken. There can be no really successful political offensive against Japan until the conquered people of Asia see our forces driving the Japanese before them. That day is still far off.
That day, however, can be anticipated now with more confidence than ever before. Japan may not win many more campaigns, but she will undoubtedly win some more battles. For some time the Japanese have been openly speculating on the direction from which attacks will come. Colonel Yahagi warns of attack from the north, and the population is being steadily prepared for air raids.
The Japanese are obviously impressed with our mounting production, which they attempt to discount by pointing to their strategic advantages. They have admitted anxiety over the German defeats in Russia. They betray their impatience at the continued resistance of China. These things are more than the orgies of public self-flagellation which Japanese masochism periodically requires and which Japanese leaders periodically supply.
We must know our enemy
What kind of enemy are we coming to grips with? We have surprisingly little information about him. Madame Chiang might well have spent more time in her speeches in this country to explain to us the nature of the enemy. She might rightly have assumed that her first task was to acquaint the American people with the nature of their ally, for her countrymen still remain the most experienced judges of Japanese designs and strength. It is a pity we hear so little from them on the subject.
The more we come to grips with the Japanese, the more we have to agree with the Chinese that these are a people who stand apart from the main stream of world thought. They are unique in the modern world. They are tough fanatics. Their officers, who are thoroughly indoctrinated, rarely surrender. But the common soldier, like the feudal mercenary, can be demoralized.
The Japanese live in a news vacuum. They are perfect examples of the “propaganda man.” People so carefully nourished on controlled intellectual food, so well insulated from all dangerous thought, so stimulated to aggression, and yet so rigidly disciplined, are stable and strong so long as the picture of the world in which they are indoctrinated roughly corresponds to the facts.
The only thing that will smash the picture which Japan’s leaders have built up over so many years will be a first-class military defeat. Until that comes, there is little hope of penetrating the propaganda wall and of bringing home to the Japanese people a true picture of the world they live in.
The pattern of Japanese conquest and control can succeed only where the control is complete. Japanese techniques of psychological warfare are designed for a people already conquered, not for the manipulation of free men. The truth is that Japan has nothing political for export.
The basic ideas of Japan’s social system have been conditioned so much by history and controlled isolation that they fit no other society. They find no spontaneous echo elsewhere, Japan has had less success than any other aggressive power in finding within other countries social groups to further her designs. On this we must be clear: Japan has little power to manipulate social forces outside her control but is a master in the arts of subjugating conquered populations.
Madame Chiang is right. Where the Japanese are in real control they are dangerous if given time; they can consolidate political and economic strength. Only constant opposition, constant resistance, can block their control and exploitation of conquered peoples. On the periphery of Japan’s empire, therefore, the ferment of ideas must be promoted by every means at our disposal. In this we are beginning to have more success.
Taken against a background of the unconditional surrender agreement, President Quezon’s speech of February 20 is keeping alive in the Philippines a hope for better days. In what was perhaps the most important speech of his life, Quezon asked the Philippine people to ignore Tokyo’s promise of independence and to have in mind the “tragic end of Korea’s independence, in utter disregard of a solemn pledge to respect it.” The freedomloving Koreans themselves have taken steps towards unification of the many independence movements which have divided them for many years, and which have made it impossible for us to recognize any one Korean group as the sole legal representative of these people.
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek opened up a growing Chinese political offensive with his broadcast to Japanese-occupied Thailand on February 26. To its people, who have discovered what it means to be a satellite of Japan, he pointed out that “we consider Thailand merely enemy-occupied territory, and not an enemy territory.” He assured them that the United Nations have no territorial ambitions in Thailand, and that freedom can come only by the victory of China and her allies. These are statesmanlike words from the head of a country whose people in Thailand have not always been treated with full justice. It indicates a United Nations concern for minorities which parallels our recent decision to permit American citizens of Japanese ancestry to join the Army.
The importance of political statements from United Nations leaders is often underestimated. Compared with the ringing promises of the enemy they seem cautious and vague. Their full significance can be appreciated only if we remember that they are made by members of a coalition which expects to win and to be held responsible for its promises.
The United Nations is an uneven coalition. Some of its members have long enjoyed what others are fighting for; some are fighting for things which others under different circumstances would stoutly resist. The amazing thing is not that we have agreed on so little, but that we have agreed on so much. The Japanese have been remarkably unsuccessful in their attempts to divide us.
Many of our differences still revolve around India, where we are at last well represented by Mr. Phillips. As allies of the British it would be foolish of us to furnish propaganda material to the Axis; but at the same time we have to count the cost of the Indian government’s victory over the Congress Party in terms of the demoralization of certain sections of Indian and even American opinion. Gloom over the Indian question, however, should not hide the real part which the Indian Army, Indian industry, and India’s strategic potentialities are playing in the war.
In a very real sense the external relations of India are more important than her domestic affairs. It is essential for the United Nations that India and China be on good terms. This requirement must be emphasized because there is a form of British-Indian nationalism which is anti-Chinese and which would like to see India as the great power of the Far East. Out of Chinese-lndian rivalry come stories that China cannot be trusted, that China will make peace with the Japanese. While we may feel reluctant to interfere in the internal affairs of either country, it is to our direct interest not to minimize the role that both are playing in the war.
From the military point of view there are more ways to Tokyo than through China and India. More important still, we can accumulate all the Pacific Islands we care to have and still find ourselves a long way from peace if we do not have China and India in stable political relation to each other and to the other members of the United Nations. The more agreement we have among ourselves before we recover territories occupied by Japan, the better for our military operations. Both India and China can assist us in reaching that understanding.