The Long View 2003-03-28: Police War

I think it was John who first pointed me to Eamonn Fingleton. Fingleton is one of the few journalists who seems to truly understand Japan, and be willing to say what he thinks in public. I suspect this is a matter of personality, since in many cases you can read between the lines of other authors who take a more indirect approach, but I value frankness. Fingleton didn't write the first paragraph of this post, but he could have.


American Mideast Foreign Policy

American Mideast Foreign Policy

On the second Iraq War, let us pause to remember the poor fool Iraqis who resisted the invasion of their country. They didn't have a chance or a choice, and some of them fought us anyway.

It is nonetheless true that Black Hawk Down is an episode Americans should pay more attention to. Our involvement in Somalia illustrates the strange attractor of American foreign policy: we keep making small changes in our trajectory, but continue to return to the same path over and over again.

If you want an illustration of what I mean, look at John's three points at the end of this post. A lack of order in shitty little countries really has become the problem of the American people because the current international order is setup with us as the ultimate guarantor of security. We are the international security utility. The converse side of this policy is our current imperialist immigration policy. From the visa lottery to widespread disregard for formal immigration procedures and policies, we act as if the rest of the world is already part of our imperial umbrella. It is always standard imperial policy to allow free movements of peoples within the oecumene. Finally, while John applies this analysis in a partisan way, we can see clearly in retrospect that ever since the first President Bush, we have been doing things in the Middle East that inflame the local hotheads. Each succeeding President has tried a different approach, but the overall result has been the same. The one thing that will ensure George W Bush will continue to be widely hated is the also managed to kill and maim lots of Americans. While the other Presidents managed not to do this, we should reflect that we haven't managed to prevent chaos or violence in the other cases; we have just made other people do the dying for us.

Police War
Back in the early 1980s, Americans who worked in the Japanese financial services industry often went through three stages in their assessment of it. When they arrived, they looked at those corporate balance-sheets that consisted mostly of debt and at the rigged securities markets. Their first impression was that the whole thing was lunacy. Then, after they had been in Japan for a while, they began to understand the Japanese way of doing things. They would decide that no, the financial system was not lunacy; it was just different. After they had been there long enough, however, they would finally conclude that, yes, the system was different, but it was still crazy.
I suspect that is going to be the sequence in which we will understand the Iraqi strategy as it has developed by the second week of the war. What they are trying to do is stage a much larger version of the scenario from Black Hawk Down. They are not doing this just in the general sense of harassing US forces with irregulars until the US goes away. They have adopted the Somali tactics in some detail. They are using noncombattants as shields during urban engagements. Most strikingly, they have created their own corps of what the Somalis called "technicals." The Iraqis call them "fedeyeen" (remember Dune?), but they are still irregulars who ride in trucks with heavy guns mounted on them.
Quite aside from the question of depraved indifference to civilian life, one cannot help but be struck by how ill-advised all this is. The technicals made a certain amount of sense in Somalia, where they could sweep through a market place and shoot up some lightly defended target. The Iraqi technicals, in contrast, are being sent against tanks. Additionally, the Somali clans were able to mobilize loyal mobs to overrun the downed helicopters in the Battle of Mogadishu. That is not the case in Iraq. Although there have been no mass uprisings in southern Iraq, it does seem to be that civilian and even regular Army resistance to the Coalition has been occurring quite literally at gunpoint.
What we have here is a regime engineering the motions of a guerrilla war, but without the popular base necessary to conduct one. The Baathist Party is conducting a police war. The key elements are the sort of special political units that Stalin used to ginger up the Red Army during World War II. The Iraqi problem is that the bulk of the fighting is being done by the special units. The result is lost engagements that can be turned into the legends of martyrdom. That's not merely a consolation to the Baathists; it's the strategy. It's different, but it's still lunacy.
* * *
The choice of Somalia as a model was not arbitrary. That really was where the post-Cold War reputation of the US in the Gulf region began to fall apart. We should remember that the US military counted the Battle of Mogadishu as a victory; the objective of the raid that occasioned the battle was achieved, and the American casualties were not enormous. In fact, the action came close to achieving the political goal of subduing the warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid. The decision of the Clinton Administration to simply withdraw was widely praised as prudent. In reality, it created the myth that the US cannot tolerate losing its own soldiers. Even at the time, some analysts understood that decision was the gateway to disaster. The Iraq War, 911, and the bombings of the embassies in East Africa, are all among the consequences.
* * *
Should anyone need them, here are short answers to three familiar rhetorical objections to the war:
Why should we attack Iraq when they have never done any harm to us?
That's like saying you object to the police acting against criminals who have not yet harmed you personally. International order cannot be based on force, but it must have some force at its disposal. We have arranged the world over the past 60 years so that there is no one capable of doing it but us.
 
Why can't we just stay in our own country and leave them alone?
Consider that, even with the military deployed to Iraq, there are still more Iraqis in America than there are Americans in Iraq. The Iraqi-Americans are not a problem. Neither, for the most part, are other immigrants from countries ruled by tyrannies. However, such is the flow of populations these days that any international threat creates a domestic security issue. That was how 911 happened.
 
This war simply inflames the Muslim street against the US.
The corners on the Muslim street where the anti-Americans gather were inflamed first by the retreat from Mogadishu, and then by the Clinton Administration's determination to treat the Islamist threat as a law-enforcement problem. The removal of the Baathist regime is the one thing that might calm the street down.

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The Long View 2003-03-23: Psychology Today

The Highway of Death, Iraq 1991

The Highway of Death, Iraq 1991

This little bit on the psychological aspects of warfare is still pertinent twelve years later. One might think that the vast disparity in arms between the United States and everyone else would mean we are unstoppable. This is true, if someone is so foolish as to meet us on our own terms. If you want to see what that looks like, see Desert Storm. Pretty much everybody learned their lesson after the first Iraq War. No one can win a traditional war with the United States at this point.

However, there are many ways to wage war. Most of those ways strike Europeans and their descendants around the world as unsporting. This does not mean ineffective. Psychological warfare is what keeps ISIS going, because they are definitely not military masterminds, in the total war or decisive war mindset of the West. What they are good at is media campaigns, propaganda, and preferentially killing people who can't fight back.

This kind of thing can be defeated using Western-style war, if you are willing to embrace the Imperial mindset. Hell, you might even be able to do it cheap. But it won't be anything like a fair fight that we would feel good about.

Psychology Today
General Tommy Franks, at his press conference in Qatar last week, promised a war "unlike any in history." Another military spokesman described the strategy as "effect-based." The idea is to focus on your objectives, not on the efficiency of your own operation. Suppose you need to cut off power to a certain facility. You might blow up every generating station and powerline in the area. With Effects-Based Strategy, you would do better to determine which particular powerline was critical and attack just that. Best of all would be to find an insider who would throw the "Off" switch for you.
Certainly the war has been full of surprises so far, but one can hardly call this strategy new. This is the doctrine of Sun Tzu's Art of War (also called The Art of Strategy). The acme of success, according to that book, is to win a victory without ever fighting a battle. The essence of this approach is psychological. The enemy commanders must be continually confused about your intentions, position, and capabilities. The enemy leadership must be pushed to capitulation through fear of annihilation and drawn to negotiation by the hope of salvaging something from the conflict. These ideas were obviously very much on the minds of the planners of the Coalition's "Shock and Awe" campaign, which is intended to convince the middle layers of the Iraqi leadership of the hopelessness of their situation, but to do so without heavy casualties, or even infrastructure damage.
A reporter at one of Secretary Rumsfeld's press conferences last week asked why this strategic bombing should cause a collapse of the political will any more reliably than did the campaigns against Germany and Japan in World War II. The Secretary pointed out the real differences between the two situations. The bombing campaigns during World War II were directed against the "national morale" of the enemy. This was a diffuse target, quite unlike the unoffending civilians the strategy killed; the air raids actually served to strengthen morale. Shock and Awe, in contrast, is directed with great precision against the government and the military command. By cutting off one part of the hierarchy from another, it encourages the leaders of the fragments to look to their own survival, rather than that of the regime.
I am sorry, but the reporter's question was acute. Ideologically inspired dictators have great strength to endure the sufferings of their people. If they are not actually killed (and it may yet turn out that Saddam Hussein was killed or incapacitated on the first night), their very isolation will harden their resolve. As for the commanders, we should beware of making the mistake that we made with David Koresh. The enemy leadership are not in it for the money. They are strengthened by their ideology. That is what ideologies are for.
* * *
The objection to an essentially psychological strategy is the same as the objection to a strategy based on assassination. In a war of assassins, the US would have no special advantages. Similarly, the US is not much better positioned to fight a psychological war than are the Iraqis. Marketing is cheap, or at least cheaper than cruise missiles. As I am writing this, the Iraqis are showing off the dead bodies of Coalition servicemen, as well as living prisoners. They are also running successful guerrilla actions in cities that the Coalition has contained, but does not yet "control." These activities may have the effect of reinforcing support for the war, particularly in the US, but they have already created a legend on the Arab street that the Iraqis are giving as good as they get. This propaganda, combined with the huge, public opposition in the West to the war, will certainly give local Iraqi commanders pause about whether capitulation is the wiser course.
Sun Tzu's Asian Way of War is in fact too clever by half. (You might take a look at Victor Davis Hanson's The Western Way of War for a systematic account of the alternative.) It has been said (I wish I could find the article) that Sun wrote his book because large, conventional campaigns on the Asian mainland are difficult for Asians, too. The Era of Contending States, when Sun wrote, was a time of mass warfare and huge casualties. The leaders of the time groped for a way to fight that did not involve so much destruction, rather as the West and the Communist Block did during the Cold War. For the Chinese, at least, the effort failed. Sun's strategy encourages leaders to seek to bring off brilliant coups, which will humiliate the enemy and bring him to the negotiating table. This approach tends to neglect the enemy's objective war-fighting capability. The Japanese tried Shock and Awe at Pearl Harbor. It didn't work
* * *
This does not mean that I entertain doubts about the outcome of the war, or the capacity of the Coalition leadership. Inflexibility is not one of the leadership's failings. I certainly hope that the Baathist regime will suddenly implode, as Shock and Awe envisages. If not, the regime can be defeated in detail.
As for the stay-behind and guerrilla units, these things do not have a history of being all that effective. Stay-behind units are not a novelty, but they serve a purpose only as detached auxiliaries of a state and army-in-being. Ideologically driven regimes sometimes make preparations for an underground to carry on the fight, even after the regime has been destroyed. However, I am not aware that these efforts have ever come to much. The best example is probably the German Werwolf Movement. That failed both militarily and politically; certainly it had no influence on the succeeding Federal Republic.
Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2003-03-21: The Nyarlathotep Left

Perhaps with a better class of antiwar activists in the US, we might be spared further Imperial adventures. It was hard to argue against the Iraq War in the US after 9/11. However, even now, antiwar activism really doesn't have any friends.

The Nyarlathotep Left
Nyarlathotep is the Soul and Messenger of the Other Gods; his prophet is H. P. Lovecraft. Nyarlathotep is also known as the "the Crawling Chaos," because the mark of his presence is glee at the prospect of disorder and despair. Nyarlathotep is imaginary, but that does not prevent him from being the guiding spirit of the current antiwar movement.
The activists are disgusting (the mass barfing in San Francisco) and fatuous (no blood for oil), but we must remember they have the power to do real harm. The hope of tyranny in Iraq, indeed the hope of tyranny in the world, is that fifth columnists will poison the political systems of the few countries still willing to fight for civilization. The images of streets being blocked and stores being looted support that hope. They are reasons for the enemy regime not to negotiate a surrender. They are reasons to use tactics that inflict the maximum casualties, even on the regime's own subjects. There is a perverse resonance here; the activists also need huge casualties, the better to discredit the US Administration.
What chiefly strikes me about the campaign of antiwar demonstrations is their tactical inflexibility. They had a set of slogans and a schedule of actions all prepared before the war began. They are going through with it, despite the fact the war on the ground is not going as they anticipated. They had hoped to appear to be citizens moved to spontaneous outrage by a blizzard of missiles and smart-bombs. They really weren't ready for the possibility that the Coalition might yet settle the matter through negotiation, now that the UN is out of the way. In any case, they have made clear that they are not motivated by what people are seeing on their television screens.
The movement seems to have jumped right to the final phase of the Vietnam era. By that point, the radical element was beyond caring what the public thought. They moved to direct action, even to direct action as a form of therapy. They became so self-referential that they continued blowing things up long after the war ended. If they hoped to garner public sympathy by provoking the police to violent suppression, the attempt failed. The Vietnam antiwar movement is remembered with some fondness only because the Communist regimes it was supporting won. The US public never got a good look at what that victory meant, even in Cambodia.
One encouraging sign is that the antiwar movement shows no sign at all of becoming cool. Particularly compared to the 1960s, there is something deficient about a political movement whose musical signature so far is by the Beastie Boyz
* * *
As for the course of the war, I am as surprised as anyone else by its course so far. Perhaps it is too much to hope that the whole war will prove to be a large mop-up campaign. It also seems unlikely to me that Saddam Hussein could have been killed in that cruise-missile attack on Wednesday night. If he were dead, the wheels would be falling off the regime by now. Maybe they are, and we just have yet to learn of it.
In any case, part of the reason the campaign is going so well is the small number of Coalition partners. In 1990, George Bush Senior put together a magnificent alliance. The effect was to transform one of the most lopsided military victories of modern times into a political draw. Bush Junior refused to make the concessions that would have been necessary for another such coalition. Who was the better diplomat?
Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2003-03-08: Terminal Notes

In his 1997 review of William Strauss and Neil Howe's The Fourth Turning, John predicted that a crisis would erupt in the early twenty-first century. In the cyclical historical model of The Fourth Turning, a crisis successfully averted produces a generation of heroes, for example the Greatest Generation who defeated Germany and Japan in World War 2. A failed resolution to a crisis breeds cynicism and a causes a decay of public order, like the decades after the Civil War that brought us Jim Crow, forgettable presidents, and economic inequality.

At this point, it looks very much like the crisis came as predicted, and also that we haven't really successfully resolved it. As John noted, this does not bode well for the next couple of decades. Those who were in power at the beginning of the crisis will likely not be remembered well by history:

We should note that these changes in the cultural weather are not necessarily good news for GWB or the Republicans. To be in power at the beginning of a crisis, like the Civil War or the Depression-World War II era, is to risk historical opprobrium.

Hopefully it won't turn out as bad as it sounds now.

Terminal Notes
 
The president's ultimatum address last night was perfectly adequate, though it was not one of his great speeches. I was puzzled why it was not delivered from the Oval Office. According to the New York Times today, the reason is that the president looks too isolated when he speaks from behind that big desk. He was already isolated enough diplomatically, the Times implied; why emphasize the point visually? I suppose it would be too much to suggest that the president did not want to be seen talking in front of the Oval Office's familiar French Windows.
When the president does speak from the Oval Office, no doubt he will have good news, for which he wants to take sole credit.
* * *
What shall we say of the assessment by Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic Minority Leader in the Senate, that the diplomacy of the Administration had failed miserably? To begin with, the attitude of the Senator and his party essentially recapitulates domestically what the French have been doing internationally. All these parties have been trying to milk opposition to the war for short-term advantage, all the while positioning themselves to profit more substantially should the war miscarry. So, the short answer to the Senator's question is that the diplomatic prelude to the war developed as it did because the Administration was dealing with people like him.
The long answer is more interesting. The truth is that the US has rarely exercised its diplomatic resources more skillfully and persistently. The best possible outcome would have been a unanimous Security Council resolution last November, with an ultimatum date for February. With that kind of pressure, it's quite likely the Iraqi regime would have cracked. The failure of such an outcome to materialize was not due to any failure of skill or patience on the part of the US Administration. The problem is that the international system in which they had to work is a perpetual-motion machine.
The collective security system that was devised at the end of World War II never really functioned while the Cold War was on. In a way, it was like the constitutions the Soviet Union had. They were wonderfully democratic, pluralistic, and humane. They were also dead letters as long as the Communist Party ran the country. When the Party relaxed its grip, however, the most recent constitution started to function, and everyone discovered it did not work. We now see that the same decision, to relax the rule of Communism and end the Cold War, also allowed the "global constitution" to function for the first time. After a dozen years, we have found out it doesn't work either.
* * *
After the address, I watched the analysis on PBS given by four historians, who were moderated by Jim Lehrer. They acknowledged the novelty of the situation, but they did not seem much inclined to second guess the Administration. They were, on the whole, hopeful that the US would gain credit internationally in the long run.
The exception was Howard Zinn. I was reminded of the joke about the old dog who still chased bitches but had forgotten why. There he was, still spouting the Soviet line after all these years. Again, back when people like him thought that the Fatherland of Socialism was the vanguard of history, it made a certain amount of sense to try to frustrate US policy and diminish US influence. Now he is reduced to defending the manufacture of poison gas. His one consolation is that the preparations to liberate Iraq have made the US internationally unpopular. May he have joy of it.
* * *
Maybe this goes without saying, so I will say it anyway: Strauss & Howe's generational model of American history has been borne out remarkably well by these late, unnerving events. They predicted that the US in the 1990s would try to deal with international and domestic disputes one by one, in isolation. The culture then was centrifugal; there seemed to be a thousand problems. They also predicted that a crisis would begin in this decade, when the nation would abandon half-measures. Those thousand problems would become One Big Problem.
George W. Bush is the very image of the implacable babyboomer Strauss & Howe foresaw; so are his principal opponents. All this is happening a bit earlier than they predicted, which is actually a bad sign: the last time a "crisis" arrived a little early was the Civil War. In any case, the model runs true to form. Stories that would have dominated the news during the Clinton years are now just sidebars: compare the relative public indifference to the recent gender-scandal at the Air Force Academy to the witchhunt occasioned by the Tailhook incident. Even if the media wanted to, it could not return to the Clinton-era definition of "military issue."
We should note that these changes in the cultural weather are not necessarily good news for GWB or the Republicans. To be in power at the beginning of a crisis, like the Civil War or the Depression-World War II era, is to risk historical opprobrium. Consider what happened to President Herbert Hoover: a capable, even a brilliant man, who did not realize the rules had changed. This does not seem to be the problem of Bush & Company, but it is very early days.
* * *
A final point: has anyone noticed that the surname of the US commander in the Persian Gulf, Tommy Franks, is the generic Near Eastern term for "Westerner"? The pronunciation is usually something like "firengi," but the etymology is well-known. (Fans of the later Star Trek spin-off series will no doubt recognize the term.) Far be it from me to be sensitive, but maybe someone should have considered that the phrase "General Franks' headquarters in Baghdad" will grate on some ears like "Sultan Mohammed's palace in Rome."
Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View: Permanent Interests

This is a short essay by John, now nearly 20 years old. It bears recollection now. Would that John had remembered this wisdom in the run up to the Iraq War:

The fundamental reality is that Earth is Eurasia. The important parts of Eurasia are its extremities. The rest of the world's territory is important only as it relates to the ancient civilizations that exist on the supercontinent's eastern and western ends. America is endangered if either of these peripheries becomes aggressive, or falls under the control of a hostile power of the interior. Preventing these things from happening is what American statecraft and armed forces exist to do. Everything else, absolutely everything else, is optional.

The important bits of this essay:

  • Any fixed goal of statecraft is not as good as a willingness to respond to objective circumstances
  • The "international community" is an American invention, made possible by victory in WW2
  • Not all things are possible to all countries at all times
Permanent Interests
by John J. Reilly
 
Probably we can do without a general field theory of U.S. foreign policy. At any rate, it would not be a good idea to run the country's foreign affairs according to one. Nevertheless, there should be certain things that are obvious to everyone about America and the world. You don't have to be very familiar with today's opinion leaders to realize this is not the case. Jack Beatty at the Atlantic Monthly thinks that the end of the Cold War frees us to demobilize. Michael Lind at The New Republic supports the single-minded pursuit of national interests. For that matter, Bob Dole speaking before the World Affairs Council in June of 1996 seemed to think that what U.S. foreign policy needs is "men, not measures." It is hard to think of three establishment figures with more different views generally, yet in this area they all still manage to miss the point in almost the same way.
The point is this: American security is a function of the state of the world. It does not depend on the state of American culture or the competitiveness of the American economy. Such things may determine our ability to do what we have to do. However, the domestic life of America does not define our international needs. Naturally, just because we need to do something, it does not follow that we will be able to do it. One can conceive of a world so hostile or chaotic that no level of American mobilization would make us physically safe and let our society flourish. In such a case, some commentators might be tempted to speak of an America that had turned its attention homeward. The reality would be an America that had ceased to be a subject of history and had become an object. The "state of the world" is not like the state of the weather. It is defined by physical and cultural geography, and it changes far more slowly than daily newspaper readers are apt to think. The fundamental reality is that Earth is Eurasia. The important parts of Eurasia are its extremities. The rest of the world's territory is important only as it relates to the ancient civilizations that exist on the supercontinent's eastern and western ends. America is endangered if either of these peripheries becomes aggressive, or falls under the control of a hostile power of the interior. Preventing these things from happening is what American statecraft and armed forces exist to do. Everything else, absolutely everything else, is optional.
As a practical matter, the pursuit of this strategy means maintaining the outcome of the Second World War. The gaggle of international bodies created by 1950 were designed to do this. The U.N. is simply the alliance that won the Second World War, preserved in amber and surrounded by a rabble of international social workers. The other institutional monuments from that era, the International Monetary Fund and NATO and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (which finally achieved its originally intended form in the World Trade Organization) are similarly American inventions. There is no "international community" to which the United States must defer or against which it must defend its national interests. To the extent there is an international system, it is an American artifact. You neglect its maintenance at your peril.
As a theoretical matter, the nature of this international system was not determined by the Cold War. The combination of the rise of Soviet power and the successful defense against it was simply a particular instance of the system at work. The American interest in a secure Europe and East Asia antedated the Cold War and continues after it. It would have required something like the same level of American engagement even if the Soviet Union had never existed. It requires a comparable level of American engagement now.
This is all you absolutely have to know to keep American foreign policy on-track. Still, there are some other points you might want to keep in mind. For instance, be wary about trying to whittle down U.S. defense commitments to "vital interests." A vital interest is something that, if you don't have it, you are likely to die. A country that will fight only when its vital interests are at stake will only fight when it is fighting for its life. This is not a good idea. Also, beware the notion of the inevitability of a multipolar world. It is based on the false assumption that any political entity will act as a world power as soon as its economy achieves a certain relative size. In reality, not everything is possible to a culture at every point in its history. People who think that today's China is just a larger version of Wilhelmine Germany are in for a surprise rather like that experienced by the enthusiasts for the European Union.
Finally, we may note one other way in which the state of the world has not changed with the end of the Cold War. The Left in the U.S. throughout that period saw its role as more or less the defense of socialism. Thus, they sought to limit the influence and power of the United States. Even with no more Fatherland of Socialism to defend, they still continue the same policy, like a missile defense system that keeps working even after the civilization that built it has died out. When they finally realize that anything they want to achieve in the world will have to be achieved through the United States, we will have a different politics.
End
 
Copyright © 1996 by John J. Reilly

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Rule by Coup

WW2-era Japanese Conflict Resolution Procedure

WW2-era Japanese Conflict Resolution Procedure

I saw a comment on Reddit relating the story of an attempted coup by a Japanese officer to prevent Emperor Hirohito from surrendering after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was interesting enough to reproduce here, in full.


Interesting little story, an 8mm Nambu almost destroyed the earth.
The surrender of Japan to allied forces in 1945 did not come easily, even after two unprecedented acts of destruction against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One of the few ministers to strongly advocate surrender was Shigenori Togo, the Foreign Minister. He was reluctantly supported by Kantaro Suzuki, the PM. But Suzuki was nothing like his predecessor, Hideki "Razor" Tojo. Suzuki was easily manipulated and rather ineffectual.
On the other side of the table was the fiery General Korechika Anami. As both Minister of Defense and Head of the Army, Anami was the single most powerful man in Japan. Even after the horrible event at Nagasaki, Anami refused the surrender terms. He believed that Allied forces, mostly American, would be forced to land in the Kyushu Islands. There, he could mount a massive defense effort and inflict horrible losses on Allied forces. He was not far off. Allied forces had plans for Operation Olympic and Operation Coronet, together known as Op Downfall. Though Op Downfall would never occur, the plan called for the largest amphibious invasion in history. In addition to the man power, an American Army Colonel reported that at least seven atomic bombs would be ready for the invasion.
The Japanese ministers argued to a deadlock. The Emperor himself made an unprecedented entry into politics and made the call himself. Japan would do the unthinkable. For the first time in it's ancient history, it would surrender to a foreign power. In the minds of the Japanese policy makers, and even the average person, their sacred nation would no longer exist, divided among the allied powers America, China, and the borderline traitorous USSR.
Enter our Nambu Type 14, precisely like the one pictured above. The model in question belonged to one Major Hatanaka. Kenji Hatanaka was a mere 22 years old at the time of the Kyujo Incident. He, along with a few other officers heard word of the impending surrender, and reacted as one might expect of a young extremist. He responded with the only emotion that he knew, fury.
Hatanaka boldly approached General Anami and told him of his plans directly.
"I intend to seize control of the government from the treasonous ministers!" He proclaimed. "I have faith in the Army. You will lead us to defend ourselves."
Anami, who claimed he would sleep in the fields and eat soil rather than surrender, made an interesting move. Had he said "yes" the coup would have proceeded. If he said "no" he would have had to arrest Hatanaka, his only intelligence source into the insurrectionists. Instead, he said "Maybe." Either the old general was truly weary, or he cleverly delayed Hatanaka while receiving regular updates on his plans.
Sometime around 1 am on August 15th, just 11 hours before the surrender broadcast, Maj. Hatanaka entered the office for General Mori, head of the Imperial Guardsmen. He explained his intentions, and that he would need the help of the Imperial Guard if he was to save Japan. Mori, a religious man, said the plan was folly. He intended to pray, and advised Hatanaka to do the same. As extremists often do, the insurgent major resorted to sudden violence. He drew his 8mm Nambu and fired a single shot into Mori's skull, killing him instantly. An ally of Hatanaka's killed the General's brother (who had been with them) with a samurai sword. Using Mori's ID stamp, Hatanaka forged Strategic Order #584. The Imperial Guard, or IG, were ordered to seize the Emperor's Palace.
The IG was the chief security apparatus of the Imperial Household. The had no resistance as they took control of the palace. With Hatanaka in direct command, the IG severed the phone lines and ransacked the palace searching for the prerecorded surrender vinyl.
Tokugawa, a man whose name is nearly synonymous with samurai history, was one of the imperial aids. He foresaw such an attempt by the military, and took it upon himself to hide the surrender recording.
Hatanaka and his men searched the room of imperial treasures for the recording. The word of the Emperor was so sacred that to place the recording anywhere else would have been blasphemy. Tokugawa was clearly a man of some practicality. He hid the recording among the maids' bed sheets. Despite getting a rough beat down by the militants, he feigned ignorance and successful threw Hatanaka off the trail.
With the palace quarantined from the outside world, Hatanaka decided that it was more pressing to broadcast his progress to the various commanders. He hoped that Anami's "maybe" would turn into a "yes" if he heard of the coup's initial successes. With the Emperor and Anami, Hatanaka would have the support of the two most powerful men in Japan, even if one was only powerful for few minutes.
Word got out to an Army division known as the Eastern District Army. They received two notifications. One from the insurgents, asking for their support. The other was from the besieged imperial aids, who managed to find one phone line that wasn't cut. It is hard to get more illustrative than that when discussing the choice given to the EDA's commander, General Tanaka.
Hatanaka left the palace and made his way to the other primary target of any coup, the radio station. NHK was one of the last remaining radio broadcast towers in Tokyo. It was also the primary way to contact the Americans. Prior to the incident, NHK had announced that a major proclamation from the Emperor would be broadcasted at noon on August 15th, a Wednesday. American intelligence forces understood that this was going to be the surrender proclamation. After numerous delays and continued fighting, the Americans had tempered faith in this schedule. President Truman had a metaphorical finger on the Op Downfall button, and any changes in the Japanese security situation could have caused him to press it.
General Tanaka, head of the EDA, took a large contingent of men over to the Imperial Palace. He was immediately recognized by the IG. Tanaka had gathered some intel on the affair and briefed the guardsmen. "General Mori has been assasinated. SO#584 is a forgery and Maj. Hatanaka is a rebel." He said. "Where is Maj. Kenji Hatanaka?" He demanded. Terrified, the IG told him that the insurgent was on his way to the radio station. Tanaka immedietly dispatched men to the station and ordered phone lines restored. He was running out of time.
Unless Anami suddenly appeared, Hatanaka's coup d'etat was doomed. But it almost didn't matter. Hatanaka had no desire to usurp control of the government. That was just a means to an end. The endgame was Japan, and a continued war with America. His sacred Japan, despite all her hardships, would win. He had seven rounds in his pistol to prove it.
Ok.. If you read this far, I'm sure you're wondering How does the Nambu almost destroy the world? Here it is.
Hatanaka entered the radio station as the only armed man there. The skeletal staff had no security and no means to defend themselves. They were, however, aware of their all important mission: to deliver the surrender recording to the world and end the war.
Between 4 am and 5, just seven hours before the deadline, Hatanaka put a gun to a staffers head. He explained himself, and demanded airtime. Japan, along with Allied intelligence, would hear him speak. By doing this, he could potentially spark an allied invasion and force Anami's hand in complacency. What Hatanaka did not know, was that Anami had finally died after hours of suffering. He had taken his own life in the ritualistic fashion of cutting his own stomach open.
The radio staff acted in a way no less than heroic. One staffer had snuck downstairs and disabled the broadcast tower. Another, with a gun to his head, told Hatanaka that he could not give him airtime because he had no clearance to do so. He also cited air raid concerns. Had the radio operator caved into the pressure of being at gunpoint, the repercussions could have been unthinkable. Hatanaka's fury ran out. He had finally begun to accept the inevitable. He no longer threatened the radio crew. He begged them.
The phone rang. General Tanaka was on the line. Hatanaka, in tears, begged Tanaka for help and permission to use the radio. He declined. Hatanaka disappeared.
Just a few hours later, the surrender recording was safely delivered to the radio station. It was broadcasted to the world without further incident, and the war was finally over. Hatanaka was discovered at the scene of the crime. He had taken his life with the same Nambu pistol by firing a single shot into the middle of his forehead.
TLDR: An insurgent Japanese major briefly seized partial control of the government as an attempt to prolong WWII and spark what would have been the bloodiest operation in history. He used a Nambu pistol to attempt this before killing himself in failure.

I reproduced this story because it reminded me of something Greg Cochran said about WW2-era Japan:

There was no non-war party in Japan in 1941. Assassinating the prime minister (twice), attempted military coups where the plotters were all forgiven – nobody really ran Japan. Fanatical secret societies of mid-level Army officers had a veto power (by assassination), but no one was really running things. For example, the Kwantung Army decided to attack the Russians (Khalkhyn Gol) by itself, without authorization from the Japanese government or even the Army high command. How weird is that? They lost, too.
In 1941, the question was who to attack, not whether.

This comment, the first time I had read it, reminded me of something I had read in the Economist:

But in retrospect, he says, one of the most chilling moments came when he was still chief executive and had unsuccessfully challenged his chairman, Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, to explain the missing money. He found another director, Hisashi Mori, also seemed to be stonewalling him. “Mr Mori, who do you work for?” he recalls asking, expecting the answer to be Olympus. “Michael, I work for Mr Kikukawa. I'm loyal to Mr Kikukawa,” Mr Mori is said to have replied.

Even today, the normal mode of Japanese loyalty is intensely feudal and personal. Japanese politics are much the same way as business, the LDP is less a party than a coalition of local grandees who collaborate to stay in power, but maintain their own local interests and power structures. In a very real sense, no one is in charge.

The Long View 2003-03-15: The Great White Whale

The most interesting part of this post is John's characterization of statehood in the early twenty-first century:

Harris argues that the current (classical) Liberal order of sovereign states is essentially a subsidy system. The privileges of sovereignty were designed for polities that were economically viable, that could police their interiors, and that could defend themselves. Today, however, these privileges are distributed without distinction to entities that are "states" only in an honorific sense. The result is fantasy: cabals of tribal leaders who plot like mountain bandits under the protection of sovereign immunity.

Unfortunately, many of the states with which we have become involved in during the past 15 years are precisely this: arbitrary constructs that are granted statehood from the outside.

The Great White Whale
Regular readers of The New York Times will know that the the illegitimacy of the Bush Administration has been columnist Paul Krugman's chief preoccupation since the Administration took office. Krugman has never been very particular about the content of his polemic against Bush. He went through a long period in which he argued that the Administration was a tool of the Enron corporation, until enough people pointed out that the Clinton Administration, and Krugman himself, had as much to do with Enron as Bush & Company did. Sometimes the bee in his bonnet buzzes to him about the president's Evangelical-Christian support, sometimes about the Administration's proposed tax cuts (where Krugman actually has a case). His most recent column, George W. Queeg, gives the impression that something in his head has finally snapped.
In a classic instance of psychological projection, he begins by asking:
"Aboard the U.S.S. Caine, it was the business with the strawberries that finally convinced the doubters that something was amiss with the captain. Is foreign policy George W. Bush's quart of strawberries?"
Well, no, but it is pretty clear that George W. Bush has become Krugman's White Whale. Krugman's obsession is impervious to experience. He is still asking why the president is not focusing on North Korea. A Baathist Iraq freed from sanctions, which would quickly follow if the Administration backs down now, would be North Korea's best nuclear customer. Additionally, the behavior of the US in the Mideast now will determine how seriously North Korea will regard US pressure later this year. Iraq and North Korea are the same crisis.
I gather that this "Queeg" business is going to be a key anti-Bush talking point. One of the talking heads on last night's Washington Week already gave a garbled account of the thesis. Krugman asserts: "There's a long list of pundits who previously supported Bush's policy on Iraq but have publicly changed their minds." He does not name these people. From other sources, though, I gather that the term is "Hawks Who Baulked." One might wonder what the point of these polemics at this point may be, but it's not simply malice. People like Krugman have moved on from trying to prevent the removal of Saddam's government. Now they are moving their attention to sabotaging the larger strategy of which the Iraq campaign is a part.
* * *
Moving from the ridiculous, let us consider the sublime, or at any rate some thing worth listening to. Thanks to Ian McCreath for bringing this essay to my attention: Our World Historical Gamble, by Lee Harris of Tech Central Station.
Coming from me, this is not a criticism, but the piece does wax a bit apocalyptic:
"The war with Iraq will constitute one of those momentous turning points of history in which one nation under the guidance of a strong-willed, self-confident leader undertakes to alter the fundamental state of the world. It is, to use the language of Hegel, an event that is world-historical in its significance and scope. And it will be world-historical, no matter what the outcome may be."
That could well be true, but even if it isn't, there is something to be said for any argument that links George W. Bush to Hegel.
Harris argues that the current (classical) Liberal order of sovereign states is essentially a subsidy system. The privileges of sovereignty were designed for polities that were economically viable, that could police their interiors, and that could defend themselves. Today, however, these privileges are distributed without distinction to entities that are "states" only in an honorific sense. The result is fantasy: cabals of tribal leaders who plot like mountain bandits under the protection of sovereign immunity.
The implication is that this subsidy of morbid fantasy has become too costly, in the sense of creating intolerable security risks. It will be replaced by something Harris calls "neo-sovereignty." He has not quite worked out what this will be, but then neither has anyone else.
* * *
When things settle down a bit, I will try to include more items about the paranormal and generally strange. In the meantime, though, you can satisfy your surrealism needs with this interview with Hans Blix. The chief UN weapons inspector thinks things like this:
"To me the question of the environment is more ominous than that of peace and war. We will have regional conflicts and use of force, but world conflicts I do not believe will happen any longer. But the environment, that is a creeping danger. I'm more worried about global warming than I am of any major military conflict."
A man's anxieties are his privilege, of course. Still, you can't help but wonder: why is he in his current line of work?
Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2003-03-12: Regime Changes

This post of John's reminds me of one of my favorite stories about Jerry Pournelle, as related by Steve Sailer:

Jerry should know because back in 1967, Jerry, Stefan Possony, and then-Crown Prince in Exile Leka (or Laika) organized an invasion of Albania by exiles to overthrow Communist dictator Enver Hoxha. King Hussein of Jordan agreed to provide air cover to wipe out the small Albanian air force to allow the invaders to cross the channel from Corfu, where they were training in the King Constantine of Greece's palace. Jerry spent a lot of time in Jordan training their pilots on how to pull off a sneak attack and wipe out the Albanian planes on the ground. Then, in June 1967, the Israelis pulled off their own sneak attack and wiped out the Jordanian air force on the ground, so the liberation of Albania had to be called off.

Decades later, Jerry met the President of Israel, Ezer Weizman, who had been in charge of the Israeli Air Force in 1967. Jerry explained how Weizman had wrecked his invasion of Albania. Weizman exclaimed to the effect that You were that foreigner who was training the Jordanians how to pull of a sneak attack? We thought you were a Russian training the Jordanians to attack us!

When is Jerry going to write his autobiography?


 

Regime Changes
 
Admittedly, some things seem obvious to me that are not necessarily obvious to everybody: consider my views on spelling reform. Nonetheless, I was still somewhat surprised to learn that the Bush Administration is of two minds about changing the regime in North Korea. This would be an enterprise fraught with peril, but that is true of every option for the peninsula. Since only a new government would solve the nuclear proliferation issue, and since the existing regime is a starvation machine in terms of domestic policy, you might think that getting rid of it would at least be on everybody's wishlist. Apparently not though: too many policy-makers will always prefer the chaos they know.
I don't want to broach the question now of just what should be done about North Korea, but I might point out that modern hermit-kingdoms tend to disintegrate spontaneously. Perhaps the closest analogy to North Korea is Communist Albania. Xenophobic, armed to the teeth, with a ferocious pseudo-Maoist ideology, the regime in the 1970s and '80s seemed indestructible by anything short of nuclear bombardment, and even then the Party leadership would be sure to survive in an elaborate system of tunnels. Then, in 1991, system went poof! with little trouble. It turned out that Orwellian official ideology simply masked traditional clan politics. Just as important, one of the drawbacks of xenophobia is that there is no community of states to keep you on the straight and narrow. Petty tyrannies can be abolished in the course of a morning.
The problem with North Korea, of course, is that Tokyo or Seattle can be nuked in the course of a morning, too. Even barring anything so drastic, the odds that the regime will try to sell nuclear materials or devices before it falls are quite bright. This is the sort of situation that really could be handled with an international embargo. This is the sort of thing the United Nations was designed to do.
 
* * *
Whatever happens with Iraq, the United Nations has already disgraced itself. The war could not have started before February, for logistical reasons. If the Security Council had stayed united behind its existing resolutions, the Iraqis would probably have changed their own government in Januray. As it happened, though, the Council has managed to arrive at the worst of all possible outcomes for its own legitimacy and credibility. That is why people like William Safire now consider it the merest nullity, and speak of organizing the "Allied Nations" to deal with real security issues.
That would be one way to go, but it's not the one the Bush Administration has taken. I don't think that the point has quite sunk in that the president is neither dismissing the UN nor trying to save its reputation. Rather, in insisting that the Security Council vote on an ultimatum for Iraq, he is using the UN to hold the governments on the Council responsible before their own publics. The president is wildly unpopular in Europe these days, but the oppostion parties could quickly reverse that, provided the outcome of a war paints the Iraqi government in a sufficiently bad light.
What is true about the United Nations is also true of the European Union. That structure could work quite well to coerce the French into responsible behavior, if the US has the support of the smaller states. For that reason, I rather expect that some of the countries and parties that have supported the EU most strongly will begin to sabotage the whole project. I see that the euro is now approaching its launch value, and analysts still expect it to appreciate significantly against the dollar this year. I would not bet on it.
 
* * *
Not all the instability is on the side of the Axis of Chaos. Key members of the Labor Party are threatening to call for a special conference to choose a new leader, should Tony Blair try to proceed to a war against Iraq without a new resolution. This all sounds a little like the defenestration of Margaret Thatcher during the Persian Gulf War, but with two differences:
Britain was already committed when she had to step down in November, 1990. The choice of a new prime minister did not affect the course of the war. This time, the point of a party revolt would be to derail the war, or at least Britain's participation in it.
Unlike in 1990, the main opposition party, such as it is, is stronger for the war than is the government's party. It is thus possible to imagine the Blair Government staying in power long enough to conduct the war in large part with Conservative support. This would work only if the government does not have to do anything until the dust settles.
 
The odds are that the Blair Government will face no such crisis. Of course, the odds are also good that George W. Bush will serve at least a term in office, but we should note that some people are now seeking to arrange matters otherwise. David Enrich of National Review has famously reported on the movement among liberal Democrats to impeach the president, or at least to embarrass him by putting articles before Congress for that purpose. The draft under consideration would accuse President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Attorney General John Ashcroft of various "high crimes and misdemeanors." In addition to allegations of subverting civil liberties under the guise of waging the domestic war on terrorism, it would also accuse members of the Administration of bombing civilians in Afghanistan and of plotting aggressive war against Iraq. Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post had the best response to this:
 
So will we now have a two-year presidential cycle, where we just elect 'em and then the other party tries to impeach 'em?
 
* * *
And what do I think of GWB's chances in 2004? I think that he has no serious domestic policy. On the other hand, I also think the economy will be doing quite well once the current uncertainty lifts. He should have no trouble being reelected, provided he stops talking about tax reduction.
Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly

Why post old articles?

Who was John J. Reilly?

All of John's posts here

An archive of John's site