Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Living in Infamy

Seventy-five years ago today, Japanese planes attacked the United States naval and air base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It didn't turn out well for them in the end although they had some pretty good initial success.

Later this month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will become the first leader of his nation to visit Pearl Harbor while in office. The visit is seen as reciprocating President Obama's visit to Hiroshima in May.

Some questions have been raised about what PM Abe will say during his visit. President Obama issued no formal apologies for United States actions to end the war, which included dropping two atomic bombs. Most people don't expect PM Abe to apologize for the Pearl Harbor attack either. It's possible to make more of a case that of the two nations, Japan might be the one which needed to apologize -- Pearl Harbor was unprovoked and a sneak attack, while the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were part of an effort to shorten the war before an invasion of the Japanese main islands cost perhaps millions of lives.

But even if that's true, the people who ought to be apologizing are the leaders who authorized the attack. Japan doesn't even have the same form of government that it had in 1941 (the Emperor is no longer a divine ruling figure). And Abe wasn't born until fourteen years after the attack. As even the youngest warriors on both sides of the conflict near the end of their ninth decade, you'd have to wonder what purpose an apology from what is now one of our closer allies in the Pacific would even mean.

The time frame for an apology to have meant something was in the ten to fifteen years after the war, when some of the same pre-war leaders who assented to the attacks were still around and some have even returned to the government. But since we were too busy rebuilding both of the nations we'd just helped smash flat to the ground, we never got around to asking for one.

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