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Thread: Historians rethink key Soviet role in Japan defeat

  1. #16
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    Default Re: Historians rethink key Soviet role in Japan defeat

    Quote Originally Posted by Deaf Smith View Post
    Just like the Germans preferred to surrender to the West, even the Japanese, who principally fought the U.S., knew we were far more likely to deal with them and not replace the Japanese government with a COMMUNIST one.
    Your view is supported in the article I posted at #12, which says:

    Soviet entry into the war was indeed a shock to the Japanese ruling elite, both civilian and military alike. Politically and diplomatically, it dashed any hope of ending the war through Soviet mediation. But Soviet entry meant more than merely precluding the option of Soviet mediation for peace. Here, we must consider the political calculations and psychological factors apparent in dealing with Japan’s two enemies. Before the invasion of Manchuria, the Soviet Union had been Japan’s best hope for peace, while the Japanese ruling elite felt bitter resentment toward the United States, which had demanded unconditional surrender. After August 9, this relationship was reversed. The small opening that the United States had intentionally left ajar in the Potsdam terms, which Japanese foreign ministry officials had astutely noticed as soon as the Potsdam Proclamation was issued, suddenly looked inviting, providing the only room in which the Japanese could maneuver. They concluded that suing for peace with the United States would confer a better chance of preserving the imperial house, if not the kokutai as it was envisaged by ultranationalists. No sooner had the marriage of convenience uniting right-wing Japan and the communist Soviet Union broken down than the Japanese ruling elite’s fear of communism sweeping away the emperor system was reawakened. To preserve the imperial house, it would be better to surrender before the USSR was able to dictate terms. On August 13, rejecting Anami’s request that the decision to accept U.S. Secretary of State James Byrnes’s counteroffer (the “Byrnes note”), which rejected Japan’s conditional acceptance of the Potsdal terms, be postponed, Suzuki explained: “If we miss today, the Soviet Union would take not only Manchuria, Korea, [and] Karafuto [Sakhalin Island], but also Hokkaido. This would destroy the foundation of Japan. We must end the war when we can deal with the United States.”[68] Furthermore, when Shigemitsu had a crucial meeting with Kido on the afternoon of August 9 at Prince Konoe’s request, which eventually led to Kido’s meeting with Hirohito that persuaded the emperor to accept the “sacred decision” scenario, Shigemitsu stressed the negative effect of further Soviet expansion on the fate of the imperial household.[69]
    ..
    A rational army would run away.
    Montesquieu

  2. #17
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    Default Re: Historians rethink key Soviet role in Japan defeat

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    .....The argument presented by Asada and Frank that the atomic bombs rather than Soviet entry into the war had a more decisive effect on Japan’s decision to surrender cannot be supported. The Hiroshima bomb, although it heightened the sense of urgency to seek the termination of the war, did not prompt the Japanese government to take any immediate action that repudiated the previous policy of seeking Moscow’s mediation. Contrary to the contention advanced by Asada and Frank, there is no evidence to show that the Hiroshima bomb led either Togo or the emperor to accept the Potsdam terms. On the contrary, Togo’s urgent telegram to Sato on August 7 indicates that, despite the Hiroshima bomb, they continued to stay the previous course. The effect of the Nagasaki bomb was negligible. It did not change the political alignment one way or the other. Even Anami’s fantastic suggestion that the United States had more than 100 atomic bombs and planned to bomb Tokyo next did not change the opinions of either the peace party or the war party at all.

    Rather, what decisively changed the views of the Japanese ruling elite was the Soviet entry into the war. It catapulted the Japanese government into taking immediate action. For the first time, it forced the government squarely to confront the issue of whether it should accept the Potsdam terms. In the tortuous discussions from August 9 through August 14, the peace party, motivated by a profound sense of betrayal, fear of Soviet influence on occupation policy, and above all by a desperate desire to preserve the imperial house, finally staged a conspiracy to impose the “emperor’s sacred decision” and accept the Potsdam terms, believing that under the circumstances surrendering to the United States would best assure the preservation of the imperial house and save the emperor.

    This is, of course, not to deny completely the effect of the atomic bomb on Japan’s policymakers. It certainly injected a sense of urgency in finding an acceptable end to the war. Kido stated that while the peace party and the war party had previously been equally balanced in the scale, the atomic bomb helped to tip the balance in favor of the peace party.[100] It would be more accurate to say that the Soviet entry into the war, adding to that tipped scale, then completely toppled the scale itself.

    http://www.japanfocus.org/-Tsuyoshi-Hasegawa/2501
    Well, I certainly can't accuse you of not attempting to support your theory with evidence.

    But my view is that it is mostly wasted.

    Clearly, the individuals who made up the Army General Staff may have had individual views of the relative importance of the atomic bombs and the Soviet entry into the war, but since they collectively never made any decision to surrender, their views are irrelevant. Moreover the convoluted parsing of diary entries and statements by Hasegawa is labored, subjective and entirely unconvincing. I also note that Hasegawa carefully selects the evidence he wants to use while ignoring contrary evidence. He claims that silence is evidence that someone did not intend or believe something, but then uses the same silence as evidence that his opponents are wrong.

    One man, supported by two or at most three of his closest associates made the decision to surrender Japanese forces and that man was Hirohito, Emperor of Japan.

    Hirohito gave as his motivation for that decision, the fact that the home island defenses against an American invasion were incomplete and and could not be completed for several months, and he then added that his "main motive" was the fear that if he did not act that the Japanese race would "perish". (Bix, "Hirohito and The Making of Modern Japan", pages 514-515).

    Would the Soviet entry into the war have any effect on the Home Island defenses? No, not directly. In August, Manchuria was all but cut off from Japan in any case.

    Would the Soviet entry into the war be likely to cause the Japanese race to perish? No, the fate of distant Manchuria would have little effect on the Japanese domestic situation. In any case, Hirohito had already approved the offer of Manchuria to the Soviets as a bargaining chip to persuade them to remain neutral, so it's loss could hardly be considered a shocking event.

    But what about the atomic bombs? Would they have any bearing on Hirohito's fear of the Japanese race perishing? Absolutely, given time they could directly achieve the extinction of not only the Japanese race, but Hirohito himself.

    It requires a subjective and complicated torturing of the historical record to make a case for the Soviet entry into the war being a major influence on Hirohito, but it is entirely rational to believe that Hirohito experienced a personal and physical fear of the atomic bombs. It doesn't take a military genius to realize that sooner or later, if the Japanese still refused to surrender, Tokyo would become an atomic target. Neither the Soviets, nor the loss of their friendship, or even merely their neutrality, could compete with that fear.

    In reality, Hirohito, according to Bix, feared the loss of Kokutai ("national polity"), which he identified as his and his family's dynasty of power. This loss could come about in a variety of ways, but Hirohito felt the most likely was through domestic disturbances and uprisings fueled by dissent, dissatisfaction with the war, and the emergence of inherent survival instincts in the Japanese people.The Soviet entry into the war and the prospect of the loss of Manchuria could have little effect on the Japanese domestic situation. But the atomic bombs, and the possibility of a continuing rain of such weapons, against which there was no possible defense, was a direct cause of a worsening of the domestic situation. Against this, the Soviet entry into the war was a remote and nebulous threat that held little prospect of affecting Hirohito's Kokutai.

  3. #18
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    Default Re: Historians rethink key Soviet role in Japan defeat

    Quote Originally Posted by Wizard View Post
    Well, I certainly can't accuse you of not attempting to support your theory with evidence.
    Not evidence, just intepretation by a competent historian who, unlike me, has had access to primary documents and other sources which will never be available to me, even assuming I had the time to study them, and whose knowledge undoubtedly far exceeds mine. (Not that lesser knowledge inhibits me from expressing my own opinions with a confidence uninhibited by absence of detailed knowledge of every aspect upon which I opine. )

    Most of the time the best we can get is secondary sources, as with the source I've posted and as you do with Bix.

    As with everything else in assessing secondary sources, it comes down to which interpretation seems best supported and, to the extent that any of us have knowledge of primary sources and to the extent of our wider knowledge gained from secondary sources, which fits best with our own interpretation.

    I'm not fixed for life on any particular interpretation about the atom bombs versus the Soviet assault as my opinion shifts when I gain new knowledge from primary or secondary sources, although I think that the Soviet aspect has been completely and unfairly ignored in mainstream Western history, but I think that focusing on the Soviet assault or the atom bombs as the crucial factor in Japan's surrender ignores what I think was the major motivating factor in the final moments, upon which I think we may agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wizard View Post
    In reality, Hirohito, according to Bix, feared the loss of Kokutai ("national polity"), which he identified as his and his family's dynasty of power.
    My bold

    We can debate the influences which encouraged the Emperor to surrender, but it was his desire to preserve his imperial dynasty which overrode all other considerations in the final days.

    There is a very good, well researched, and erudite, if highly academic, book on this by a (IIRC an American) Japan scholar which I read some years ago and to which I should like to refer you, but unfortunately I borrowed it from a university library and cannot now recall either the title or author. He did, however, lay out in great detail the evidence showing the culture and thinking leading to Hirohito's decision to surrender to preserve the lineage and authority of the Chrysanthemum Throne, ultimately without regard to what was best for the Japanese people or nation, despite his contrary public statements and private statements in various councils.

    The overriding aim of preserving the imperial dynasty is entirely consistent with Hirohito's actions before and during the war when he always took the course which preserved his imperial house, albeit even if it happened to coincide with his own nationalistic ambitions. Early on he steered a course which preserved him from being deposed or rendered irrelevant by the militarists, as had happened to some of his predecessors over the centuries, but in the end when he realised that the militarists' determination to destroy Japan in resisting the Allied invasion, whether from the East or the West, could result in the end of his imperial dynasty he abandoned the militarists and opted for the course which would preserve his dynasty.
    Last edited by Rising Sun*; 08-21-2010 at 08:38 AM.
    ..
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    Montesquieu

  4. #19
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    Default Re: Historians rethink key Soviet role in Japan defeat

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    Not evidence, just intepretation by a competent historian who, unlike me, has had access to primary documents and other sources which will never be available to me, even assuming I had the time to study them, and whose knowledge undoubtedly far exceeds mine. (Not that lesser knowledge inhibits me from expressing my own opinions with a confidence uninhibited by absence of detailed knowledge of every aspect upon which I opine. )

    Most of the time the best we can get is secondary sources, as with the source I've posted and as you do with Bix.

    As with everything else in assessing secondary sources, it comes down to which interpretation seems best supported and, to the extent that any of us have knowledge of primary sources and to the extent of our wider knowledge gained from secondary sources, which fits best with our own interpretation.

    I'm not fixed for life on any particular interpretation about the atom bombs versus the Soviet assault as my opinion shifts when I gain new knowledge from primary or secondary sources, although I think that the Soviet aspect has been completely and unfairly ignored in mainstream Western history, but I think that focusing on the Soviet assault or the atom bombs as the crucial factor in Japan's surrender ignores what I think was the major motivating factor in the final moments, upon which I think we may agree.
    Hasegawa is hardly better qualified to write on the history of Japan than is Bix; both are secondary sources. But Bix speaks and writes Japanese fluently and has taught Japanese history in both the US and Japan, and for longer than Hasegawa. Bix has access to the same sources as Hasegawa, and what's more, personally knew many of the Japanese people he writes about.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rising Sun* View Post
    We can debate the influences which encouraged the Emperor to surrender, but it was his desire to preserve his imperial dynasty which overrode all other considerations in the final days.

    There is a very good, well researched, and erudite, if highly academic, book on this by a (IIRC an American) Japan scholar which I read some years ago and to which I should like to refer you, but unfortunately I borrowed it from a university library and cannot now recall either the title or author. He did, however, lay out in great detail the evidence showing the culture and thinking leading to Hirohito's decision to surrender to preserve the lineage and authority of the Chrysanthemum Throne, ultimately without regard to what was best for the Japanese people or nation, despite his contrary public statements and private statements in various councils.

    The overriding aim of preserving the imperial dynasty is entirely consistent with Hirohito's actions before and during the war when he always took the course which preserved his imperial house, albeit even if it happened to coincide with his own nationalistic ambitions. Early on he steered a course which preserved him from being deposed or rendered irrelevant by the militarists, as had happened to some of his predecessors over the centuries, but in the end when he realised that the militarists' determination to destroy Japan in resisting the Allied invasion, whether from the East or the West, could result in the end of his imperial dynasty he abandoned the militarists and opted for the course which would preserve his dynasty.
    I generally agree that Hirohito's motivation was somewhat narrow and selfishly focused on what he perceived as best for himself and his dynasty. I believe he was prepared to sacrifice Japanese lives, treasure, and national interests in order to preserve his own vision of Kokutai. That is why I believe he felt the atomic bombs were more threatening to him and his dynasty than events in far away Manchuria. There is little that can mess up a ruling dynasty worse than 15 Kilotons of diplomacy delivered to the roof of the palace.
    Last edited by Wizard; 08-21-2010 at 01:14 PM. Reason: edited for clarity

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