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The Case for Pearl Harbor Revisionism
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The Occidental Quarterly
, pp. 5-46 -
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THE CASE FOR PEARL HARBOR
The prevalent view of World War II is that of the "good war"—a
Manichaean conflict between good and evil. And a
fundamental part of the "good war" thesis has to do with the
entrance of the United States into the war as a result of the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor. According to this view, the cause of the war
stemmed from the malign effort by Japan, run by aggressive militarists,
to conquer the Far East and the Western Pacific, which was part of the
overall Axis goal of global conquest. Japan's imperialistic quest was
clearly immoral and severely threatened vital American interests,
requiring American opposition. Since American territory stood in the
way of Japanese territorial designs, the Japanese launched their sneak
attack on Pearl Harbor. Although the Roosevelt administration had
been aware of Japanese aggressive goals, the attack on Pearl Harbor
caught it completely by surprise. To the extent that any Americans were
responsible for the debacle at Pearl Harbor, establishment historians,
echoing the Roosevelt administration, blamed the military commanders
in Hawaii for being unprepared. A basic assumption of the mainstream
position is that given the Japanese bent to conquest, war with the United
States was inevitable. As mainstream historians Gordon W. Prange,
Donald M. Goldstein and Katherine V. Dillon put it: "nothing in the
available evidence... indicates that they [the Japanese] ever planned to
move one inch out of their appointed path, whatever the United States
did about it."1 There was nothing the United States could do to avert
war short of sacrificing vital security interests and the essence of
A small group of revisionist investigators have disputed this
orthodox interpretation at almost every turn. Revisionists argue that,
instead of following an aggressive plan of conquest, Japanese moves
were fundamentally defensive efforts to protect vital Japanese interests.
And instead of seeing the United States simply reacting to Japanese
aggression, as the orthodox version would have it, the revisionists see
the United States goading the Japanese—by aiding China (with whom
Japan was at war), military expansion, quasi-secret alliances, and
economic warfare—to take belligerent actions. Finally, some
TOQ 1-2.pmd 9/20/2004, 10:18 PM 5
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