Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Rhymes of History

Sitting down in his study, the President of the United States reviews the war briefing he’s just received from his top military, political and foreign policy advisors and writes a few notes:

“This is what I know:

• We’re fighting a suicidal enemy.
• The enemy is militarily beaten but belligerent.
• There’s no sign of surrender.
• The enemy appears to be breaking up, with some saying they want peace while others want to fight. The ones wanting peace don’t speak with authority.
• The American populace is war weary.
• Problematic Allies.”

Sound like George W. Bush dealing with the war in Iraq?

Try Harry S. Truman, around June or July 1945, figuring out how to end the war with Japan so World War II could come to a conclusion.

President Truman likely never wrote those words, or anything similar, after talking with his advisors about the way to end the war with Japan, but he probably had thoughts along those lines. In the summer of 1945, as U.S. troops were occupying Germany, and the fighting on Okinawa against Japanese forces was ending, Truman was feeling pressure to end the war, on U.S. terms, as fast as possible.

Prior to Truman becoming president, senior U.S. military officers were focusing on the best way to bring the war with Japan to an end. Invasion plans were prepared for the Japanese islands and commanders and military units, as well as personnel, were selected for the pending assault, which was scheduled for November 1945. The goal was for Japan to surrender unconditionally, just like Germany did, 12 months after the Nazis gave up.

While plans were being finalized, top U.S. military officers, including the president, learned that a new weapon, the atomic bomb, would be at their disposal sometime that summer. There were a number of questions and issues about the bomb. Would it work? Was it a strategic or tactical weapon? Would it shock the enemy into surrender? Or would Japanese leaders react to it the way they did the night U.S. planes fire-bombed Tokyo, killing nearly 85,000 people? They didn’t.

These questions, the positions of top U.S. leaders, the debates between them, potential casualties resulting from the assault on Japan, as well as the complex issues the United States faced abroad and at home, are discussed with great authority by John Ray Skates, a history professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, in his book The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb.

The book is especially pertinent today as the United States debates the best way to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while extracting some sort of political-military victory from the effort that’s been expended. It forces the reader to think about how the United States can shock its enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan into ending the fight; the book also makes the reader consider that perhaps there is no possible way to stun Al Qaida and Iraqi insurgents into submission. Skates, a retired army colonel, lays out, in excruciating detail, the debates, positions and discussions had by America’s leaders on the quickest and best possible way to coerce Japan into accepting the Allied policy of unconditional surrender.

In mid-1945, Japan still had five million men under arms. They’d lost every battle they’d fought against the United States since June 1942; however, Japan’s leaders didn’t see themselves as defeated. They knew U.S. troops would likely land on Kyushu, the Japanese island that American troops would invade in Operation Olympic, and they were preparing an intricate defense. While they couldn’t stop the invasion, Japan’s top brass thought, instead, that they could bleed the United States into accepting a negotiated settlement that was far short of its clearly stated, very public, and Allied-approved objective of unconditional surrender.

Skates shows how the policy of unconditional surrender for both Germany and Japan, as pushed through by President Roosevelt in early 1943, as well as the level of casualties the United States had sustained, determined military actions and, eventually, the use of the atomic bomb. The policy, as well as the experience from fighting Japan, forced America’s top leaders into coming up with the most efficient way into forcing Japan’s surrender.

By the time the summer of 1945 rolled around, the United States had suffered nearly 400,000 combat deaths with another 600,000 troops wounded. Top military commanders worried about the additional casualties the United States would suffer should it invade Kyushu. Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, the Navy’s top officer, thought Japan could be brought down through a blockade that would essentially starve Japan’s populace – at minimal cost of U.S. lives; others, like General of the Army George C. Marshall, the Army’s top general, feared that the blockade would extend the war beyond the patience of the American home front; he thought the invasion was the faster way to bring about an American victory.

The United States was holding more than 400,000 prisoners of war: 370,000 Germans, 50,000 Italians, and 5,000 Japanese. German and Italian troops were far more prone to surrender because it was not considered unpatriotic if they did. For the Japanese, however, surrender was simply out of the question. Japanese troops were instructed to fight to the death; if they ran out of ammunition, they were told to charge the enemy or commit suicide. Anything less would bring dishonor to themselves and their surviving family members. The fact that there were so few Japanese prisoners of war reinforced the military’s view that any battle on the Japanese mainland would be arduous and bloody.

Top U.S. military officers had also reviewed the post-action reports of the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa, which, combined, cost the United States more than 100,000 casualties. As Skates writes, “Public concern already simmered over the casualties of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. What would the cost of Downfall (the overall name for amphibious assaults against Japan) be and could Americans sustain it? Could any methods be used to minimize the casualties?”

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, the Army’s commanding officer in the Pacific, would lead the ground attack on Kyushu while the Navy’s top officer in the Pacific, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, would be responsible for transporting the troops, the amphibious assault itself, and providing all the necessary support for MacArthur’s troops, including food, fuel, ammunition and other supplies.

Operation Olympic, had it occurred, would be one of the largest amphibious assaults in all of military history. It would have entailed 12 divisions “comprising 427,400 troops and 626,800 tons of supplies,” writes Skates. The assault on Normandy, in comparison, looks small: It only involved five divisions for the beach landing and another three airborne divisions that were dropped in the middle of the night, just prior to the amphibious landings.

American military analysts thought that U.S. forces would occupy at least half of Kyushu, if not the entire Island. If Japan’s leaders still refused to surrender, even though U.S. forces were on Kyushu, then MacArthur and Nimitz would initiate Operation Coronet, an amphibious assault on Honshu, Japan’s main island, in March 1946. This operation would have involved “14 divisions with 462,000 troops,” writes Skates.

The best military estimates said that Japan would put up an all-out fight in the defense of Kyushu. They may not have had the best troops to prevent American forces from succeeding but the thinking was that at Kyushu, Japanese soldiers, sailors and airmen would make a gallant, albeit suicidal, stand.

Casualties, Skates says, would have been higher during Operation Olympic than on Operation Coronet. MacArthur’s intelligence officers estimated that “about fourteen thousand soldiers and airmen would die in the first sixty days of Olympic,” writes Skates. MacArthur estimated that there would be nearly 80,000 American casualties – killed and wounded – during the first 60 days of the invasion of Kyushu. If the battle lasted 120 days, MacArthur estimated there would be more than 100,000 American casualties.

The battle losses, Skates writes, were based on the casualties that American forces endured on both Okinawa as well as in Normandy, where the First U.S. Army suffered more than 60,000 casualties of whom 16,000 were killed during the first 48 days in France. “Much evidence exists that casualty estimates for the invasion were realistic and based on past experience,” writes Skates. And while the invasion of Kyushu would cause no more American losses than had been realized in Normandy or on Okinawa, as Skates writes, that “was small comfort” to American civilian and military leaders.

“The earlier fanatical and suicidal, yet hopeless Japanese defenses created a psychology that the normal conventions of war did not apply against a nation of potential kamikazes,” writes Skates.

In addition to facing a suicidal enemy, the United States attempted, throughout the war, to gain the participation of the Soviet Union in its fight against Japan. The Soviets made a number of promises to the United States about its willingness to fight Japan, including invading parts of the Japanese Empire, but they didn’t declare war against Japan until the day after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

Like all leaders, President Truman and those he consulted for achieving a military and political victory in World War II, couldn’t foresee the future. What they had before them, as they debated the tactics and strategy to be employed in bringing about Japan’s surrender, was the results, including the number of dead and wounded so far, as well as an idea of the level of patience that the American public had for finishing the war.

“The bomb, whether used strategically or tactically, promised to keep U.S. casualties at an acceptable level,” writes Skates. “The bomb also would shock Japanese leaders, and combined with other demonstrations of hopelessness of continued resistance, might tip the balance toward surrender.”

As a result, the President ordered the atomic bombing of Japan. The first one was dropped on August 6, on Hiroshima; the next one was dropped three days later on Nagasaki.

It took two atomic bombs killing about 200,000 people to shock Japan’s emperor into realizing the war was lost. The objective of the war, Japan’s unconditional surrender, had been achieved. More than 100,000 U.S. lives had been spared death and injury.

Overall, this is an excellent book. It’s very well researched and lays out a number of details that the average history reader would likely find tedious. The only flaw in the book is that not enough attention is given to Truman’s perspective. The reader would have been better served had the author given us some details on Truman’s fears and hopes on both the atomic bomb as well as the invasion. Perhaps this information isn’t available.

The lesson here, if there’s any, is that the victory usually comes about when the enemy is “shocked and awed.” The best way to “shock and awe” the enemy, as military historian Michael Doubler points out, is to “let your enemy tell you that you’re shocking and awesome. Don’t tell the enemy you’re going to shock and awe them.”

The idea of shocking an enemy into surrender is nothing new. During the Civil War, Union forces shocked the Confederacy into capitulation through General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march on the South. It showed the South that their position was hopeless. Only the Union could win. During the American Revolution, the Battle of Yorktown, while not exactly a stunning U.S. victory, showed the British that the French were committed to the American cause and that for the British to continue it was to put at risk more than the fight was worth.

Today, the United States faces a suicidal enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan. The difference is that neither enemy fights for a particular government. And the question remains how does the United States force these enemies into realizing their position is hopeless; for that matter can it even be achieved? Do we march an Army or Marine Division or two up into the mountains of Afghanistan, killing everyone we encounter? Or do we shock them into making peace by showing them the benefits of harmony with the United States and the West? How will we shock the Iraqi insurgency into accepting a peaceful settlement with Iraq’s government and, consequently, the countries with troops stationed in Iraq?

Any given day, President Bush might say the following to himself:

• “We’re fighting a suicidal enemy.
• The enemy is militarily beaten but remains belligerent.
• There’s no sign of surrender.
• The enemy appears to be breaking up, with some saying they want peace while others want to fight. The ones wanting peace don’t speak with authority.
• The American populace is war weary.
• Problematic Allies.”

Mark Twain is reported to have said, “History doesn’t repeat itself but it sure does rhyme.” And so it does.

(Writer’s note: The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb, published in 1994, can be found on The writer of this blog makes no money from but wishes he did.)

Publishing Information: The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb, by John Ray Skates, University of South Carolina Press, 1994, 276 pages

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lessons Not Learned

Instead of learning to stay above the fray, the group’s leaders taught them another lesson: How to jump into the muck.

Instead of learning one of life’s hardest lessons – ignoring your detractors – they learned how to present themselves in a display that could be considered passive-aggressive.

Instead of learning another lesson – don’t excite those who are all too ready to do your bidding – they watched two men they’ve never met, and whose characters are entirely questionable, speak for them.

Instead of learning how to handle matters discreetly, this impressionable group learned how to go public.

Instead of turning an opportunity – as gross as it was – into a learning experience that would benefit them well into their future, the Rutgers University woman’s basketball team was failed by its leaders. They taught the ladies how to get even.

The team’s coaches and the school’s administration were presented with an opportunity to prepare their young charges for the other insults and knocks they may receive later in life.

This is not to make light of what Don Imus said about the team. I don’t know if he’s is a racist, but he certainly sounded like one when offered up that gross description about them.

And I can’t help but think that the basketball team, filled with gifted student-athletes, was failed by its leaders, people who will leave a lasting impression on them.

Yes, they were insulted. Imus’ remark was gross, indecent, sophomoric, racist, sexist and absolutely inexcusable. But anyone who’s ever listened to Don Imus knows that’s his schtick. He insults people. So why stoop to his level, even if you don’t mean to?

The next time one of these ladies is insulted, the coach and Rutgers University likely won’t be standing by their side waiting for an apology on their behalf. It’s also likely that the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton will have forgotten them.

So the next time they’re insulted, they’ll learn the lesson they should have learned during their collegiate years -- fugeddaboutit. Toughen up, in other words.

It’s one of the hardest lessons to learn. Insults cut to our core. The ladies of the Rutgers basketball team were probably thinking they were doing all the right things in this life, when suddenly, without warning, some jerk – who happened to have a nationally syndicated radio show – deeply offended them with a few choice words.

It’s no surprise that they, their families, their coach and the University felt awful about the insult fired off at these accomplished young ladies. They should have.

But the coach and the University’s administration could have done their young charges a far better service had they quietly taken them aside, without any reporters, and delivered this message: “That’s life – especially in the fishbowl of collegiate athletics.

“There will always be someone willing to insult you. If it happens, ignore it and move on. Don’t dwell it. If you do, your assailant wins.

“Also keep this in mind: If this happens to you, after you leave college, we won’t be there to defend you. Your loved ones won’t be able to help you either. And as far as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are concerned, they’ll be off frying bigger fish.

“If you let the insult run off of you like water, there’s a better chance you’ll go through this life at peace with yourself and others. That’s what matters. That’s justice!”

And that would have been the end of it so far as the basketball team was concerned. The coach and the University’s administration would have placed themselves and their team above the fray, showing them how to deal with terrible incidents from unkind people.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Invisible Jews in Nazi Germany: A Book Review

(Editor’s Note: This week ItsFourthAndLong initiates its first book review.)

Too often history comes across as dull, gray, lifeless text that will sooner put people to sleep than give them any insight on the lives we live today. Part of that is due to the way it’s taught, which is not all that well from everything this correspondent has learned from those who detest the subject. And part of it is attributable to the very nature of the subject itself: Why should anyone become excited about something that happened decades or centuries ago? How does it apply to the lives we lead today?

This is the reason I’m a fan of first-person accounts. They bring historical events to life because someone has taken the time to write down their experiences, often during a tragic, horrible or dramatic period of time.

No. 12 Kaiserhofstrass: The Story of an Invisible Jew in Nazi Germany, written by Valentin Senger, brings Nazi Germany alive. Senger and his family survived the Nazis in Frankfurt, right out in the open, even though they were Jews. And this is what makes his story all that more compelling.

Senger’s story is one of constant deception. His mother and father were Russian émigrés who had been associated with Communists revolutionaries during the early days of the 20th century; they immigrated to Germany to escape the Tsar’s henchman, well in advance of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. So no one in Germany would know they were Communists, they lied on their immigration papers that they were from Switzerland.

As they were settling into their apartment in Frankfurt in 1909, they completed residency papers for the local police who noted that the Sengers were “Hebraic.” It never occurred to Senger’s parents, the author writes, “that in a liberal, cosmopolitan city like Frankfurt, where Jews and Christians had been living side by side for centuries, the mere fact of being a Jew could ever become a mortal danger.”

The author, born in 1918, describes his neighbors, friends, acquaintances and professional colleagues; what is frightening is how some of them could so easily betray and inflict harm on people they'd known well in advance of the Nazis ever coming into power.

Whether or not they believed what they were being fed by the Nazis is something we will never know. They may have thought they were being good, patriotic Germans. They may have feared for their own safety, thinking they needed to make a deal with the devil; or, perhaps, they wanted all whose lives didn’t reflect theirs exterminated.

Senger’s childhood, with the exception of a few events, was unexceptional. He attended school and did all of the normal things any boy would do – ran around with other boys and challenged his mother and father.

In the 1930s, after the Nazis took power, everything changed. From 1933 to 1945, the Sengers “felt trapped” in their apartment, “expecting the Gestapo or the SA to arrest us (at) any minute.”

They survived the Nazis, in large part, because a local policeman, Sergeant Kasper, risking his own life, perhaps because he liked Senger's mother, altered their registration papers. He changed their religious affiliation from “Hebraic” to “Nonconformist,” thereby keeping the Gestapo on the search for others but not the Sengers.

The Sengers became as inconspicuous as possible so as not to attract the attention of the authorities. But they did have a few a moments when they were convinced they’d be arrested.

One of the more frightening times was when the author needed medical assistance. Unlike European Christians at the time, circumcision was standard practice for Jews. Since the author was suffering from a stomach ailment, his parents knew he’d be required to drop his pants, thereby giving away his religious affiliation.

To make matters worse, the local doctor wore a Nazi uniform. He looked over the young man and even noticed his circumcised penis. Senger told the doctor that his family was from Russia and a particular Christian sect that believed in self-mutilation. The doctor didn’t buy it for a minute, noting that his circumcision looked like the ones performed at a bris.

The doctor kept young Senger’s circumcision to himself. And, as it turned out, this same doctor saved a few Jews who continued to live in Germany, outside of the concentration camps, during the Nazi regime.

As the war progressed, Germany, desperate to fill the ranks of their killed and missing soldiers, started drafting eligible men who were not citizens. Senger and his younger brother soon had their papers to report for a military physical. Here, again, they thought the game was over because, certainly, the doctors would notice their circumcisions.

They may have but the doctors passed them anyway, sending the two brothers to basic training. Senger’s younger brother, Alex, was killed during the war, fighting an enemy he knew would save him. Senger himself survived the war due to some unforeseen medical issues as well as a kindly doctor who drew up orders to send him to a hospital.

One of the book’s more interesting moments happens shortly after the author leaves the doctor who had written his orders. This was weeks prior to the war’s end. Senger was making his way out of the military base when he was befriended by a local man who put him up for a few days. Essentially, the author deserted.

During Senger’s stay at the local man’s house, he met a woman, named Gerdi, who had served in Germany’s army as an auxiliary. He described her as taller, a few years older and “as strong as an ox.” He never says she’s beautiful. In spite of all that, they made love one day. One can’t help but to wonder what it was like to have sex with the enemy. Maybe this proves that hormones can overrule politics.

After the war, Senger became a reporter, working for German newspapers and at television and radio stations.

No. 12 Kasierhofstrass is a gripping account that, at times, will have readers on the edge of their seats. The tension, the fear and the downright fright of living under conditions few can imagine comes through loud and clear in this book.

At times, while reading this book, you have to wonder if the author isn’t suffering from survivor’s guilt. There are times when he’s speaking to his mother, sometimes in an accusing tone of voice.

The author appears to have mixed views about his mother. She certainly ruled the roost. She also did everything possible to keep the family intact – and alive. Compared to joining Germany’s underground, or heading off to a death camp, it may not have been particularly heroic. But by keeping her family alive, Mrs. Senger did all of us who never lived through the Nazis an incredible favor: Her son wrote a rich account about their experiences under a terrible regime.

No. 12 Kaiserhofstrass was first published in 1978 in Germany, and the English translation was published two years later. It can be purchased on by searching under the author’s last name. (ItsFourthAndLong is not schilling for, although any money they’d like to throw this way would be happily accepted.)

While reading this book, I wondered if anyone, at some point, will write a first-hand account of their times under more recent dictatorships, like North Korea or Saddam Hussein. I hope someone does so we gain some insight about life under these regimes.

And while George W. Bush and his band of Republicans certainly have their detractors, all of those are opposed (or consider themselves oppressed) to his presidency, his policies, his followers, and his government would be well served by reading No. 12 Kaiserhofstrass. Mr. Bush is flawed man but he is no Adolf Hitler.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Taking Time Off

ItsFourthAndLong will not be writing this week. Best wishes to you and yours.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Give a damn: The obligations of a U.S. citizen

So you don’t like the Iraq War, doubt the outcome of the one in Afghanistan, and just wish the War on Terror would go away. Who doesn’t?

In fact, that line of thinking could be found within anyone who ever lived through a war that’s ever been fought by the United States, from the Revolution to Vietnam to the first war we fought with Iraq.

The problem, as a noted historian said, “It’s your country, your army and your war.” And peace, as scholars Paul Seabury and Angelo Codevilla noted in their book War: Ends & Means, in spite of what you may think, is not your birthright.

This is a democracy in which the citizenry is obligated but not required all too unfortunately, to vote, understand domestic politics, foreign policy, the government – local, state and national – military affairs and, yes, war. And sometimes a country’s citizens are required to participate in a war.

The American people, wrote John Adams, the country’s second president and likely the most intellectual of the Founding Fathers, were to become, he hoped, statesmen, writes one of his biographers, C. Bradley Thompson, in the book, John Adams and the Spirit of Liberty. He sought an enlightened citizen that “could distinguish between a necessary ‘reverence and obedience to Government on the one hand,’ and its ‘right to think and act’ for itself on the other, writes Thompson. Adams wanted all men, since they were the voters at the time, to be suspicious of those in power, says Thompson.

To take Adams’ argument a step further, not only should we be suspicious of those in power but we should be equally suspicious of those who seek it. This is not, as critics might say, to be paranoid or delusional but, rather, as Adams saw it, to be “independent, reasonable, and public-spirited,” writes Thompson.

In other words, as citizens, we need to raise our level of consciousness about our government. None of us should believe the sound bites bandied about by our politicians; instead, we are required, as Adams saw our obligations, to become informed on the issues facing the country, to discount the zealots on any given side, and to determine the best course of action for the nation. If necessary, we should also be willing to defend this nation, even if it requires the ultimate sacrifice.

None of this is easy. The idea behind the American Revolution was that we had the ability and the intellectual capacity to lead ourselves. Those who fail to vote, fail to become fully informed on current events, blindly accept the arguments of any fanatic, and remain apathetic about the nation’s actions lend credence to arguments made centuries ago that people are incapable of self-government.

This blog entry seeks to put today’s foreign affairs into historical perspective, show the failings of the Bush Administration, and explain why we need to be concerned about the state of our military. We face a situation that hasn’t been seen since World War II or the Cold War. Our way of life, as well as that of the entire civilized world, runs counter to every terrorist organization in existence. All Americans are the enemy. They want the United States ruined, maybe even eliminated.


We have enemies. Osama Bin Laden is one of them. Others include North Korean dictator Kim Jung-Il and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There are likely more, and they’re not pacifists.

In fact, they’re warmongers and cold-blooded killers. And unlike the U.S. government or our allies alongside us in Iraq and Afghanistan, our enemies report to no one. They’re terrorists. They violate a basic principle of government, which is to seek legitimacy from its people through elections. Terrorists we’re fighting gain authority through fear, threats and intimidation.

Their losses are of no concern to them. The only thing that matters to them is the number of people they kill and how much damage they inflict.

“The art of war is vital to the state,” wrote Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu more than 2,000 years ago. “It is a matter of life and death, a road to either safety or to ruin … under no circumstances can it be neglected” – even if you’re opposed to the ones we’re fighting or will fight in the future.

“I must study politics and war, that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children the right to study painting, music, architecture, statuary tapestry and porcelain,” wrote John Adams to his wife Abigail during the Revolution.

Had cooler heads not prevailed, Adams would have found himself putting his knowledge about war to work as the country’s commander-in-chief. While he was president, Adams nearly took us to war with France. Fortunately, the dispute was resolved before shots were fired.

If you believe the polls, a number of people disapprove of the Iraq War because it was preemptive, or illegal, based on deceit, and the endgame isn’t in sight. All of this might be true but keep in mind that President Bush, his Cabinet, and each and every member of Congress approved the war against Iraq looking at the same intelligence.

The biggest criticism one can offer about the information used to approve the Iraq War was that it was dated. It was, based on news reports, much of the same information that was used by the Clinton Administration to secure Congressional approval for a regime change in Iraq.

Did the President Bush lie to us? Perhaps. But if he did, he wasn’t the first president to lie to the American public about foreign and military affairs.

A splendid little war

President James K. Polk deliberately provoked Mexico into a war by ordering U.S. troops to march into disputed territory – and it became almost as unpopular in the 1840s as the ones we’re fighting today – in the name of Manifest Destiny. Polk had one political goal during his term as president – expand the country to the other shining sea, the Pacific Ocean. (It makes him one of the few presidents who did what he said he was going to do.)

There are two significant differences between the Mexican-American War and the ones we’re fighting today: First, hostilities were concluded in two years; second, the war resulted in territorial gains for the United States, including resolving the status of Texas (Mexico recognized it as part of the United States), and picking up New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Had the United States Navy possessed aircraft carriers in the 19th century, perhaps President Polk would have given a victory speech on the flight deck with a banner hanging in the background proclaiming “Manifest Destiny: Accomplished.”

There’s even evidence that Franklin Delano Roosevelt set the United States on a course to fight World War II. Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor, a book about the Pearl Harbor attack, describes a memo written by naval officer who suggested eight actions to provoke Japan into a war with the United States.

Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum, a naval officer working in the War Department, writes the book’s author, Robert B. Stinnett, suggested the following policies in October 1940:

1. Arrange to use British bases in the Pacific, meaning Singapore
2. Make an arrangement with Holland for the use of base facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).
3. Give all possible aid to the Chinese government of Chaing Kai-shek.
4. Send a division of long-range heavy cruisers to the Orient, Philippines, or Singapore.
5. Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient.
6. Keep the main strength of the U.S. Fleet, now in the Pacific, in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands.
7. Insist that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese demands for undue economic concessions, particularly oil.
8. Completely embargo all trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British Empire.

FDR enacted many of these suggestions. They resulted in Japan attacking Pearl Harbor – which Stinnett maintains the President and his top commanders knew was coming – and, as a result, FDR gained vital public support for fighting Japan and, subsequently, Germany and Italy.

The State Department, says Stinnett, predicted what the world would look like if the Nazis stayed in power in Germany and the militarists continued to run Japan, concluding that neither was in the best interests of the United States.

As a result, FDR and his advisors, writes Stinnett, devised a strategy (outlined above) to provoke Japan into attacking the United States, which, they thought, might force Hitler into declaring war against us.

It’s important to remember that FDR was enacting his strategy against Japan in a clandestine manner while the American public believed that it had nothing to “fear but fear itself.” Did President Roosevelt lie to the American public about his intentions and the causes of the war? Most likely.

Would FDR have initiated a preemptive war against Japan or Germany? That question will remain unanswered because the U.S. military, just prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, was a fifth-rate power – on a good day. Given the limited forces at the president’s disposal, not a single member of the U.S. high command could have possibly told the commander in chief how we could successfully, and preemptively, attack anyone.

World War II was costly to the United States: There were 400,000 combat deaths and another 600,000 wounded, a heavy price to make the world safe. Our involvement in the war lasted just under four years, and we averaged about 5,000 casualties a week.

Because we entered World War II, the Holocaust ended, fascism was severely ruined, the thought that a democracy could defeat a militarist power was proven, Atlantic Ocean shipping was made safe, and Japan stopped carrying out atrocities across Asia.

If we hadn’t fought World War II, there’s a possibility that today’s Nazi Germany might possess intercontinental nuclear missiles (their scientists were attempting to build nuclear weapons and had successfully launched rockets, armed with conventional weapons, against Great Britain); Japan was developing its own weapons of mass destruction, including the world’s first intercontinental bomber as well as biological weapons.

Carl von Clausewitz

Today’s War on Terror can’t help but to make one wonder if there’s anyone in the Bush Administration who has ever read a history book, like one about the Vietnam War, or bothered to study Carl von Clausewitz’s 19th century classic On War, a tome containing lessons that remain applicable today. It’s very likely that the generals and the admirals have studied these books; but, based on performance, one might doubt if their civilian leaders have done the same.

A Prussian officer, Clausewitz recognized that there were three key elements needed for any country to be successful in war – the will of the people, a well-commanded army and a government cognizant of its political aims. To suit a 21st century populace, we might the following: The government’s leaders need to effectively communicate the reasons their country needs to endure such hardship.

“A theory that ignores any one of them or seeks to fix an arbitrary relationship between them would conflict with reality to such an extent that for this reason alone it (the war) would be totally useless,” Clausewitz wrote.

In other words, all three need to be aligned on the means, ends and goals of any war. Otherwise, the effort is doomed.

During Vietnam, the Johnson Administration was criticized for only taking the Pentagon to war. President Johnson failed to do a number of things during the Vietnam War, including preparing a strategy for victory against North Vietnam; in addition, he also failed to bring about necessary American public support for the war effort.

As a result, four years after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, in 1968, as American casualties began to escalate significantly, along with CBS News Anchor Walter Cronkite’s televised critique of the war, public support for Vietnam suddenly went cold.

Wars, especially ones fought by democracies, need to be won quickly. George C. Marshall, the Army’s World War II chief of staff, and likely the country’s most underrated military and political leader, wanted the war ended as fast as possible. He’d learned during his career that the United States public did not have an appetite for long, protracted wars.

Shortly after receiving his commission in 1903, Marshall went to the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, “when public opinion, once exultant about the new (U.S.) empire, had shifted to sympathy with the Filipinos resisting conquest,” write Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May in their book Thinking in Time: The uses of History for Decision Makers.

Just prior to his retirement from the Army, with World War II concluded, Marshall “spent his final weeks as Chief of Staff coping with ‘bring the boys home’ demonstrations,” write Neustadt and May.

The problem with the current wars is that, after five years, victory isn’t in sight; the political leadership fails to communicate effectively about our challenges and what’s at stake.

The other difficulty with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that we’re fighting a non-uniformed enemy. And unlike previous wars, with the exception of Vietnam, when we took and held enemy territory, we’re attempting to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis and Afghans. Finally, all too often, our soldiers are contacting a military lawyer about the rules of engagement prior to taking out an enemy position, says retired Army Col. Michael D. Doubler, a military historian; these discussions have caused countless missed opportunities to kill the enemy.

Are we doing the right thing?

Any thought about whether our policies are correct in Afghanistan and Iraq needs to also take into consideration what the world would have looked like had we not fought any of the wars that mark our history.

Some questions we might ask:

Had we not fought the Civil War, how long would slavery have continued? What would a Nazi Germany look like today? If we had not fought Germany, would the United States, in effect, be tacitly supporting anti-Semitism?

Should we have continued to sell oil to Japan so it could kill innocent people and force women into sexual slavery but leave us alone? Could we sell our goods into the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Japan’s economic plan for East Asia, had we not fought World War II?

Should we have let Kim Jung-Il’s father occupy South Korea in 1950? Did our involvement in Vietnam make the Soviets reconsider any plans they might have had to occupy Western Europe? Should we have let Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein occupy Kuwait? If we had left Hussein well alone would we be complicit in supporting his domestic policies, which included using rape and torture against his own people.

Would the world be safer with Hussein in Baghdad and the Taliban allowing Afghanistan to be a sanctuary for terrorists? How will the United States be perceived, by both its friends, enemies and detractors, in the Middle East and elsewhere, should it withdraw its military forces from Iraq, or Afghanistan, before the dispute is decided?

The answers to any of these questions are likely filled with speculation. But, I believe, more of often than not, our leaders acted correctly, even in Iraq and Afghanistan. Countries go to war, write Seabury and Codevilla, because they don’t like the peace.

A peace that involves a tense standoff with neither side firing a shot isn’t peace. That’s a cold war, like the one we experienced for 44 years with the old Soviet Union, and, on occasion, it goes hot, as it did in Korea and Vietnam.

The notion that wars don’t solve anything is, as scholars Seabury and Codevilla point out, a “historical howler.” They solve all kinds of problems; but, to be accurate, they also give birth to other issues, which can become troubling.

The arguments made against our involvement in Iraq are similar to the ones that were made prior to our involvement in World War II. It was Europe’s war or Asia’s war, not ours, said the Republicans and those supporting isolationist policies. Emotions ran high on both sides of the argument.

So what does the world look like had we not invaded Iraq and Afghanistan?

With Iraq, a dictator remains in power, abuses his people, snubs the United Nations, pays Palestinians to commit suicide in Israel while the Arab World looks the other way. With Afghanistan, religious zealots are in power, abuse their people, allow terrorists to occupy their country and use it as a training ground for other terrorists.

We knocked off the Taliban without too much difficulty but instead of reinforcing our troops in Afghanistan and making sure that our quick victory was actually a victory – which involves changing the hearts and minds of the people – we went, as the British say, “civilian,” meaning we installed the government we wanted and hoped that Afghanistan was resolved, says Colonel Doubler.

It wasn’t. The Taliban returned and, as a result, 25,000 U.S. troops, along with soldiers from Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, are fighting them again.

Iraq is a similar story. We defeated its military without too much difficulty but then proceeded to lose the peace. Had we kept the Iraqi Army intact, many of its soldiers would not have become insurgents. In addition, we never blew up Iraqi ammunition installations, which were later raided by the insurgents.

Our biggest military accomplishment in Iraq, since defeating its Army, appears to be having divided and split the insurgency. There’s a group of insurgents made up of Iraqis, and they appear to be beginning to support the new government; in addition, this group of insurgents has provided, on occasion, information about Al Qaida in Iraq, another band of insurgents that’s composed of fighters who are from other Arab countries and tend to be more zealous in their approach.

The biggest political victory we can claim from Iraq and Afghanistan is that they have some sort of democracy. In addition, the Arab World, especially Saudi Arabia, is beginning to realize it needs to engage in a political discourse, without weapons, with Israel. Finally, the Saudis are beginning to take a leadership role in the Arab World.

The failures of the Bush Administration

The Bush Administration might be as close an example as can be found of being the Keystone Cops when it comes to directing foreign and military policies. They have effectively acerbated just about every ally we ever had; in addition, and more importantly, President Bush had an opportunity before him that no president had seen in nearly 60 years – an attack on U.S. soil.

Through a patriotic appeal, he could have won Congressional approval to expand the military. And had he bothered to explain what was at stake, both militarily and politically, America’s military forces would have grown substantially because people would have enlisted. All he had to do was appeal to the country’s sense of patriotism, which ran red hot after the 9/11 attacks.

Instead, we were told to go shopping. Or travel. We were directed to go about our lives as if nothing had happened. In fact, any change we made about our lives, as a result of the 9/11 attacks, the president said, was tantamount to conceding victory to the terrorists.

President Bush did something that no president should ever be allowed to do – he conducted a war on the cheap. It was thought that the current force could handle its challenges. It can’t. It’s stretched to its limits, resulting in our troops – regardless if they’re part of the Regular Army, reservists, in the National Guard or Marines – returning to Iraq for their third and fourth tours of duty.

Colonel Doubler, speaking at the First Infantry Division Museum in Wheaton, Illinois, last week, said that only one percent of the country volunteers for the armed forces. At some point, Doubler said, “that one percent will begin to ask why it’s doing all the fighting and the dying.”

And what’s worse, in my estimation, is that if you walk down any street in America, with the exception perhaps of those near a military base, you’d never know the country is at war. What the Bush Administration has effectively done is told the citizens to become apathetic about this war. Others will think about it. Others will fight it. Others will die in it.

Apathy is the Bush Administration’s policy for the Home Front. The last thing the Bush Administration wants is a public that cares. Because a concerned citizenry might demand either that we pull out from Iraq or Afghanistan, as it’s beginning to do, or, worse, insist on better results for the energy, blood and treasure that’s been expended.

Finally, prior to hostilities with Iraq, President Bush should have directed his secretary of state, Colin Powell, to increase his diplomatic efforts. The secretary should have been directed to travel to France, Germany and Russia, our leading critics of the war, where he would have spoken privately to their leaders about what we knew about Iraq and our intentions.

The diplomatic effort might have failed. But, at the very least, President Bush could say that he had tried to show our allies and critics what was at stake and describe for them our intentions. The Bush Administration’s refusal to reach out to its foreign critics only further strained relations with those countries.

“Your country, your army and your war.”

Our fellow Americans, which include 19-year-old men, along with those in their 20s, 30s, even their late 40s, as well as women, are dying, being wounded or maimed on the grimy, sandy, rocky grounds of Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re sacrificing their lives as well as their entire future to secure one nation against civil war and keep another safe from terrorist occupation. They deserve our highest respect.

The stakes in Iraq have increased because the insurgency just introduced chemical warfare. They’ve blown up at least one bomb laced with chlorine. If this weapon is successful in Iraq, al Qaida will likely use it in Afghanistan, and it may just make its way to our shores.

Causing additional concern is Iran. It may have a nuclear bomb or it may be creating one, which will only increase peril and anxiety in the Middle East, perhaps the world. A nuclear-armed Iran should make all of us uneasy.

The bigger problem is the Bush Administration. It insists that our foreign and military challenges can be faced down with the same size armed forces, albeit a limited increase, as we had prior to 9/11.

To hear President Bush or Vice President Cheney speak, this is a clash of civilizations. It’s us or them. If we take them at their word, this is the greatest threat the nation has seen since World War II or the Cold War.

Our troops, already with two or three tours of duty in Iraq under their belts, are returning for their fourth. The United States armed forces aren’t sized properly. They need to be increased so we have the necessary number of troops to face down these grave threats.

“It’s your country, your army and your war,” said Colonel Doubler last week, meaning that every American needs to increase their level of awareness about the armed forces. You may not approve of the war, you may not see the current challenges as threat to our national security, but you need to concern yourself, because you’re a citizen, with the shape, size and well being of our armed forces.

If we don’t prevail in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s hard to say if we’ll prevail tomorrow, when the threat might be even more severe. Our enemies will feel empowered if they’re victorious in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The best way to increase our armed forces, and end American apathy, is to reinstate the draft. Unlike the one we had during the Vietnam War, which deferred married men, those in college, as well as those over the age of 26, we need one that’s far more equitable. All men, up to age 50, should be subject to the draft. The only deferments should be for those who are veterans. A draft forces every American to live up to their obligations as a citizen.

If soldiers like 57-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Carlos Dominguez and 51-year-old Army Master Sgt. Robb G. Needham can make the ultimate sacrifice, why can’t any American who’s younger, perhaps in better physical condition, do the same?