by Ken Feltman
(published on the same date in Politico)
There are many ways to look at Japan’s future. One way is to look at her recent past. Raw materials and energy have made Japan one of the world’s most important economies. The quests for both have created problems for Japan, her neighbors and the world.
Japan has a long history of warlords and military campaigns. Before World War II, to assure access to raw materials, Japan invaded China and Indochina, then a French colony. In response, the United States terminated oil shipments to Japan and began buying huge quantities of oil from the Netherlands East Indies, today’s Indonesia. That cut into Japan’s ability to import enough oil from the East Indies.
Facing a decline and possible collapse of their manufacturing economy, and knowing that Nazi Germany had overrun much of Europe, including France and the Netherlands, Japan chose to engage in diplomacy with Germany and war with the U.S. The Japanese believed that the Americans would be occupied with the coming war in Europe. Therefore, the Americans would make a quick peace and the oil would flow again from the East Indies to Japan.
Perhaps relying on that belief, the Japanese did not strike the major shipbuilding and armaments facilities in San Francisco Bay and Southern California. They did not try to occupy Hawaii and other strategic U.S. possessions in the Pacific. They began to consolidate their gains in Southeast Asia.
But the U.S. did not seek a quick peace and instead embarked on a long war of attrition against Japan. That war ended when the Japanese refused to surrender and President Truman ordered the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Whether we accept this version of history or prefer another, it is important that her neighbors and the world understand that Japan needs raw supplies and sufficient energy to survive as a modern state.