[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-Diplo]: Matsusaka on Paine, 'The Japanese Empire: Grand Strategy from the Meiji Restoration to the Pacific War'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Sun Jan 28 12:13:04 MST 2018

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Date: January 28, 2018 at 2:07:33 PM EST
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-Diplo]:  Matsusaka on Paine, 'The Japanese Empire: Grand Strategy from the Meiji Restoration to the Pacific War'
> Reply-To: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> S. C. M. Paine.  The Japanese Empire: Grand Strategy from the Meiji
> Restoration to the Pacific War.  Cambridge  Cambridge University
> Press, 2017.  220 pp.  $24.99 (paper), ISBN 978-1-107-67616-9; $74.99
> (cloth), ISBN 978-1-107-01195-3.
> Reviewed by Tak Matsusaka (Wellesley College)
> Published on H-Diplo (January, 2018)
> Commissioned by Seth Offenbach
> An examination of Japan's multiple wars in Asia during the late
> nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries is essential to
> understanding the recent history of international relations as well
> as the modern Japanese experience. S. C. M. Paine's _Japanese
> Empire_, designed as an analytical survey, offers an informative
> treatment of the subject accessible to nonspecialists. Covering an
> era spanning the founding of the Meiji state (1868) and Japan's
> surrender in World War II (1945), it complements works of a similar
> genre, such as W. G. Beasley's _Japanese Imperialism: 1895-1945_
> (1987) and Michael Barnhart's _Japan and the World since 1868_
> (1993). Despite the title, the book does not deal with the topic of
> Japanese imperialism in the manner of Beasley's work, nor does it
> touch on colonialism. Instead, it explores Japan's relentless pursuit
> of great power status that produced a succession of armed conflicts
> in Asia, the first two apparently successful, but the last, a
> catastrophic failure. It frames its overarching concern by asking,
> "Although the goal to become and remain a great power had not
> changed, the conflicts produced antithetical outcomes. The question
> is, why?" (p. 2). This puzzle, in its various iterations, has
> provided one of the main engines of Japan-related historiography
> since the end of World War II. As Edwin O. Reischauer, the postwar
> dean of American Japan specialists put it, "what went wrong?"[1]
> Paine reiterates some long-established answers but also adds fresh
> insight through two thematic emphases.
> First, the author sees Japan's quest for great power status facing
> two divergent choices from the outset: whether to develop as a
> maritime power or as a continental power. "The Industrial Revolution
> brought trade of global scope and wealth of unimaginable scale. It
> heralded an incoming maritime world order, which gradually supplanted
> the outgoing continental world order of empires underlying so many
> great civilizations. Formerly, land had been the currency of power.
> It produced the agricultural commodities to be sold and the peasant
> conscripts to field mass armies. In the nineteenth century, commerce
> became the juggernaut of wealth creation, which in turn underwrote
> high standards of living and expensive ambitions, armaments, and
> allies." Geography had blessed Japan with the opportunity to pursue
> the maritime route, but in the end, Japanese elites of the Meiji era
> (1868-1912) opted instead for continental power. "The Meiji
> generation lived at the transition between two global orders but they
> charted a course to the outgoing one, then at high tide, because they
> and so many others did not yet apprehend the incoming one just beyond
> the horizon" (p. 77). The book delves into this pivotal choice, its
> repeated reaffirmation across decades despite growing signs of
> miscalculation, and its consequences for Japan and its wartime
> adversaries. Although the conclusion that Japan's catastrophic defeat
> in 1945 might be understood as the path-dependent outcome of
> decisions made by the Meiji elite is hardly new, Paine offers an
> enlightening perspective based on a reassessment of Japan's
> performance in its first two wars. Japan overcame China in 1894-95
> and Russia in 1904-5 not because of a prodigious strategic
> superiority but because its adversaries had failed to exploit the
> vulnerabilities inherent in a Japanese bid to dominate the Asian
> mainland. The perception of success, however, led the Japanese elite
> to draw erroneous lessons about the viability of Japanese continental
> power in the twentieth century.
> The second thematic emphasis lies in what Paine calls "grand
> strategy," defined in the following way: "Grand strategy, in
> distinction to military (or operational-level) strategy, integrates
> all relevant elements of national power" (p. 7). The successful
> conduct of war requires the coordination of military policy proper
> with intelligence gathering, diplomacy, and economic and financial
> planning, along with the preparation of "exit" strategies. The
> fundamentally problematic choice of the continental path aside, the
> author argues that the difference in outcomes between the first two
> wars, on the one hand, and those that followed, on the other, lay in
> the effectiveness of the grand strategies formulated by Meiji leaders
> and in the essential lack of such strategies in the wars waged by
> their successors in the 1930s and 1940s. At the same time, integrated
> preparation, planning, and execution across all spheres of
> war-related activity during the Meiji era rested heavily on the
> informal and personal relationships among Japan's oligarchic leaders,
> the founders of the Meiji state. Hints of the perilous inadequacy of
> a grand strategy managed by ad hoc methods surfaced during the
> Sino-Japanese (1894-95) and Russo-Japanese (1904-5) wars, but
> victorious outcomes obscured the need for rectification and the
> institutionalization of coordinated leadership. As a result, the
> inevitable passing of the oligarchs in the decade following the
> Russo-Japanese War left the country without an effective mechanism to
> manage the more complex and much larger-scale wars it would launch in
> the 1930s. Although the oligarchic succession problem has been
> highlighted by historians in the past, Paine emphasizes a connection
> to the consequences of Meiji era victories that depended a great deal
> on good luck and what she calls "cooperative adversaries," who failed
> to leverage their advantages in these conflicts.
> The book is organized into seven chapters. The first, which also
> serves as an introduction, explores the emergence of modern Japan in
> the Meiji era. It touches on incipient continental ambitions linked
> to models of great power status provided by the West. The second and
> third chapters deal with the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars
> respectively, where the author outlines underlying and proximate
> causes, incorporating some of the international and domestic
> developments preceding both outbreaks. They also review elements of
> the grand strategy in each case. These chapters provide fairly
> detailed accounts of the conduct of the wars from both sides, useful
> descriptions in their own right but that serve, in particular, to
> expose areas of Japanese vulnerability that China and Russia each had
> the capacity to exploit. The fourth chapter covers the interwar era
> spanning 1906 to 1931, with some extension into the mid-1930s in
> treating developments in army ideology. It explores a wide range of
> developments, including changes in the international environment, the
> passing of the oligarchs and its consequences, the growing intrusion
> of army power into politics, the rise of parliamentary government,
> the outbreak of civil war in China, and the rise of Shintō
> extremism.
> The fifth and sixth chapters deal with the conflict that many
> Japanese historians describe as the Fifteen Year War (1931-45), which
> Paine segments into two periods: the ten years spanning 1931-41 and
> the five years between 1941 and 1945. These chapters employ a
> narrative structure roughly parallel to those provided for the first
> two wars, which facilitates comparison. Although he covers material
> familiar to students of World War II in Asia and the Pacific, Paine
> frames the course of events with the theme of continental versus
> maritime power, highlighting the strategic inflexibility of
> continental imperialism, which left Japanese military planners few
> options other than to escalate the conflict in response to any
> setbacks. The author also uses the idea of "sunk costs" in explaining
> the pattern of relentless escalation as an effort to make good on the
> lives lost and treasure spent that precluded any meaningful
> negotiation (p. 135). In the final analysis, the inflexibility of the
> quest for continental power left no room for a conditional end to
> hostilities, leading to an enforcement of unconditional surrender by
> the Allies. The last chapter provides a conclusion that reiterates
> the themes of the book.
> In addition to a fresh look at the "what went wrong" debate, one of
> the most important contributions this book makes to the historical
> study of both modern Japan and international relations lies in
> highlighting the divergent options of maritime and continental power
> facing Japan's political elites after 1868. In English-language
> treatments of Japanese imperialism and foreign policy, this theme has
> received limited emphasis, with the exception of such recent work as
> Charles Schencking's _Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, and the
> Emergence of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868-1922_ (2008). The
> land-or-sea theme is much more developed in Japanese-language
> historiography, which uses it to frame broader political debates
> going back to the 1880s over Japan's place in the world and its
> future direction. Such works as Kitaoka Shin'ichi's _Nihon_ _rikugun
> to tairiku seisaku_ (Japanese army and continental policy) (1978) and
> Bannō Junji's _Taishō seihen_ (Taishō political crisis) (1995)
> have seen the tension between advocates of continental and maritime
> power as fundamental to the politics of the period between 1906 and
> 1918. During this period of ascendant liberalism that would culminate
> in the first party cabinet in 1918, champions of the interlocking
> causes of army expansion, continental imperialism, and domestic
> political conservatism locked horns with an opposing coalition that
> combined the causes of navalism, maritime imperialism, and
> parliamentary rule at home. The moderately liberal maritime position,
> its navalism checked by international arms limitation agreements,
> gained the upper hand during the 1920s and even succeeded in forcing
> a 20 percent reduction in the army's complement of infantry
> divisions. The Manchurian Incident of 1931, however, turned the
> tables decisively, locking the nation into a continentalist course.
> Paine frames Japan's disastrous choice of continentalism as a problem
> of "misidentifying Japan as a continental, not maritime power" and of
> a leadership that "failed to appreciate their great gift of
> geography" (pp. 109, 179). Studies of Japanese political history,
> though, suggest that the issue was not so much a collective failure
> to understand the advantages of a maritime course of development as
> the political defeat of the advocates of navalism and maritime power
> at the hands of the army and its continentalist allies. Advocates of
> maritime power, such as journalist and parliament member Takekoshi
> Yosaburō, indeed, echoed early in the twentieth century many of the
> same points Paine makes about the two modes of power in the world,
> including the trend lines of history rendering continental
> imperialism obsolete.[2] Taking this political contest into account
> might have strengthened the overall argument. So too would have a
> closer look at the evolving ideology of the Imperial Japanese Army
> and its continentalist program. Paine relies on the concept of
> Shintō political extremism drawn from Walter Skya's _Japan's Holy
> War: The Ideology of Radical Shinto Ultranationalism_ (2009) in
> explaining the army's ideological orientation. This rubric
> encompasses the Young Officers, the name of the specific movement
> responsible for the February 1936 coup attempt, which the book
> applies somewhat loosely to a variety of terrorist groups and actors.
> The author also includes the architects of the Manchurian Incident of
> 1931 within this grouping. Various strains of radicalism were, no
> doubt, mutually stimulating, but few historians of this era would
> grant Shintō extremism such a blanket influence on army activity.
> Work on army continentalism in the 1920s and 1930s, such as James B.
> Crowley's _Japan's Quest for Autonomy: National Security and Foreign
> Policy, 1930-1938_ (1966), Mark Peattie's _Ishiwara Kanji and Japan's
> Confrontation with the West _(1975), and Michael Barnhart's _Japan
> Prepares for Total War: The Search for Economic Security_ (1987),
> point to a very different line of thinking rooted in rather
> far-fetched but nonetheless functionally rational programs through
> which Japan might secure the vast resource base necessary to wage
> total war against either the Soviet Union or the United States. Such
> studies, emphasizing the army's efforts to create a "national defense
> state" with an autarkic defense perimeter extending deep into China,
> provide an analysis of army behavior that tend to marginalize Shintō
> extremism as such.
> Paine's argument for "what went wrong" nonetheless stands up well as
> presented, and the book's interpretation of the Japanese case as a
> cautionary tale in the history of international relations is
> compelling: "The lessons are relevant to the United States, which,
> like Japan back in the day, is prone to intervening abroad. Like
> Japan, its maritime location provides relative sanctuary, insulating
> it from problems elsewhere, so that intervention is often a matter of
> choice, not of necessity. Yet the choices matter. Some, as the
> Japanese discovered, are irrevocable" (p. xi).
> Notes
> [1]. Edwin O. Reischauer, "What Went Wrong," in _Dilemmas of Growth
> in Prewar Japan_, ed. James W. Morley (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
> University Press, 1971), 489.
> [2]. Takekoshi Yosaburō, _Nangoku ki_ (Tokyo: Niyūsha, 1910), 1-15.
> Citation: Tak Matsusaka. Review of Paine, S. C. M., _The Japanese
> Empire: Grand Strategy from the Meiji Restoration to the Pacific
> War_. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. January, 2018.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=50551
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
> License.
> --

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