Monday, July 03, 2006

.... but mama, that's where the fun is.

It's the argument hour, a hopefully regular spot where I try to deflate prevalent strawmen, often with the aid of outrageously mixed metaphors. Today's argument is:
We should support the United States in the War On Terror/Cold War/War of the Worlds because they stopped the ravening hordes of marauding Japanese from taking over the entire Pacific, overrunning the Australians, and coming here to convert us to Shintoism at the point of a samurai sword and steal our women.
Or, as I like to call it, The "shut your mouth pinko 'cause if Uncle Sam hadn't saved your bacon you'd be talking Tojo" argument.

This argument, while obviously quite psychologically powerful for it's proponents (no one likes an ungrateful little bastard, and any argument that invokes WWII has inordinate power even now) it can definitely be attacked on at least two points - firstly as a point of fact, and secondly as a morally correct assertion.

Did the United States save our collective bacon?
From the American perspective the despatch of troops to New Zealand was not primarily to defend the two distant islands in the South Pacific. New Zealand had a strategic importance. In mid- March the Allies had decided to divide responsibility for their forces into three zones. The British would control the Middle East-Indian Ocean area, the European-Atlantic zone would be a shared responsibility, and the Pacific would come under the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Within the Pacific itself there was a further division into two main theatres: the South-west Pacific, including Australia, the Philippines, New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies; and the Pacific Ocean in which New Zealand was a main base. New Zealand would thus serve as a source of supply and a staging post for operations against the Japanese within the Pacific. There American forces might train for offensives ahead or recuperate from battles just past. There vegetables and stores could be found for sending to the bloodied jungles further north.
(from nzhistory.net: Why They Came - US Forces in New Zealand)

Since I am not a historian, this bit is going to be necessarily rather short. In my gut I find the idea of Japan sailing half way around the world and invade us purely for our mild climate, rolling sheep-clad hills and unspoilt beaches kind of laughable. For chrissake, we didn't even have any decent golf-courses, the trip would hardly be worth the aircraft carrier fuel. No, when you look at the reasons Japan launched their war in the first place, annexing a little holiday home in the South Pacific was a little far down the "Things to do" list they stuck on their refridgerator. Unless, of course, we gave them an excuse ...
Japan's policies in the 1930s are remarkable for their disastrously self-defeating nature. Japan's grand strategy was based on the premise that it could not survive a war against the European powers without secure sources of natural resources, yet to secure those resources it decided to undertake the war that it knew it could not win in the first place.
- Wikipedia entry on the Pacific War

And there's the rub. The Japanese, loathsome nasty jingoistic bastards that they were in the early 20th century, wanted their own little colonial empire in Asia - perhaps mindful of that fact that if you are the largest kid on the block you run less risk of having your lunch stolen. But to be the biggest kid on the block Japan needed resources, raw materials, most of which were not native to Japan (at least in sufficient quantities); if you need resources you either buy them or steal them. Buying them is usually preferable - war being reasonably expensive in more ways than one - but stealing them, or to be more precise, stealing the countries that had them (ironically, since these were mostly colonial possessions, Japan was effectively stealing from a bunch of thieves, abeit slightly more benign criminals than Japan turned out to be), meant a greater security of supply - especially when the US started embargoing Japanese supplies of oil and steel (to be fair, the embargo was to punish Japan for atrocities in East Asia - I wouldn't want you to think Japan was an innocent in all this). Japan's answer to the problem was to launch a pre-emptive strike against the US and disable their ability to wage effective war in the medium term - giving Japan time to secure the resources it needed and then build up defences enough to make the US loath to attack.

Where does New Zealand (or for that matter, Australia) fit into the picture? Well, nowhere really - except insofar as we were allies of the main enemies that Japan has just created - the UK and the USA. Oh bugger. So wouldn't that mean that instead of needing to ally with the US to save our bacon from the Nips, we were actually becoming a target by becoming an ally ...

Oops.

In closing this section I'll leave you with a section from a communique from a New Zealand defence official to the NZ Chief of Staff in 1942:
(7) The scale and probability of attack against New Zealand depends on ability to operate adequate naval and air forces from New Caledonia, Fiji and Samoa, and denial of these islands to the Japanese.
(8) If we hold secure bases in the Islands and can continue to operate reconnaissance and naval and air striking forces from them, the naval hazards to large invading forces and the difficulty of refuelling enemy naval escorts would render invasion extremely difficult, if not impracticable. Enemy raiding forces unencumbered by heavy transports and their escorts might reach New Zealand.
(9) If the Island Groups be lost, a full-scale attack on New Zealand is much more possible, but is considered unlikely for the following reasons:
(a) Possession of the South Pacific Islands will place the Japanese across the Allied lines of communication and isolate New Zealand from the United States. This will probably be sufficient for their purposes.
(b) The despatch of a powerful force to New Zealand entails a serious dispersion of Japanese strength and increased maintenance problems.
(c) Moves against bases in the Indian Ocean will inflict greater damage on the Allies, threaten the lines of communication in the Indian Ocean, and be a step towards closing the gap between Germany and Japan.
(d) The United States Fleet flanking the enemy lines of communication to New Zealand is a very real threat to an invasion expedition. This requires protection by a formidable force of capital ships, which the Japanese are most unlikely to risk at such a distance from Japan.
(10) Although arguable that Japan will invade New Zealand with a view to obtaining a powerful bargaining counter in any future negotiations, on balance it is considered the Japanese are more likely initially to direct any major offensive against the west and north rather than attempt an invasion of New Zealand and Australia, with the possible exception of Port Darwin.
(From the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre)

Disclaimer: Hopefully this is obvious, but the above isn't supposed to imply that we shouldn't have been involved in WWII in either the Pacific or European theatres - merely that involvement was not necessary for reasons of national security. There are a whole host of other reasons we should and did get involved.

Next Week: Mama always told my not to look into the eyes of the sun ... - Does it matter whether they saved our bacon?



You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:

How come TV psychics seem so convincing?

John Rogers kicks a man when he's down, which, let's face it, is the best time to do it:
Just. Stay. Down.

News of note:
French legislation could end iPod lock-in - Or, Steve Jobs, shut THE fuck up.
Bush Eats Baby, Republicans Defend President - 'nuff said.

Ain't no thing funnier than RapeBear:
On follow up calls - seriously everytime I read I get tears in my eyes. Four words: "Jews on a train". We are all going to hell for that one.

What about grown men who collect 3 3/4in action figures?:
The Geek Hierarchy

3 comments:

anth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
anth said...

Looks like a few decades earlier the USA had made plans to invade NZ just in case.

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