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U.S. & Japan - Essay Example

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Indeed, the nature and outcome of warfare, as of any human endeavor, are largely dependent on the individual talents and cumulative experiences of the people who engage in it. To study the material and technological aspects of modern warfare to the exclusion of its emotional, spiritual, and intellectual elements is foolish…
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Download file to see previous pages Indeed, the nature and outcome of warfare, as of any human endeavor, are largely dependent on the individual talents and cumulative experiences of the people who engage in it. To study the material and technological aspects of modern warfare to the exclusion of its emotional, spiritual, and intellectual elements is foolish. The very existence of war requires that one possess not only the physical means to sustain an armed struggle but a mentality that predisposes one to initiate it or persevere in it. It follows, then, that hostilities cease when one of these two essential elements has been destroyed--when one combatant no longer possesses either the physical means or the psychological will to carry on the fight. What were the dominant ideologies and institutions of international politics of the twentieth century? At the dawn of the twenty-first century, this seems a particularly appropriate question to ask. What distinguished them, what were their limitations, what was their potential, and what prospects do they hold for the new millennium? The purpose of combat operations is to physically destroy the enemy's physical and material ability to make war. The objective of psychological operations is to erode his will to continue the fight.John W. Dower's War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York: Pantheon, 1986) is a superb analysis of the impact of cultural stereotypes and racism on the conduct of the war in the Pacific.
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John W. Dower assesses the impact of racial hatred, cultural stereotypes, and acid psychological factors on the conduct of the Pacific War. Yet his treatment of wartime atrocities, Japanese adherence to "death before dishonor," and Americans "obsessed with the task of slaughter" reveals only part of the story.
Although he refers to the surrender of demoralized Japanese soldiers, the subject is peripheral to his work. This is understandable given his focus, yet one is left with a very dear impression that such occurrences were extraordinarily rare and insignificant events.
More problematic is Dower's assertion that Americans in decision-making positions were so singularly unimpressed with the idea of waging a serious propaganda campaign against the Japanese that "such ideas had little impact." In fact, this is not the case. Psywar was not an afterthought on the part of Allied military commanders, nor was it always perceived as some "impractical plaything of effete civilians."2 In their attempts to demoralize Japanese troops Allied propagandists in the Southwest Pacific alone disseminated nearly 400 million propaganda leaflets and witnessed the capture of approximately 19,500 Japanese prisoners.
The dearth of historical inquiry into the conduct of psywar against the Japanese, likely results from assumptions that deserve closer scrutiny.
One such assumption seems to be that psywar could not have been effective against an enemy so thoroughly indoctrinated in a tradition that emphasized "death before dishonor" and the supreme virtues of loyalty to the emperor, unquestioning obedience to one's superiors, and self-sacrifice in the service of the nation.
To be sure, soldiers in the IJA were thoroughly imbued with these values. But just as it did not prevent them from experiencing defeat on the battlefield, military indoctrination did not safeguard the emperor's soldiers from the ill effects of demoralization. The evidence shows that as the war progressed and Allied military successes mounted, morale among Japanese combatants markedly declined and Japanese soldiers became increasingly susceptible to the Allied war of words.
Pacific War narratives provide graphic images of the brutal fighting in the Pacific, the atrocities committed by combatants, and the fight-to-the-death mentality that dominated among all fighting men in what has been characterized as a savage race war. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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