More forgotten history: Theodore Roosevelt and diplomacy with Japan

Back posting from a day of remembrance, on Sunday I noticed the New York Times ran an opinion piece by James Bradley, celebrated author of many World War II -themed books including “Flyboys: A True Story of Courage“.

As the piece says, the Meiji Japanese were playing Theodore Roosevelt for their fool as they sought to lock in an advantage that they’d gained in the war with Russia. This is consistent with what a person I’d met in Tokyo in 2005 told me, when we visited Meiji Shrine, in what, ironically, was to become my future neighborhood!

Japan had the advantage, but needed the mediated truce because the Russians were starting to regroup for massive offensives against Japan. I don’t know my exact history of everything in the Russo-Japanese War, but it was sometime after the Port Arthur victory by the Japanese.

The Bradley piece explains how “mediator” Roosevelt was secretly biased in favor of the Japanese, and kept them informed as to what moves he was making. Even Congress was apparently kept in the dark.

Bradley ends by pointing out that the way the Japanese fought the Russo-Japanese War was a prelude to the way they would go about things with the attack on Pearl Harbor, about 35 years later. And 68 years ago this week.

With the Okinawa breach in the news, I suspect we are going to be reading a lot more history in the near future of the untrustworthiness of the Japanese. And not just material sponsored by mainland China. It is like how during the trade disputes of the 1980’s and ’90’s came movies like “Black Rain” and books like Tom Clancy’s “Debt of Honor“.

Honestly, honestly, I don’t know how Okinawa is going to end. But as I’ve said here before—and I’ve thought about this—the United States really makes fools out of ourselves in many of our dealings with the Japanese.

And primarily, this is because we confuse the Japanese people with the Japanese government. We like to think that the people and the government are the same, since we like to think the same about our own government!

My gut feeling is that as a government, the Japanese don’t know how to deal with “outsiders”, and so therefore you need to be very careful in dealing with them. This country replays the same rituals from 150 years ago, even though the world has changed considerably.

And the more they are there, this new “seiken koutai” (regime change) government of Hatoyama is really just more of the same. Meet the New Boss: Same as the Old Boss.

I think if we don’t get an acceptable way about Okinawa, the United States needs to seriously consider SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement), and, if they have to, pull all the troops out. It costs us a ton of money, despite whatever the Japanese chip in. Maybe it would just be better if we left, and let the chips fall where they may.

My only hesitation is I wonder what will happen to the kids. In some ways, you can read the history of Japan as the failure of older generations to think about the welfare of younger ones. And I am not sure, but I think the senpai system of absolute deference to whoever is older is behind this aspect of the culture.

The kids of the 1930’s had to suffer and clean up the mess of the early Showa-era warmongers here. The kids of the 1990’s had to suffer the bad economic conditions of the late Showa-era bubble creators and corrupt one-party state hacks and cronies. Always, older people not considering the future. “The future will take care of itself” as if Japan were still a fertile backwater of the Asian mainland. Not a place easily reachable in 18 minutes by ICBM.

But that’s all an aside.

So as history goes, thank you President Theodore Roosevelt, for helping to build America’s reputation here as affable fools easily manipulated to some scheming government bureaucracy’s end.

The effects lasted not just to Pearl Harbor.