FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

On the Contemporary Relevance of the Manchurian Incident

by Gary Leupp

On September 18, 1931 (70 years before the Sept. 11 attacks), the opening salvoes of World War II were fired in Manchuria. As I have been reading Bush’s comments comparing Saddam to Hitler, and German justice minister Herta Da?bler-Gmelin’s remarks comparing Bush to Hitler, in this season of tortured analogies, the following comes to mind. Manchuria as of 1931 was internationally regarded as part of China, a sovereign country, although like most of China it was governed by a warlord rather than an effective central government. Japan’s incipiently fascist government had acquired treaty rights to station forces in Manchuria, protecting its railroad, port and other interests. Japan was a major imperialist power, having wrenched Taiwan from China in 1895, established its rule over Korea in 1905, and acquired a slough of Pacific islands during World War I. (The “international community” had endorsed such colonizing activity, the U.S. exchanging its nod for Japan’s acceptance of its imperial dominion over the Philippines and Guam, the French trading their recognition for Japan’s acceptance of French colonialism in Indochina, etc.)

From Sept. 18 Japan’s Kwantung Army in Manchuria, having provoked an “incident” with local military forces, fanned out from Mukden and in short order conquered the whole Chinese province. The action was not authorized by the Prime Minister, Diet, or even the High Command in Tokyo, but undertaken after careful conspiratorial planning by a small cabal of field-rank officers who had a vision of a Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Tokyo had to go along with it, insisting, on the global diplomatic stage, that its forces had been provoked.

But this attack of the regional superpower on the weak nation of China met with international indignation, particularly as Japan established an imaginary state called Manchukuo. The Japanese sought League of Nations approval for the fait accompli, but the Lytton commission, in a carefully balanced statement (prepared by a British lord not at all disposed to oppose imperialism in principle), condemned it. So the Japanese delegation walked out, helping seal the fate of the League. What did Japan need, after all, from a body inherently suspicious of it, unsympathetic to its national security interests, unable to comprehend its racial destiny? Why should the League’s condemnation prevent Japan from bringing its superior way of life to the benighted Manchurian people, and from taking advantage of its mineral resources and the Lebensraum it could provide Japan’s expanding population? Japan’s act of war was in fact an act intended to secure the peace in a troubled region.

One thing let to another, and six years later Japanese forces got into a full-scale war with China which resulted in such unpleasantries as the Rape of Nanking. To prosecute the war effectively, Japan required oil that the U.S. refused to supply, which meant Japan needed to attack and conquer the Dutch Indies, which meant having to take out Pearl Harbor, bases in the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong. All hell broke loose, and ultimately, the Japanese people paid the price in the form of Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and conventional bombing of Tokyo and other cities that was equally destructive.

Just goes to show: stage an unprovoked attack; lie about it; ignore the world’s sentiments; let policy be set by a cabal of fanatics with visions of grandeur; encourage racist, condescending views of other peoples; and things can spin out of control. The world today is a far cry from the world of Herbert Hoover, Chiang Kai-shek, and Wakatsuki Reijir?, men at the helm in their nations as of Sept. 1931; there is only one superpower whose leaders’ provocations, ignorance, fanaticism and racist condescension can trigger another world war. Not a war between evenly-matched blocs, this time, but one nation’s war against the world, defined at the outset as endless.

Gary Leupp is an an associate professor, Department of History, Tufts University and coordinator, Asian Studies Program. He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

 

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
Rob Seimetz
Measuring Manhoods
Edward Curtin
Sorry, You’re Not Invited
Vern Loomis
Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”
David Yearsley
The Ethos of Mayfest
May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail