Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Assesment of Hirohito

Some of you might have read "Hirohito and the making of modern Japan" by Herbert P . Bix, winner of the purizer prize.
I like the book, but I always want to see different perspectives.

Here are some quotes of some interest for you.

page 218 Japan's love-hate relationship with the West / Sukehiro Hirakawa.

Hirohito was ready to assume responsibility. At his first meeting with MacArthur, on 27 September 194, he told the American general, according to the letter's report:
I come to you , General MacArthur, to offer myself to the judgement of the powers you represent, as the one to bear sole responsibility for every political and military decision made and action taken by my people in the conduct of war

MacArthur's reaction was:
A tremendous impression swept me. This courageous assumption of a responsibility implicit with death, a responsibility clearly belied by facts which I was full aware of, moved to the marrow of my bones. He was an Emperor by inherent birth,, but in that instant I knew I faced the First Gentleman of Japan in his own right.page 218

page 191 Enigma of the emperors : sacred subservience in Japanese history / Ben-Ami
Herbert Bix has claimed that Hirohito was the real war leader of Japan . His claim is based on the vast powers that the emperor wielded , the aggressive orders that he issued, and the militaristic persons whom he appointed. But the emperor's powers were theoretical , the appointments had been decided in advance by his advisers and the edicts had been formulated by the government and the military. Bix points out that on certain occasions Hirohito tried, behind the scenes, to manipulate development at home and on the front, but this only proves that he was not a war leader. Hitler, Starlin or Roosevelt did not need to work behind the scenes to make their will prevail. Curiously, Bix seems to embrace the theory of the pre-war Japanese nationalists, tht the emperor was the main mover of modern Japanese history, but whereas the Japanese nationalists credited the emperor with all the surceases, Bix blames him for the failures.

I don't claim nothing is conlusive in history. But I claim history is more nuanced than the way it is often dealt with politically. That is one reason why I don't like the idea of politicizing history.

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