Monday, March 15, 2010

Maybe later then

So I thought I'd give Tom Hanks' new series The Pacific a try. And I will, when I can get over the opening narration. But being told that Pearl Harbor was America's "greatest military disaster" and that Japan's successes in 1942 won it "one of the largest empires in history" made me shoot milk out my nose.

First off, Pearl Harbor? I'm not going to bother checking this too thoroughly, but I'll guarantee you that any objective measure would put America's biggest military disaster in the Civil War, especially in the first two years as the Union spent tens of thousands of lives and failed to capture Richmond, Virginia. I'd also point out the obvious point that the Civil War was a threat to the territorial integrity of the United States, which World War II only was in the most fantastical sense.

Secondly, 1942 Japan as one of the largest empires in history? Okay, in terms of surface area maybe. But land area? Turns out, controlling 10 million hectares of salt water is relatively useless, especially when the US can drive aircraft carriers through it. This Wiki page has Japan's land area in 1942 as 7.4m km2, substantially behind the British and, oh-ho, the United States at 9.8m km2.

And unlike the United States, very little of that conquered territory was economically and politically integrated in to the imperial core, meaning that most of it was a net cost, not a net benefit to the economy. Hell, by 1942 the Japanese had been fighting in China for 5 or 11 years (depending on who you ask) and still failed to win the war on the front that was always more important to them.

There's a number of ways in which the US actually did start the war from behind, and a number of ways in which the first year of the American war in the Pacific was really dicey. But there's a historical illiteracy at work here that bugs the crap outta me.

1 comment:

adam said...

You drink milk?