Question 2: World War II- A Race War
Dower’s assertion was calculative and well informed. It is a true that World War II was pertinently motivated by racial pride and arrogance posed by the main participants particularly the America and Japan. Dower’s work provides a clear description of the effect of ethnicity and racial pride on the war. The scholar explores various situations with the intention of explaining motivate behind the decisions and practices assumed by each side. He presents sentiments that the two countries were equally wrong because they were all motivated by stereotypic assumption of viewing the other as polarized. Dower, feels that the war was essentially aggressive because parallel ethnicity in the Japanese and American culture created inhuman individuals who had no mercy, both at the home and the war (89). Basing his evaluations on various unconventional resources, Dower successfully provided evidence that individuals from both cultures were informed by racially inclined beliefs and values that promoted superiority feelings that enhanced vicious habit during the war and overwhelmed aggressive military actions throughout the war. It becomes clear that both sides assumed virtually similar racial perspectives that characterized arrogance, atrocity, hierarchy, and death. Dower presents an interesting assertion by showing both racial ugliness that informed both sides and its implication in relation to the actions undertaken in the war. For instance, army personnel from both sides suffered from intelligence information deficiency before the Pearl Harbor attack. The deficiency is attributable to the stereotypic assumptions that made them undermine each other.
Most wars during this era mainly included a black and white moral conflict. However, the WWII presented as a war spearheaded by two blind powers that all viewed adversary in same distorted manner. It is clear that none of the two enjoyed moral superiority, instead, the war was primarily informed by misconceptions. In Japanese view, they felt that they had a moral responsibility of freeing Asian mainland and Pacific from inhuman imperial powers. Some Asian states were welcome to this idea. Dower feels that the attack on the Pearl Harbor was a “daring encounter” that mainly had a reasonable motivation in the Japanese mind. The scholar essentially challenges the reader to revisit various events of the war and attempt to interpret them from the American and Japanese viewpoints. Dower’s assertion remain unchallengeable since a critical review of most war events highlights that prominent assumptions held by both countries depict high levels of optimism and prejudice. In line with Dower’s observation, an outbreak of “Japan bashings” in the 1980s is evident. During the war, Japanese attempting to capitalize on the idea of white racism to their advantage. They popularized a propaganda that marked the rivalry as the war aimed at challenge the white dominance and oppression in the Pacific. Studies have described reserves racial hierarchy promoted by the Japanese where they would mishandle the whites in their camps under the supervision of the Chinese and Indian guards. This presents as a disconcerting racial payback practiced by the defeated Japanese after the war.
The impact of racism is apparent in its central role in influencing the policies and practices that both countries pursued during this time. Initially, the Japan central propaganda was based on the concept of ‘Yamato’ that mainly regards to Japan’s ethnic group. The Japanese believed that the Yamato is designated as a lineage of the Sun God since the establishment of Japanese State. In the Japanese context, the main duty of this group included bringing all races under their control. Furthermore, they believed that war marked the start of the freeing the Asians from the Western ghosts. In this context, Dower feels that this biased perspective presents as an ideology of their “ultimate destiny” that breed gratification that made them underrate ability of their enemy. The assumption corrupted the Japanese as they accepted biased misconceptions of both their power and their enemies to mislead them. Racial prejudice made them have an exaggerated view of their social connection and presumed spiritual attributes while underrating the resource strength and moral fiber of their enemies. This would later make them to engage in misinformed decisions such as entering into the war without evaluating the broad context that would character such a move. They felt that they were the masters and the most intelligence, thus on one would successfully challenge their mission.
Racism is evident in the Japanese assumption that they presented as ordained “master race.” The motivation that they were destined to establish the world in which Japan would be the ultimate commanding authority created a deception that they were unbeatable or ever challengeable. Accordingly, Dower feels that Japan failed to engage in logical intelligence evaluation of the psychological and economic spheres. The government’s major intelligence and other advisory bodies never engaged in critical analysis before endorsing the idea of going to war. It is worthwhile noting that this aspect of gratification and the weakness practice that followed was promoted by the illusion of Japanese racial superiority. Furthermore, their successful attack against the British in Singapore emphasized their assumption of their invincibility and a “weak” enemy. Their biased supposition is also evident during the war. As the war progressed, they felt no need of changing their code because they were sure that the weak westerners could hardly break it. Even when on the war grounds they could easily leave crucial documents behind as they felt that the Westerns could not be able to read or interpret them. Such practices that were mainly caused by their racial stereotypic attitude are what eventually resulted in their downfall. They failed to plan accordingly or remain vigilant as they underestimated the American’s potential and ability. It is apparent that Japanese would have been at an upper edge if they shed racial attitudes and altered their codes when deemed necessary. Furthermore, they would have considered the significance of teaching their army English, the practices that would have considerably aided collection of intelligence information. However, in Japanese’ context, this would never happen as it meant challenging racial assumptions that destined Japan as a supreme authority.
In the Americans’ context, racism presents in the assumptions towards Japanese that were constructed by scientific racism. Americans elites identified Japanese as children and inhuman animals. The idea of dehumanizing Japanese enhanced the Americans’ passion to enter into the war with Japanese to eliminate them. The Americans likened the Japanese with the apes, vermin, and insects that needed to be cleared from the universe through all means. Dower explains the implication of this prejudiced assumption by noting that people can easily exterminate animals than their fellow humans. In this respect, Dower portrays the perspective of speciesism that informed these resist depictions. With this perspective, the Americans could easily justify their action of exterminating the Japanese since to them; they were just animals that could not feel pain. In this context, Dower explains that the uttered withdrawal of the Japanese’ humanity was characterized by the exploitative actions that armored the idea of them not being human. The Americans forced them out of their homes and communities and demanded them to reside in facilities meant for animals before being relocated to their final camps. Such treatment of the Japanese by Americans affirms the prejudiced assumption that they had, which made them believe that the Japanese were animals. The perception was that animals could be confined in captivity camps. This would not have been morally right even in the eyes of Americans as human are entitled some particular rights; however, in this case, they viewed it appropriate as Japanese were just animals. Dowel explains that such attitudes were prominent even at the top levels of politics. He accounts that Churchill stated that he was confident with the President’s ability to maintain the “Japanese dog” silent in the Pacific—in reference to the Japanese. In this context, it becomes unchallengeable that likening the Japanese with Animals was informed by the overarching racism that endorsed such political practices such as that of Japanese internment.
In conclusion, it is evident that Dower’s articulation that racism prompted and propelled the WWII by informing people’s perceptions both at home and at the war is logical. Racial assumptions made individuals develop esteem and pride that fueled the decision and actions that characterized the war. Furthermore, these stereotypic assumptions aggravated the degree of the war in the context of the brutality, particularly by the Americans. The Japanese racial prejudice made them feel that they were the superior race, thus would confidently engage the British. Even while at the war, Japanese soldiers would not fear facing American soldiers, as they believed in their unchallengeable expertise and the weak nature of their opponents. On the other hand, the America government and soldiers endorsed inhuman policies and actions that resulted in the brutal treatment of the Japanese, since racial assumptions made Americans view Japanese as animals.
Dower, John W.. War without mercy: race and power in the Pacific war. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986.
Shillony, Ben-Ami, “Reviewed Work: War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War by John W. Dower” The Journal of Japanese Studies 14.1 (1988): 200-205.