46. Review: “Killing the Rising Sun”, by Bill O’Reilly

January 9, 2018

Well, Killing the Rising Sun is certainly non-fiction, and is written in the manner of a scholarly historian or investigative journalist, and while I recommend it to any who didn’t actually have a contemporary experience of World War II, and especially of the behavior of the Japanese Emperor, Prime Minister Tojo, and his Army and Navy, in their military expansion throughout Asia beginning in 1937 in China, I fear it might prove too provocative for people who are fixedly anti-war-at-all-cost, or who are determined to see America as the aggressor in every instance, even to the point of portraying the Japanese as victims.

While O’Reilly was a high school history teacher and the documentation he provides is extremely thorough, there are people who view him as a right-wing liar, and the book would be wasted on them.  Personally, I found him to be one of the commentators on Fox News that I could listen to, because while he was clearly conservative, over the years I never heard him lie about anything, and he did seem to make an effort to present or at least report opposing views. [Ed. Even in the end, he did not deny accusations of sexual harassment and left quietly.]

I think if it were me, I might poll the members of a book club to see how many were dead set against even reading his book, and make the decisions whether or not to select it for a group, based upon the result of the poll.

If one is willing to assume that what is presented — the events, facts and figures — is fair and accurate, the book does explain how it could have seemed appropriate to use the atomic bombs that ended the war in the Pacific. I know that as a boy of eleven with nine uncles in the war, it seemed the best possible outcome to me. 

One argument used by many modern academics to second-guess the decision to use atomic bombs is that the “real” reason we bombed Japan and ended the war that August was that we didn’t want Asia to fall under the control of the Soviets.  The book provides a time line that makes it clear that after Potsdam, while the Soviets did attack in Manchuria at nearly the same time as the decisions were made to use the atomic bomb, concern about Russian victory was far less an issue than were the millions of casualties anticipated from an imminent invasion of the Japanese home islands.  MacArthur, in fact, not having even been told that we had an atomic alternative, was counting on the Soviets to keep major components of the Japanese Army pinned down in Manchuria while he prosecuted an amphibious invasion that would cost an expected 500,000 American lives.

To understand how a decision could have been made to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese cities, one has to have witnessed, or be reminded of, how the tenets of shintoism (Japan was the home of the gods and Hirohito was literally a god) and bushido had enabled or caused the Japanese to conduct themselves during their war, committing each day yet another thousand atrocities involving civilians or prisoners of war. To those who cannot understand the need to bring an immediate halt to that behavior I can only say, You had to be there.


45. Acting crazy…

January 9, 2018

When my oldest boy, now 55, was in grade and middle school among the other boys was a kid named Cary (as best I can recall), who was a little guy.

At that age the vulnerable get picked on pretty mercilessly, but nobody picked on Cary, even the school bullies. Because Cary had carefully developed the reputation for being bat-shit crazy!

Around me he seemed quite normal. Charming even, with a winning smile. But in an altercation he became out-of-control, rabid, spitting, biting, eyes-wild, hitting and kicking anything that came close enough. Kids have unwritten rules about fighting, you know. No hitting in the face, no biting, no kicking in the balls, no eye gouging. Unwritten, but still as binding as those of the Marquis of Queensbury.

Cary broke all of those rules in the first couple of fights he was in, acting as if he were literally berserk and had lost all self-control, screaming and growling like an animal. After which everyone agreed he was crazy and too dangerous to provoke.

What I and other adults saw, of course, was a kid perfectly in control of himself, about which stories we heard about this other mode of behavior made no sense.

But I figured Cary was crazy like a fox. At some younger age, I assumed, Cary, being the littlest, had struck upon this strategy to avoid incessant bullying. I couldn’t be sure he was aware it was all an act or a contrivance. He might have though of himself as just being that way: violently out of control when he became angry.

I was a family doctor in those days, and many years later when I became a psychiatrist I learned more about a condition called “intermittent explosive disorder” in children. But that is defined, (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermittent_explosive_disorder), as being either spontaneous or provoked by “relatively inconsequential events” and happening a couple of times a week. In other words appearing to be generated by internal storms in the limbic system, the emotional circuits in the brain.

In Cary’s case, they only happened in response to physical bullying or the threat thereof, and when he wasn’t bullied they didn’t happen for weeks, months or years at a time…or at all. So in his case I didn’t sense any lack of ability to control his outbursts, and I did perceive a specific intent and purpose.

It’s been a long time and I only heard about most of Cary’s behavior second-hand and over time, so my speculations are just that — speculations.

But I’ve always had the feeling I had seen the behavior of the Korean Dictator somewhere before, and that it represented an intentional strategy to terrorize bigger guys and was not as crazy as it looked. In a sense it is like a little guy acting nuts in order to bully bigger guys.

With previous presidents and much of the American public it has seemed to work and they responded out of fear. Both the fear of the little bully’s actions, and that he will not fight by the rules, and the even greater fear of the disapproval of the rest of the world if we were to use nuclear weapons to wipe him out.

I don’t like Trump and I think he is stupid, dangerous and unpredictable. (Oh, wait, where have I seen that strategy before!?) But I think he said what needed to be said at the U.N. if NOKO’s ambition to build a nuclear ICBM arsenal is to be thwarted. And if it is not thwarted, it will surely have to be stopped by force. And if force is used, experience tells us, it should be overwhelming force in order to maximize harm to the enemy and minimize it to ourselves.

It must amuse China to sit there on the front porch and watch their pit-bull shred our trouser legs, but the real questions is, what will China do to prevent having an American occupying army on its immediate border? Will they join the conflict in Korea as they did in 1952? Up ‘till now they’ve merely allowed NOKO to distract us from their thrust into the Spratley’s in the South China Sea, where they can later extend their territorial waters to 200 miles, and sit astride the main trade route in the Far East. ( I don’t know it that’s their plan, but it would be my plan.)

Back to NOKO’s dictator. The real question is, if we did nuke him, which bomb would be more appropriate, Fat Man, or Little Boy?