Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"The Imperial Cruise" by James Bradley

If the Treaty of Versailles was the harbinger of World War Two in Europe, then what was the catalyst for the Japenese expansion in the Pacific that led to Pearl Harbor? I have often wondered where the connection was. In "The Imperial Cruise" James Bradley provides the answers.

In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt, acting as his own Secretary of State (John Hay had recently passed away) initiated a series of treaties and negotiations that would have devastating effects and rock the world for a hundred years or more. We are still in the grip of what was begun in 1905. It is of interest to note that some of these treaties were illegal under our Constitution. Only Congress has the power to draw up, or agree to, treaties for the United States. "Big Stick" Teddy once said-"I took the canal and let Congress debate."

Sending his daughter Alice, who was the Jackie Kennedy of her time, on the cruise provided great cover for the mission her father had decided to undertake. With the Presidents' Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, at her side she embarked from San Francisco on a voyage to Hawaii and on to Japan, Korea and 3 stops in China before returning via the Phillipines.

The treaties and agreements negotiated and signed on this trip led Japan to embark on an agressive campaign to modernize her military. This eventually led to attacks on China, Korea and ultimatley to Pearl Harbor. Ironically it was left to Theodore Roosevelts' cousin Franklin Roosevelt to clean up the mess. FDR was also left with the need to apologize to the Phillipine Government for the treachery of his Uncle Teddy.

The book delves into the reasons that the elder Roosevelt felt the need to undertake this mission. His vision of American style democracy included importing it beyond our West Coast and Hawaii. He was also an avid Aryan. That's right- a race purist. He believed that we are descended from the Tuetons and Aryans and as such had the responsibility to civilize the whole world west of our Pacific border.

The real aim was to establish "coaling" stations for ships crossing the Pacific. It is several thousand miles from the West Coast of the United States to Hawaii. From there we were seeking other islands for the same purpose. To this end Roosevelt decided that the Japenese were the most civilized of the Eastern nations and he set about in securing conflicting "treaties" with Japan and Korea and China. He called this his "Pacific Monroe Doctrine." This policy, and the treaties, became the vehicle by which Japan militarized and began invading other Asian nations.

Eventually they got too big for our liking and we cut off all of their access to the raw materials they needed to wage war. This led to increased aggression on the part of Japan and opened the door for the later Japenese atrocities in Nanking and the road to Pearl Harbor.

If I have over simplified things here it is because the scope of the subject is so vast- beginning with Commodore Perry in Japan. The insights into this period of Japanese history are an essential part of understanding what happened then as well as what is happening now.

The book is carefully researched, as are all of Mr. Bradleys' books. He has a unique way of putting history in its' proper perspective and looking beyond the facade of what we were taught in school. This book will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about the road leading up to World War Two and beyond. It will also make you wonder why we honor Teddy Roosevelt on Mt. Rushmore.

An informative and gripping read, I highly recommend this book.

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