Japan’s enduring challenge

Clyde Prestowitz

Seventy years ago this week, hundreds of Japanese fighters and dive bombers unexpectedly appeared on a clear Sunday morning over the North Shore of the main Hawaiian island of Oahu and prepared to drop their bomb loads on Pearl Harbor. Within minutes the U.S. Pacific fleet was decimated and the door appeared open for a complete Japanese conquest of the Pacific basin and the establishment of an enduring Japanese hegemony over the Asia-Pacific region.

As we now know, this great Japanese victory was a pyrrhic one, as its architect and main protagonist, Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, had predicted it would be. Long before his bombers materialized over Hawaiian waters, Yamamoto had warned Japan’s leaders against the attack. He would succeed with the initial assault and would "run wild" for the first year of an ensuing war, he told them. However, he emphasized, if the war continued beyond a year, Japan would not be able to match America’s enormous productive power and would inexorably ground down be ground down and defeated.

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