On this 70th anniversary of WW2 rather than simply pointing fingers at Japan it’s important to better understand the events which led a country that existed in near complete isolation and at peace with the world for well over 200 years to militarize and to or attempt to brutally colonize it’s neighbors. While Japan has no excuse for its actions during and leading up to the war Western powers must not fail to recognize their responsibility in helping to shape pre-WW2 Japan because one of the most important things that can be learned from any war is the role ones actions played in shaping if not creating ones enemies and adversaries.
In the decades leading up to WW2 Japan was surrounded by Western powers who had already established colonial rule throughout Southeast Asia and had began carving up China into miniature colonies. In between the first and second Opium Wars in which the British attacked a militarily weak China to protect their illicit drug trade Japan also experienced what it was like to be bullied by the West when it was forced by the U.S. to open its ports to trade. Over the following decades one could imagine that this contributed to a feeling among some in Japan that a resource scarce and overpopulated Japan had no choice other than to industrialize, militarize, and establish it’s own colonies or risk being turned into a colony itself.
Moreover the racism towards and government backed exclusion of Japanese and others from East Asia already living in the U.S. or seeking to emigrate there during a time when Europeans were still welcomed did not help build the feeling of mutual respect which is essential for mutual understanding and good relations. Regardless of the outside causes that contributed to Japans brutal rise and calamitous fall the fact is it was rooted in nationalism and superstition which are things no nation is immune to therefore this tragic history isn’t merely a Japanese or East Asian history it’s a human history that we all must learn from and defend from those who seek to downplay, deny, or re-write it.
Although Japan has issued a number of apologies for its actions during and leading up to WW2 if Japan as a nation represented by democratically elected officials turns to the left and says we’re sorry and then turns to the right and denies the Rape of Nanjing ever took place or downplays the plight of the women and girls who were forced to work as sex slaves for the Japanese army then the sincerity of these apologies will be called into question. When publicly elected Japanese officials say and do outrageous things it shouldn’t be people in China and Korea who are most offended it should be the Japanese voters themselves and the best way to express this dissatisfaction is by voting such politicians and political parties out of office.