Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Choosing your Battles carefully

Everyone wants to win. No one wants to lose. But there are some battles that are not winnable. There are some battles that are not worth fighting over. And there are some battles that you shouldn't try to even fight, battles that you can win but shouldn't.

Discerning this - is  a mark of maturity.

How do you attain this?

For myself, I like to read up on history. And study the battles of old - of warriors who won battles but lost the war ...

Let's start with a lesson close to home: Japan.

From 1933 - 1945, Japan waged war against China, and then failing to defeat it - turned against the Allied nations - America, Britain, the Dutch in Indonesia, Australia... However, it just couldn't fight a long first-class war against them. The Japanese thought that they'd win the first few battles- and then their enemies would surrender rather than fight on.

 During the 1930s, the military took control of the government. There was an economic depression. The nation was in turmoil.  And young nationalists sought to alleviate the suffering of their nation- by urging a war on China. Back then, China was weak - barely united - and wracked by civil war.

Japan on the other hand had a strong military- its navy, with its powerful carrier group and highly trained crews, was even at par with the United States and Great Britain.

So Japan attacked China- one small battle led to another - and eventually they conquered a large part of the country. But China's size, poor road systems, and massive population just made it too difficult for Japan to totally conquer it. Japan even experimented with biological warfare in the hope of exterminating millions of Chinese people.

To make matters worse, Japan - at the time- was dependent on the US for steel and oil. Much of its oil was imported from America which, at the time, was a net exporter of petrol.

Japan's invasion of China shocked world opinion. Their military committed terrible atrocities there- it went out of its way to terrify the populace through mass murder, mass rape, deliberate acts of genocide thru starvation... It was hell on earth. Even after the enemy cities surrendered- the Japanese troops were allowed to go onto a  rampage of rape, murder and destruction. (In 1942, after Singapore surrendered to the Japanese, the Japanese rounded up over 50,000 civilians, killed them in cold blood and threw their bodies into the sea.)

The US and its allies choose to punish Japan through trade embargoes - and in 1941 cut oil supplies to Japan. The Japanese leadership reacted in the only way they knew how- by attacking the European colonies in Asia, and by striking the USN fleet at Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese thought that the Americans and British were weak - more interested in dances, parties and love making. And once Japan had kicked them out of Asia- they would not return.

In turn, the Americans and British seriously underestimated the Japanese. And consequently let their guard down in Malaya, Singapore, Phillipines and so on.

But the Japanese success was short lived. Though they had spectacular successes - and won great battles at the start - they failed to understand that will power and determination by itself does not win a war.

Japan - at that time-  could not compete with America industrially or technologically. The Japanese were outproduced in every field: they unable to produce better planes, ships, tanks than the Americans - and worse they were unable to quickly train and replace their elite crew when they were lost. They also could not make good the loss of oil supply from America.

Eventually, the Japanese Navy and Army was defeated in battle after battle - until the Japanese were resorting to suicide attacks using poorly trained but fanatical boys.

US long range bombers were destroying Japan's cities, destroying their war factories, and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. The USN had a total blockade of Japan - preventing much needed food and supplies from entering.

And yet, the Japanese leaders didn't want to surrender. In fact, they armed their population  - old men, women, children with bamboo spears, suicide bomb packs - and exhorted them to make a final stand.

Their motto was "death before dishonor" ie. - no surrender. And so they were prepared to commit national suicide. If the war had carried on for another year or so- and the war taken to mainland Japan- half of the Japanese population would have been wiped out through battle, disease, starvation, and sucide. The Japanese were brainwashed into believing that the Americans would enslave them.

The Japanese believed their enemy would treat them the same as how they treated the Chinese and the other people they conquered. Ironic.

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