One of the least known parts of this time in history relates to Japan’s actions prior to their attack on Pearl Harbor. As the Japanese leadership was weighing their options about expansion, raw materials, and economics, the Imperial Japanese Army looked to the north, right on into that lovely garden spot known as Siberia. Russia and Japan had already fought a short, but quite intense, war in the early 1900s, with Japan gaining some territory in the Kuriles. Then after World War I, Japan was able to obtain a mandate over a number of former German colonies in the Pacific. (The classic example is the Japanese governance of the Bismark Islands after 1919.) With these holdings for the Japanese Empire to maintain, they went searching for “real estate” that actually held the necessary raw materials for their island Nation. This left them with one of two options. They could head north into Siberia, or south into Malaysia. The Imperial Navy liked the southern option, but since the Army held most of the power, the decision was made to try in the north. This attempt led to several clashes with Russian forces, and the Russians were able to drive back the Japanese with some serious casualties to the Japanese. It was a test, and it failed miserably for Japan. Armed with this failure by the Army, the Navy was then able to assert that heading south was the way to do it. Now for the United States, the rest is far better known history, which I won’t get into for now.
Suffice it to say, while the United States was smacking them with the old “check book” of economic warfare, the Russians were using cannons, boots on the ground, and sheer tenacity. You can decide which method actually worked, and which one only delayed the inevitable. It is from that lesson that I know that we can freeze the oil, steel, rubber, and assets of an aggressor, but unfortunately, against a determined enemy this can have a reverse effect in the long run. Regardless, to me the best response is one that contains both the carrot and the “big stick,” ala Theodore Roosevelt. Unfortunately, you can’t take away the stick; otherwise you will wind up like we did with Japan. So, can you stop a runaway train with a dollar bill? I don’t think you can, but you can decide for yourself. ~ Michael S. Pauley