Evidence of Infamy

Two revisionist must-reads for this “Day of Infamy” (the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor): How U.S. Economic Warfare Provoked Japan’s Attack on Pearl Harbor by Robert Higgs and Pearl Harbor: Roosevelt Knew by Justin Raimondo.  Some conservative and libertarian-ish fans of our Facebook page have recoiled in horror at the evidence and arguments presented in these pieces.

Professor Higgs reflects:

“That so many Americans react with shock and anger when they encounter evidence about FDR’s various efforts to bring the USA into World War II tells me that they have personally identified with the state. Hence, they react to anyone’s indictment of the state as if it were a personal attack on them. They will seek any possible way to defend the state and its leaders, regardless of plain evidence of those leaders’ complicity or responsibility. Professional historians for the most part long ago accepted that FDR wanted to get the USA into the war, but they do not blame him for doing so. On the contrary, they praise him for his far-sighted understanding that this country “needed to” enter or “should have” entered the war, given what a wonderful project it was. The great majority of Americans, they believe, were at the time too pig-headed and parochial to recognize what should be done for the good of the country and the world.”


  1. Daniel, You neglected to mention Percy Greaves thoroughly documented revisionist history, PEARL HARBOR: THE SEEDS AND FRUITS OF INFAMY, available from Mises: http://mises.org/document/5364.

    China’s Chiang Kai-shek, was a thug of the first order. His killing tally of his fellow Chinese is perhaps exceeded only by Mao Zedong.

    “Economic warfare” may not be such a grave misnomer when it is aimed by a major military power(s) against a small nation by blockading and embargoing imports and exports as the U.S. and U.N. did to Iraq under Saddam. Such “sanctions” can be quite as deadly as hot warfare. It has been estimated that more than one million Iraqis died – 500,000 of them children – as a direct consequence of economic sanctions. At the height of the sanctions it was reported that as many as 12% of the children surveyed in Baghdad were wasted, 28% stunted and 29% underweight.” – UN FAO, December 1995.

  2. I like “economic warfare” no better than any fan of Bastiat, Smith, Mises, or Friedman. But it’s a metaphor. “Economic warfare” is not warfare, exactly as “rhetorical violence” is not violence and “social justice” is not justice.

    Therefore, “Economic Warfare Provoked Pearl Harbor” is like Alice’s rhetorical violence that provoked Bill to hit Alice: no excuse at all, even if it did exist and was provocative. (Libertarians do not admit the “fighting words” defense.)

    Mr. Higgs is not clear that he is not making such a lame excuse. To pick his leading example of how the U.S. “was at war” with Japan before Japan attacked the U.S.: we gave succor “to the Chinese, who were at war with Japan.” That is true but misleading: we gave succor to our then friends the Chinese who had been massively and brutally invaded by Japan.

    It is a reasonable question whether the Flying Tigers crossed the bright red line that separates war from peace–and if so, whether it was aggressive war or defensive war. But Mr. Higgs does not make that argument, but the economic provocation one. That dog won’t hunt.

    What kind of person misses the difference between refusal to trade and violence?

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