#CommonCore: turning History into anti-American propaganda


**Posted by Phineas



I honestly haven’t followed the controversy over the proposed Common Core national educational standards all that closely (1), though I’m somewhat familiar with the questions of lowered standards, loss of local control, and the constitutional issue over a national curriculum. But I do not claim to be an expert.

If, however, this is representative of how American History is to be taught, I’ll be reaching for my pitchfork and torch. The textbook in question is Prentice-Hall’s “The American Experience,” and its chapter on the Second World War, as well as the accompanying teacher’s manual, takes a, shall we say, “slanted” view of the war:

The opening page of the slim chapter devoted to World War II called “War Shock” features a photograph of a woman inspecting a large stockpile of thousand-pound bomb castings. The notes in the margins of the Teacher’s Edition set the tone:

“In this section, nonfiction prose and a single stark poem etch into a reader’s mind the dehumanizing horror of world war. . . .”

The editors of the textbook script the question teachers are supposed to ask students in light of the photograph as well as provide the answer:

Ask: What dominant impression do you take away from this photograph?

Possible response: Students may say that the piled rows of giant munitions give a strong impression of America’s power of mass production and the bombs’ potential for mass destruction.”

Translation: Americans made lots of big bombs that killed lots of people.

The principal selection of the chapter is taken from John Hersey’s Hiroshima. It is a description of ordinary men and women in Hiroshima living out their lives the day the bomb was dropped. A couple of lines reveal the spirit of the document:

“The Reverend Mr. Tanimoto got up at five o’clock that morning. He was alone in the parsonage, because for some time his wife had been commuting with their year-old baby to spend nights with a friend in Ushida, a suburb to the north.”

Further prompts from the margins of the Teacher’s Edition indicate how the selection is to be read and taught:

“World War II has been called a popular war in which the issues that spurred the conflict were clearly defined. . . . Nevertheless, technological advances . . . [and the media] brought home the horrors of war in a new way. Although a serious antiwar movement in the United States did not become a reality until the 1960s, these works by Hersey and by Jarrell take their place in the ranks of early antiwar literature.

Have students think about and record in writing their personal feelings about war. Encourage students to list images of war that they recall vividly. [Conveniently, there is a photograph of the devastation in Hiroshima next to this prompt].

Tell students they will revisit their feelings about war after they have read these selections.”

The entire section is littered with questions and prompts in this vein and plenty of photos that show the destruction of Hiroshima. In case the students would be inclined to take the American side in this conflict, the editors see to it that teachers will remind the students repeatedly that there are two sides in every war:

“Think Aloud: Model the Skill
Say to students:
When I was reading the history textbook, I noticed that the writer included profiles of three war heroes, all of whom fought for the Allies. The writer did not include similar profiles for fighters on the other side. I realize that this choice reflects a political assumption: that readers want to read about only their side’s heroes.

. . . Mr. Tanimoto is on the side of “the enemy.” Explain that to vilify is to make malicious statements about someone. During wartime, it is common to vilify people on the other side, or “the enemy.””

After a dozen pages of Hersey’s Hiroshima (the same number given to Benjamin Franklin in volume one of The American Experience), students encounter the anti-war, anti-heroic poem by Randall Jarell, “The Death of the Ball Turrett Gunner.” The last line in this short poem sums up the sentiment: “When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.” The textbook editors zero in for the kill:

“Take a position: Jarrell based his poem on observations of World War II, a war that has been called “the good war.” Is there such a thing as a “good war”? Explain.

Possible response: [In the Teacher’s Edition] Students may concede that some wars, such as World War II, are more justified than others, but may still feel that “good” is not an appropriate adjective for any war.”

This is not a history lesson. It is anti-war propaganda masquerading as history. This is garbage designed to at best place America and Imperial Japan on an ambiguously equal moral ground, and at worst to make us out to be a villain or aggressor in the conflict. To focus on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki without presenting the reasons for the attack is intellectually bankrupt. The Truman administration dropped the bombs because of the experience of fanatical Japanese resistance along a whole string of islands, where again and again Imperial Japanese Army units fought until nearly wiped out. Imagine that occurring on the Japanese Home Islands themselves, in the event of invasion; bear in mind that the Japanese government was not of a mind to surrender and indeed was talking about “70 million dead” (essentially, fighting to the last man, woman, and child), and then look at the casualty estimates for just the American invasion forces, for which figures of 500,000 killed and wounded were common. And, should the invasion have been delayed until 1946 or the islands simply besieged, there was a very real risk of famine and the  mass starvation of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, because transportation networks had been destroyed. And that doesn’t even begin to account for hundreds of millions suffering under Japanese rule and who needed the war to end as swiftly as possible.

Beyond the question of military necessity and the lesser of two evils, Common Core “standards” engage in moral relativism. While quoting Hersey’s “Hiroshima” (actually, a good book) and Jarrell’s poem, students are apparently left in the dark about Japan’s aggressive intentions and regular atrocities from the 1930s through the end. No mention of the invasion of Manchuria, the war on China, the Rape of Nanking, the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Unit 731, or the horrors suffered by prisoners of war and civilians living under Japanese rule.

But we do get pictures of American bombs, vivid descriptions of the wreck of Hiroshima, and the lasting impression that we were the ones committing evil, not doing what was necessary to end it.

Let me be blunt: Imperial Japan was evil and had subjected Asia and the Pacific to a horrific nightmare, all to satisfy a national ideology that dehumanized everyone else. Once the war had started, it had to be crushed; the Truman administration was right drop the atomic bombs to force Japan’s surrender (2). It would have been a greater evil to let the war drag on. And while innocent people died in the fight against Japan, to teach any sort of moral equivalence between the two nations is insulting and obscene.

And yet these are the new standards? This isn’t education, it’s pedagogical malpractice.

(1) On the other hand, Michelle Malkin has been an avenging angel on the topic.
(2) A superb book on the end of the war and the decision to use atomic weapons is Frank’s “Downfall: the End of the Imperial Japanese Empire.”

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Want to know how badly China has bungled its foreign affairs?


**Posted by Phineas

The Philippines says it supports Japanese rearmament:

The Philippines would strongly support a rearmed Japan shorn of its pacifist constitution as a counterweight to the growing military assertiveness of China, according to the Philippine foreign minister.

“We would welcome that very much,” Albert del Rosario told the Financial Times in an interview. “We are looking for balancing factors in the region and Japan could be a significant balancing factor.”

The unusual statement, which risks upsetting Beijing, reflects alarm in Manila at what it sees as Chinese provocation over the South China Sea, virtually all of which is claimed by Beijing. It also comes days before an election in Japan that could see the return as prime minister of Shinzo Abe, who is committed to revising Japan’s pacifist constitution and to beefing up its military.

Anyone who knows anything about the history of World War II in the Pacific knows the brutal, almost unspeakable suffering the peoples of East Asia suffered under Japanese occupation. The Philippines alone lost roughly one million people. Many who survived were nonetheless subjected to torture and starvation, or knew those who were. That’s still in living memory for many Filipinos, making it understandable why they would fear a militarily powerful Japan, and why Rosario’s announcement is such a shocker.

Walter Russell Mead comments:

Today, the Philippines is thought to be one of the countries most subject to Chinese pressure. It has a weak economy and a small military. That a country like this is rallying against China rather than joining up with it, and doing it in such a dramatic way, tells us a lot about what is going on in Asia and the effect Beijing’s foreign policy is having on its neighbors.

China has been anything but deft in its handling of its neighbors, making aggressive claims to islands in the South China Sea, possession of which would give it control of potentially vast oil wealth under the sea bed. This, however, has also had the effect of frightening its neighbors and leading them to seek allies from amongst old enemies.

And now the Philippines, worried by Beijing’s ambitions, wants a rearmed Japan to balance China. (How soon will they be inviting us back into Subic Bay, I wonder?)

This has implications for Japanese politics, too. Japan has a general election in a few days, and the expected winner, Shinzo Abe, has advocated changing Japan’s highly pacifist, restrictive constitution to allow for greater military spending and a larger overseas role for Japan’s military. Concerns about China, where nationalist anti-Japanese protests have become a regular occurrence, and a growing approval of Japanese rearmament from her former enemies could give Abe’s party a boost, in which case we could expect to see Sino-Japanese relations become much more strained.

Obama has made a “pivot to Asia” a focus of his administration’s foreign policy. That’s actually logical (1), but no one should underestimate the challenges Washington faces there.

(1) Yes, I’m surprised. Given the general incompetence Obama, Clinton, and the rest of the Smart Power team have shown in foreign affairs, they’ve generally done a good job in East Asia. I’m sometimes tempted to think it’s the doing of some Undersecretary acting on his own, hoping the bosses won’t notice…

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Japan earthquake: before and after photos


**Posted by Phineas

Want to see something impressive, in that “so shocking my brain almost can’t process this” kind of way?

Australia’s ABC News has before and after photos of areas in Japan devastated by the Sendai quake and tidal wave. Roll you mouse over the photos to see the difference, and then go donate some money to relief efforts.

By the way, the US Geological Survey has “upgraded” the quake from magnitude 8.9 to 9.0. To give you an idea of the force generated, the 6.7 Northridge earthquake that trashed Los Angeles in 1994 equaled the force released by the explosion of a 168-kiloton nuclear bomb. What was the equivalent for last Friday’s 9.0 temblor?

474 megatons. The largest warhead we ever deployed was the 9-megaton W53, and it would take 52 of those to match the power of last week’s quake.

Like I said, the mind almost can’t process it.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Did Obama throw Japan under the bus?


**Posted by Phineas

It sure smells that way. During the state visit of Chinese tyrant President Hu Jintao, a Chinese blogger asked a key White House official about America’s position over a territorial dispute with Japan:

The United States recognizes no claims to the sovereignty of a set of islets in the East China Sea, an adviser to the U.S. president said Friday.

“The U.S. does not have position on the question of sovereignty regarding the issue of the Diaoyu Islands,” Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications in the White House, said in a video conference with Chinese bloggers set up by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

He was responding to Chinese blogger Ma Xiaolin, who questioned the United States taking the side of Japan on the issue by including the islets under the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

“We do not recognize the sovereignty claims by neither China nor Japan,” Rhodes said.

But, as L. Douglas Garrett points out at Competing Hypotheses, that highlighted statement simply isn’t true:

First, that isn’t historically correct. The U.S. in fact was the author of the postwar partitioning of territory in the area, and specifically mandated their return-by-transfer as part of the Okinawa reversion to Japan. P.R. Chinese and ROC claims to the area postdate that.

Second, it isn’t correct as extant policy. The status quo is expressly covered in the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty (1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with the United States, under which the territory is specified as part of the territory of Japan to be defended, as amended since reversion).

Keep that in mind: the United States is obligated to take military action should some nation (i.e., China) try to seize them by force.

Japan calls the islands the Senkakus and maintains that they were terra nullius (“land belonging to no one”) when annexed in 1895, during the First Sino-Japanese War. China, on the other hand, claims those islands were coerced from it as part of the treaty that ended the war. There are good background pieces on this dispute here and here. Though themselves uninhabited, the islands are important to both nations (and to Taiwan) for the control they give over the surrounding sea lanes and potentially large underwater oil and gas fields. A recent incident in which the Japanese Coast Guard seized a Chinese fishing trawler off the islands last September brought this dispute to the forefront, again.

Thus, it seems more than a coincidence that the President’s Deputy National Security Adviser would suddenly equivocate on past bipartisan American policy during a visit from our biggest creditor. Maybe this was the price for the pandas?

And, let’s face it: Japan wouldn’t be the first US ally tossed under the bus in an act of appeasement. Poland and the Czech Republic were both knifed in the back over missile defense. Israel has been under intense pressure in order to please the Arab states. One of our closest allies, Great Britain, which has troops fighting at our side in Afghanistan, found out we didn’t have their back over the Falkland Islands. Japan is, apparently, just the latest example of the Lightworker’s brilliant foreign policy, by which he promised to restore our standing in the world.

But such betrayals in pursuit of our enemies’ favors come at a price: our allies, the nations we rely on in a crisis, will more and more wonder if they can depend on us in a pinch and may seek “other arrangements.” In the case at hand, Japan is the foundation of our policy in East Asia and the Pacific; without its support, our position vis-a-vis China in the western Pacific would be much weaker, perhaps even untenable.

This one incident will not cause Japan to walk out on our alliance in a huff, of course, but consider it as another example that should make chancelleries around the world wonder whether they should stick their necks out for us, when we won’t protect their interests.

Smart Power, indeed.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Japan turns its guns from the Bear toward the Dragon


The New York Times recently published an intriguing piece on Japan’s strategic focus: having directed their self-defense forces toward the USSR/Russia since being allowed to rearm after World War II, they are now turning their attention towards a growing threat – China:

In what would be a sweeping overhaul of its cold war-era defense strategy, Japan is about to release new military guidelines that would reduce its heavy armored and artillery forces pointed north toward Russia in favor of creating more mobile units that could respond to China’s growing presence near its southernmost islands, Japanese newspapers reported Sunday.

The realignment comes as the United States is making new calls for Japan to increase its military role in eastern Asia in response to recent provocations by North Korea as well as China’s more assertive stance in the region.

The new defense strategy, likely to be released this week, will call for greater integration of Japan’s armed forces with the United States military, the reports said. The reports did not give a source, but the fact that major newspapers carried the same information suggested they were based on a background briefing by government officials.

The new guidelines also call for acquiring new submarines and fighter jets, the reports said, and creating ground units that can be moved quickly by air in order to defend the southern islands, including disputed islands in the East China Sea that are also claimed by China and Taiwan. These disputed islands are known as the Senkakus in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese.

Read the whole thing, not only for general interest, but for a good glimpse of the evolving strategic game in East Asia. Don’t let the mention of Taiwan claiming the Senkakus distract you; Taiwan is not what Japan worries about, not when Taiwan will need the help of Japan’s patron, the US, in any confrontation with China. (And Tokyo’s, too, even if just diplomatic and political.)

China, a rising, potentially hypernationalistic power with global ambitions and an increasingly offensively oriented military, poses much more of a strategic threat to Japan than declining Russia. Small wonder than that, faced with China’s growing challenge to the 65-years old total dominance of the Pacific by the US Navy, America is encouraging Japan to rearm and expand its strategic mission.

And it’s not just China Japan is worried about: Beijing’s obstreperous protege North Korea has repeatedly caused jitters in Tokyo, with its recent nuclear tests and violent acts against South Korea. While the history between Japan and Korea (both of them) is difficult to say the least (colonization, sex slavery, and kidnapping tend to spoil even the best of relationships), the US has been working to encourage a greater strategic cooperation between the two, and there are some signs of early efforts to reach an understanding.

All things considered, this represents a significant change in Japanese policy with important strategic implications for the region and America. Japan may be on the verge of a serious demographic decline, but it is a technological powerhouse of the first order and has in the past shown an amazing ability to adapt to new circumstances. (Its one failure to adapt, during its war with the US, lead to Japan’s only defeat. Don’t think they haven’t learned that lesson.) Should the Japanese feel threatened enough by China, where anti-Japanese feelings frequently erupt, or the mountain bandits in Pyongyang, I have no doubt they would find the will to quickly amend their constitution to allow for a larger, more active military. And if they felt the need to go nuclear? Regardless of the memories of the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they could do it within month, folks. Within months.

While the Jihadi War is our immediate concern, our strategic competition with China is a long-term crucial issue. Japan is one player to keep a very close eye on.

And to keep on our side.

via DaveedGR on Twitter

RELATED: Like Japan and Russia, China is facing its own demographic decline. Like Imperial Germany prior to World War I, this may lead China to feel the need to strike for domination before its position weakens.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

I guess this wasn’t really a “bow” either, eh, Mr. President?


Sheesh (via Jim Hoft):

How low will the new American president go for the world’s royalty?

This photo will get Democrat President Obama a lot of approving nods in Japan this weekend, especially among the older generation of Japanese who still pay attention to the royal family living in its downtown castle. Very low bows like this are a sign of great respect and deference for a superior.

To some in the United States, however, an upright handshake might have looked better. Remember Michelle Obama casually patting Britain’s Queen Elizabeth on the back during their Buckingham Palace visit? America’s royalty tends to make movies and get bad reviews and lots of money as a sign of respect.

Obama could receive some frowns back home as he did for his not-quite-this-low-or-maybe-about-the-same-bow to the Saudi king not so long ago.

Here is the photo in question.

Take a bow

U.S. President Barack Obama bows as he is greeted by Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko as he arrives at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Wonder what kind of lame spin we’ll get from the WH on this one? 8-|

Earthquake and aftershock in Japan


MSNBC is reporting 7 dead and at least 800 wounded:

KASHIWAZAKI, Japan – A strong aftershock rocked Japan on Monday just hours after an earthquake left at least seven dead and caused a radioactive water leak and fire at one of the world’s most powerful nuclear power plants.

The aftershock was measured at 6.6 by the U.S. Geological Survey, which rated the earthquake at 6.7.

It was not clear if the aftershock caused injuries or damage, but the earthquake injured hundreds and turned buildings into piles of lumber.

Earlier, the national broadcaster NHK reported that water containing radioactive material leaked from the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant — the world’s largest — into the Sea of Japan, but that the radioactivity level was low and posed no environmental danger.

The reactor automatically shut down at the time of the leak, the report said. The quake triggered a fire at an electrical transformer at the plant, but plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said earlier in the day that the reactor was not damaged.

Kashiwazaki is hardest hit

The earthquake, which left fissures 3 feet wide in the ground along the coast, hit shortly after 10 a.m. local time and was centered off Niigata state. Buildings swayed 160 miles away in Tokyo. Sirens wailed in Kashiwazaki, a city of about 90,000, which appeared to be hardest hit.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency measured the quake at a 6.8 magnitude.

ST reader forest hunter has noted here before that he is in Japan. I’ve emailed him but have not heard back from him as of yet. Please keep him, his family, and the many many others who have been affected by this earthquake in your thoughts and prayers.