Japan, Awash in Chaos

Contrary to the impression that Japan is hierarchical and well-organized, internal chaos is the rule, explaining both its suicidal attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and its political inertia today.

Japan's suicide mission.

Source: Keystone/Getty Images

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy,” but to many Americans it’s more of an occasion for head-shaking confusion. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor wasn’t a crippling blow so much as an unprovoked act of imperial suicide. When Japan took on the U.S., it picked a fight with a country with more than five times its gross domestic product and twice its population. From the day the U.S. entered World War II until the day it ended, Japan produced 17 new aircraft carriers. The U.S. produced 141.

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