Unconditional Surrender, Restraint in Foreign Policy, Relationships and Breaking up?

Sunday September 12, 2021

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What Happens Next is a podcast where experts are given just SIX minutes to make their presentation. This is followed by a Q&A period for deeper engagement.

This week’s topics include Unconditional Surrender, Restraint in American Foreign Policy and Removing the Blind Spots in your Personal Relationships.

Our first speaker will be Kenneth Pyle who is a Professor Emeritus in History at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Ken is the author of Japan in the American Century. Today, Ken will discuss FDR’s catastrophic decision demanding Japan’s Unconditional Surrender instead of allowing for a negotiated peace.

Our second speaker will be Barry Posen who is the Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT. Barry is the author of the book Restraint: A New Foundation for US Grand Strategy. Barry will explain why he wants to reduce America’s military footprint and focus on defending the commons. He will also explain why the consensus grand strategy of Liberal Hegemony is misplaced because it leads us into unnecessary entanglements and wars.

Our final speaker is Gary Lewandowski who is a Professor of Psychology at Monmouth University will discuss his book Stronger than You Think: The 10 Blind Spots that Undermine Your Relationship…and How to See Past Them. Gary will discuss ways to improve your marriage, your relationships, choosing a partner, and when to break-up.

During the live call, please feel free to email me questions at larrybernstein1@gmail.com

Let’s begin today’s program with our first speaker Kenneth Pyle.


Kenneth Pyle

Topic: The Flawed Decision to Demand Unconditional Surrender Against the Japanese
Bio: Professor Emeritus in History at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington
Reading: Japan in the American Century is here


Kenneth Pyle:

My book is about the impact that we Americans have had on Japan. In my judgment, no country has been more impacted by America’s rise to world power than Japan. So, I would like to highlight three controversial points about the war in the Pacific, and all three are related.

First, the main reason for the huge impact we had on Japan is the way we mistakenly chose to fight the war in the Pacific. Franklin Roosevelt declared that the war against the fascists, Germany, Italy, and Japan, would be fought to unconditional surrender. It’s the only war in American history fought to unconditional surrender. All other wars, we’ve had a lot of them, were fought to a negotiated peace. Our diplomats were told not to negotiate, not to discuss conditions for ending the conflict, so compromise and diplomacy were ruled out from the beginning.

Instead, Roosevelt announced that our war goals were to demand from Japan surrender of its sovereignty; to occupy Japan; dissolve its empire; permanently disarm it; carry out war crimes trials; democratize its political, economic, and social institutions; and reeducate its people. Well not surprisingly, such sweeping goals did not result in unconditional surrender on the part of the Japanese who feared the execution of their emperor, the abolition of the Imperial institution, and the end of their way of life as they had always known it.

The mistake in my judgment was to rule out diplomacy. The possibility of a negotiated peace with Japan existed, which might well have avoided the protracted war and also Stalin’s last-minute entry into the war, which gave Russia a foothold in the Far East. Hitler and Nazism defied compromise solutions, but with Japan compromises were possible. We know that because once the war was over and we occupied Japan, we began to make a succession of major compromises right away with our wartime goals. It was ironic that after insisting on unconditional surrender, the Americans decided to keep the emperor, keep the conservative bureaucracy, leave high levels of concentration of capital, that is zaibatsu, and restore the pre-war conservative elite, and then most ironic of all, prod the Japanese to rearm.

Second key point in the book is that this totally unprecedented unconditional surrender policy made the use of the atomic bomb almost inevitable. Since we wouldn’t negotiate, that meant our military was given charge of war strategy, and American strategy became maximum force with maximum speed. When the B-29s came within range of Japan in 1944, we then fire bombed 60 Japanese cities, deliberately targeting civilians to break Japanese morale. There were upwards of half-a-million civilian casualties. Just in one night bombing Tokyo, 100,000 people died. In his memoir, General Curtis LeMay, who commanded the bombing campaigns summed up the strategy in stark terms, “Bomb and burn them until they quit.”

Japan refused to surrender, mobilized the entire nation for a last stand, which meant invasion of Japan would be necessary at a huge cost of casualties to us. When the atomic bomb became available, there was no doubt that we would use it. Unconditional surrender policy had made the use of the atomic bomb almost inevitable.
The third and final key point that I want to make about the book is that we have mistakenly convinced ourselves that the occupation of Japan under General MacArthur was such a great success, that it became the model for subsequent interventions in other countries and nation-building. The seven-year occupation of Japan turned out to be the most extensive reconstruction of a nation in modern history.

The problem is that we denied the Japanese the right to reform themselves according to their own culture and traditions and history. Instead, we imposed our institutions and values on Japanese politics, education, economics, and society. We wrote their constitution and imposed it, along with our education system, along with equal rights for women.
If democracy is to work. It must be in the lifeblood, the experience, the history of a people, but we believed our institutions and values were universal, good for every people, regardless of their history and culture. Our occupation of Japan, unfortunately, became the model and inspiration for all subsequent American interventions and nation-building efforts. For example, President George W. Bush often cited success in democratizing Japan as demonstrating our ability to do the same when we invaded Iraq. He said that many, many times.

By some estimates, we have conducted as many as 30 major interventions. In the last century, we believed we could nation-build. Our values were universal. Never mind the history and culture of other countries, we could remake them.

In the wake of the unhappy outcomes of recent quixotic interventions, including Iraq, and most recently, Afghanistan, Americans are beginning to become disillusioned with such nation-building and efforts to remake other countries in our own image.

Questions for Pyle

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Barry Posen

Topic: Restraint in American Foreign Policy
Bio: Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT
Reading: Restraint: A New Foundation for US Grand Strategy is here


Barry Posen:

I’m speaking for my book, Restraint, and Restraint is not just a book title. It’s what people call the grand strategy that I recommend. And the title tells all, to achieve American national security, the United States should be moderate in its ends and choose moderate means to achieve those ends. Now, to do this, I think you have to define security rather narrowly, spin out a plan to achieve a limited set of goals, then see how you feel about it. Particularly, do you feel safe and do you still see lots of inexpensive ways to make yourself safer? Now, one reason I developed the grand strategy of restraint, and I stand on the shoulders of people who were ahead of me on this, is to give critics and doubters of the post-Cold War U.S. course of action, a grand strategy, a place to sit, a perch, to critique the grand strategy that I think we’ve had, which Larry mentioned is some have called liberal hegemony.

Now, I define security as “safety, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and a power position sufficient to comfortably defend all these three Grand strategy is the outline of a plan to achieve security, a political military means-ends chain, and a set of real political and military priorities, arrayed to achieve those objectives. It’s not a cookbook. It’s a set of guidelines. Now, restraint as a grand strategy, at least for me, focuses on a limited set of security goals. Three are of concern to me. One is a classical goal, which is the US, as it did in World War II and during the Cold War, should oppose the creation of empires at either end of Europe, which might assemble enough power to conceivably threaten the US. This is a very hard thing to do, but it’s not inconceivable. Now, in Europe, Russia is presently too weak, and the Europeans are in my view too strong for hegemony to be a risk. So I don’t think there’s much the United States really needs to keep doing there. And that’s where I’ve devoted a lot of my attention recently.

At the other end of the world, China is stronger and getting even stronger. So US help in Asia is probably needed. The question, as we were discussing earlier, is how much and what kind? And restraint advocates, and as I said, there’s, many of us, are working through the question of what a restraint policy in Asia looks like, but we are not there yet. We don’t have a fully worked out way to approach this problem.

Second interest is to be vigilant against unusually ambitious non-state actors who choose violent means. We’ve just had the 9/11 20 year anniversary. And it’s a good reminder of this problem. The devil here is in the details of exercising this vigilance. Occupying other countries militarily is probably not the best way. Then third, we have to think about the risks of nuclear weapons and the risks they pose. And I’m particularly interested in the problem of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of non-state actors. States have a return address. You can deter states. You may not be able to deter non-state actors.

Now, the US has the luxury of focusing on a limited set of threats as well as a few goals, because it is inherently a very secure country for economic, geographical, and even technological reasons. Now, in contrast, the US should abandon the grand strategy of the last 30 years, which I call liberal hegemony. And there, the title also tells all. The premise of that strategy is the US should be the strongest state in the world by a considerable margin, and the US should aim to transform other states so they look more like us. This strategy is encompassed in the famous Washington phrase, the US led liberal world order.

My view is that liberal hegemony has more or less failed and it has failed for fundamental reasons that cannot be overcome by more military power or more foreign aid or cleverer diplomacy. There’s a bunch of reasons. One, other powers also want security and they compete to get it. Russia and China are the noteworthy great powers. Iran, a middle power. The very old international relations theory called realism predicts that other states want security as well. They don’t just trust other great powers, even ones as nice as the United States.

Second, US allies are also self-interested actors. Because the US offers them extravagant security guarantees, they under-contribute to the common defense, which raises US costs and risks. I call this cheap riding. Some also act with more boldness or carelessness than is reasonable because they trust in the US insurance policy. This I call reckless driving. Another problem, as Ken talked about, is that nationalism is a strong force in the world. Even a benevolent liberal US offering good advice will often have its advice rejected if we bring that advice at the point of a gun. Iraq and Afghanistan are object lessons.

Another problem is that there has been a diffusion of military power in the world associated with the processes of globalization and modernization. And this translates into more military capability for more actors. And this has simply made the waging of war more difficult and costly than it was, and it has made sustained military competition with other great powers, even more demanding. It’s not easy to compete with a country that has a GDP that’s more or less the same as yours, which is where we are with China.

War itself, which has been a choice instrument for the United States in the last 30 years, is a blunt and costly instrument. It’s not a scalpel. But members of the foreign policy establishment seem to believe that threats of war are often effective and if we have to make good on our threats, it will be easy to win. I think the record shows otherwise. There’s a long list of potential wars implied by the commitments that the current US foreign policy establishment would like to make, commitments regarding Iran, commitments regarding North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, Taiwan. These all involve the possibility of war. And by comparison, Iraq and Afghanistan, which were relatively limited counterinsurgencies in sum cost at least $2 trillion to achieve not much actual success and in these other wars that are presently in the mix, could cost a great deal more. And several of these potential wars would risk nuclear escalation.

Now, at this point, I see only two paths to change. One is, the United States can continue this liberal hegemony strategy until we finally run into a crisis that really hurts and forces sudden retrenchment, something much worse than Afghanistan or Iraq. Now this could be ugly in part because many states may not be ready to look after themselves if they haven’t been warned. And other states, challengers, may see sudden windows of opportunity. I’m a small C conservative when it comes to diplomacy. I don’t like sudden movements in international politics.

The other way the Americans could proceed, which I think is more reasonable is to embark on serious reforms, the grand strategy restraint would secure key US interests and lower costs and risks by limiting our aims and being careful with our means, especially military means. Finally, I should note that restraint does not preclude cooperation with others to deal with problems of inherent common concern, which no nation state can truly address on its own, such as climate change or pandemics. Indeed, it might make such cooperation easier by lowering the temperature, lowering the number of competitive international security relationships, which have a habit of becoming all-consuming and zero sum, which right now, sadly, is the direction of our relation with China.

World politics is entering a new phase because the US is no longer the sole great power in the world. It may also be true that economic resources within the United States available for national security will become scarcer because there’s more claimants for those resources. Certainly, the resource of public political support is becoming scarcer. In my view, US political leaders must choose their foreign policy objectives more carefully, manage resources more scrupulously, and threaten and employ military force less frequently. And the grand strategy of restraint points the way.

Questions for Posen

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Gary Lewandowski

Topic: Improving Your Relationships or Should You Break-up?
Bio: Professor of Psychology at Monmouth University
Reading: Stronger Than You Think: The 10 Blind Spots that Undermine Your Relationship…and How to See Past Them is here.


Larry Bernstein:
I’d like to introduce our next guest, Dr. Gary Lewandowski, who is a professor of psychology at Monmouth University. He’s also the author of Stronger Than You Think: The 10 Blind Spots That Undermine Your Relationship and How to See Past Them. Gary, why don’t you begin.

Gary Lewandowski:
Thank you. Everyone deserves a great relationship. Have you found yours? Though that may seem like an easy question, it’s deceptively difficult to know for sure if your relationship is truly great. But that’s the nature of relationships, isn’t it? There’s always a bit of uncertainty. Early on, we all have our doubts. Does this person like me? Am I really in love? Then we can second guess ourselves later on. Are they really the one? Is this relationship right for me? Eventually we wonder, am I settling? Can my relationship be better? Even, what am I doing wrong? Tough questions to answer but all fair to ask. Though we may know what we want it’s surprisingly difficult to be sure about what we have. When thinking about whether to stay with your current partner or whether to break up, what factors might you consider?

Well, when researchers asked participants this question, participants gave 27 reasons to stay as well as 23 reasons to leave. Now here’s the really confusing part though. Most of those same participants were inclined to stay. Inertia is a powerful thing. But those exact same people who were going to stay also reported that they have an above average inclination to leave. They’re conflicted. Although it’s clear from this research that doubts are common it doesn’t mean that they’re harmless. A different study of 464 recently married spouses revealed that in two thirds of couples, at least one person had doubts about the relationship before they got married. When women were the ones that had more doubts, it was linked to a higher divorce rate down the road. That was even after controlling for a bunch of other really important factors, like their current satisfaction, whether the parents were divorced and personality factors. Clearly doubts can be a relationship killer.

On one hand, we all rightfully want the great relationship we deserve and don’t want to settle. On the other hand, we don’t want to be overly critical of our partner and lose something truly great. It’s hard to sort out. If you truly want to make your relationship decisions better you need better data. I opened my book with this quote from Anais Nin, “Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors.” Many of those errors are self-inflicted. Resulting blindness makes it hard to see our relationship clearly. We don’t know how to replenish our love because we’re guilty of leading too much of our relationships fate to chance. It’s odd because this isn’t how we approach most other things.

Most of us have taken classes to become a better parent, to be better at yoga, to be better at golf. We seek expertise to handle our finances, to decorate our home, or to select the best college for our kids. We also do lots of research. But for a relationship, what do we typically do? Nothing. How often do we consult with experts? Never. Do we read up on the science of relationships? Not even a little bit. Yet we all intuitively know that relationships are important and yet we’re still negligent. I mean, can you think of any other area of your life where you have so much riding on one decision, on one person, more than your relationship? We need to do better. Your future happiness depends on it.
Here are a few blind spots you likely don’t realize that you have. First were overly romantic. Yes, love isn’t really even enough for relationship success and when we focus on love, we focus on the wrong kind. Soul mates are more mythical than magical and believing in them does more harm than good. We give commitment way too much credit. Again, we’re also not selfish enough. There’s more room for I and me in the we and us of our relationship. We often give our partner too much support, which can backfire. And the support we give is often misguided. Ending a relationship also isn’t as bad as we think and it can actually be quite beneficial.

You need to be smarter about your relationships because relationships are important, time is short, and mistakes are costly. Everyone deserves a great relationship. What is one hour, one day, one week, one month, or one lifetime of your fulfillment worth? As you seek greater fulfillment, follow your heart but again, take some science with you. When you do you may just find that your relationship is stronger than you think.

Questions for Lewandowski

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