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Preston Reddick

James Stapp
ENGL 1113
18 September 2014
The purpose of the article How U.S. Economic Warfare Provoked Japans Attack on
Pearl Harbor is to convince Americans to do away with the old belief that America entered
World War II after being deliberately attacked without cause by the Empire of Japan. The author,
Robert Higgs, wants Americans to come to the understanding that the Japanese attacked Pearl
Harbor not because they were violent militarists who loved war, but because the United States
and England cut off the Empires means for raw materials such as: petroleum, coal, steel, and
iron. Generally, Americans stereotype all Japanese during this time period as Militarists, but the
truth is, not all Japanese wanted war; therefore, not all Japanese were Militarists.
The text targets the general American public by saying ask a typical American how the
United States entered into World War II and he/she will almost certainly tell you that the
Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the Americans fought back. Higgs must compete with the
fact that for 60 years this belief is what children in elementary school and all the way through the
college level were taught. The school system emphasized that America was minding their
business and, all of a sudden, the war hungry Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Higgs hopes to
make a change in the way American people think about the event on December 7, 1941. He
encourages this change by giving examples of situations where the United States and England
are shown forcing the hand of the Japanese, which gave the government no choice but to
organize an attack on Pearl Harbor. Higgs provides examples of instances involving President
Franklin Roosevelt and his staff brainstorming ideas of how to manipulate the Japanese into an
attack. This attack would be for the sole purpose of uniting the countrys outcry for the United
States entrance into World War II.

Higgs amply gives enough evidence to cause a reader to thinking about the debate of why
the United States joined the war. He uses logical appeal by presenting historical documents and
journal entries by a man on President Roosevelts staff, Secretary of War, Henry L Stimson.
Examples are given to paint President Roosevelt in an almost negative light, stating that when
Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in 1933, the U.S. government fell under the control of a
man who disliked the Japanese and harbored a romantic affection for the Chinese because, some
writers have speculated Roosevelts ancestors had made money in the China trade. Higgs also
points out that Roosevelt disliked Germans, and this hatred, obviously, included Hitler. Also, he
favored the British in all of his international affairs. Higgs is making the argument that
Roosevelt disliked the Japanese and the Germans enough to desire war with them, but by finding
a way to get either of the two countries to strike the first blow; thus, rendering the United States
blameless. It is also stated that Roosevelt wanted so desperately to enter World War II that he
coordinated with the Royal Navy in attacks on the German Navy; therefore, bating Hitler to
strike at the U.S.
Higgs also uses a telegraph from Foreign Minister Teijiro Toyoda to Ambassador
Kichisaburo Nomura, on July 31st 1941. In this telegraph, Toyoda states that, commercial and
economic relations between Japan and third countries, led by England and the United States, are
gradually becoming so horribly strained that we cannot endure it much longer, consequently, our
Empire, to save its very life, must take measures to secure the raw materials of the south seas.
Another example showing that the United States provoked Japan into war is this,
Because American cryptographers had also broken the Japanese naval codes the leaders in
Washington knew as well that Japans measures would include an attack on Pearl Harbor.
Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of war under President Roosevelt, wrote in his diary after a meeting
of the war cabinet on, November 25, 1941 the question was how we should maneuver them (the
Japanese) into firing the shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves. Following the

attack, Stimson confessed, my first feeling was of relief That a crisis had come in a way
which would unite all our people.
The text does speak to its intended audience effectively. Higgs is directly to the point and
presents his argument in a way that would be extremely difficult for an individual to make an
argument against his perspective. The evidence overwhelmingly supports Higgs suggested
theory; however, when reading this article, one must take into account that President Roosevelt
and his administration imposed sanctions on the Empire of Japan due to their invasion of China
and Korea and because the Empire was very aggressive in that area of the world. Higgs presents
his argument effectively and does a good job convincing his target audience that the United
States did indeed provoke Japan into attacking Pearl Harbor.
In conclusion, Higgs wants his audience to understand that the Japanese did not
necessarily want war, but attacked Pearl Harbor out of desperation. They were having vital
materials denied to them by the economic powers of the world, the United States and Great
Britain. Also, Japan took action out of a sense of duty to their Empire in order to sustain their
way of life. If these situations meant needing to take desperate measures and mount a sneak
attack on the U.S. to ensure effectiveness, then Japan, put in this situation, had no choice but to
play into the hand of Roosevelt and his administration and carry out an attack, forcing the U.S to
join World War II.

Works Cited
Higgs, Robert. How U.S. Economic Warfare Provoked Japans Attack on Pearl Harbor. The
Independent Institute. May 1, 2006. Web. September 12, 2014.