AMERICAN PROMETHEUS

KAI BIRD AND MARTIN J. SHERWIN

This J. Robert Oppenheimer biography attempts to tell the physicist’s story and exonerate him completely. I agree with the conclusion: Oppenheimer should not have lost his Clearance for being a security risk. 

Most of the book proves otherwise, and the text makes it difficult to understand fully. The number of physicists worldwide capable of doing work on the gadget is small. Yet this book fails to describe this community in the 1920s and 1930s. Readers learn how productive and helpful Oppenheimer was, but a sense of the physicists and their activities is sparse or non-existent.

A sense of the brilliant physicists, as persons, is also not told. Because they are brilliant in one field, does not mean they are at all capable in another, e.g. human behavior, society and politics. Like Oppenheimer they may have knowledge in other disciplines or have a passing acquaintance. That does not mean they fully appreciate politics, ideologies and how they played out in human society. The physicists work and produce in a discipline that begins with inductive reasoning – general to the specific.

Countering espionage and conducting a police probe prize deductive reasoning: collecting many, many facts and putting together pieces of the puzzle: Specific to General. It is the best way to arrive at the truth in human problems. This book tells that Oppenheimer failed to admit facts – sound equipment is recording everything – or nothing bothers him and the investigators should not worry. I don’t know if Oppenheimer’s judgment was correct or not. The rub between investigators and the physicist is making sure the investigators don’t arrive at the wrong judgments based upon partial facts (known to Oppenheimer), jumping to conclusions or thinking Oppenheimer was just plain wrong. Sometimes the investigators could not tell. Oppenheimer seemed to be hiding something.

So what was the world the physicists lived in, a basic approach to life based upon inductive reasoning? They always understood the major premise, the minor premise, but how does one get human beings and their society – apart from a scientific logic – to change and adopt new ways? Physicists may have a crazy thought, consider what is wrong is right, and say completely stupid stuff. Yet, in the end none believed any of it, yet none knew why.

This book tells much of the investigators’ stories without settings. There is no attempt to describe politics in Berkeley or the campus during the 1930s: This is the place Oppenheimer jumped into when he took a professorship there.

On a biological note there seems little set-up and passing thoughts in Oppenheimer that he will return to Berkeley after the War, and go back to physics. He seemed headed to return to physics, but some schools believed he was finished as a Star. Instead, the book says Oppenheimer  was entering one side of the military-industrial complex and he was right and righteous. He was Oppenheimer; he had overseen the construction of the gadget. He was entering politics, not physics.

American Prometheus devotes much time to what the physicists thought about the bomb, and how they wanted open, free research, exchanged worldwide. No one working at Los Alamos had become a politician. It is difficult to imagine in 1944, the naiveté of the physicists, the airy, free flow of information. It would be disapproved of today, although I have heard but not seen on the Internet plans showing how-to-build a nuclear weapon. Certainly the Soviet Union fought Germany after June 21, 1941, but before that date the Soviets were buddy-buddy with the Nazis, signing the August 1939 Non-Aggression Pact which let World War Two begin a week later. 

Totalitarianism in Stalinist Soviet Union apparently made no impression on physicists. Most people knew or suspected that Stalin was sending millions of citizens to Siberia. There was no reason ever to believe that Western and Soviet science would have a free exchange of information. 

When it was clear that Germany would surrender, some physicists stopped working in Los Alamos as early as December 1944, before the Battle of the Bulge. There was their assumption that the bombs would be dropped on Germany, likely Berlin. When Germany surrendered, physicists asked, why use it on Japan. American Prometheus is short on facts, analysis and history. Some American physicists were pining for a perfect world of international agreements and general education before the bomb was used. 

This is a shortcoming in this biography, not presenting the historical setting accurately: Note after Hiroshima the Japanese cabinet without the Emperor deadlocked on peace or war. In the War the Japanese lost cities before in fire bombings; they got a report from Japanese physicists that Hiroshima had been hit with an atomic bomb. The Cabinet asked, Can you make one for us? After August 6, 1945 the message from Japan was, Let the American destroy Japanese cities.

Drop the second bomb on Nagasaki. The Emperor of Japan showed up at the cabinet meeting and  declared the War should end. He had his people and his nation in his heart. The War that might have ended in 1946, ended in August 1945.

American Prometheus would be better if its authors had put Oppenheimer’s flying blind while proposing nuclear this or that into a historical context. Oppenheimer met Truman in the White House, and was gravely disappointed that the President did not snatch up his International Control of the bomb, some physicists wanted. Oppenheimer was horribly naive, a position the authors hold out as commendable. Yet, it is no wonder why Americans having different slates of facts did not trust Oppenheimer.

 

  

FAT BOOKS

Non-Fiction: Read one, Jettison two.

This year I’ve bought or checked from the library three fat books. 

READ: Thomas Cromwell, Diamaid MacCulloch, presenting a detailed study of Henry VIII’s most competent and efficient advisor and Chancellor. From 1530-1540 Cromwell’s story as been hidden and marred behind the glow of persons who like Thomas More, chief proponent of the Church of Rome in England.  

Cromwell was an accomplished businessman whose excellent judgment and actions saved Britain from the upheavals centuries later which arrived in France and the remainder of Europe. He made Henry VIII the sole sovereign, and let institutions – Parliament, nobility, gentry, commerce, universities – begin whittling away the monarch’s power. Cromwell lost his head, but his family survived; 109 years later a relative, Oliver Cromwell, cut off the head of Charles II who wanted to restore Britain to an absolute monarchy and who conspired with foreign powers. 

This book is detailed to show that Cromwell was not only well-informed but also there not a person of significance whom Cromwell did not know, it seems. For literary persons there are passages in which Crowell recognizes the functionality and the efficiency of English as a language. He fostered learning in the language and its widespread use.

VALUE OF READING? Jefferson Davis, Felicity Allen, 570 pages, tells of the President of the Confederate States, 1861-1865, a U.S. Senator, Secretary of War and a soldier in the Mexican-American War. Except during the Civil War he was considered by peers as a competent manager of affairs.

Davis has all the deficits of a hate-spouting, fire-eating, slave-owning, ante-bellum Southerner, even after the South lost the war. (Grant took over one of his plantations around the Mississippi River in the middle of the War.) Davis could not compromise, he hated inferiors and intellectual superiors like Abraham Lincoln (also born in Kentucky), and he rode the crest of Southern Society until that was ended by the Civil War.

I gave the book, heavy lumber, and Jeff Davis 60 of 560 pages. Fortunately my cost was $1.00-2.00.

VALUE OF READING? None. The Day of Battle, Sicilian/Italian Campaigns, Rich Atkinson, Volume Two of the Liberation Trilogy.

I read about the Sicilian campaign, about 170 pages. I had read a more detailed analyses of that Campaign. The only new fact I learned was Patton on two separate occasions, slapped two Americans in hospital tents. 

The Author, Rick Atkinson, gives a lot of gossipy facts that are not germane to the success of the American Army in Sicily. Attributed to Audie Murphy is the observation: “I’m a fugitive from the law of averages.” Those quotes are enjoyable and lend humanity to men fighting the battles.

Yet, many men were not quoted, or they did not survive. They were sacrificed. The Command structure was weak because Eisenhower was stupid and incompetent, along with Marshall and Eisenhower’s favorite inferiors. The plan for the Sicilian innovation was hastily made up; it was incomplete: Montgomery began fighting in the American sector without announcing what he was doing; he lengthened the fighting on Sicily two or three weeks, Atkinson admits. Note, from another source Montgomery always attacked the Germans with less than a division while the Americans were using complete divisions on the attack.

Sicily is an island, right? No one wondered how the Germans would leave Sicily. They all evacuated because Eisenhower and every advisor and lackey (British and American) in the planning never wondered what could happen to the Germans? Eisenhower did not want to use airpower to destroy port facilities or attack shipping. Those Germans were another 50,000 Germans to terrorize Italy and to contend with for the remaining two years of the War. 

Reading about the American performance in Italy is a waste. Everyone knows and knew, at the time, that the American Generalissimo Mark Clark, was one of the most inept Generals since George McClellan. But Clark was one of Eisenhower’s buddies. I refuse to read about one mistake after another. I note the Italian Campaign was the first time Japanese-Americans soldiers, once in American concentration camps, fought. Author-Atkinson does not mention Company 100 although heroism by those men was as professional and complete as in Division 442.

It is unlikely that Author-Atkinson will detail mistakes after mistakes by Marshall, Eisenhower, Bradley and Montgomery in his third volume, the campaign against Germany following D-Day.

A World To Be Won,  Murray/Millet, in fewer words, gives more insight into strategic and tactic mistakes and successful plans than Atkinson seems capable of presenting.

 

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A JAPANESE GENERAL

John Deane Potter

This misleading profile tells of the successful Japanese general who took Singapore in World War Two. As the author tells of that campaign, he is incredulous.
General Tomoyuki Yamashite had an ignominious post at the end of the War. He was in charge of the Philippines. His Japanese predecessor had taken a relaxed view of occupation with the Phillipines, but Yamashite had made his regime much more Japanese. It is this section of the book which needs more detail(extra chapters) and less speculation by the author who resorts to trial transcripts and to newspaper articles. Yamashite was tried as a war criminal for “declaring” Manila “an open city” and letting a much smaller Japanese naval force fight and destroy the city. The Americans and Filipinos had to fight their way in to clean out the city and to liberate it. Manila was the most destroyed city of World War Two except for Warsaw.
The author fails to understand an oral order of a commanding general need not be obeyed. The naval forces had an independent command structure. I wonder who saluted who in the Japanese military. After giving the “Manila open city” order, Yamashite went to a remote mountain resort where he began his last nine-month stand. During that time did he reissue his order? Did he bring the Navy’s insubordination to anyone’s attention in Japan? Did he inform the allies of his order? An “open city order” allows one military force to move out and another moves in. The Allies had to fight their way in.
While in the mountains Yamashite claimed he knew nothing about the massacre of 60,000 Filipinos. Yamashite claims he orally told his troops to be nice to native populations. Were there any written orders? Certainly, nothing that could be taken to Japan and shown to the Emperor. It seems, as the author skirts along, that Yamashite knew the sadistic attitudes of his junior officers and draftees. They killed – he let them go apeshit.
No orders – I was following Orders – I did not know what was happening. In 1945 war did not permit wholesale ethnic cleansing which arose from Yamashite’s orders, from his inaction or from his inattention. And the author: It is a pathetic writing to defend action weighing on the wrong scale of justice, someone who oversaw atrocities against civilians and the destruction of their capital city.

NOT I

Not I by Joachim Fest

Many facts in this volume need to be known, but the author reaches the wrong conclusion. Fest wonders how Hitler, Nazism and the Third Reich took swift root in Germany. He presents a persuasive argument, but in the end Fest didn’t get it. One statement: “Democracy…if one approached it responsibly was rather boring.” (378) 

I concede that most of what happens in a democracy is not exciting UNTIL DEMOCRACY MUST BE USED. DEMOCRACY becomes efficient and powerful, much more so than totalitarian systems like Nazi Germany where everyone must wait for the chief thug to awaken from his beauty sleep to make the wrong decision.

DEMOCRACY might be boring it it is not material, relevant or important to balance the interests of individuals, or the interests of the individual versus society, or the interests of an individual versus groups of individuals, of the interests of groups of individuals versus those of other groups. Instead, the people of a totalitarian country have no need to worry because the chief thug can make snap decisions and the problem is eliminated.

DEMOCRACY is boring if considerations, elements and factors constituting and defining freedom and liberty are uninteresting to a people who are grabbing the feet of the chief thug, heiling him at every chance and giving their lives to the caprice of a mentally ill victim of medical malpractice.

In essence Fest does not explore as fully as he should to excuse the actions of the German people into 1945. Unlike Fest’s father who never cooperated with the Nazis, Fest seems to accept still the German influences which infected his family: The glories of German culture.

This book admirably adumbrates circumstances leading the Germans to Hitler: Education, family, culture and society. Fest’s father is political; he attends political meetings. But one wonders about the naiveté and the ignorance. After the War starts the father discusses with a like-thinking neighbor whether they or anyone could justly kill a tyrant. The men discussed St. Augustine and Johannes Althusius (158). Assassination if a political act. The killer does not need theological or philosophical sanctions.

This disconnect to reality reminded me of Lenin’s comment about the Germans: (paraphrased) The Germans could not occupy a train station unless the window were open for sale of platform tickets.

Fest writes “…trust in the German culture always won out…A nation…that had produced Goethe, and Schiller and Lessing, Bach, Mozart and so many others would simply be incapable of barbarism…” (181) Having laid out facts, Fest presents a few examples. Germans quote Goethe to one another. Fest employees Goethe in the text sometimes to provide explanations. The German reaction seems to be if Goethe did it or talked about it, the solution is obvious; the matter is resolved. 

Note Americans and English use authorities, but Abraham Lincoln played games with Shakespeare. In Illinois his friends and he would recite the Bard, not as an authority about life, but to gain the upper hand.

An uneasy sensation comes from reading Not I. Germans are not always living in reality. Gather all the facts and weigh them against individual wants and needs. But Germans carry a load with them, what they call their culture which directs and controls their lives. When Germans wants their culture to restrain the Nazis and save the nation, they imposed too much culture. Culture became meaningless, and the Nazis used culture icons smartly. I believe when Hitler had succeeded to avoid war at Munich and much of Czechoslovakia was taken, German radio made the announcement and punctuated it with a Beethoven symphony, as a grace note.

How detached were the Germans swept into poetry and culture? A neighbor of Fest’s neighborhood was “singing in her wailing tremolo that she was doing to dance into heaven…” (182) Americans, at least, want to dance in the streets.

Americans knew what to do with German culture. Fest became a prisoner of war. Upon his arrival at the POW camp, Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony (supremely beautiful music) “thundered from all the loudspeakers, and was still doing so nine days later when we left; day and night without stopping and with an annoying click after the sixty-fourth bar.” (295) I’m not sure Fest appreciated this aspect of American punishment combined with humor.

If I read Not I correctly (I doubt because I can’t believe such poor, ignorant advice departing from reality), Fest’s father urges him to study the Italian renaissance, especially Fifteenth Century Florence. That city as supposed to be the happy combination of art and culture plus and a positive political system. How can anyone be more wrong? The American Founding Fathers studied all Italian politics intensely and thoroughly and realized how temporary were those affair. Florentine politics were obviously not exemplary. Machiavelli thought not. He had to write The Prince.

Fest fails to provide an explanation why Germans who prize intelligence, education and knowledge did not take lessons from World War One: The failings of the German government and shifting politics (in the end it wasn’t a monarchy but a military dictatorship), the inadequacy of its leaders, limits to military success and relying to much on the military, and a necessary restructuring of the whole government. The Germans did none of those things after the First War, although the facts were before them. They acted on ignorance, misinformation and myth (stab in the back). In the end the Germans could only rely on an excuse, a superior culture. [Note the Germans had to wait until after World War Two (1955) to get an excellent book about World War One, Germany’s War Aims in the First World War, Fritz Fischer.] 

Lessons to take from Not I and the German domestic experience is how wrong a people can be. The Germans were not just misled by an evil tyrant and his herd of evil doers, but many in the country supported him, disregarded the horrors of Nazism and overlooked their deteriorating lives. Fest writes about members of his own family who refuse to talk about the Nazi years in Germany, although they knew Fest was researching and writing about those times. It is equally odd that more books like Fest’s have not been published. Germans, telling where they got it wrong, could do much to influence humanity for the better. My perception is that they have avoided that responsibility, unlike European Jews who wrote under the most adverse conditions during those times, to save humanity.

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH, William L. Shirer

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH, William L. Shirer

In a memoir, A Native’s Return, W. L. Shirer tells about selling The Rise and Fall to a studio and the meeting the studio chief in 1960. Shirer was an East Coast guy, and he took along two East Coast friends: John Houseman and George Roy Hill, then a Broadway director.

The chief greeted them and while leading the way into his office, says to Shirer: “For three nights my wife and I have read your book [The Rise and Fall].”

Shirer looks at Houseman who says, “That’s absolute bullshit.”

Nobody can read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in three days, let alone three nights. It is an invaluable book by a writer/journalist writing about people he saw in action twenty years before. In this writing he got to tell a more complete story. Most of it centers in foreign policy and diplomatic efforts, incidences Shirer was able to observe and report at the time. The text presents well, spelled out or implied, about this blunder of that one. Shirer hits the German-Soviet Union August 1939 Pact, partitioning Poland and designating spheres of influence, hard. He notes correctly that Stalin’s agreement started the War: Hitler likely would not have invaded Poland with no agreement if the Soviet Union had not committed itself and Hitler were not certain.

It was an enormous mistake for the Soviets, a nation of chess players. Two little-known Soviet accommodations to German war successes included shipping supplies from Murmansk to Norway in 1940 and shipping rubber across Russia to Germany. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union (June 1941), the Soviets were confused, perplexed and overwhelmed – the Soviets had done almost everything the Germans wanted. But the German Army was professional and proficient. Millions of Soviet citizens were killed; complete Soviet armies were destroyed; and three million prisoners of war were captured (few lived to see the War’s end).

This complicity is observed, and a balance is noted. The Soviets complained that they had to face the German Army alone in Europe in 1942-1943. Early on the Germans did not make the mistake they made when invading Russia. Shirer notes the D-Day invasion force and its provisioning was a huge effort before June 1944. He notes the completely inadequate German preparations to invade Britain in 1940 and gives the assessment that the British would have chewed up any Germany army put ashore in Britain. Perhaps Stalin wanted the British and Americans to be as reckless with their men as the Germans and Russians were with their own.

Equally poor was the ability of the French and British to foresee foreign policy and diplomatic mistake after mistake. At one point Shirer says Charles Lindbergh was “startlingly naiveté.” Lindbergh was a moronic dupe. Yet at one place Neville Chamberlain (British Prime Minister) was “well meaning,” but Shirer hardens against the mustached P.M. Having read Shirer’s description of Munich (French/British surrender of Czechoslovakia September 1938), it is easy to conclude the only thing Chamberlain failed to bring to Britain after the negotiations was a toothbrush mustache. As PM Chamberlain interfered with Churchill’s plans to defend Norway. In short the best service Chamberlain performed for Great Britain was to die in November 1940.

Shirer notes what the German’s learned: Had the Czechs fought the Germans in 1938 Germany may have finally won but it would be greatly weakened the German army and left it incapable of pursuing further war.

Throughout the history Shirer noted the assassination attempts to kill Hitler. This is a matter of course, but the attempts are not equal and should not be treated that way. The assassination plot before the Munich agreement was very credible. Shirer’s book is an early history and is not as complete as Joachim Fest’s (and others) book on the same subject.

!I have read much about World War Two. Reading The Rise and Fall, I realized the war was fought in stages: I. Rhineland occupation, 1936; Austria Anschluss, March 1938; Czechoslovakia, 1938. Those lands and their industrial and economic bases were captured with no or little destruction. II. Poland, September 1939; Scandinavia, May 1940; Netherlands, Belgium, May 1940; France, June 1940. Those lands sustained more damage, but the industrial and economic base would be restored. III. Britain, Soviet Union, Balkans, Africa – the Germans were invading lands that were destroyed or desolate and the population was targeted. Little benefit came to Germany by having its armies run 1,500 miles across eastern Europe.

Equally maniacal and idiotic were Nazi racial policies. I have not read it but surmised if the Germans were not so obsessed with killing people and more devoted to overcoming their opponents’ military abilities, Germany had a chance to win the war. Shirer somewhat discusses this point especially with the invasion of the Soviet Union(June 1941). But the Germans were incapable of treating any occupied peoples (Danes and Dutch included) as anything other than second-class human beings.

Omissions occur in an 1140 page book like this. The text concentrates on The Rise of the Third Reich. The telling of The Fall, one-quarter of the book (December 1941 to May 1945), concentrates on the military and Nazi leadership.

By in large absent from the book is Third Reich Domestic Germany, and much Sociology of the German People – there is no humor, comedy or black humor.

Military campaigns especially those adversely affecting Germany are raced through e.g. the air war against Germany is told statistically (except the German people wanted to lynch captured American and British fliers). That air war kept 70 percent of the Luftwaffe at home defending the fatherland; the Soviet army benefitted from the lack of air support.

The German people knew they were losing the war – lines on a map got closer, but more likely they witnessed bombed out cities, factories, facilities and homes. “The White Rose” protests (February 1943) seemingly came from nowhere because the German people are portrayed as monolithic.

There are evaluations by German generals justly criticizing Eisenhower’s hands-off participation of the Sicilian and Italian campaigns.(1943, 1944)

A theme in the book is suggested by the facts, but I did not sense it was cogently advanced. It is obvious that the Nazis tried to construct a very robotic society founded on terror and murder. Most of the terror and murder are set out, but other forms and uses of coercion to conform and to comply are omitted. Any society urges compliance from its population and uses overt and subtle means to insure order and stability. The idea of happiness might arise from these efforts: If everyone is content doing the same thing, everyone should be happy. I don’t know if anything like this postulation popped up in Nazi Germany. I suspect it had to – the rulers’ definition of happiness for each individual – is present in any totalitarian society. Shirer does not get around to tell his readers about it.

When The Rise and Fall was published (and perhaps today), the Germans grossly objected to it as anti- German and anti-Germany. The book is fair; those German critics and defenders are wrong. Those German critics and defenders exalt in German culture. It is true that the Germans excelled in music and advanced that art much. I note though that Mendelssohn was considered Jewish, and by the late ninetieth century the Germans were not the best composers. (Mahler was Jewish.) The other arts? Painting: Albrecht Durer, the best German painter but who since 1530? Sculpture – Nada. Literature: Goethe, but who else throughout the nineteenth century – persons who weren’t Jewish, or considered non-Aryan, disreputable and degenerate like Thomas Mann? Education: The Germans had to best universities until the brains left, and the Americans got the pickings. Film: Thank you for sending Billy Wilder and many other great talents.

If the Germans base their superiority on uncontaminated, cultural and intellectual attainments, Shirer tells the Nazis destroyed that superiority immediately. Shirer suggested but fails to analyze how a people so supposedly artistic sensitive and appreciative of fine arts and achievements, can be politically dense, stupid and inept. An idea was recognized that the Germans swooned about the arts and intellectual accomplishments; so long as that production was possible, Germany was superior. After the Second War Bertolt Brecht conceived the axiom (paraphrased): Maybe the Germans will now stop thinking about trees. (quoted in Hitler, Joachim Fest.)

Shirer gives no cause and effect, but there is a suggested answer. German philosophy. While many European countries experimented and implemented enlightenment policies and improvements, making strides to remove themselves from the strictures surviving from medieval society, the Germans looked at the enlightenment and ran the other way: Shirer writes an essay(Chapter 4) about the creeps of German philosophy – Hegel, Heidegger, Nietzsche and Marx. Divorced from any human exposure and experience these men advanced concepts of people, their thinking and society that decades later resulted in National Socialism, Hitler and the horrors perpetuated. As part of their intellectual superiority the Germans got caught up in ideas completely remote – intense philosophical stories, pretentiously profound, devoid of faith and disassociated from any human thinking and behavior. That an an excellent definition of a Nazi.

If German critics and defenders complain about The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, they should start with this pillar of William L. Shirer’s book.

 

EXPERIMENTS OVERSEAS

AMERICANS should be careful when spending money and men overseas, especially actively engaging in the Twentieth Century malarkey carried into this millennium. 

There are books – because that is why books are written, to inform and influence – every policy maker and every American should read to access and evaluate plans and policies, and influence action.

In Face of Empire, Frank Golay, tells about the American take over, missteps, gross missteps and high wire acts during its “colonial” relationship with the Philippines (1898-1946). The American perception has been confounded by World War Two: Americans and Philippinos fought the Japanese together. It is not entirely clear whether the Japanese would have invaded the Philippines in 1941, if that land were Philippine ruled and a neutral country. Before the during the War Golay gives many, substantial reasons why MacArthur earned well, the sobriquet of “Dugout Doug.” 

For 40 years Americans tried to teach the Philippine people to support a home-based democracy, and Americans failed: Missing were the infrastructure, institutions and bureaucracy Americans believed the Philippines needed. For instance one American Governor tried to get the Philippine people to accept a summer capital, which was less hot than Manila. None of the insular peoples needed a “cool” capital. He spent millions constructing roads and building edifices. Face of Empire tells of more failures. It is the experience American has throughout the Twentieth Century until today. For decades the Colonial administration was filled with sycophants, toadies, eggheads, do-gooders, pinheads and chuckleheads wanting to try out theories, conceived in academia, on a whim in Washington DC, or the fantasy of Three Cups of Tea, while all were being overpaid at home, in an exotic land or selling books and appearing on radio [and later on TV].

Additionally came the presence and input of the U.S. Military expensively delivering its two-cents worth. Early on the military boasted: “We conquered this land” [under a Republican administration]. “It’s our blood and treasure.” During the Hoover administration (1932) Republicans would only grant independence after an American overlordship of 25 or 30 years. Independence in 1960? How ridiculous is that? Unsure but aware it was stuck to the United States, the Philippines accepted MacArthur during the Thirties, who was to make every wrong military decision before December 11, 1941.

Colonialism and lingering in a country like Afghanistan, is something the United States of America is no good at doing. It is best not to be there formally. Note that The Face of Empire, as reading material, is heavy lumber.

The Quiet American, Graham Greene, mostly famously details the American involvement and experience in Vietnam, a decade before Lyndon Baines Jerk-Creep committed America to enter a Civil War on the losing side. The Quiet American does not just tell the experience of Americans who were in Vietnam, but also for Americans who was aware of that War (60,000 dead over 11 years to failing TV ratings) experienced what Graham Greene wrote about.

Garrison Tales from Tonquin, James O’Neil, Charles Royster, Ed., were written by an American who was in the French Foreign Legion (circa 1890) serving in Vietnam. He tells of the passive resistance and stubbornness of the Vietnam people bypassing French offers to “help” become colonial subjects. The Tales go beyond Vietnam. The experience of an occupied people, whose culture and society extend almost as far back as French society did, crosses borders. Any country with a settled religion, an on-going culture, a long-standing society will not be penetrated by an outside, invading force. Note after World War Two Germany and Japan surrendered “unconditionally.” Each changed its government, but the culture and the societal strictures remained mostly in tact. The changes in Labor Laws in those two countries fed into and supported the political changes.

In Burmese Days, George Orwell presents a remarkable analysis of the colonial experience: For the colonizer and the colonial it is belittling and dehumanizing to lord over the native peoples. Orwell thereby questions the conventional wisdom of The White Man’s Burden.  

LUST CAUTION

Movie – Ang Lee, Director; Tang Wei, Actress

This two and one-half hour movie was on a DVD for sale at BigLots, $3.00. English subtitles, Chinese language film shot in China.

This movie is worth seeing. It drives to its denouement, set up well and can reached by acting. The story is about a novice spy (Tang Wei) enlisted to set up a Chinese man  who is collaborating with the Japanese during the occupation of China during World War Two. The sets, costumes and art direction are excellent. The novice is part of a cell, the politically leaning of which is not entirely clear except every person detests the Japanese.

The first attempt to set up the collaborator fails. He moves from Hong Kong to Shanghai. the novice returns to her family in Shanghai and lives simply while attending classes. She is recruited by a member of her former Hong Kong cell to approach the collaborator again. She is controlled her handler, who is more senior and experienced in spy craft. He dismisses her inexperience and asks her to do too much.

Tang Wei plays the novice very well in her relations with the collaborator. She mixes the emotions of her first long romance [with any man] with the desire to arrange the collaborator’s killing. Toward the end she is unhinged when she demonstrates her unsettled mind – job and love. It is never stated, but the collaborator suspects the novice of being part of the Resistance.

She fulfills the plan to get the collaborator in a place where he can be killed. But in offering her a ring, the collaborator shows love and care. The ring is on her finger. She wants nothing bad to happen to him; her emotions run against the mission. She warns him, indirectly. He avoids assassination. She has signed her own death warrant along with arrests and death of everyone in her cell.

Only an actress like Tang Wei can pull off the non-verbal communications to tell this story on film.