The Rape Of Nanking Essay, Research Paper
The Rape of Nanking
The more one tries to accurately understand the general events of a vast subject, like the second world war, the further one must back up from individual incidences and focus on a larger
picture. The acts of depravity committed by soldiers during war do not give a complete understanding of the origins of any war. The Rape of Nanking is a picture of one aspect of the Japanese occupation of Northern China which depicts the horrors of war. Iris Chang is not
trying to give a complete account of the war. Chang is arguing that it is inconsistent to demand reparations for atrocities committed by the Germans and not to demand the same from the Japanese. She is confronting the world with the fact that it is ignoring the suffering of people by not demanding justice for the brutality of war at our own peril. If we do not punish those that commit acts of terror in war then they will occur again. We do ignore these acts and they do
occur again and again. Chang s focus on the occupation of Nanking may not give a complete account of the war but it does help one understand the method of war employed by the Japanese
in World War Two. By recounting the horrible acts and showing the pictures of the atrocities she is weakening our capacity to live in denial of the cost of war.
Chang argues that the history of the atrocities committed in Nanking were exploited by the Chinese government after the revolution to implicate the imperialist western powers; ignored by a post war United States, which was more concerned with building up the Japanese to fight communism; and excused by the Japanese as things that happen during war. The characterization of historical events are always subject to the perspective of the authors of history. Change too, has put her prejudices into her history. By using the methods she learned from Rashamon to recount the events, she is openly stating that the whole story is not even known by the participants in history. She unabashedly is including her opinion and denying that
an objective view can exist. Chang forces one to question her account and studied the issues in more depth.
Chang has presented a tale all to common in the annals of human history. The argument that the Japanese atrocities in China were worse then atrocities committed by other peoples in
other places is not however a sound one. Comparing one act of barbarism to another serves little purpose. I will do it to however as Chang has done it to condemn the Japanese as more
barbarous then other cultures. The Japanese took six weeks to kill 350,000 people with machine guns while Genghis Kahn reportedly killed that many in a day with bow and arrows and swords. The bushido way is not responsible for creating at type of people who do evil deeds. The acts of atrocities Chang exposes are acts that predate written history. The methods of modern warfare are clearly expressed by Caral Von Clausewitz
Now, philanthropist may easily imagine there is a skillful method of disarming and overcoming an enemy without causing great bloodshed, and that this is the proper tendency of the art of war. However plausible this may appear, still it is in error. . .he who uses force unsparingly , without reference to the bloodshed involved, must obtain a superiority if his advisary uses less vigor (Clausewitz,102). Clausewitz only codified the practices in war which proved most effective. The Japanese had modernized using the Germans as the model for their modernization. The German s war philosophy was that of Clausewitz s absolute war. That meant the total mobilization of the society and expectation that one s enemy would do the same. War had been rationalized and industrialized. The only thing that remained of the feudal bushido way was the use of the name in Japanese propaganda. By World War II armies all over the world had redefined military targets as any person, thing, idea, entity or location. . .which will reduce or destroy the will or ability of the enemy to resist ( U.S. Air Force ROTC manual aqb. Rapoport, 62). The goal of the Japanese forces in Nanking and the rest of China was to show that they were willing to be so brutal that their will could not be resisted. Rape is about power. By terrorizing the people of Nanking the Japanese weakened the ability of the people of China to resist their will. The
lessons from history seem clear. After the Mongos massacred a few cities in a campaign they rarely had to fight. Other cities were so terrified that they would surrender without a fight. The
objective of the Japanese was to generate that kind of fear in China. Demanding recognition of the acts and reparations challenges us to create institutions which can enforce some form of
international justice. There are two types of people, those who live in the world as it exist and those who work for a world that they wish existed. Chang is in the ladder group. No people wish to view
themselves as capable of the acts that occurred in Nanking. That people are unwilling to recognize the horrible truth of what their forefathers have done is exhibited by the light dusting United States school s history books give to the Indian wars or Sherman s march. The Japanese are in no more denial of their history then any other people. To argue that the Japanese should pay reparations to China is to also argue that the United States should pay them to the Native
Americans or the citizens of the South. How far back do we go in search of justice? Will we demand that the Israelites return Jericho? That the Allies demanded justice from the Germans
after the war is no indication that any new world has dawned. Had the Germans won the war they would have tried the war criminals of the U.S., Soviet Union, and Great Britain for the fire bombings of German cities and mass slaughters on the Easter Front. The United States punished some high profile Nazis at the same time they secretly employed Reinhard Gayland s Nazi spy network to spy on the Soviets.
If one accepts a progressive view of history then one sees that progress in demands for reparations of atrocities like Chang s. The establishment of institutions like the United Nations
and international war crime tribunals does reflect some progress. But unless militarily powerful nations submit to the rule of international laws such institutions are only window dressing. War
trials will only be for the victories own justification of their war efforts. The use of terror and international lawlessness still seem to rule the day. One need only look to Guatemala, East Temora, Nigeria, Yugoslavia, or Rwanda. If one is of the view that history does not progress then one only sees that the tools of war are more effective and people are the same then no justice can be demanded of the Japanese. States do not plead their cases before a tribunal; war
is their only way of bringing suit (Kant, 18). Chang s work alerts us to the cost of living in a lawless world.
If Japan is shamed into making some real gesture of apology to China by The Rape of Nanking then perhaps we will have progressed closer to living in a world we wished into existence. The out cry of people over such atrocities does seem to grow louder with the aid of
pictures like those in Chang s work. Television and the Internet do seem to make it more difficult for those who would use war to arbitrate their national interest. South Africa s Truth and Reconciliation efforts seem a ray of hope. The actions of NATO, although not legal in any way, (but were is the place for law in a lawless world?) seem to show some progress towards an ideal (NATO at least feels the need to couch it s actions as stopping such atrocities). The Monglos in the 1100’s were proud of their actions. In today s world the perpetrators of such atrocities do feel forced to hide their actions. If it is the duty to make real the state of public law, and if it is a well grounded hope that this can actually be done, then perpetual peace. . .is not an empty idea. As times require for equal steps of progress become shorter and shorter, perpetual peace is a problem which. . .steadily approaches its goal (Kant, 53). Perhaps the U. N. and war crimes tribunals are the seeds of some establishment of a rational international legal system dreamed into existence by Kant and pushed forward by Chang s work.
Chang Iris The Rape of Nanking: Basic Books, New York, 1997
Clausewitz, Carl Von On War: Penguin Books Ltd., Middlesex 1968
Kant, Immanuel Perpetual Peace: Macmillan Publishing Company, New Jersey
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