Friday, January 20, 2006

Ken Masugi on Brian Hayashi

Friends of Historical Accuracy regarding the ethnic Japanese Evacuation of 1942

Here's a link to Ken Masugi's comments on a book by Brian Hayashi regarding the evacutaion. I look forward to reading it.

The link is here.

Scroll down a ways to read it. I'll take a chance and paste it below should you have trouble with the link.

Brian Hayashi's Democratizing the Enemy: The Japanese-American Internment
Historian Brian Hayashi’s Democratizing the Enemy (Princeton University Press) appeared in 2004, the same year as Michelle Malkin’s In Defense of Internment. Both make highly unorthodox arguments about the relocation of ethnic Japanese during WW II, with Malkin’s work (which I read in manuscript) earning notoriety and making its mark in popular circles and irking a host of usual suspects. (See historian Charles Lofgren’s review of Malkin; my response in the current issue is not on-line.) By contrast, the astounding work of the scholarly Hayashi (a Japanese-American from Hawaii, who taught at Yale and now teaches at Kyoto University) appears to have sunk into obscurity. I have just read his book, which should set the new standard for scholarship on the relocation. Unlike Malkin, he condemns the relocation, “despite the obvious presence of Japanese nationalistic sentiments before and during the camps, since people cannot and should not be locked up on the basis of political sentiment but rather on the basis of acts committed.” Hayashi has the integrity of an historian to uncover the facts and let readers judge for themselves whether his conclusions should be theirs.
One great virtue of Hayashi’s book is that it considers the motivations of Imperial Japan and the influence of Japanese nationalism over the ethnic Japanese. He is particularly astute at pointing out the role of Japanese immigrants in Japan’s other conquests. Pre-relocation violence against ethnic Japanese is also a focus, as is violence against pro-American Japanese Americans by those supporting Japan. (Hayashi is good at underscoring the pro-Japan sympathies of immigrants, my own father’s generation.) And he does not neglect Imperial Japan’s radio broadcasts to ethnic Japanese, urging them to retain their dignity as Japanese subjects and promising them good treatment after the war. On this point the book dust jacket's remarkable cover painting, of news of the atomic bombing received at a relocation camp, deserved close study. Whatever good treatment the Japanese received, he argues, was more to secure good treatment for American POWs than for any humanitarian reasons. Here I think Hayashi errs in not appreciating the internal policy debate and subsequent inconsistencies in policy toward ethnic Japanese and other minorities. For some purposes they were ordinary American citizens (and hence subject to the draft and as workers in even defense-related industries), and for other purposes they were potential agents of the enemy. That led to ambiguous treatment.
The other main weakness of Hayashi’s outstanding work is its failure to deal with the Niihau episode, the strongest part of Malkin’s book. (In this often overlooked part of the Pearl Harbor attack, a Japanese pilot successfully urged a Japanese American couple to assist him in taking over a Hawaiian island.) Together, Hayashi and Malkin provide a means of better appreciating today’s challenges to democratic liberty in the war against terrorists from abroad. That we should not today intern or relocate mass populations does not mean we cannot learn from our World War II experience, its strengths and its flaws.


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