Explaining How Hirohito Got Away With War Crimes

Since the appearance of Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan in 2000, the unearthing in Japan of new information on the Asia-Pacific war has proceeded apace. Historical war narratives using new documentary evidence and drawing on the insights of various disciplines continue to appear. Oral history, women's history, studies of war prisoners and international law, even theories of postwar “reconciliation,” have widened the perspectives of Japanese historians. Thanks to the work of many progressive historians the ethical dimensions of military history are being opened up and explored as never before. [1] But in no fundamental way have these scholarly efforts altered the picture of Hirohito as the activist, dynamic, politically empowered emperor who played a central role in Japan's undeclared wars. The following discussion recapitulates some of the arguments that I presented earlier when analyzing Hirohito's leadership at the policy level, then goes beyond them to address problems of historical memory. [2] The same Nuremberg and Tokyo principles of individual and state responsibility for war crimes, however, inform this essay just as they did my book

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