I've been anxiously awaiting the new Tom Hanks/Stephen Spielberg mini-series The Pacific. I hope I'm not disappointed. Consider this from Time's profile of Hanks and the series:
World War II in the European theater was a case of massive armies arrayed against an unambiguous evil. The Pacific war was mainly fought by isolated groups of men and was overlaid by a sense that our foes were fundamentally different from us. In that sense, the war in the Pacific bears a closer relation to the complex war on terrorism the U.S. is waging now, making the new series a trickier prospect but one with potential for more depth and resonance. "Certainly, we wanted to honor U.S. bravery in The Pacific," Hanks says. "But we also wanted to have people say, 'We didn't know our troops did that to Japanese people.' "
And he is pleased that The Pacific has fulfilled an obligation to our World War II vets. He doesn't see the series as simply eye-opening history. He hopes it offers Americans a chance to ponder the sacrifices of our current soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. "From the outset, we wanted to make people wonder how our troops can re-enter society in the first place," Hanks says. "How could they just pick up their lives and get on with the rest of us? Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as 'yellow, slant-eyed dogs' that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what's going on today?"
This gives me pause. "They were out to kill us because our way of living was different"? Really? I never picked that up in school.
Here's John Nolte in response:
Really, we wanted to annihilate the Japanese because they were different, because we saw them as “yellow, slant-eyed dogs that believed in different gods?” I thought it was due to the fact that “we viewed them” as barbaric imperialists who had attacked us first and wanted to enslave the world.
But there’s no reason to speculate about America’s motivations during WWII because history has proven Hanks wrong. We had every opportunity to annihilate these “different” people. Instead we chose, at great expense, to rebuild Japan and return the sovereignty of that nation over to the “yellow, slant-eyed dogs who believed in different gods.” Or, as most people prefer to call them: our newly liberated allies.
Allahpundit weighs in:
As I understand it, they hit Pearl Harbor not because “our way of living was different” but because they wanted the oil in the south Pacific and needed to neutralize the American fleet before they made their move. I’m also surprised to learn that whereas the Nazis were unambiguous evil, their strategic ally in the far east — whose imperial army utterly terrorized the civilian population of mainland Asia — was merely “different,” much as jihadists are now.
I'll be interested to see in how this plays out in the mini-series. I agree with John Nolte that Hanks probably is a very nice man and his work in bringing America's history to film is impressive. I'd venture to say that most of the students, or boys anyway, at my high school have seen Band of Brothers, but few may have read much on World War II. I think Hanks is contributing something important in making American history accessible to young people. The Pacific will probably do the same thing.
I'll watch The Pacific, all ten hours of it, but I doubt Hanks will convince me that it's the same thing as what we're engaged in now in Iraq and Afghanistan.