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People could scarcely believe the reports pouring out of their radios. There were no easy answers, no quickly forged consensus.
Honestly held differences of opinion can easily arise out of conflicting interpretations of what happened in the past, even when everyone accepts the same set of facts.
This form of debate is one of the most important mechanisms by which historians eventually arrive at tenable conclusions.
The Supreme Command in Tokyo had various goals in mind, not the least of which was a preemptive strike designed to capture the resources that abounded in Southeast Asia—resources and territory that might fall into the hands of Japan's competitive ally, Germany, if Hitler succeeded in conquering his enemies in Europe.
Roosevelt was forceful enough in the Atlantic to cause some observers to think that Hitler might take up the challenge in circumstances favorable to his own malevolent designs.
8 Often, Stimson would simply have to rely on his memory, but whenever possible he would take selected papers home with him to help recall the day's activities.
He would use a Dictaphone in the evening, or before departing for his office the following morning, to record what had transpired.In the Pacific, however, the President was prepared to be conciliatory.Over a period of months, he had resisted the tempting advice of several members of his cabinet who had urged him to adopt stringent measures.His secretary would then transcribe the material, but Stimson apparently did not edit the typescript.9 Anyone who uses this rich source will soon become aware of the problems it presents: awkward phrasing here and there, irreconcilable changes in tense, pronouns with ambiguous antecedents, and—most serious of all—elliptical passages that raise questions of interpretation.There is nothing wrong with updating earlier interpretations or with correcting erroneous judgments. As new material comes to light, previously accepted explanations must be revised.Normally this is done only when incontrovertible evidence is at hand—evidence so unassailable that the historical community can embrace the reinterpretation with confidence.A month before the Japanese government sent its troops into southern French Indochina in the summer of 1941, Ickes recommended to the President that shipments of oil to Japan be stopped immediately.In a brief reply that skated on the edge of sarcasm, FDR said, "Please let me know if this would continue to be your judgment if this were to tip the delicate scales and cause Japan to decide either to attack Russia or to attack the Dutch East Indies." 1 When Ickes argued the case, the President pressed his own point of view.They ignored the historical background that is needed for an understanding of what happened in 1941.Instead of carefully mapping their way through the records of the period, they hacked out a trail of Machiavellian conspiracy that twisted and turned and switched back on itself until it eventually led to the White House.