Would Japan have launched its surprise attack on Pearl Harbour if its leaders had known this act of aggression would result in the inconceivable devastation of nuclear war?
According to military historian Cristopher Bassford this confounding of the best laid plans of military strategists is "what Clausewitz called 'friction,' stemming from war's uncertainty, chance, suffering, confusion, exhaustion, and fear. Friction stems from the effects of time, space, and human nature; it is the fundamental and unavoidable force that makes war in reality differ from the abstract model of 'absolute war'" (Bassford 1).
In order to understand what led the Japanese to expand from their islands out into the surrounding countries of Asia and engage in the fateful attack on the United States that eventually brought about their own downfall, it is necessary to consider what their history, interests, and intentions were.
"Japan entered World War II with limited aims and with the intention of fighting a limited war" (Matloff 499). It's goals were similar to, and perhaps modelled on the colonial conquests of the European nations which originated from the voyages of discovery in the 15th century and continued well into the 20th century. It wanted to secure the resources that it sorely lacked on its island chain by militarily dominating its Asian neighbors.
In the late 19th century Japan was forced to open its