[Copy of email to Fareed Zakaria, in response to his Newsweek article "Adrift in a Turbulent World," April 24, 2005.]
I have read your columns in Newsweek for several years and always found you to be informed, erudite and insightful.
After considering your most recent offering entitled, “Adrift in a Turbulent World,” I was struck by your statement, “Beijing is now engaged in its own internal debate over whether a confrontation between China and the United States is inevitable.”
As a student of history, your statement reminded me of a comment made in 1934 about Japan (the then rising Asian power) by Will Durant in “Our Oriental Heritage,” the first book of his monumental series, “The Story of Civilization”:
"Must we fight Japan? Our economic system gives to the investing class so generous a share of the wealth created by science, management and labor that too little is left to the mass of producers to enable them to buy back as much as they produce; a surplus of goods is created which cries out for the conquest of foreign markets as the only alternative to interrupting production—or spreading the power of consumption—at home. But this is even truer of the Japanese economic system than of our own; it too must conquer foreign markets, not only to maintain its centralized wealth, but to secure the fuels and raw materials indispensable to her industries. By the sardonic irony of history that same Japan which America awoke from peaceful agriculture in1853, and prodded into industry and trade, now turns all her power and subtlety to winning by underselling, and to controlling by conquest or diplomacy, precisely those Asiatic markets upon which America has fixed her hopes as potentially the richest outlet for her surplus goods. Usually in history, when two nations have contested for the same markets, the nation that has lost in the economic competition, if it is stronger in resources and armament, has made war upon its enemy."
You will note that Durant’s statement was written seven years before Pearl Harbor. One wonders would the U.S. have joined WW II if Japan had not made war upon us?
Santayana’s well worn aphorism: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” appears to ring true as ever.