Friday, October 14, 2005

The Claremont Institute: Hardships of War - Malkin and Japanese Internment The Claremont Institute: Hardships of War - Malkin and Japanese Internment

This was an interesting article looking at Michelle Malkin's "In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror". This book created a fire storm as conservative pundit and Filipino-American Malkin attempted to justify the internment of Japanese immigrants (the Issei) and Japanese-Americans (mostly Nisei, or second-generation) during WWII.

The book was a direct attack on the conventional wisdom. I, along with probably most law school students, was introduced to the subject in a discussion of Korematsu v. United States,323 US 214 (1944), 323 US 214, considered by most Constitutional law scholors as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions ever, up there along with Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 US 537 (1896), which validated "separate but equal". Korematsu essentially validated internment even of American citizens.

The problem with the conventional wisdom is that it is often wrong. Malkin points out that there were real security issues involved, including a lot of information gleamed from "Magic", the intercept and decoding of Japanese diplomatic traffic (classified until the 1970s) and that one of the pilots downed at Pearl Harbor had been given succor by a Japanese-American couple and a laborer born in Japan—even after they learned of the Pearl Harbor attack. The Japanese diplomatic intercepts talked about utilizing Issei, and even Nisei, to provide intelligence and maybe even participate in sabotage.

Malkin, as is her want, over plays her hand here. According to this article, she did overestimate some things, and used evidence that wouldn't have been available until later. Nevertheless, she does apparently make a decent argument for the internment.

One thing of interest though for me is the immediate relevance of this, which was, I think, her aim and timing for the book. We are now engaged in a War on Terrorism (WoT), where almost all of those we have apprehended here or have done us violence here (notably, the 9/11 hijackers) fall into a fairly well defined democraphic category: young Muslim males, somewhere between 18 and 28, most often of Middle Eastern, and in particular, Arab, descent. Those actually coordinating with our enemies over seas, such as OBL and Al Qaeda, are invariably born Moslem, whereas the "independants" are more often Islamic converts. I should add that this ethnic and religious profiling also turns out to be fairly accurate for the suicide bombers in both Israel and Iraq - with the troubling addition of the recent addition of a small number of young women.

I think that part of Malkin's point here is that the backlash from the Japanese internment during WWII is hampering our WoT. Currently, when we fly, screeners are making grandmothers take off their shoes, and, in some cases, even hand searching them. Meanwhile, they are constrained from more thoroughly checking people who fit the racial profile of our enemies. For example, the screeners apparently face numerical limits on how many of these people they can more intensively check on any given flight. In short, we are hampering our WoT by tying one hand behind our back, while inconveniencing many of us who aren't the least bit likely to be of danger. All in the name of political correctness.

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Blogger Ahistoricality said...

Malkin does a lot more than "overplay her hand": she's taking material out of context, she's overinterpreting things, and she's plain made stuff up on occassion. The reviewer you cite is bending over backwards to avoid invalidating her entire argument, but ultimately even as friendly a venue as the Claremont folks can't say she's written a good history with a straight face. Try this for more detail.

4:04 PM  

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