Conclusively Kamikaze

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Why you should care

Because we’d do better not to enroll in the school of unintended consequences. 

April 6 will mark the 70th anniversary of a kamikaze attack on a U.S. battle fleet off the island of Okinawa. Hundreds of planes plowed into the fleet with a fiery and terrible loss of life on both sides. Militarily effective? Not even.

But was military effectiveness the point? Perhaps not. Scholar Mordecai G. Sheftall, who last year published a book about the kamikazes, says their death missions were not intended to ruin those U.S. fleets. They were intended to convince the emperor to end the war. That’s according to one of Sheftall’s sources, Moji Chikanori, the wartime adjutant to Vice Admiral Onishi Takijiro (the first flag rank officer to issue kamikaze attack orders). “Mr. Moji’s testimony was a reminder of a valuable lesson in policymaking,” Sheftall says. “If you can’t expect most people to act rationally during peacetime, and you really can’t, don’t expect them to act rationally during wartime.”

In the face of suicide as a means of conducting policy, the lesson is something we’d all do well to remember.

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