The shadowy outlines and decision on the Potsdam Declaration may perhaps be seen in a Domei comment carried inconspicuously in an inside page of the Times today. It draws the characteristic conclusion that “he (the enemy) now finds himself in a dilemma wherein he is unable to advance or retreat. In other words the people of the enemy countries, in their blind belief that the war situation is in their favor, are impatient of the fact that the developments on the front are not progressing according to their expectations.” Domei adds: “The following points constitute the background of the Potsdam declaration, with which the leaders of America and Britain are attempting to cope with the inextricable situation:
“(1) It was necessary to clarify the term to Japan and to obtain for them approval of popular opinion to avoid a repetition of the mistakes in the policy toward Germany;
“(2) It was necessary also to show peace propagandists at home why military operations had to be prosecuted to the end without regard to sacrifices. A refusal by Japan to agree to the terms proposed would thus strengthen the fighting will of their own peoples;
“(3) Besides the foregoing domestic ends, it was also planned to weaken Japan’s fighting will by bringing about an estrangement between the army and the people.”
There is a faintly exploratory air in this analysis that underlines recent trends. The language is not violent; it is cautious and tentative. The American government, it seems to say, is not having an easy time of it (an echo of Kurihara); it is ready to bargain. The Potsdam declaration, furthermore, is not really an ultimatum; it is a show-piece for home consumption; it is a shrewd trader’s first offer; it can be jewed down. But what can Japan bargain with? It can bargain with its power and will to continue; a bloody resistance, ultimately suicidal and futile it may be true, but one that will require such heavy sacrifices that the Americans, impatient to end the war, frightened by mounting casualties, will be glad to avoid it by a reasonable arrangement.
Into this vague pattern the scattered hints and insinuations of the past few days fit readily. Suzuki’s underground factories and “thousands of planes”, Minami’s “complex intrigue”, the poised and silent watchfulness of the editors, take their places in the still sketchy picture of a deal, to be sprung at the proper time on the simple honest people who are even now preparing to die.
I felt this uneasy curiosity following me to a Buddhist rally at the Imperial Hotel for which invitations had been received at the embassy. It turned out to be for the purpose of passing a declaration on behalf of the 50 million Japanese Buddhists. A small banquet room had been arranged hastily as a hall-oratorium. Rows of chairs filled the center of the apartment while along the windows were arranged the heavy overstuffed lounging armchairs with which the place must have been originally furnished. There was an air of hasty improvisation, and perfunctory duty about the whole thing.
It was odd enough in itself that these shaven-skulled monks and gossipy old deacons about me should have been chosen to reaffirm Japan’s will to fight at this desperate crisis. It occurred to me that possibly it was because they could be trusted to speak more credibly and naturally in the gentle accents of sweet reasonableness. The warlords had eaten enough fire.
A couple of quietly dressed and elderly gentlemen were passing around programs and copies of the proposed declaration. Fortunately there was an English translation available for the foreigners present and while the congregation, with pious hands joined beneath their chests, recited their prayers, I stole a look at it.
“We, the Japanese Buddhists,” it declared, “who faithfully adhere to the precepts of Lord Buddha, look upon all things as one and so we are ever conscious of living up to that great ideal of Buddhist selflessness. Particularly do we believe that everybody in the world has in himself the essentials of Buddhism as dormant elements and hence we seek peace and enlightenment for all time and at the same time desire that all peoples on earth, Oriental or Occidental, enjoy the eternal blessings of world culture and civilization.”
“All things as one… that great ideal of Buddhist selflessness… peace and enlightenment for all time…” Did these ethical aspirations conceal a hard bargain? The sing-song voices stopped and started again.
The British and American peoples, continued the declaration, had an “unlimited appetite for aggression and exploitation” and for this they are softly chided. “If they are really anxious to contribute to enduring peace in the world, they should discard their small self of power-politics with the object of fostering the great self of universal concord.” Surely the Christian churches had been known to be slightly more ferocious.
How meek and mild and ineffectual did these men look, their hands folded on their laps, their eyes on the frayed carpet. They looked so bewildered. What calculations of high state politics had called them from their sutras and their rosaries to drown with their mumbling prayers the clang of broken swords?
Foreign Minister Togo was present, as pious as the rest. He looked old and weary; hid phrases were perfunctory; and he hastened away immediately after speaking. The minister of education and the president of the board of information followed; the latter droned on and on for what seemed to be hours.
I could stand it no longer. I was going to tiptoe out. To a colleague I whispered that if any word was asked from our side he could rise and assure the congregation that “all the Filipino Buddhists were heartily behind the declaration.” There are of course no Filipino Buddhists.