The roots of Japan's aggressive, expansionist foreign policy have often been traced to its concern over acute economic vulnerability. Michael A. Barnhart tests this assumption by examining the events leading up to World War II in the context of Japan's quest for economic security, drawing on a wide array of Japanese and American sources.
Barnhart focuses on the critical years from 1938 to 1941 as he investigates the development of Japan's drive for national economic self-sufficiency and independence and the way in which this drive shaped its internal and external policies. He also explores American economic pressure on Tokyo and assesses its impact on Japan's foreign policy and domestic economy. He concludes that Japan's internal political dynamics, especially the bitter rivalry between its army and navy, played a far greater role in propelling the nation into war with the United States than did its economic condition or even pressure from Washington. Japan Prepares for Total War sheds new light on prewar Japan and confirms the opinions of those in Washington who advocated economic pressure against Japan.