In this video at 1:20:05 (and a little bit of the part preceding it), Mearsheimer claims that Roosevelt "was deeply committed" to get the United States into the second world war and "pushed the Japanese to attack us."

Why would it have benefited the USA to enter the war, and what conditions were created to push the Japanese into attacking the United States?

  • 1
    Thank you for your question; please consider revising it to be more in line with our community expectations. Like other stacks, we expect questions to provide evidence of prior research. That helps us to understand the question, and avoids our repeating work you've already done. Our help center, and other stacks provide additional resources to assist with revisions. Please revise your question to document your preliminary research. Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 16:41
  • 3
    Did he also "explain" if/how FDR managed to force Hitler to declare war against the US after Pearl Harbor? Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 17:16

2 Answers 2


The thing to keep in mind with the Pearl Harbor was allowed to happen conspiracy theory - which is directly related - is that it only really looks good now.

That's not to say that the White House might not have expected some kind of attack from Japan — possibly against U.S. bases in the Philippines. Roosevelt had been tightening the screws on Tokyo to hinder the Japanese conquest of China, "instituting a full embargo on exports to Japan, freezing Japanese assets in U.S. banks and sending supplies into China along the Burma Road," according to the State Department.

Citino says Roosevelt believed those economic restrictions could get Japan to reduce its ambitions in Asia.

"Sanctions are better than war — if you have time to let them apply, and if there's somebody sensible on the other side." But Roosevelt "was wrong in that assessment," Citino says, and the Japanese were mistaken in thinking they could remove the threat from the U.S. Navy to their operations in the Western Pacific. The U.S. didn't think the Japanese would retaliate militarily. And the use of then-new naval weapons such as aircraft carriers was still being explored. No one had sailed a fleet of carriers 4,000 miles across an ocean to raid an enemy's fleet while it sat at anchor.

For their part, the Japanese did not think the U.S. would have the stomach to rebuild its Navy and then launch a bloody fight, island by island, across the Pacific.

These kinds of bad assumptions and poor intelligence start wars, Citino says — an understanding that seems so obvious today even as the conspiracy theories outlive the eyewitnesses to the battle.

In 1941, the world's navies still had the expectations that battleships were the decisive naval weapon. The Japanese did, that's what the Yamato class was for. The Germans did, that's why they neglected their U-boats. Yes, there was Taranto but hey, obscure stuff involving the Italians. The British did, hence the debacle at Java Sea.

Allowing most of your Pacific fleet battleships to be sunk to start a war would have been a massive gamble to any navy at the time. Nor was the situation of the US Navy's carrier fleet all that enviable against the Japanese carriers and better aircrafts. Midway's victory was far from guaranteed and until then the USN was the underdog.

Also, minus Hitler's helpfulness in declaring war on the US - he did not even bother to get the Japanese to declare war on the USSR - a war with Japan would not automatically have led to the US entering the war against Germany.


There are backups to this claim, but I did not see the video so I will only consider the wording and not the context of the video.

Yes, Roosevelt had willingness to contest the projects of Japan in Asia. This translated in some economic and diplomatic actions:

  • Oil embargo
  • Stop of Chinese supplies

But no, Roosevelt had enough with the war in Europe and was not willing to involve in a Pacific war by "pushing the Japanese to attack the Americans".

  • 1
    This would appear to be "an opinion-only answer" - without either evidence or reasoned argument - and in that case every bit as unwelcome as an "opinion-only question". Commented Apr 17, 2022 at 12:10
  • 1
    @PieterGeerkens I'm surprised by your comment: I give factual American actions in the answer. And I don't give opinion on them Commented Apr 17, 2022 at 17:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.