ORIGINAL: lefty nutter
Dave, good post.
Just one question about the antiquity of Japanese thinking: why did they then manage to pioneer naval warfare by introduction of carriers as strike elements?
That was Yamamotos' brain-child.
edit: Just like to add that I too think Germany was the greater threat. If not to the US directly, but indirectly since a European continent under German control (and at war with the US) would not have been a good thing.
I really have to protest about Japan pioneering carrier strikes. I draw your attention to the raid on Taranto harbour by HMS Illustrious in November 1940. This raid persuaded Yamamoto of the potential for carrier strikes against naval targets and was used extensively in planning (e.g. modification of torpedos).
As for the question I think either could have represented a greater threat during the war depending on how the cards were dealt. But prior to hostilities, in terms of raw potential, Germany must surely have posed the greatest threat to the US. This wasn't really a direct threat (as in Panzerarmee Potomac) but rather in an indirect way. This was also the type of threat posed to the UK which was safe behind the Royal Navy in both World Wars yet chose to intervene for fear of what would happen after a German victory i.e. German hegemony over Europe, the Middle East and perhaps parts of Asia and Africa. A enlarged Germany with access to new resources could, over time, come to pose a direct threat.
I am aware that the Pearl Harbor raid is almost a carbon copy of the Taranto raid. Yamamoto stressed the importance of carriers long before 1940 though.
Quite. Still, Japan did not pioneer carriers as strike elements as several other countries had realised the possibilities. Yamamoto may have stressed the importance of carriers long before 1940 but so did many others. Don't forget that the RN was using carrier-borne aircraft to attack land targets in 1918! The Taranto raid opened Yamamoto's eyes to the possibility of hitting naval assets in harbour when previously they were thought to be safe given torpedo nets, shallow water and other such defensive meaures.
I would also argue that Japanese carriers were not sufficiently armoured but that is for another discussion.
"We believe no more in Bonaparte's fighting merely for the liberties of the seas than in Great Britain's fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations."