Victory Disease

History is not a closed book and the WW II battle at Midway illustrates both how new understanding can be gained and how old stories are similar to new ones. In Explaining the “Miracle” at Midway, the idea of “Victory Disease” illustrates behaviors readily visible in many of today’s political arguments.

The authors also faulted Japan’s lack of ingenuity in using battleships as close escorts for the navy’s carriers, an overemphasis on quality over quantity in naval aviation, the lack of radar on Japanese vessels, and, perhaps most important of all, Japan’s sufferance from “Victory Disease”— the clouding of judgment resulting from the many easy victories of the early months of the war. “There is an irrationality and impulsiveness about our people which results in actions that are haphazard and often contradictory,” Fuchida and Okumiya conclude. “Indecisive and vacillating, we succumb readily to conceit, which in turn makes us disdainful of others. . . . Our want of rationality often leads us to confuse desire and reality, and thus to do things without careful planning.”

[T]he Japanese defeat was not the result of some solitary, crucial breakdown in Japanese designs. It was not the result of Victory Disease, nor of a few crucial personal mistakes. Rather, what appears is a complex, comprehensive web of failures stretching across every level of the battle—strategic, operational, and tactical. . . . They were the end products of an organization that failed to learn correctly from its past, failed to plan correctly for its future, and then failed to adapt correctly to circumstances once those plans were shown to be flawed.”

There is an irrationality and impulsiveness about our people which results in actions that are haphazard and often contradictory.” “Our want of rationality often leads us to confuse desire and reality, and thus to do things without careful planning.” If you don’t see these human characteristic behaviors driving modern politics, you may need to look in the mirror and do some introspection. It isn’t a “Victory Disease” but rather a narcissism and a defense of self that is an inherent part of identity run amok. It is a bit too much confidence that one’s perceptions are entirely correct, such a confidence that allows no objection even when reality is offering one.

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