LONDON — Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he will resign later this year. U.S. President George W. Bush’s second term ends at the end of next year. These two may not have more vanity than other politicians, but in their final months they seem to be giving more thought than usual to their historical legacy. This seems a bit odd as neither appears to have much knowledge or sense of history, and where they do quote historical precedents to justify their actions, they often seem to have misread the context.

As the Yomiuri’s recent book on “War Responsibility” made clear, a number of important lessons should have been learned from the mistakes made in the last war. On the Japanese side, intelligence was inadequate and misread, war aims were not thought through and the failure to recognize when the war was lost vastly increased the number of casualties. The allies, too, made a serious error by insisting on unconditional surrender.

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