I posted my notes on the book Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan by Francis L. Hawks earlier today (See Commodore Perry Notes).
Isn't it interesting that Matthew Perry, representing the United States of America, demanded that Japan trade with us? When they did not want to. They politely refused. He threatened them with his armada of cannon-bearing ships. They politely accepted.
How did the war between Japan and the United States start (part of World War II)? The United States, along with Britain and the Netherlands, said the Japanese could not trade with anyone.
Since the United States was willing to go to war with Japan in order to force it to trade, why was it wrong later for Japan to go to war with the U.S. in order to continue the trading. Of course it is always wrong to go to war, unless it is the U.S. going to war, in which case any excuse will do.
The United States and its current gang of allies is doing the same thing to Iran right now. We want them to stop doing something that we and our allies do (making atomic weapons), so we refuse to trade with them. Except we do allow them to export their precious petroleum.
In 1854, when the Japanese and the U.S. signed their first treaty, the Treaty of Kanagawa, the U.S. was not considered to be one of the top world powers. Great Britain, France, Russia and Germany were all clearly more powerful. But rapid population growth combined with the industrial and agricultural revolutions changed America's internal strength, while staying out of World War I and II long enough gave Great Britain, France, Russia and Germany the time to exhaust each other.
America's military-industrial-political complex has forgotten the lessons of the first half of the 20th century. Staying out of war is what makes you strong. Bleeding slowly in Afghanistan while nations like China focus on building their economies is a plan for self destruction.
In 1600 China was arguably the most powerful nation in the world. By 2020 it probably will be so again, if it can have one more decade without a civil war or an external war. Perry was powerful because the U.S. economy could easily build steam ships and could mass produce guns. Let us hope the Chinese will be nicer to the U.S. than the U.S. ever was to China or Japan. It is a reasonable hope: the Chinese have been civilised for thousands of years. They know the value of peace and harmony.