It seems like only yesterday that we signed a peace treaty with the Japanese aboard the battleship Missouri, and told them they would never be allowed to make arms again.

"What should we do instead?" a defeated Japanese admiral asked.

"Why don't you make automobiles?" one of Gen. MacArthur's advisers suggested.

"Ah so. But Americans make automobiles. How can a poor defeated country like Japan hope to compete with your wonderful cars?"

"Well, of course you can't compete in the United States because Americans would never buy a Japanese automobile after what you did to Pearl Harbor. But perhaps you could make something that could be sold in Southeast Asia and other markets where people don't care about quality."

"Ah so. How do you build an automobile?"

"It sounds hard, but I'm sure you people can get the hang of it. Here's a book with the instructions. You see, you put the engine up here and then seats here, and wrap a body around it, paint it a nice color, and you have yourself a car."

"Can I keep the book?"

"Why not? Now that you are a poor defeated country we have no secrets."

"You are kind, sir."

A year later, the first Japanese car came off a jerry-built assembly line. The Japanese admiral, who was now in charge of Tojo Motors, showed it to the American aide.

The ex-admiral bowed. "Forgive us for this unworthy thing we call an automobile, but we do not have much to work with."

The aide slapped the ex-admiral on the back. "Don't apologize. You did right well with what you had available. I'll tell you what I'll do; I'll bring some of our boys over from Detroit, and they'll give you a list of things you'll need to build a decent vehicle. We'll also send over some of your designers and engineers to the United States so they can get the hang of American know-how."

"Ah so? You would do that for a poor little struggling Japanese automobile company?"

Why not? It isn't as if you're ever going to be able to sell any of those rickshaws in the States."

Several years later, the MacArthur aide, who was not working for a large New York bank, bumped into the ex-admiral in the Waldorf Astoria. "What brings you to New York?" he asked jovially.

"I am arranging dealerships all over America for our four-cylinder Kamikaze 3x2. It gets 24 miles to the gallon and has front-wheel drive, disc brakes, and a rear defrosting window. Here is a photo of it."

The American looked at it and shook his head. "You're wasting your time, admiral. Americans will never buy a small car, particularly one with front-wheel drive."

"Ah so, but we only hope to take one percent of the market among the teen-agers and college students."

"It won't work. We have a love affair in this country with gas guzzlers and big fenders. As a friend, I'm telling you to save your money, and try to sell your product to the Third World. They will drive anything they can get their hands on."

The ex-admiral bowed and said, "Perhaps you are right. But as long as I am here maybe I will find someone who is interested."

It was 1981, and both the American ex-aide and the Japanese ex-admiral had aged considerably. When the American walked into the luxurious offices of the ex-admiral, the Japanese stood up slowly and bowed.

"Ah so. And what brings you to Tokyo, my good friend?"

"I've been sent by the president of the United States," the American said. "He knows we go way back, and felt I should bring his message personally."

"What message?"

"He wants you to stop making so many dame Japanese cars."

"But if we can't make cars, what else can we make?"

"He wants you to start making arms."

"But we don't know how to make arms."

"The president told me to give you this."

"What is it?"

"A book of instructions."