Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The 75th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Attack

Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Japanese attack on the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. 

The attack, which occurred while envoys of the Empire of Japan were discussing peace with their American counterparts, was the lead part of a multi-pronged Japanese attack on several European and American colonies.  The Pearl Harbor Attack, which killed thousands of American servicemen and civilians, led to the U.S. declaration of war against Japan, which then led the other Axis Powers, including Germany and Italy, to declare war on the U.S., and the American entry into the Second World War in both the European and Asian theaters.  “Remember Pearl Harbor” became the American battle cry.  Although the United States had made some preparations for war, it had not prepared adequately, which caused it to be losing the war for the first six months.  Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor failed to be the knockout blow the Imperial forces needed in order to defeat the Americans.  Together with its Allies, the United States defeated the Japanese by August 1945. 

Before the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor, American isolationists had opposed American involvement in the Second World War on behalf of the Allies.  With their slogan of “America First,” they cited the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as a natural defense against the Axis and minimized the potential threat, despite the conquests by Axis forces around the world.  The isolationist movement also attracted fascist and Nazi sympathizers of the Axis Powers.  After Pearl Harbor, however, isolationism was discredited, as was fascism and Nazism.

The two lessons of Pearl Harbor are that it is necessary to prepare adequately for war to deter it and that geography or an isolationist foreign policy cannot necessarily protect American from an enemy attack.  These lessons have at various times since been forgotten, as there have been several examples after the Second World War of imprudent cuts to defense or intelligence capabilities and withdrawals of military forces or inadequate interventions of any kind, all of which have emboldened enemies and led to tragic consequences. 

A recent major example was the inaction of the Clinton Administration in the mid-1990s, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the Cold War, while the Islamist Taliban militia rose to power in most of Afghanistan and then provided safe harbor to al-Qaeda Islamist terrorists.  After United States President Bill Clinton’s withdrawal from Somalia in 1993, after suffering a few casualties in a victory over an al-Qaeda-supported warlord, al-Qaeda launched a series of attacks against Americans, with little response, other than to treat terrorism and other militant attacks mostly as a law-enforcement matter, instead of as a war by Islamists.  The mastermind of al-Qaeda’s September 11 Terrorist Attacks, which were the worst on American soil since Pearl Harbor, recently stated that al-Qaeda believed the American response would be similar and that it would have time to plan a second wave of attacks, but was surprised by President George W. Bush’s reaction of invading Afghanistan to depose the Taliban and attack al-Qaeda militarily, depriving them of their safe harbor.  The mastermind himself was later captured by the Bush Administration.  

During the War on Terrorism, the strategy of Islamist enemies has been less to achieve tactical victory through seizing territory, but to inflict a sufficient number of U.S. casualties in order to turn American public opinion against the war, as the U.S. had withdrawn from unpopular interventions in Vietnam in 1975, Lebanon in 1984 and Somalia.  Despite military advice against a premature withdrawal, President Barack Obama, who had opposed the battle in Iraq of the War on Terrorism, withdrew American forces from Iraq prematurely, which allowed al-Qaeda’s offshoot, the “Islamic State,” to flourish there, in addition to Syria.  At least the same mistake has not been made in Afghanistan, where the U.S. and its coalition of allies continues to aid the Afghan government against the resurgent Taliban and to continue to destroy al-Qaeda there and elsewhere in the Islamic world.

This year, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has campaigned on a slogan of “America First,” the same slogan as that of the isolationists and Nazi and fascist sympathizers in the 1930s and early 1940s, as Trump, too, is supported by isolationists and white nationalist fascists.  They appear to have forgotten or ignored these lessons of Pearl Harbor and September 11 and do not seem to understand or care how American aid to allies is in the interest not only of its allies, but of the United States.  They do not appear to grasp how American leadership of the Free World is indispensable and how if the principles of sovereignty and freedom are threatened anywhere, then American sovereignty and freedom are undermined, too.  Instead, Trump and many of his supporters, like European extreme nationalists, favor the leadership of Russian Federation Communist tyrant Vladimir Putin, whose imperialist interests are antithetical to those of the Free World.  

It is vital for liberty in American and around the world that conservatives and other Americans remember these lessons and support a strong defense and international U.S. leadership of the Free World.  Remember Pearl Harbor.

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