This week marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy. America on December 7, 1941 was a very different country, however flawed; it was a nation that immediately united to fight a common foe to preserve liberty. Monday, December 8th resulted in not only a declaration of war against Japan but the highest number of enlistments in the armed forces in a single day than for any other day in history up to the present. Young men literally lined up around the block at recruiting stations to join the Marines, the Navy, the Air Corps and yes, even the Army. Americans were incensed that while they participated in peace negotiations with Japan in good faith, the militarists controlling Japan had been plotting an attack upon our armed forces that killed over 2400 Americans, using peace negotiations to lull America into complacency.
The Japan of the 1930’s and early ‘40’s was not the pacifist nation we know today. It was ruled by a military clique that viewed itself as the inheritors of the Samurai warrior tradition, holding civilian rule and democracy in contempt. Civilian leaders lived in constant fear of assassination by the military, especially the Army. In 1931 the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Manchuria, China’s northern province, to set up a puppet state called “Manchuko” without the consent of the Japanese civil authorities. Japanese military rule was brutal towards the Chinese as Japan’s military considered itself racially superior to all other races, but especially the Chinese. In 1937 Japan launched a full-scale invasion of the rest of China under the pretext of a contrived incident at the Marco Polo Bridge. The Japanese Army raped, pillaged, burned and murdered its way across large swaths of China, massacring the civilian populations of entire Japanese cities. The cosmopolitan city of Nanking was brutally savaged by Japanese troops who raped at least 40,000 Chinese women and girls as young as five, murdering over 200,000 civilians in a six-week bloodbath. The West was outraged and America responded by imposing severe sanctions. By 1941 the sanctions were crippling Japan’s economy; President Roosevelt cut off exports of oil and scrap metal to Japan, giving that nation less than a year to survive as a modern nation if they didn’t withdraw from China. Japan agreed to peace negotiations but also began planning a major military offensive throughout Asia to seize the resources needed to feed Japan’s war machine. The attack on Pearl Harbor was intended to secure their eastern flank by crippling the U.S Pacific Fleet and force America to sue for an early peace on Japan’s terms. Japan’s forces invaded the Philippines, Thailand, Burma, Indonesia and the U.S territories of Guam and Alaska, annihilated the U.S. Asiatic Fleet of 81 ships along with defeating military forces of the British, French, Australian and Dutch over a six month offensive. Eventually Japan controlled an area equal to one seventh of the planet. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor, failing to totally destroy it as a base and missing our aircraft carriers, only served to “awaken a sleeping giant” in the words of Japan’s foremost Naval strategist and fleet commander, Admiral Yamamoto.
Prior to Pearl Harbor America had been a divided country with the majority of Americans determined to stay out of the war raging in Europe regardless of the depredations of Hitler and the Nazis against all of Western and Eastern Europe. Hitler declared war on America after the Japanese attack and we reciprocated, in essence sealing the fate of the worst group of totalitarian regimes to plague mankind since the Mongols terrorized Europe in the 13th Century.
Fast-forward to the America of today & I see similar trends but with great misgivings. The attack on “9-11” that killed nearly 3000 Americans did not produce anything like the reaction of Americans on December 7th. A lot of people sang “God Bless America”, waved a lot of flags and for about a week, the country seemed to be somewhat united, but only for a week. That’s when the hard-Left began to make noises about the attack was our own fault, conspiracy theories began (“it’s all a government plot led by President Bush”) as it went downhill from there. We haven’t recovered as American politics has degenerated into a semi-permanent, divisive mud-slinging contest of character assassination. Not since the Civil War have Americans been so divided and so truly hating of each other as we do today. The issues that divide us are equally non-negotiable, or so it seems as the issue of slavery was in the 1850’s that led to civil war in 1861.
I attribute this break in civility and unity as a nation to a generation of indoctrination of our youth, first by teaching them to despise their heritage and second, to despise anyone who disagrees with conventional thought. Some call it political correctness but it’s really just having a closed mind to different points of view. An example of our inability to hold a civil discussion on issues is the fate of any climate scientist who publicly disagrees with the accepted dogma of climate change. Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. -Colorado University – in his Wall Street Journal article “My Unhappy Life as a Climate Heretic” notes his persecution for daring to dissent. Sadder still is the state of our national political discourse after the Presidential election. We’re facing economic destruction, foreign policy challenges and growing military threats to our national survival. Historically, no country so politically divided survives such combined threats; neither will America unless we unite.
By Al Fonzi, RPSLO Chairman
First published in the New Times on 8 December 2016