“Remember Pearl Harbor” is a battle cry that resonates a bit less each year. America’s “Greatest Generation” that won World War II is giving way to a millennial generation that witnessed its own “day of infamy.”
Stung by the huge death toll from World War I, many Americans at the time were wary of getting involved in World War II. An “America First” movement that advocated neutrality gained popularity. Japan’s surprise attack left the United States with no option other than to enter the war. Winning catapulted the U.S. into the leadership role it maintains today.
75 years later, it’s worthwhile to consider the lessons from Pearl Harbor and assess what still applies after what many consider to be a paradigm changing election.
The Parallels and Differences Between Pearl Harbor and 9/11
Greg Dobbs – The Denver Post
Both attacks came with faint forewarnings but no straightforward, single provocation. Both killed thousands of Americans, on scales chillingly similar…And both days led to long wars. With catastrophic, if not commensurate, death tolls….
But now the parallels end.
Beginning with Pearl Harbor, America’s costly involvement in World War II lasted less than four years. Four terrible years, to be sure, but once we were on a war footing, there sometimes was light at the end of the tunnel.
There is no light today. After 15 years we are still in Afghanistan and we are back in Iraq. And even if our uniformed troops someday, somehow, pull out for good, our war will persist.
America’s Role in the World 75 Years After Pearl Harbor
Peter Harris – The Conversation
[T]he attack constituted a critical juncture in the history of U.S. foreign relations, sidelining isolationism as a powerful force in domestic politics and making overseas engagement the accepted norm….
What began after Pearl Harbor as an attempt to defeat fascism had morphed by 1950 into an all-out global struggle to resist communism and maintain the independence of nations in the so-called “Free World.”…
For better or worse, the post-Pearl Harbor world has been one in which the U.S. always has faced compelling incentives to remain preponderant in international affairs. But there was never anything inevitable or immovable about this internationalist consensus. As the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer noted at the end of the Cold War, isolationist tendencies on both the right and left of U.S. politics were bound to resurface eventually.
With Trump’s election, Krauthammer’s prophecy is perhaps finally coming to pass.
Pearl Harbor a Reminder that the U.S. Should Lead, not Follow
William Inboden – Austin American-Statesman
The classic 1970 movie about Pearl Harbor “Tora! Tora! Tora!” quotes the operation’s mastermind Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto warning ominously that Japan had “awakened a sleeping giant.”…
Once awoken, the giant did not return to its slumber. Rather, the United States emerged at the end of the war as the world’s dominant superpower, with unprecedented military might and an atomic monopoly….
[A]s catastrophic as it was at the time, Pearl Harbor also led directly to what some called “the American Century,” our nation’s long run of global leadership that not only redefined our place in the world, it redefined the shape of the world itself.
It is something that bears remembering today.
The Lessons Never Learned from the Pearl Harbor Attacks
Paul D. Shinkman – AOL News
Pearl Harbor was supposed to serve as a lesson that American popular disapproval for going to war should not have allowed its government to fail in preparing for one. Yet that attack, particularly, has established a unique legacy in American history….
In more recent years, it has served as a way for informed officials to offer their most dire warning about a threat for which the U.S. is not prepared. Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta used the phrase in 2012 to raise awareness about the potential for a cyber attack that could cripple America’s power grid, transportation system, financial networks and even the government itself.
One of the attack’s other important lessons is how it demonstrated the failure of deterrence.