By Alan Caruba
On December 7, 1941, I was four years old, but no one born in the years of World War II grew up without memories, conscious and unconscious, of that great conflict. It affects the way you look at the world, how you regard history, how you examine global threats to peace.
The United States was caught flat-footed. Most of the population was opposed to participation in the European war that had begun in 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The peace that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain thought he had negotiated with Adolf Hitler proved to be a dangerous delusion and England was literally fighting for its life.
Everything turned around for Americans on the day the Japanese Empire attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in much the fashion that September 11, 2001 changed the worldview of many Americans.
My earliest memories of the war were trains that were filled with young men in uniform. My Mother’s parents lived in Long Branch, NJ and nearby Fort Dix was where many inductees received their training and processing. Under Mother’s watchful eye I would stroll the aisle of the passenger car and talk with soldiers, many of whom would never return. As a child I had no idea what danger lurked for them or the nation.
By 1945, at war’s end, I was eight years old and fully aware of the war. In school children contributed pennies and nickels to the nation’s drive to fund the conflict. Adults bought “war bonds” and the entire nation was on a war footing, focused on defeating the Axis in Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific and Asia.
Five years later the U.S. was dispatching troops to Korea to thwart an attack from the Soviet puppet in the North. When Red China joined the conflict, the end became a stalemate, a truce that remains to this day, but our action would produce a South Korea that is a vibrant capitalist economy while leaving the North to starve its people in order to maintain a million-man military. It would, in time, become a nuclear power.
Today, we live in no less dangerous a world, but an America that never entered a war without being first attacked is operating under a policy set forth by a President who believes in pre-emption and has positioned the nation as the policeman of the world. This is not a good formula for peace. A more patient approach such as the more than 45 years we patiently worked to bring about the fall of the Soviet Union suggests that strength, held in reserve, works better.
While proxy wars, most notably in Vietnam, were fought, a global conflict was avoided. That is perhaps the lesson of Pearl Harbor. Today, America with its great military power, but significantly smaller fighting force, needs to practice patience, use all the arts of diplomacy, and resist the urge to use our military until every other option has been exhausted or an actual attack is imminent or—God forbid—occurs.
There is little point to criticizing the second invasion of Iraq because it is a fait accompli. Only history will determine whether it was the right thing to do. It may well have been, but today’s children will not know the answer to that for another 50 years.
What we do know is that totalitarian forces and dictators exist in a world that is greatly changed from 1941. It is one in which many new democracies have emerged, many new nations have joined the world community, and all are now threatened by a resurgent, radical Islam.
Beyond that threat, there’s the United Nations, an international institution bent on imposing control of the world through the Big Lie of “global warming”, a false crisis designed to divert attention from a matrix of treaties that cede national sovereignty to a group of corrupt bureaucrats with little care for the genocides that have occurred on its watch and which engages in the most blatant intolerance when it suits their purposes.
It is folly to let the memory of December 7, 1941 fade. A new generation has experienced a new sneak attack and, six years later, its lessons have yet to have been learned. We excel at waging short decisive wars, but we are faced with the ultimate weapon of the weak, terrorism. We need patience to undermine its motivation and use.
The American Empire dreamed of in the minds of some faces the same challenges that former empires encountered. A study of history suggests we need to mix our power with humility along with the resolve to resist and defeat evil. We have done this in the past.