Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pearl Harbor Day

[U.S. Navy battleships burn during the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.]

Today is the anniversary of the day that the Japanese attacked the United States' naval and air bases at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Of course, few in America do not know that, but what many probably do not know is how this came to happen. Wikipedia has a good synopsis:

War between Japan and the United States had been a possibility each nation had been aware of (and developed contingency plans for) since the 1920s, though tensions did not begin to grow seriously until Japan's 1931 invasion of Manchuria. Over the next decade, Japan continued to expand into China, leading to all out war in 1937. In 1940, Japan invaded French Indochina in both an effort to control supplies reaching China, and as a first step to improve her access to resources in Southeast Asia. This move prompted an American embargo on oil exports to Japan, which in turn caused the Japanese to initiate its planned takeover of oil production in the Dutch East Indies.[15] Furthermore, the transfer of the U.S. Pacific Fleet from its previous base in San Diego to its new base in Pearl Harbor was seen by the Japanese military as the U.S. readying itself for a potential conflict between the two countries.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

While each move made sense from the point of view of the two antagonists, the nearly inevitable result was the ruinous war that resulted after this attack. For the United States, it became a long, expensive, and deadly struggle. For Japan, it brought utter ruin.

When I think of this day now, I think not only the sailors and soldiers who died that day, but of the millions more soldiers and civilians who would die afterward. In truth, I don't know how the war could have been avoided, but if both sides had realized the price they would pay, it's hard to believe it would have happened.

Then I hope that some day we'll be wise enough to consider the cost before we jump into a war. So far, I see no evidence that we have, either as a country or as a species.

So remember Pearl Harbor, and all that came afterward.


One Fly said...

Great advice Cujo if only those who need to listen would.

Serving Patriot said...


You might want to take a look at a decade old monograph from the Marine Corps War College titled "Capital "W" War" by Dr. Joe Strange.

Yep, the Marine Corps has a university and Joe Strange really did teach there!

Dr. Strange's strategic and operational analysis of Japan's "strategic imbecility" of Operation HAWAII is something to behold.

Too bad we couldn't get some of that same kind of analysis on the principles of Capital W War before we embarked on the "war on terra"!!


Cujo359 said...

I'm sure I'm mostly preaching to the choir, One Fly.

That's an interesting read, SP. I remember Edward Luttwak writing some years ago that there wasn't enough strategic thinking going on in our government. On the one hand, I must admit that I'm very uncomfortable with the idea that we would be trying to figure out how to defeat other countries, or make ours pre-eminent through warfare. On the other hand, I think that we need to try to understand other countries well enough that we can either prevent our relationship from becoming adversarial, or to know them well enough if they become our enemies that we don't find ourselves at a disadvantage.

One thing that helped cause the war between us and the Japanese was the impression each society had of the other. We thought of them as mean, sneaky little people. They thought of us as oafish and soft. Each impression was tragically wrong. Certainly, the Japanese in particular ignored some of the fundamental problems with their strategy, but at least part of the reason they did was due to thinking themselves somehow innately superior to their adversaries.

Whenever I hear of things like Ann Coulter insisting that the cure for the Middle East is to convert everyone there to Christianity, I realize that we really aren't any smarter than the Japanese were.

Sun Tzu was right about who wins most of the battles. That goes for wars, too.