Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Lesson of Pearl Harbor

Today, December 7th, is the 64th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. We, as a nation, commemorate this day not only to commemorate the victims, but also because we must never forget the lesson of that day: we must never let our guard down, for there are always those who wish to harm us.

Up until the attack that December morning, isolationist sentiment was widespread in the United States. The isolationist argument was the same as it always is—if we leave them alone they will leave us alone, it’s just not our problem. American hero Charles Lindberg was a member of the isolationist America First Committee—an organization that at its height was 850,000 strong—and actively campaigned against any foreign involvement. Even as late as November of 1941, only one in four Americans supported involvement in the growing war in Europe despite Hitler’s clear animosity to all Democratic governments. The American government and Japanese government were in negotiations to avoid war.

That all changed in the moment the first Japanese bomb fell. In the blink of an eye the reality that, even in a nation that is not looking outward, trouble sometimes comes calling. Even thought we did not seek it, war was upon us.

We must never forget this lesson. Yet there are those that believe we can placate the ideologies that are inimical to our own—that if we ignore the statements emanating from the other side of the globe, if we contract and present a smaller footprint outside our borders, if we just learn to accept that some cultures are naturally more oppressive—then we will be safe.

Such belief didn’t keep us safe before December 7, 1941. Such belief didn’t keep us safe before September 11, 2001. Such belief won’t keep us safe today. In a world where travel is fast and communication is faster, our great and good nation has very little time to react to those who declare themselves our enemies. By being forwardly projected around the world, our homeland is safer and more able to rapidly react to quickly developing threats. So tonight, and every night, say a little thank you to all who have served, and do serve, to keep us that much safer.


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