Today marks the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. A day of celebration, and mourning for the lives lost in the largest conflict the world has ever known – and hopefully will ever know. I read once that history does not repeat, but it does rhyme. Recently, I was having a conversation with my mother, and as I spoke of the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and my burning desire to do something she said “but Ben why does it matter so much to you? The suffering is sad, but Americans are suffering and I think it’s time we focus on America.” This is a widely felt belief, and understandably so.
However, Americans felt the same throughout the late 1930s as the army of imperial Japan swept across Manchuria, and into China. We heard of the massacres at Nanking, and said, how sad but its not our problem. We saw the nations of Europe falling and wanted to stay out the best we could. But the world had changed. As Roosevelt said during his 1938 State of the Union speech: ” In spite of clear determination of this nation for peace, it has become clear that acts and policies of nations in other parts of the world have far-reaching effects not only upon their immediate neighbors but also upon us.” Three years later, the nation would know this truth intimately.
As a member state of the league of nations, we were outraged by Japans unprovoked invasion of Manchuria. We pleaded for an end to hostilities, but as the Japanese delegation walked out of the league it was obvious not much could be done. Economic sanctions were placed on Japan, mainly on their oil supplies – primarily provided by the United States and Great Britain. Some may respond by saying had we stayed out of it Pearl Harbor wouldn’t have happened. That statement however is inaccurate. It was the will of the Japanese army to expand not only in China, but across the Pacific. This has been noted in numerous documents released by the post war government. Perhaps economic sanctions accelerated the road to war, but it was an inevitability.
Where would the world be had we not entered the conflict? With Hitler being able to direct all his armies east, Soviet Russia would have fallen by November 1941. Hitler’s second book, the follow up writings to Mein Kampf, stated that his ultimate war would be with the United States, as the inevitable clash between the two Aryan societies. So with an established Japanese empire, and an even more emboldened and better supplied Nazi Germany, the United States, and people around the world would be in an unwinnable situation. Hitlers thousand year Reich, would be an American reality.
So this, is why today we place sanctions on nations such as Russia, North Korea, and Syria, and provide training and aid to Ukraine, Iraq, and Israel. Economic pressure works when applied properly – the combination of a competitive energy sector from the US- forcing a price drop in oil, and international sanctions are crippling the Russian economy – restoring peace to Europe. If America leads the way economically and intellectually, maybe the 21st century can become the century of peace. If we really want to “coexist” Americans must lead the way!
So, in closing take a moment to be thankful for our nations sacrifice on the alter of freedom. My brigade in the army had the motto Currahee – a Cherokee word meaning stands alone. America stands alone as a beacon of light in a dark world. The light is dim, but we can make it bright again! Let’s find a way forward together, so that those men who fought so hard, didn’t die for nothing.