December 7, 1941

This U.S. Navy website has a good written summary of the attack, plus many excellent photos. The 9/11/2001 attack is often compared to Pearl Harbor, for good reason. As the anonymous commentary on the Navy site puts it:

These great Japanese successes, achieved without prior diplomatic formalities, shocked and enraged the previously divided American people into a level of purposeful unity hardly seen before or since. For the next five months, until the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May, Japan’s far-reaching offensives proceeded untroubled by fruitful opposition. American and Allied morale suffered accordingly. Under normal political circumstances, an accomodation might have been considered.

However, the memory of the “sneak attack” on Pearl Harbor fueled a determination to fight on. Once the Battle of Midway in early June 1942 had eliminated much of Japan’s striking power, that same memory stoked a relentless war to reverse her conquests and remove her, and her German and Italian allies, as future threats to World peace.


UPDATE: Jim Miller makes book recommendations.

A Matter of Perspective Pt II: The Hatfields, the McCoys, and the Mafia

In Part One I discussed how comparing the Iraqi situation with that in Afghanistan wasn’t a good idea. The main advantage that Afganistan has over Iraq is that, while both countries are oriented towards a tribal culture, there’s a greater variety of ethnic groups that allow the people there to overcome this mindset.

But what the heck do I mean by “tribal,” anyway? And why is it so significant?

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A Matter of Perspective Pt I: Apples and Oranges

Fellow Chicago Boy Michael Hiteshew has written a post where he discusses his doubts about a victory in Iraq. He feels that the terrorists have gained ground, and might be winning no matter how the US tries to stop them. He correctly points out that neither side can hope to win unless they enjoy the support of the general population.

“There is no possible way for 150,000 troops to control a country of 28 million without the active support of its inhabitants. And donít tell me about the British Empire. This is not 1850. Today, support can stream in from across the globe to supply weapons and fighters to a guerrilla insurgency allowing them to wreak havoc for decades.”

Michael also compares the situation to the relative success in Afghanistan.

“Why isnít this happening in Afghanistan? Quite simply because thereís no support for it. For starters, twenty years of civil war have simply worn them out. More importantly, in Afghanistan, by contrast with Iraq, the war was led by Afghanis, with the US merely supplying the overwhelming firepower when needed. Finally, the international community, much as it pains many Americans to admit it, provided the necessary political framework for the war to succeed, from the political meetings held in Bonn, Germany, to the active help of neighboring countries like Russia, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. All of which are missing in Iraq.”

I’ve noticed that most people are rather vague when they discuss their misgivings about the situation in Iraq. They know that it’s not going the way they hoped but they have very few ideas as to why, or what can be done to correct it. This is understandable when one considers that they don’t have a very firm background when it comes to Iraqi culture or history. I’m hardly an expert myself, but I do have a keen interest in the history part of it, and I’ve been reading up.

First off, people here in the West love to compare Afghanistan to Iraq. And why shouldn’t they? After all, both countries are rugged and lacking in water. Both countries were recently suffering under despotic regimes. And both countries are predominantly Islamic. They’re practically the same, right?

Not at all, and it’s important to keep in mind that the differences are more significant than the simularities.

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“Mobile” vs. “Immobile” Civilizations

That’s how Reuven Brenner, in this recent column, characterizes the struggle between the democratic West and Islamic fundamentalism. Brenner’s argument is interesting.

It is easy to criticize both grandiose thesis and narrow ones. To come up with a different way of perceiving the events and offer solutions is a bit harder. Yet this brief does just that. It shows that today’s conflict between Islamic groups and the West, as well as within Islamic societies, can be viewed as one between “mobile” and “immobile” civilizations, whose members can be found in every society. What distinguishes the US is that it has far more people sharing the outlook of a “mobile civilization” than any other country. And what characterizes many Islamic countries is that they have a large number of people sharing the values of an “immobile” civilization. “Relativist” orthodoxy notwithstanding, one point I make is that although one can understand the values and ideals of “immobile societies”, as fitting certain situations, there cannot be a compromise between these two civilizations. Today’s circumstances – demographic in particular – require moves toward “mobility”.

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