Saturday, April 21, 2007

Will We Ever Learn?

I am currently reading Flyboys, by James Bradley. This is an excellent book, especially if you want to learn a lot more on the back-story of the brutality shown by both sides in the Pacific Theater during WWII. You can get a copy of the book here.

I was particularly struck by a chapter early on in the book that describes the Japanese attitude towards the United States. I think there are clear parallels to be drawn today, and that maybe there are some of us who haven’t learned from missteps in the past. Because of that, the question becomes are we doomed to repeat those mistakes over again?

I apologize in advance to Mr. Bradley for this fairly long excerpt from his book, but I know that he has put the history into words that I could not hope to imitate without actual plagiarism.

Flyboys – Chapter 6 (pgs. 89-91)

On Tuesday, September 21, 1937, Japanese
airplanes bombed the capital of China, Nanking. Over the next few days, the
front-page New York Times headlines reflected the West’s




The accompanying articles denounced Japan’s “campaign of death and terror.” Britain “called the attention of Japan officially to the fact that no nation has a right in law or morality to bomb crowded cities from the air and so make war indiscriminately upon noncombatants and combatants alike.” For it’s part, the U.S. State Department dispatched a stiff note to Japan, stating, “This government holds the view that any general bombing of an extensive area wherein there resides a large populace engaged in peaceful pursuits is unwarranted and contrary to principles of law and humanity. Secretary of State Cordell Hull condemned the bombing with these torrid words: “When the methods used in the conduct of these hostilities take the form of ruthless bombing of unfortified localities with the resultant slaughter of civilian populations, and in particular women and children, public opinion in the US regards such methods as barbarous. Such acts are in violation of the most elementary principles of those standards of humane conduct which has been developed as an essential part of modern civilization.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed the shock of “every civilized man and woman”: “The ruthless bombing from the air of civilians in unfortified centers of population during the course of the hostilities which have raged in various quarters of the earth during the past few years, which has resulted in the maiming and in the death of thousands of defenseless men, women, and children, has sickened the hearts of every civilized man and woman, and has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity.”

In floor debate, senators said the Japanese had committed a “crime against humanity” and were pursuing methods “reminiscent of the cruelties perpetrated by primitive and barbarous nations upon inoffensive people.” A resolution was quickly passed denouncing the “inhuman bombing of civilian populations.”

Soon the entire world, in the form of the League of Nations, had condemned Japan. In a resolution the League declared that “taking into urgent consideration the question of aerial bombardment by Japanese aircraft of open towns in China, [the League] expresses its profound distress at the loss of life caused to innocent civilians, including great numbers of women and children, as a result of such bombardments, and declares that no excuse can be made for such acts, which have aroused horror and indignation throughout the world, and solemnly condemns them.”

Japan’s reaction was to continue bombing. And why not? The same issues of the New York Times discussing the West’s hand-wringing also revealed that Tokyo was facing all bark and no bite.

Please do not misunderstand what I have quoted here. I know that the US, before and after this period of time, resorted to very brutal means in the course of war. That is not the point.

The reason I quote this is the last sentence. Japan considered the rest of the world to “all bark and no bite.” Millions of words were spoken and written (and from the quotes above one can see that run-on sentences were the style of the day). Negotiations were undertaken – diplomacy at all levels. And Japan just kept on doing what they wanted. They were emboldened by the lack of direct confrontation over their wars of conquest. In fact they considered the US to be a “land of merchants” whose population didn’t have the stomach to fight a prolonged war. They felt that their Warrior Spirit, coupled with their war machine could attack the US and win. That they would get away with it because of our reluctance to fight.

Why is this important today? Simple. The question is have we learned from history? Have we learned from our complacency in earlier wars?

In today’s world we are at war with a particular form of Islam – radical Islam. Jihadists believe that the US is “all bark and no bite”. That all they have to do is wait us out; wait until the American people are tired of fighting a prolonged war, and then they will win. Unfortunately, we have many in this country who are helping the radical jihadists. We have the MSM who can’t be bothered to tell all of the story in Iraq. We have political leaders who don’t have the cajones to finish what they voted for to begin with.

The parallels to the war in the Pacific are scary. What happens if we pull back from Iraq? I’m not speaking about the ethnic cleansing that will take place. Any normal, thinking person knows about that. There will be massive bloodshed.

No, I’m speaking more about what the jihadists will believe. If we repeat history, as some seem to want us to do, the jihadists will become more emboldened. If they consider us to be a country with no resolve, how long will it be before they come here? Just as the Japanese came to Pearl Harbor. But this time, it won’t be dive bombers and fighters attacking a series of military bases. It will be mass destruction aimed at civilian population centers.

When will we wake up to the reality of the situation? When we are attacked again? What a sorry state of affairs.