Before 9/11 became the most infamous date in American history there was Pearl Harbor Day. Americans tend to like dates they can celebrate, more than the ones they memorialize, but this sentiment doesn’t make them any less important.
The United States circa December 1941 was a country torn between a virtuous desire to aid the free, democratic countries of Europe, and its heritage of isolationism. Anyone with a basic knowledge of this history knows that it started early–George Washington’s Farewell Address. Historians, political scientists and politicians of various ilk point to this speech as the genesis of whatever foreign policy position they want to endorse. Joe Ellis points out that the term “entangling alliances” didn’t come from this speech, despite our subconscious association.
Historical minutiae aside, the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor woke us from this internal debate–a debate that has been internally waged before, during and after every armed conflict in American history. We teach in American Heritage that this attack joined self interest, with the virtuous desire to liberate Europe. The combination of these two strong impulses, we explain, makes the victory of WWII the perfect example of the marriage of these two ideals.
Maybe 9/11 was the Pearl Harbor that allowed us to fight terrorism and bring democracy to the Middle East. If, like me, you believe in the righteousness of the war against terror and the ongoing attempt to bring democracy to Iraq, then you see the parallels between Pearl Harbor and 9/11. The Japanese started out our enemies, but in the aftermath of WWII became our closest allies–aiding us today in Iraq and elsewhere. But the Japanese people were never our enemies and neither are the Iraqis. They were both subject to religious fascists and once liberated, embraced democracy.
This is the path we are on in Iraq. Car bombs will continue, but they aren’t set off by an Iraqi people angry at our “occupation” of Iraq. They are set by radicals, fanatics manipulated like so many pawns by the Islamifascists who really are evil and do not care about the future of Iraq. The Iraqi people, the ones who care about their country, they are the ones who voted in overwhelming numbers in their two elections this year and who will, on December 15th, turn out to vote (women too!) once again.
I believe our legacy in Iraq will end with the Iraqi people among our closest allies in the war on terror. A war that will not be won by ceding Iraq to the insurgents abroad or defeatists at home. The only similarity between Iraq and Vietnam is the fact that John Kerry lied about both.
Whether you agree with my position on Iraq or not, take a minute to remember the sacrifice of patriotic Americans who gave so much. In case you need a little refresher, take a hard right at the rack full of Pearl Harbor (Ben Affleck is an idiot) at your local Blockbuster and check out Band of Brothers. It doesn’t give you Pearl Harbor history, but it is WWII and, at least as far as I have read and studied, is fairly historically accurate.