Today is the 66th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese which was the final straw precipitating U. S. engagement in the Second World War. It’s a day of remembrance of the dead for many people even these long years later.
There may not seem to be much connection between remembering the attack on Pearl Harbor and my immediately previous speculative post on Iraq but I think there is. The political process that culminated in the U. S. entering the war both in the Pacific and in Europe was more complex than just a reaction to Pearl Harbor. IMO it had three major parts.
I think it began with Dunkirk. The beginning of the war can be pushed back to 1939 or even to 1931 but I think that the Allies’ humiliating defeat and the subsequent evacuation at Dunkirk hammered home the idea to many in the United States that German expansionism was a real threat.
But there were still lots of Americans who opposed America’s participation in a foreign war which, at least in the case of the war in Europe, was a war of choice. America’s left wing and right wing linked arms in opposition, with notable figures touring the country together in opposition to the war. That ended in June of 1941 when Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that Hitler’s Germany was a threat to socialism at least in the form of the Soviet Union, the point of the spear. The hard left’s opposition to America’s entry into the war in Europe had ended.
The final straw was the attack on Pearl Harbor. The isolationist right in the United States recognized that we only had two alternatives: withdraw to our mainland shores with our tails between our legs or respond vigorously to the attack. They elected the latter and, after millions dead and billions spent, the rest is history.
So, what’s the connection between the events that propelled us into World War II and now? There was no such consensus here for going to war, especially not in the case of Iraq, and definitely not for a prolonged conflict as should be apparent with a glance around.