December 7

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.

6 comments… add one
  • With the exception of Afghanistan in 2001 and, perhaps, the Spanish-American War, has there ever been a war that the US has entered with consensus? Even in the Revolution, there were as many Tories as there were Patriots.

  • Sure. World War II. American Civil War.

    Interesting data on public opinion during WWII.

  • Dave, you’re wrong about the American Civil War. Few wanted that war.

  • Larry Link

    Going to war, WWII, we had enemies on both shores..I don’t think we had much of a choice. Afghanistan, should have been our focus, but Irag fell into the laps of the current administration..and we all know where that took us..we’ve really done a great job at catching those who are responsible for 9/11… an outstanding job…and as in WWII and now in Irag, the profiteers made and are making lots of cold hard cash….Thanks guys!!

  • Haven’t 66 years passed since 7 December 1941?

  • Thank you. Brain cramp.

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