Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.

Credit to Dorsano for this story:

A very interesting letter appeared today (the 64th anniversary of Pearl Harbor) in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The letter, written by a career Naval Officer, points out that if the Bush doctrine on pre-emptive war is taken as a basis for starting a war, then the Pearl Harbor attack would have been justified on the part of the Japanese.

The letter reads:

Remembering Pearl Harbor seems doubly -- or even triply -- important today. With that memory comes also the voice (rebroadcast almost every year) of President Franklin D. Roosevelt declaring to Congress and the nation, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked ..."

My 31 years of service as an officer in the U.S. Navy were richly satisfying -- in large measure because of the men and women with whom I served. But even more, my satisfaction came from an appreciation for living in and serving a nation dedicated to the principles of freedom and opportunity and justice for all, and of nobody being above the law.

But now, we are living in a country whose administration both declares and acts upon the belief that preemptive strikes are wise foreign policy, are a legitimate use of our military. Was the attack on Pearl Harbor anything other than a preemptive strike?

I ask President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- are we now to view Pearl Harbor as the product of a sound foreign policy by a nation with a strong military? Or would we instead be wise to remember that December 7, 1941, is still a date which will live in infamy?


Now, the United States was, as we know, involved in supplying the Chinese (with whom the Japanese were then at war) with arms, had adopted an active military posture, (whether to goad the Japanese into war or not, is debatable, but certainly from their viewpoint it was) and as such had to be considered a threat. In fact, the American military was the only one in the Pacific that actually could stand up to the Japanese. And there is absolutely no question that the United States military in 1941 was more capable of attacking Japan than Saddam Hussein was in 2003 of attacking the United States.

So, the whole idea of a pre-emptive war (a new concept in the history of the United States, developed by the Bush administration) is exactly what we were on the receiving end of on December 7, 1941. Making crass distinctions based on governmental types (i.e. it is OK for a Democracy against a dictatorship, but not by a Monarchy against a Democracy) is weak and won't hold water. Either, as Mr. Youel expounds on, 'preemptive war' is acceptable as a national policy or it is not. But saying something is 'acceptable for us to do, but not when used against us' brings us perilously close to the kind of logic we were fighting against in World War II and in the Cold War which followed it.

Now, I still consider December 7, 1941 to be a 'day of infamy.' Do you?


dorsano said...

I've written probably 100 LTE's by now over the last few years and only 3 I think have been published.

I suppose they help in some way at some level whether or not they are published.

But this letter by Alan Youel is one of the best I've ever read I think.

It's very tightly written - only 4 paragraphs - 3 of which lead almost directly to the conclusion.

There's many things I admire in it but its punch lies in it's originality and its invitation to look at ourselves from the outside in.

Maybe I'll get more published after reading this one :)

Anonymous said...

This line of reasoning is totally nuts.

Japan had been raping and murdering the Chinese for 3 years before they bombed us. It was the Japanese who created the animosity with the rest of the world, not the other way around. Yes, we had American volunteers fighting on the Chinese side as with the Flying Tigers. BUT THEY WEREN'T THERE TILL THE JAPANESE INVADED.

To say that the Japanese "preempted" a US strike is totally ridiculous. Even the US didn't believe it was possible to attack Japan until Doolittle bravely proved it could be done 5 months after Pearl Harbor. The Japanese thought they were invunerable or they woudn't have "awakened the sleeping giant".

The old man who wrote the article is one thing but for a smart person like you to agree with it is quite surprising.

For the US and other countries like Israel to adopt a policy of pre-emptive strikes after having been the victim of multiple "surprise" attacks was the prudent thing to do.

It's almost as though this man (and you) are blaiming the US for the terrorist attacks; the bombing of the embassies, the 1993 WTC bombing, 9/11 etc..

You disagree with the attack on Iraq. OK. That is a reasonable position. But, to equate the US preemptive stike policy to Imperial Japan is mind-boggling foolery, and is definately NOT paying homage to the "day of infamy".

You're over the edge with this one.

Eli Blake said...

I don't know, Mark.

True the Japanese felt they were the masters of the Pacific after Pearl Harbor, but part of the reason for that was because they believed they had effectively delivered a 'death blow' to the U.S. Navy there.

But they were acutely aware of their military inferiority, especially in Naval armaments, before Pearl Harbor. This dated back to the 5-power treaty of Feb. 6, 1922 in which Britain, the US, Japan, France and Italy agreed to limit naval units in a 5:5:3:1:1 ratio. Obviously, Britain had its hands full of Nazis at the time, but the Japanese were aware of the THREAT of American naval power (note: not of any specific intent to use, it which there was not).

In that sense, this is the same as we find with Saddam. If you have specific actionable intelligence of a specific threat, then that is one thing (hence the Israeli strike in 1967-- they were aware of a specific plan by Egypt, Syria and Jordan to strike hours later). But to simply attack someone because they have the potential to be a threat, or you think they may become a threat later, is absurd, and that is what happened in both cases.

And what bothers me is that so many things have become reality or are being seriously discussed under Bush that used to be the stuff of sarcasm: Not only this, but insisting on the right to torture people, or building a wall along the border, or keeping people in jail for years without charging them. Has our society really changed that much in just five years, and if we have, wouldn't you say this is just a tad scary?

dorsano said...

To say that the Japanese "preempted" a US strike is totally ridiculous.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor set the us back almost three years - it was one of the most effective preemptive strikes in history.

The only reason one might consider it ridiculous is because in the end, it failed strategically.

Anonymous said...

The thing that you are missing is that the men who flew the planes on 9/11 proved that ANYONE (including Saddam) with hatred towards us has the capacity to mount large scale destruction on our soil. To say that Saddam didn't have the capability and the desire to attack us is wrong.

Amy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dorsano said...

The thing that you are missing is that the men who flew the planes on 9/11 proved that ANYONE (including Saddam) with hatred towards us has the capacity to mount large scale destruction on our soil. To say that Saddam didn't have the capability and the desire to attack us is wrong.

There are scores of countries around that world that hate us - more so today than on 9/11

Are we to invade them all?

Why single out Saddam? He didn't allow al-Qaeda to operate in Iraq. He imprisoned, tortured and killed extremists in Iraq like Muqtada al-Sadir's father and uncle.

Or is this the Arab/Muslim thing again? They all sort of look alike to you?

Eli Blake said...

Well, Mark, I'd say what Dorsano said, but he said it better than I could.

There are literally billions of human beings on the earth who don't like the United States for one reason or another. Killing them all, or invading every country whose government we disagree with isn't feasible, unless it is our intention to conquer half the world. And that doesn't even count some of our more perfidious 'allies:' we know from a number of sources that some of the countries we count as 'friends' and do business with the most (China and Saudi Arabia are prime examples) have governments who hate and despise us probably more than some of our sworn enemies, the only reason they are being 'friendly' with us is because right now it is profitable for them to do so. Do we prepare for that day when they stop seeing things that way (which makes sense) or do we do the Machiavellian thing and 'turn on them first?'

What we need to do is work with other countries (probably including some we dislike and don't trust beyond to do what is in their own best interest) to reach a consensus on fighting terrorism (as we pretty much had right after 9/11 and during our invasion of Afghanistan, before President Bush got diverted into attacking Iraq.)