This was originally posted on 7 December 2005.
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. Though historian Joe Ellis points out that the term "entangling alliances" didn't come from this speech, despite our subconscious association. Winston Churchill, though mourning with us for the loss of life, was famously relieved that America would be joining the war. He knew that from the moment the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, that America would fight and win the war against fascism.
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. Simply refer to the Op-Ed page of your local newspaper. The characters are different, but they are still isolationists. Historical interpretation of WWII teaches that this attack joined the two motivations--self interest, with the virtuous desire to liberate Europe. The combination of these two strong impulses, made 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 us, 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 Iraqi people. 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 a radical minority, fanatics manipulated like so many pawns on a chess board by the Islamofascists 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 every election held in Iraq (women too!) and who, even now, hope we wont leave before stability has been established.
We 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 our position on Iraq or not, take a minute to remember the sacrifice of patriotic Americans who gave so much. Because that's what this day is about--memorializing those who in every generation have taken up arms in defense of their country. In case you need a little refresher, take a hard right at the rack full of Pearl Harbor (Ben Affleck is an idiot)DVDs 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 we have read and studied, is historically accurate.
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