We should all stop for at least a moment today — Dec. 7 — Pearl Harbor Day — to pay at least silent tribute to those who lost their lives and to those who were wounded or otherwise directly affected by the surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor now seventy two years ago.
But just at importantly we ought to think about this:
Should we ever go to war unless we are directly attacked? And if we do, shouldn’t we have a clear idea as to what our ultimate goal is?
This has not been the case since World War II.
We were not directly attacked in Korea. But a decision was made to go to war to stop the spread of communism that ultimately would threaten democracy world wide. There could certainly be an argument that we should not have gone to war in Korea, but we did, and I suppose the goal was to repel the North Korean invaders. We were able to push them back across their own border and have been at an uneasy truce ever since. Gen. Douglas McArthur wanted a World War II-style win — total victory, but that would have been costly and might have pushed us into World War III with a counter attack by the Soviets, as well as the communist Chinese who were already in the war against us.
And then following our Cold War policy of containing communism we got mired in Vietnam — but we were not attacked, save for some incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, which was both minor and/or bogus — it may not have even happened.
And then came 9/11, the attack by terrorists on the United States at New York and Washington, D.C., and in the sky over Pennsylvania. But this time the attack was not by a nation state but a world-wide terror group. But since the attack was staged from Afghanistan or since the leader of the group was holing up there, we invaded that nation, after the Taliban, who was running the country at the time, refused to hand over the leader of Al Qaeda, the group claiming responsibility for the attack.
But then the U.S. pivoted and went to war with Iraq, a nation whose thug of a leader we had at one time supported (just before the first Gulf War — yes, very confusing). We got mired there and then left after a decade with an ambiguous outcome and are still stuck in Afghanistan, even after Osama Bin Laden, the master mind of the 9/11 attack, was captured and killed (in Pakistan, a nominal ally, confusing again). We seem to not know whether to stay or leave Afghanistan.
Clarity in war ended with World War II.