Lessons Learned From A Day That Will Live In Infamy

Sixty-eight years ago, the Imperial government of Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.  The surprise attack on America’s main Pacific Ocean naval base was just one of many attacks launched by Japan that day, but it is the one that Americans remember most.  President Roosevelt called it a day that will live in infamy, and he was right.  Americans still remember the attack, still burn inwardly at the iconic photographs of tilting, sinking battleships partially obscured by smoke, and still visit the Arizona monument and think somberly of the sailors below, trapped forever in their watery tomb.

I mention Pearl Harbor not merely because today is the 68th anniversary of the bombing, but because I think our national response to the attack is worth remembering.  Under President Roosevelt’s leadership, America — which was horribly unprepared for war — geared up for an enormous struggle, fought a two-front war that featured bloody battles on virtually every continent, and eventually forced its enemies to accept unconditional surrender.  America did not ask for war, but when war was thrust upon it, it accepted that burden, made the necessary sacrifices, fought the war, and won.

I recognize that fighting an elusive terrorist network like Al Qaeda is not like fighting the Japanese Empire or Nazi Germany.  Al Qaeda’s minions do not wear uniforms or fight conventional battles.  Instead, they hide in remote, lawless areas, like the wild, mountainous territory along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and wage war through suicide bombers and other terrorist devices.  Nevertheless, Al Qaeda attacked our country just as surely, and with results as devastating and deadly, as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  The only appropriate response to that attack is to find our enemies, engage them, and ultimately kill them on the field of battle.

This seems self-evident to me.  The first obligation of any nation must be to ensure its own security, and no nation can be secure if it allows deadly attacks to occur without finding and defeating the attackers.  The United States therefore must find and defeat Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.  If, as our government currently suspects, they are in Afghanistan, then that is where we also must be.  For that reason, I support President Obama’s decision to send in more troops, and I think we should stay in Afghanistan — or wherever Osama bin Laden and his terrorist gang is found — until we get the job done.  This is not a war that America asked for, but it is a war that we must win.

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