Normally I would think of a routine from an old Abbott and Costello movie when I see something a comical as the title of this post.
Not this time though. Hu Jintao (the President of the People’s Republic of China) has been very vocal recently about upgrading and preparing the military in general and the Navy in particular for combat.
Wait, what? Combat????
Isn’t that where people get killed and ships and aircraft are destroyed occasionally? Isn’t that where countries with widely divergent points of view sometimes attempt to have their way? Does it bother anyone else that the leader of a country with 1.8 billion people is starting to make some serious noises about the future of the sea lanes in the Chinese sphere of influence?
How many times must we re-learn the lessons of Pearl Harbor?
The territorial ambitions of the Japanese had been long known. As one of the powers that emerged from World War 1, the leaders of Japan were anxious to take their place on the world stage as an equal partner. Much of the world’s geography had changed at the end of the war as the victors divided up the spoils. Whole nations suddenly appeared and many far away islands were passed out like so many playing cards. The leaders of Japan had seen it all before. The Europeans and Americans had far flung empires and territories, many of which were in Japan’s sphere of influence. Japan was not to be denied her rightful place at the table.
One of the precursors to war was actually intended to prevent war
The Washington Naval Conference of 1922 was supposed to limit the surge of warship building that continued at the end of the war. The five signatories were the US, the British Empire, France, Italy, and Japan. This treaty was designed to limit the “Big Guns” of each fleet as well as other armament that could be used in an aggressive manner.
While aircraft carriers were covered by the treaty, the Japanese saw the future of warfare that would include an air component. Not that it really mattered to them since by 1936 they had completely abandoned the treaty. The Japanese started the war with ten large carriers, most of which violated the terms of the treaty.
When the Pearl Harbor attack came, the Japanese were prepared to fight the next war.
The United States and Great Britain were still mired in doctrines and weapons systems that have evolved from 1918. The Army and the Navy had belatedly started to ramp up for war in the year prior to Pearl Harbor, but they would face an enemy who had already shown his expertise in Asia. The Chinese were the first real victims of the juggernaut that would span the Pacific after December 7th.
Four years of bitter warfare would result in not being fully prepared to fight the next war. Men and treasure were expended on faraway islands in a bloody march to Tokyo. Man’s ability to inflict unimaginable suffering on his fellow man was expanded in ways that shocked the once sleeping giant. Torture, beheadings, starvation, forced labor were some of the stunning violations that were employed in the imprisoned lands of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
The shocking loss of such a large number of capital ships in the waters of Pearl Harbor truly did wake the sleeping giant. Years of peace had cleared the memories of many people as to its sacrifice and commitment. What saved America was the will of its people to be free and its large industrial base. This country was able to mobilize quickly and use its massive infrastructure to rapidly produce the weapons needed to supply the remaining Allies that would eventually help us to overcome the Axis powers.
China Rising…What lessons should we have learned from Pearl Harbor?
First, the notion that there will never be another major war is completely false. As long as two men are left on the planet, one of them will eventually think they should have an equal or greater share of something than the other. And the other will stand with just as much conviction and moral authority that he will not give an inch. That fact is as old as Cain and Able. The need for resources in a growing country will drive their leadership to seek ways to meet that demand. Food, water, natural resources, technology will all drive the reasons for the next conflict. I may just be cynical, but to me, it doesn’t seem like mankind has a very good record when it comes to trust or being trustworthy.
Second, you need to be ready for the next war, not the last one. The national interest is best served when there is a coordinated strategic vision that is constantly looking at the next threats. Cyber warfare and satellite killers can easily be launched in a bloodless attack that could render whole societies weak and unable to respond to threats. While the idea of a Japanese Army marching all the way to Chicago during World War 2 may have seemed ludicrous, the Chinese have many times more resources and the elimination of our defensive posture electronically would greatly enable that attack.
Third, treaties are rarely worth the paper they are written on. Time and time again, we have relied on the seductive voices of progressives who always seem to want to give the other fellow more credit than he actually deserves. We just expect people to think like us. They don’t. Different cultures and religions have different rules and exceptions to the rules. If they want something bad enough, they will willingly sign any paper that limits your ability to respond to their change of plans.
Fourth, America won World War 2 because it could rapidly mobilize its industrial base to do the incomprehensible. We had the mills, raw materials, manpower that was skilled, and the ability to fund it all from a variety of sources. Can anyone honestly say that we are in the same position today? Many of our mills are now overseas, we have crippled our own energy production capability at the alter of “Green” and that skilled workforce is now retiring in droves with insufficient replacements. Money? Hell, we owe so much to China, they could simply roll into Washington and tell us they were foreclosing on the debt. I hope the First Lady has saved some room in her garden for rice.
Fifth, it is impossible to successfully negotiate from a position of weakness. The other fellow will know your weaknesses and set his terms to capitalize on them. The only way to maintain a nations status as a superpower on the world stage is to have the means and the resources to protect its citizens and property wherever they are in the world.
The cost of weakness and not being prepared for the next conflict is too high to sustain.
Stand on top of the hill at the Punchbowl National Cemetery in Hawaii or watch the weeping tears of oil that still come from the Arizona Memorial each year. Visit any of the hundreds of thousands of Memorial Markers in towns and cities all across America to see the names of men and women who are no longer here because of the sin of unpreparedness.