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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Some thoughts on Pearl Harbor & December 7th, a day that still lives in Infamy

Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.
                                                         - The Art of War by Sun Tzu
I recently heard an Asian martial arts trainer explain the importance of striking the first blow, in fact, the absolute necessity of striking the first blow if one is to have any hope of persevering against an attacker that, by all appearances, is stronger than you. He said that should a bully approach you on the street, with the clear intent of doing you harm, the bully will not expect you to strike the first blow in the back and forth preceding the attack, but that is precisely when you must act, landing your most powerful blow before he has a chance to hurt you, and while he isn't expecting it.

This struck me as sound advice from The Art of War. Many Westerners would be uncomfortable with this advice because it involves prejudging the intentions of the other guy in the negative. We have been taught that it is wrong to strike the first blow, although that clearly is a winning strategy, so everyone may not share our cultural bias against it. It should also be added that this sound military advice has little to do with on which side justice stands, or even if justice has a dog in the fight at all.

Sir Thomas Dale
This is also the "moral" stand of one who has already obtained an empire and no longer finds such desperate measures expedient. The invaders who first conquered America for England had no qualms about landing the first blow. In The Barbarous Years, Knopf 2012, Bernard Bailyn described how Sir Thomas Dale,
a participant to the ruthless slaughter of noncombatants in Ireland on the ground that "terrour...made short Warrs," launched a program of deliberate military provocation and savage harassment. [ around Jamestown, Virginia] His campaign to reduce the natives to the status of subject people and drive them off the most valuable lands was part of what has been called England's "First Anglo-Powhatan War (August 1609 to April 1614)."   That series of bloody clashes, Frederick Fausz, the war's most careful analyst, writes "translated England's ad terrorem tactics from the Irish wars of the late sixteenth century-specifically the use of deception, ambush, and surprise, the random slaughter of both sexes and all ages; the calculated murder of innocent captives, and the destruction of entire villages...."
These infamous tactics and worst were considered acceptable when the West was on the make. This is probably the line of reasoning the Imperial Japanese took 76 years ago on December 7, 1941 when they bombed the United States naval fleet at Pearl Harbor. They had been aggressively building "their" empire in Asia for a decade, and friction had been growing with the US. Japan was under heavy sanctions from the US, and faced having it sources of oil and raw materials cut off. WWII was already on and the war clouds between the US and Japan were growing darker every day. Everyone knew war could break out any day, so the Japanese, being the weaker party, and following the philosophy of that martial arts trainer, struck first. They thought their slim chance for victory rested upon knocking out the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor and forcing the US to sue for peace to avoid an attack on the mainland, but Slim had left the harbor and taken the American aircraft carriers with him. As they say, the rest is history.

It didn't work out that well for the Japanese, at least in terms of the five year plan. Our moral prohibition against striking first would seem to have been vindicated, although they never had any real chance of prevailing in a sustained conflict with the United States then. It was a costly miscalculation on all sides, and it matters not to those who lost sons and daughters on the anti-fascist side that the Japanese lost more.

I think it could be very important to draw some lessons from the Pearl Harbor attack as Donald Trump heats up the atmosphere between the United States and another Asian adversary. In comparison to Japan at the height of its empire, North Korea is much weaker, but it has what Japan was on the receiving end of at the conclusion of that war. After having lost more than three million of it citizens in its last war with the United States, the North Korean government has expended tremendous effort and expense to create what it thinks it needs to deter that from happening again. This apparently is the ability to strike the United States mainland with a nuclear tipped missile. By most accounts they are there already. Earlier this year they apparently successfully tested a thermonuclear device, and more recently their test of a missile that could carry such a warhead to any part of the US was successful. It is said that they haven't a proven warhead reentry capability as of yet. Even if this is true, it is cold comfort, given that that is the easiest part of the puzzle to solve, and even without it they could detonate over America for the EMP effect and atmospheric destruction.

So while President Trump threatens the complete destruction of this country of 25 million and calls its leader names, as he talks in more and more bellicose terms and sends US warplanes and warships ever closer to North Korea; we would do well to consider the real possibility that Trump will convince the North Koreans that they really do face imminent destruction, and therefore their best option is to land the first blow and use the few nukes they have while they still have them.

Dotard Trump may think it's all fun and games on twitter, but he is playing with the end of the world.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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