On this day, December 7, in the year 1941 — 70 years ago, Japanese naval forces attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The resulting war was brutal and finally culminated with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Days after the bombing of Nagasaki, the Japanese surrendered.
Today’s Washington Post had an interesting article about a man from the Washington DC area who was traveling to Hawaii to commemorate that famous day. I won’t go through the history of the attack and the results. There are lots of good and accurate books written on the subject — both from the American as well as the Japanese perspective.
Clearly, the man being interviewed was quite old. I wish him many more years, but realistically, as he said, this will probably the last time that he will commemorate this event. His generation is just about gone. This, in itself, is not a tragedy. All of us will be “gone” someday. My question is, did we ask enough questions? It would be nice if we learned from our errors. We made errors and the Japanese made errors. I don’t mean any errors that might have been made in the fighting of December 7. I would like to be darn sure that the mistakes that Japanese and American politicians made in the 20-30 years leading up to that horrible day will not be repeated.
On that topic, some learned people would tell us that World War II was just a continuation of World War I. From my reading and understanding of history, I would agree. Are the world’s politicans smart enough now to negotiate peace treaties that don’t actually sow the seeds of a future war?
At the end of WW I, the politicians from the Allies negotiated monetary reparations with the Germans. This monetary amount was so huge that it could never really be paid. It would truly keep Germany in a state of poverty for generations. The politicians from both sides knew better but public sentiment was to really punish the Germans.
The Germans as well as the Allies had some very talented negotiators but, somehow the British press (the Fox News of the time) got wind of how the negotiations were going and started a very successful campaign to force a much harsher treaty on the Germans — thus, sowing the seeds for a second world war.
When an impoverished Germany appointed Adolph Hitler as the chancellor in late 1932 he simply tore up the treaty and dared the Allies to renew the war. Needless to say, they didn’t.
Yasser Arafat made an interesting comment one time. He was talking about peace with Israel and he said that it really doesn’t matter if he and his Israeli counterpart thought that the treaty was fair. Rather, it mattered that the children of both sides thought it to be fair. Good point. Very good point.
I would say, ‘farewell” to this brave generation of Americans. I only hope that we asked enough questions — and have learned from the answers.