Those elements leading to war are resurfacing in a new form in the 21st century.
In 1941, the world had endured years of economic depression and struggle over scarce resources. The far-away economics of Japan seemed remotely unrelated to many average Americans — and perhaps even many of the 2,400 service personnel who died in the unexpected attack at Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor 71 years ago.
The attack at Pearl came — unexpectedly — on a sleepy Sunday in the clear light of early morning. Many American service men, such as East Texan J.L. Dillingham, were awakened at 7:55 a.m., he said, by sounds of bombs falling and bullets raking American fighting ships.
History tells us some signs of an impending attack were missed — just as signs of an attack at our embassy in Benghazi, Libya were missed. Vigilance can never be relaxed; the world is a dangerous place.
We also should recall the Japanese mindset of emperor worship. Emperor Hirohito was seen as a divine figure, living loftily above average, compliant Japanese. The soldiers and many civilians obeyed — and died — without question, caught up in a war that military leaders insisted was divinely led.
Obedient Japanese citizens rarely saw a photo of their leader and never heard his voice. But almost five years after the tragedy at Pearl Harbor that left America reeling, average Japanese citizens finally heard the mortal Hirohito’s voice calling for surrender.
Pearl Harbor Day is more than a ceremonial remembrance. It was a painful lesson learned and relevant in the age of state-sponsored terrorism and murderous actions attributed to divine purposes.
Consider U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki’s similar “holy war” against the United States, which continues even after his death by a U.S. drone a little more than a year ago.
“I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad (holy struggle) against America is binding upon myself just as it is binding upon every other able Muslim,” al-Awlaki said on a tape while alive.
That “holy struggle” continues. Just last month, four men were arrested for planning jihad. They planned to “join up with al Qaeda and Taliban militants for training in Afghanistan,” Reuters reported.
The men were heavily influence by “radical Islamic teachings, including those of U.S.-born al Qaeda militant Anwar al-Awlaki,” Reuters explained.
On this Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we should recall what led us into that war, and remember that the world hasn’t become much safer in the intervening years. Surprise attacks are still being planned, and holy wars are still being waged.
Vigilance is a fitting tribute to those who perished.