When We Pledged Our All

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

President Obama’s failure in his address last night to mention Pearl Harbor is being widely remarked upon — and no wonder. The President, after all, spoke about San Bernardino as Americans were preparing to mark today the 74th anniversary of the attack that precipitated us into World War II. He was speaking because America is awakening to the prospect that the global war on Islamist terror is not only not over (in contradistinction to what Mr. Obama has been suggesting) but is entering a new, more dangerous phase.

So it would have been apt for the president to make at least some reference to Pearl Harbor, which roused our country into a war it had been reluctant to enter. Clearly the attack at San Bernardino was nothing like the scale of Japan’s raid on Pearl Harbor, where 2,403 sailors, soldiers, and civilians were lost and much of our Pacific fleet was destroyed. It’s not yet clear whether the Islamic State actually directed the San Bernardino attack or merely inspired it (not that there’s much difference).

The important point, though, is that both attacks signaled a new and radically dangerous situation. President Roosevelt reacted with his day of “infamy” speech and a vow that now matter how long it would take, the American people in “their righteous might” would “win through to absolute victory.” Would it be too much to expect some recollection of those principles of war if the President is going to be talking about war at all on the eve of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor?

Instead Mr. Obama tried to palm off the idea that a more modest military effort would produce a “more sustainable victory.” By Patton, there’s a phrase. In World War II, we put a dozen armies in the field, excluding the 14th Army, a phantom unit to flummox the enemy, and three generations later we still have close to 40,000 GIs in Germany and Italy alone. That’s what it takes to make a victory sustainable, even a victory in which our enemy was completely vanquished.

Even after three generations, it would be imprudent to suggest the victory is sustainable without our armies overseas. Were we to withdraw from Europe, it’s hard to imagine that peace on the continent would be sustainable. Not with President Putin in Power in Russia and the Iranians working on an atomic bomb. If the peace in Europe isn’t sustainable without GI Joe and GI Jane, by what logic does one suppose that refusing to send troops to the Middle East will result in an outbreak there of peace?

It’s incredible enough that the President is asking for a new declaration from Congress even while claiming authority to put up the modest fight we’re levying against the Islamic State. But it’s mind-boggling to think that he seeks a declaration that would put a time limit on our participating in the hostilities. On the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we still have the 8th United States Army (“Pacific Victors” is its motto) in Korea and something on the order of 50,000 military personnel in Japan.

Just like in Europe, it is hard to imagine the peace being sustained were we to bring those forces home. Asia would be at war within years. Why the Middle East should be different from this equation is beyond us. It’s a point to be marked on this anniversary of the day that we thought we were at peace only to discover that we were, in fact, at war. When Congress declared, it kept it to 129 words and laid down no limit in time or manpower. It concluded: “To bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.” Period.

The New York Sun

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