Vigilant American Military <br>Is Best Way To Redeem <br>Day of Infamy at Pearl
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.
A GI pal of mine in Vietnam went on R&R to Tokyo, where he picked up a girl in a bar and took her to the blockbuster movie about Pearl Harbor, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” When the Zeroes came roaring across the screen, my friend’s date leaned her head on his shoulder.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” she whispered.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insists he’s not going to do that to President Obama when, late this month, he becomes the first Japanese premier to visit Pearl Harbor. Instead, an aide says, Mr. Abe’s aim will be “consoling the souls of those who died in the war.”
Better he stay home, in my opinion. It’s not that I harbor any hostility to the people of Japan, whom I visited often during my years as a correspondent in Asia. It strikes me as vainglorious, though, to suggest that the souls of those who died in the war are going to be consoled by the premier’s visit to United States Ship Arizona, wherein are entombed 1,102 of our sailors.
I felt similarly in May, when President Obama visited Hiroshima. He claimed his visit was not to apologize but to “mourn the dead,” whose “souls ask us to look inward and take stock of who we are and what we might become.”
What could the president have meant by the business about “what we might become”? What our GIs aboard the Enola Gay became at Hiroshima, after all, was heroes, who smote the Rising Sun and brought World War II to an early end.
Premier Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor is being described as a reciprocal visit to Mr. Obama’s stop at Hiroshima. CNN quotes a former British ambassador to Tokyo, David Warren, as suggesting that the timing is aimed at putting President-elect Trump on the spot.
“I’m sure that Prime Minister Abe will want to send the most powerful message he can in advance of Donald Trump becoming president in January about the importance and strength of the US-Japanese alliance,” is the way Mr. Warren put it.
If Mr. Abe is so all-fired enthusiastic about the American-Japanese alliance, maybe he will respond positively to the point Mr. Trump has been stressing about paying the cost of our share of Japan’s defense.
Mr. Trump pressed that point in an interview with CNN after his “informal” meeting last month with Mr. Abe at Trump Tower. The beginnings of a positive response would be the best thing Mr. Abe could offer at Pearl Harbor.
More broadly the way to honor those who perished at Pearl is to rebuild our naval and land forces, our strategic weapons, and intelligence capabilities. It is to reverse the decline in our defense budget that has been countenanced during the Obama years.
This decline has been breathtaking on Obama’s watch. Our defense outlays as a percentage of GNP began sliding in 2010, though we are in the middle of a war and the defense spending level is now down close to before 1941.
Americans get this. A vow to reverse the “damage of the last eight years” is one of the central planks of the platform on which Donald Trump just won the presidency. “We need a Reagan-era force,” the GOP platform says.
The GOP wants a force that “can fight and win two-and one-half wars ranging from counterterrorism to deterring major power aggressors.” It calls for America to “abandon arms control treaties that benefit our adversaries without improving our national security.”
The platform on which Mr. Trump won also vows to “fund, develop, and deploy a multi-layered missile defense system” and “modernize nuclear weapons and their delivery platforms.” It speaks of our nuclear arsenal as a shield, too, of our allies.
That’s the kind of defense policy — peace through strength rather than apology — that addresses the infamy of December 7, 1941. And stands the best chance of deterring future attacks, from any quarter, against America.
Historians doubt that Admiral Yamamoto actually uttered the line made famous in “Tora! Tora! Tora!” about Japan’s attack having awakened the sleeping giant. Making sure the giant never sleeps, though, is the best way to avoid anyone having to say sorry again.