Many insist on calling our efforts to fight a relatively small group of individuals a war. I think this national endeavor is giving the terrorists far too much credit and we are only empowering them to have more control over our lives by doing so. The phase “war on terror” and the various al-Qaeda videos are being used to scare us out of reasoning and manipulate us both from within and from without. It is time for a little perspective about what war means, what its use has allowed to happen to this nation and how best to combat this new threat.
On December 7, 1941, we were attacked by a force far more formidable than the 19 terrorists of 9/11/2001 and their brothers in arms hiding in Afghanistan/Pakistan – the Japanese Navy. Japanese funding and military power far exceeded that from al-Qaeda.
The Japanese hit America with between 150 and 200 planes from several aircraft carriers. The Japanese attack struck at almost the entire Pacific fleet. Pearl Harbor contained eight battleships, seven cruisers, 28 destroyers, and five submarines. Nineteen of these 48 ships were sunk or severely damaged. The attackers also destroyed 177 Navy and Army aircraft.
Unfortunately, there is just one fact that is comparable between these two vicious attacks on America. Just like 9/11/2001, there was the tragic loss of fellow Americans. The losses for the Navy and Marines were 2,117 killed, 960 missing and unaccounted for and 876 wounded. For the Army, 226 were killed and 396 wounded. Civilian casualties included 49 killed and 83 wounded. The total killed or missing and presumed dead was 3,352. (Encyclopedia Americana, 1953, volume 21, page 437.) Wikipedia has more and slightly different details, but it is still obvious that the Japanese were much more of a threat than al-Qaeda can ever hope to be.
To put this war(?) on terror in further perspective relative the the attack by the Japanese, it will help to look back at how Americans responded to this loss of 3,352 Navy, Army and civilian brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. What did they do? What did they sacrifice? How many joined the military to help defeat the enemies? How much of the economy went to support the war. What became the goal of every worker?
For answers to some of these questions and what it takes from a nation to fight a real war, here are some quotes from Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation: (Emphasis and current related data added.)
Looking back, I can recall that the grown-ups all seemed to have a sense of purpose that was evident even to someone as young as four, five, or six. Whatever else was happening in our family or neighborhood, there was something greater connecting all of us, in large ways and small.
Indeed there was, and the scope of the national involvement was reflected in the numbers: by 1944, twelve million Americans [9.1% of the 1940 population] were in uniform [In 2002, there were 1.4 million (0.5% of 2002 estimated population) in service to America.]; war production represented 44 percent of the Gross National Product [In 2005, the budget for the Department of Defense was about 3.6 percent of the nation’s GDP]; there were almost nineteen million more workers [13.6% of 1945 population] than there had been five years earlier [From January 2001 to December 2005, job growth was a little over ten million workers, or 3.4% of 2005 estimated population], and 35 percent of them were women. The nation was immersed in the war effort at every level.
… more than a million men would go into uniform immediately … [From Mourning Has Broken ; “in the two years since September 11, he [President Bush] has not once publicly urged young people to join the military, nor has he called for increasing the active-duty roster. “]
If we are in a full fledged high-demand war, why wouldn’t the president be asking for more enlistees? Why aren’t we buying war bonds? Why isn’t there gas rationing to help fuel our military machines? Why aren’t we recycling scrap metal and rubber to provide for the troops material needs? — Why are we shopping and going to the movies like there is no war?
I am not saying Americans did not respond to 9/11/2001. We all did. However, except for our service men and women and their families, most of us have not made any significant or long term serious commitment as was done by The Greatest Generation. Why is that? Because this is not an endeavor that requires the effort of the entire nation.
In WWII, this nation took on, with the help of friends we no longer have, and defeated two large well-prepared enemies in less time than has already been spent on President Bush’s war(?) on terror. But that kind of commitment is not what we need now.
Robert Dreyfus put the current terrorist threat this way:
Compared to the Al Qaeda of 2001, this new generation of terrorists is mostly amateurs, less likely and less capable of pulling off truly spectacular acts of violence. Though they can cause significant casualties from time to time, counter-terrorism officials say, they are more like a low-grade viral infection — life-threatening only if left unattended. “There is a relatively small number of people who are out there trying to hurt us,” says James Steinberg, a deputy national-security adviser under President Clinton.
If the national commitments and real threat for this war(?) on terror are so small compared to WWII, what is there to be so scared of? More importantly, if this is not a war, what are we doing giving up our civil rights, turning our back on our international friends, taking preemptive actions and and lowering our moral standards?
Maybe we should be responding to the attack on 9/11/2001 more in terms of the response to Timothy McVeigh and the “deadliest terrorist attack on US soil prior to the September 11, 2001.”
This is a law enforcement issue, not a war, that requires the cooperation of citizens, and local, state, national and international intelligence organizations. So stop letting the social dominator authoritarians scare you and consider voting them, and their intolerant, narrow-minded followers, out of office so we can attack this national endeavor the right way – with intelligence, citizen vigilance, law enforcement and valid actionable information.