Always remember and never forget . . . December 7th, 1941 . . . S.L.
The lesson of Pearl Harbor is that we let our guard down on so many levels. We underestimated a determined foe; when the United States and Britain slapped punitive oil, coal and steel embargoes on the Japanese, we assumed they would cave. We failed to properly consider the most extreme course of action, which to the Japanese High Command was the only logical step. Furthermore, we'd lost sight of the Japanese fleet, and failed to go on a state of alert. Ultimately, our defenses were down at the base itself.
We were also incredibly fortunate on three levels: A) The battleships we lost on December 7th were already obsolete on the first day of that war, B) our carriers - the true decisive weapon of the Pacific War - were out to sea, by sheer chance, and C) the Japanese failed to follow through with their second-wave attack and destroy our repair facilities and fuel oil tank farms. If they had done so, it would have taken us much longer than six months to recover and re-float our Pacific fleet, and the Japanese, with the oil, coal, rubber and steel resources taken over in French Indochina and the Dutch East Indies, could have consolidated their hold in the Pacific for an undetermined period of time.
I never imagined that in my lifetime America would experience a second Pearl Harbor, and yet the parallels between December 7th, 1941 and September 11th, 2001 are astonishing. We faced a determined foe that expressly stated in no uncertain terms their intent to unleash a punishing attack upon us. We stopped earlier attacks in the early stages of execution, and we witnessed rehearsals to the ultimate attack itself. And yet we closed our eyes and ears in the name of Political Correctness and we did nothing. And thousands died, needlessly.
We were also incredibly fortunate in that the enemy struck us at the high point of our military and political power; the United States had spent two decades building up and perfecting our Special Operations capabilities, which are the weapon of choice against the terrorist foe, just as the carriers were the primary weapon of the Pacific War. We had a unified government, and a Coalition of the Willing - some 48 nations allied with us in the Global War on Terror. The enemy also miscalculated at the time of day they struck; the planes hit the buildings before everybody was at work. If they had struck mid-morning, the casualty count would have been significantly higher. Also, thanks to the dispersion of business assets due to globalization, the actual damage to our economy was minimal, almost insignificant. The 9/11 attacks were to our economy and national security what the Pearl Harbor attack was to us on a military level: symbolic in nature.
We let it happen, twice. Never again. Never, never, never, never again.