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Pearl Harbor has Lessons for us Today!

December 7, 1941 Attack on the U.S. Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

December 2, 2013

Next Saturday is the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. It happened in a time when our nation was isolationist and neglected to maintain a strong military.  The Japanese figured, “If we knock out the U.S. main battle fleet at Pearl then we can expand our influence in the Pacific unimpeded.”  What they did not factor in is what Admiral Yamamoto said when he discovered the U.S. aircraft carriers were not in port “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant!”

Twenty eight years later, when the movie Tora, Tora, Tora was filmed in Hawaii, it brought back many unwanted memories to those who lived through the real event.  The locals were not pleased! 

But, there are lessons for us in the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Section 8 of Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution says “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imports and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States.”  Providing for the common defense is one of the few things the federal government is supposed to do and for which the Congress is given the authority to collect and spend revenues.

Today a new nuclear driven aircraft carrier cost $13 billion to build; a nuclear submarine can cost $8 billion; the Air Force’s B-2 stealth bomber costs $1 billion a copy; and an M1A2 Abrams tank about $7.5 million each.  These are not toys, they take well trained personnel to be maintained and used effectively and all of this costs money! 

President Teddy Roosevelt used the term “Step softly but carry a big stick.” I (Bill) remember my dad telling me that “Teddy” sent the Great White Fleet around the world.  Congress wouldn’t pay for this, so he sent them halfway and then told the Congress “You want them back, you pay for them!”  Talk about politics!!!
President Ronald Reagan had a policy of “Peace through Strength.” 
Both of these Presidents knew the important having a strong military even if they didn’t need to use them.

Today, just like before the attack on Pearl Harbor, we see a reduction in our armed forces.  The Army has, and is planning, to muster out as many as 80,000 troops.  The Navy has cut back on ship construction.  The Air Force has reduced training and grounded some air wings for periods of time due to funding reductions. 

As the result of “games” and unruly rules changes in the U.S. Senate the Defense Authorization Act (HR 1960), which authorizes spending for the Department of Defense and the military construction budget, has been held up.  Then the Senate adjourned for two weeks, leaving only one week in December when both chambers will be in session.  With the next round of automatic sequester cuts scheduled for January if the House and Senate cannot reach an agreement on a budget, the strength of our military will be in serious jeopardy.

The Congress should take steps to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities such as fully funding our national defense.  At the same time it needs to retreat from spending money on non-constitutionally mandated programs.

Bill, John, and Mark
[Bill is a retired Navy Veteran with over twenty years of service.
John is also a veteran, having served in the U.S. Coast Guard.]