Remember Pearl Harbor

December 07, 1990

A year short of the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that drew America into World War II, the U.S. is again facing the prospect of an unpredictable war far from home.

It may be recalled that the Pearl Harbor attack was precipitated by a U.S. economic embargo against Japan intended to force it to withdraw from China -- just as the U.N. sanctions now seek to dislodge Iraq from Kuwait. By 1945 Japan lay in ruins under American occupation. Yet the Chinese government we sought to protect ultimately fell anyway, as much a victim of its own inefficiency and corruption as of the communists.

After the war, Japan forswore foreign conquest and instead harnessed the energies of its people to turn itself into one of the most formidable economic engines the world has ever known. Meanwhile America became a military superpower only to see its economic preeminence overshadowed by Japan and Germany, the two nations it defeated in the war. The long-suffering Chinese people still chafe under a backward, autocratic regime.

The comparison, on this Pearl Harbor Day, is inevitable: If the U.S. goes to war with Iraq to liberate Kuwait, will history repeat itself?

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