The Lessons of Pearl Harbor

 

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The attack on Pearl Harbor, the date which will live in infamy in F.D.R.’s ringing phrase, happened 71 years ago today.  Less than 2700 of the 42,000 sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen stationed there that fateful day are still with us.  Time has done what the forces of Imperial Japan could not, and soon the memories of that attack will be only a page in history.  The lessons of Pearl Harbor are however as timely today as they were on December 7, 1941:

1.  It Takes Two to Avoid a War-Today, too many people speak the most dreadful rubbish that boils down to the contention that the US can avoid war if it simply adopts a peaceful policy to all other nations.  Nations, like people, have their own goals, and they will pursue those goals as they will, whether the US adopts a “smiley-face” foreign policy or not.

2.  Peace Time Mentality-Pearl Harbor was such a disaster largely due to a mindset that gripped too many in the military that it was sufficient to simply go through the motions.  This is a common enough attitude in the world, and in peace time it becomes all too common in the military.  Pearl Harbor teaches us how disastrous this mentality is in war-time.

3.  Peace or War can be a Matter of Seconds- Throughout its history the US has often had wars start quite quickly:  The Revolution, The Civil War, Korea, World War II and 9-11.  George Washington warned us that: To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.   Too often in our history we have forgotten that sage advice and paid for it at our peril as we learn the old lesson that war can come upon us with the speed of  summer lightning, especially in our modern age.

4.  Assumptions-Behind every great disaster there are usually a string of bad assumptions.  We assumed that the Japanese if they attacked would likely not attack Pearl Harbor.  We assumed that a Japanese fleet could not sail from Japan to Hawaii unnoticed.  We assumed that our air power, especially with the new-fangled technology called Radar, would be on alert, and that in any case our fleet could defeat anything that Japan could send against it.  Pile enough bad assumptions on top of each other and a debacle is in the making.

5.  Killing More People Won’t Help Matters-That quote comes from Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, the lone dissenting vote in the House against declaring war on Japan after Pearl Harbor.  A Republican from Montana, Rankin is an interesting figure.  The first woman elected to Congress, she served two terms.  In her first term she voted against declaring war on Germany in World War I and in her second term she voted against declaring war on Japan.  Both votes stemmed from her deep-seated pacificism, both votes were immensely unpopular and both votes effectively ended her political career at two different points in her life.  I give her the courage of her convictions.  However, her stance after Pearl Harbor illustrates the folly of pacifism as a national policy.  The sad truth is that in this vale of tears it is sometimes necessary to take up arms to avoid greater evils than war, and those peoples who forget that truth of the human condition will experience such evils sooner or later.

6.  Nations Sometimes Act Irrationally-Japan is slightly smaller than the state of Montana.  It lacks much in the way of natural resources.  A common question among American troops occupying Japan after the War was how in the world Japan thought it could ever beat the United States of America.  A very good question and one many Japanese were asking themselves.  It was an irrational decision for Japan to attack the US and embark on a war it could not win.  One should never assume in making foreign policy and defense decisions that opposing nations will act rationally, at least rationally as we define it.

7.  Heroism-15 Medals of Honor were earned during the Pearl Harbor attack, ten of them at the cost of the life of the man earning it.  Acts of valor and self-sacrifice were common that day and indicated that Americans, as a whole, were neither weak nor decadent, as our enemies, to their cost, mistakenly believed.

8.  Rousing a Sleeping Giant- Although the statement is apocryphal, the words put into the mouth of Admiral Yamamoto in the film Tora, Tora, Tora are an accurate reflection of the main effect of Pearl Harbor:   “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” 

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9.   American Resolve-My father was 8 years old at the time of Pearl Harbor.  He recalled the next day the long line of men and older teenage boys waiting for the recruiting offices to open up so they could enlist.  That type of resolve lasted the entire war.

10.  American Power- One of the world leaders at the time instantly grasped what Pearl Harbor meant.  Winston Churchill was half-American, and he had studied American history closely.  He had a keen grasp of the American character, understanding us perhaps better than we understood ourselves.  He later recalled what his thoughts were after he learned of the attack:

 

“No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all! Yes, after Dunkirk; after the fall of France; after the horrible episode of Oran; after the threat of invasion, when, apart from the Air and the Navy, we were an almost unarmed people; after the deadly struggle of the U-boat war — the first Battle of the Atlantic, gained by a hand’s breadth; after seventeen months of lonely fighting and nineteen months of my responsibility in dire stress, we had won the war. England would live; Britain would live; the Commonwealth of Nations and the Empire would live. How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end, no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care. Once again in our long Island history we should emerge, however mauled or mutilated, safe and victorious. We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. We might not even have to die as individuals. Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwhelming force. The British Empire, the Soviet Union, and now the United States, bound together with every scrap of their life and strength, were, according to my lights, twice or even thrice the force of their antagonists. No doubt it would take a long time. I expected terrible forfeits in the East; but all this would be merely a passing phase. United we could subdue everybody else in the world. Many disasters, immeasurable cost and tribulation lay ahead, but there was no more doubt about the end.

 

Silly people — and there were many, not only in enemy countries — might discount the force of the United States. Some said they were soft, others that they would never be united. They would fool around at a distance. They would never come to grips. They would never stand blood-letting. Their democracy and system of recurrent elections would paralyze their war effort. They would be just a vague blur on the horizon to friend or foe. Now we should see the weakness of this numerous but remote, wealthy, and talkative people. But I had studied the American Civil War, fought out to the last desperate inch. American blood flowed in my veins. I thought of a remark which Edward Grey had made to me more than thirty years before — that the United States is like “a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.” Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.”

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47 Responses to The Lessons of Pearl Harbor

  • “George Washington warned us that: To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”

    A paraphrase of Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus’s “Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum” [Epitoma rei militaris]

  • Or in words attributed to Oliver Cromwell, forgive me my Irish Catholic ancestors !, Put your trust in God and keep your powder dry.

  • 1. I think in point 5 and point 6 you have confounded Wyoming and Montana.

    2. Point 1 is an adequate response to the Paulbots. The thing is, those types respond with a simulated reverse-engineering of any kind of political conflict and locate its origin in some sort of antecedent point of friction, as if the subsequent outcome could be divined from that antecedent friction by just following logic. Since points of friction are quite unremarkable between two states whose interests are not identical, this excuse is usually present. The most egregious example of this would be Joseph Sobran’s apologia for Osama bin Laden; a more complex one (depending on an attack on Franklin Roosevelt’s motives) would be Pat Buchanan’s account of the origins of World War II. Their conclusions are in their premises.

  • Donald: Amen, Amen, Amen, Let it ever be so.

  • We’ve come a long way, baby!

    1., etc. Obama would charge that the attack was motivated by a Saturday afternoon movies cartoon insulting the emperor and jail Walt Disney.

    Si vis pacem, para bellum.

  • #6 – I don’t think Japan acted irrationally. Their plan was to destroy the American fleet, take the Phillipines, dig in everywhere, and get the Pacific at the bargaining table. They partially failed their first step by not sinking the American aircraft carriers, but completed Steps 2 & 3 effectively. Step 4 counted on the US’s rationality. With everything going on in Europe, they’d have to be crazy to rebuild their fleet and claw their way across every dot of land between California and the Imperial Palace, right?

  • “1. I think in point 5 and point 6 you have confounded Wyoming and Montana.”

    Correct Art. God knows what metal glich caused me to type Wyoming twice when I meant Montana in both cases!

  • “Their plan was to destroy the American fleet, take the Phillipines, dig in everywhere, and get the Pacific at the bargaining table. ”

    Yamamoto thought the Japanese plan was crazy Pinky. Of course he had served as a liason officer in America and studied at Harvard from 1919-1921 so he had a pretty good understanding of America and Americans. In a letter to a nationalist he ridiculed the plans of Japanese militarists against the US:

    “Should hostilities once break out between Japan and the United States, it would not be enough that we take Guam and the Philippines, nor even Hawaii and San Francisco. To make victory certain, we would have to march into Washington and dictate the terms of peace in the White House. I wonder if our politicians (who speak so lightly of a Japanese-American war) have confidence as to the final outcome and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.”

    An idea of the disparity in forces involved is given by noting that 151 aircraft carriers were constructed by the US during World War 2. Including four that were incomplete at the end of the war, the Japanese constructed 19. Of these seven were conversions of other vessels to handle airplanes and could not be compared with purpose built carriers.

  • Hey Don, I’m not saying they were right! I’d go so far as to say that they probably had second thoughts some time over the next several years. I’m proud to say that my dad added to their list of concerns in Guam in 1944. But on paper, their plan wasn’t bad. If the attack had resulted in US despair rather than rage, between the isolationism at home and the more immediate priority of assisting the Brits, who knows?

    Would they have been better off just staying put and sealing down China? It’s tough to tell if they would have gotten away with that.

  • They should never have entered China to begin with Pinky. The thing about Japan is that prior to going on the march to create the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere, Japan was sitting pretty. They had no problem with buying the resources they needed. Their traditional adversary Russia was in the throes of the Great Famine followed by the Great Purges of Stalin. China was divided and weak. The US was isolationist and Great Britain never recovered from World War I. Japan was set to be the predominant power in East Asia without firing a shot. Going on the war path was completely unnecessary for Japan and completely counterproductive. More than a few Japanese thought so at the time, but not enough with sufficient influence to stop this madness.

  • The most tragic Part of the attack was that the president knew the attack was underway, and failed to notify Pearl Harbor so he would have a day in infamy to report to congress and enter WWII. General Billy Mitchell warned how Pearl Harbor could be attacked, and the Japaneses followed his plan to the letter. It was a surprise attack because our President allowed it to be. The comment of the Japanese admiral in commend, “I fear we have only awakened a sleeping giant” was prophetic.
    The observation by Karl von Clausewitz that in war, there is no substitute for victory was vindicated with the war on Japan. What a pity our nation forgot this principle with WWII, and all other wars that have followed in its wake. How many remember when FDR said “Some of my bast friends are Communists” referring to Joe Stalin, and sold half of Europe into Soviet slavery at Yalta. The philosophy of some of FDR’s best friends have now taken over our nation. With 85 years of hindsight, I do indeed fear for the future of America. My military career seems to have been to no avail.

  • “The most tragic Part of the attack was that the president knew the attack was underway, and failed to notify Pearl Harbor so he would have a day in infamy to report to congress and enter WWII.”

    Absolutely untrue Robert.

    “General Billy Mitchell warned how Pearl Harbor could be attacked, and the Japaneses followed his plan to the letter.”

    It took no great military genius to realize that Pearl was vulnerable to carrier attack. The Japanese came up with their own plans.

    “It was a surprise attack because our President allowed it to be.”

    No, the surprise was caused by amazing inepitude up and down the chain of command, especially by Short and Kimmel.

    “How many remember when FDR said “Some of my bast friends are Communists” referring to Joe Stalin, and sold half of Europe into Soviet slavery at Yalta.”

    That simply isn’t true Robert. The Red Army controlled Eastern Europe, except for Yugoslavia, at the end of World War II. The only way we were going to alter that was by starting World War III. Only Patton was up for that option.

  • No offense intended Donald, but were you there or are you taking the word of others? There was strong evidence then to support my observations. We must at least agree reasonably to disagree.

  • No Robert, I know the history. FDR had no advance warning, and he did not fail to alert Pearl Harbor to get the US into the war. I take history very seriously and I will not permit historical rubbish to be propounded on this blog as if it were true. Gordon Prange, no fan of FDR, dealt a knockout blow to the conspiracy theorists regarding Pearl Harbor in his Pearl Harbor The Verdict of History.

    http://www.amazon.com/Pearl-Harbor-The-Verdict-History/dp/0140159096

  • It is no more reasonable to suggest that FDR had credible advanced warning and did nothing to prevent the Pearl Harbor attack than it is to suggest that 9/11 was an “inside job.” These are ridiculous conspiracies based on similarly flimsy evidence.

  • The Red Army could keep its gains in Eastern Europe because Stalin had the inside angle on US policy through his communist minions and sympathisers . Representative examples being Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, Oppenheimer along with dupes such as Wallace and Davies and countless others, from academics to stenographers. Even today these men (and women) are given a pass on account of the supposed goodness of their hearts. Had any of been Nazis we would have no end of movies, books and attendant bellyache on how the terrible Nazi menace had infected US policy, but Communists are simply humanitarians in a hurry.

    Even with the allegedly little leverage FDR had over Stalin, he could have tried to obtain a better deal for Poland, where the Communist co-aggressor with Hitler, who rendered any Polish defence against the Germans moot in 1939, who stood by watching Warsaw burn in 1944, obtained all he wanted and more through and for his “Lublin Poles” instead of of the betrayed London Poles. What was the sum of FDR’s efforts on behalf of the Poles? Supposedly he was anxious that six million Americans of Polish origin would hold him to account, but instead of taking at least some of Churchill’s concerns abroad he went out of his way to ingratiate himself with Stalin. And this makes one wonder about the kind of fool FDR was, to a supposed ally – the UK, in their hour of need he had sent an arch-defeatist Joseph Kennedy as ambassador, and was constantly reminding all and sundry that he had no interest in a revived British Empire, but every putative Soviet concern about potential or imagined threats had to be addressed to their benefit.

    No doubt FDR was very ill (its surprising how many of those who fall afoul of communist schemes end up being very ill or very dead) at his last “Big Three” meeting, but the decisive reason why Joseph Stalin could get all he wanted was simply because he knew the limits of the US bargaining positions through his agents. But then again we should not be too harsh on FDR, according to poor Stalin, Alexander 1 had done better by reaching Paris.

  • Oh there were Communist sympathizers and spies in FDR’s administration Ivan, the most notable sympathizer being FDR’s former Vice-President and current, as of Yalta, Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace, and the most notable spy being Alger Hiss who attended Yalta as part of Secretary of State Stettinius’s delegation. However none of that has anything to do with the outcome of Yalta or Potsdam, after Truman took over. The Red Army had Eastern Europe and Stalin was determined to impose Communist regimes. Only war would have altered that reality.

  • Yamamoto thought the Japanese plan was crazy Pinky. Of course he had served as a liason officer in America and studied at Harvard from 1919-1921 so he had a pretty good understanding of America and Americans.

    And had a mindset that let him have that understanding, instead of interpreting things more in keeping with the “Japan is ultimate” court crazy world view.

    One of the things I’d love to fully wrap my mind around is the pre-WWII world view. There’s only so much I can get from a few years serving in the Navy there, and trying to understand anime.

  • We are not reading the same history. Revisionist history does abound. Unfortunately, It often seems to depend on the political party of the historian.

  • Donald, there was substantially more that the Western Allies could have done. Significant amount of revisionism is already way, and may lead to a flood of revelations, if only the archives in the US and Russia are preserved from the depredations of the communist minions, in the same way that the crimes of the evil Nazis are not forgotten. Two such efforts are Stalin’s Secret Agents by M Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein, and SMERSH by Vadim J Berstein.

  • No amount of historical revisionism will alter millions of Red Army troops in Eastern Europe Ivan. Only World War III would have changed that very large fact.

  • Donald, hearing this right now on KFI and thought of you– there have been rumors that the Americans knew about Pearl Harbor since the day it happened…among the Japanese. Because the first wave of bombing was met with fire from the ships– and, they reasoned, if they never kept ships armed at port, why would anyone else? They had the ammo locked away, nowhere near the guns.
    A guy did interviews with surviving Japanese pilots, and some still believe it.

    Americans, on the other hand, had and have the SOP of being able to fight back quickly– even if it sometimes seems like the guns were all manned by cooks, bakers and such. (Wonder if the Japanese taught their “menials” to fight?)

  • “Americans, on the other hand, had and have the SOP of being able to fight back quickly– even if it sometimes seems like the guns were all manned by cooks, bakers and such. (Wonder if the Japanese taught their “menials” to fight?)”

    The Japanese since the “sword hunt” of Hideyoshi in the late Sixteenth Century have had a basically disarmed population other than the Samurai. During the Meji Restoration possession of weapons for everyone, including for the former samurai, was tightly controlled by the government. The State was to have a complete monopoly on the use of force.

    Americans on the other hand have always, in the words of one British officer during the Revoltion, been “a people numerous and armed”. Most Americans, and the American military is a reflection of this, like to have their weapons close by, “just in case”. In an emergency situation, if a weapon is close by, the first reaction of most Americans will be to grab it and begin shooting back, hence the fact that all people in the American military will receive basic training in firearms, and that most Americans in service, if they serve around weaponry, will learn how to use it, even if their assignment has nothing to do with the weaponry.

  • I’d be interestedto hear what the American Catholic thinks about the moral dimensions concerning the dropping of a-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • If you’re actually interested in what folks on a site have said about a topic, the search box is always a good first stop. Especially if the phrase has a word as unusual as “Hiroshima.”

  • Predictable.

    What about capital punishment?

  • Predictable.

    Not quite as predictable as someone trying to change the topic by asking questions they should be able to answer themselves in mere moments, using basic internet skills.

    When you can’t defend your stance, change the subject. Never gets old online….

  • “Predictable.”

    Ah, so you are here just to snark JL and not to discuss the Pearl Harbor post? The epitome of the troll, and that, my friend, is very predictable indeed.

    To answer your question regarding capital punishment so you can safely pigeonhole me in your mind, and not actually take the time to think about what I have written on a myriad of subjects, I take the view of it that the Catholic Church had on it for 1950 years that the State may, for grave crimes, take the lives of those properly convicted of capital offenses. It is not a hot button issue for me unlike abortion which takes a million innocent lives a year in this nation, although certain crimes I think do call out for it. One of those crimes involved the murder by their father of a five year old little girl and a three year old little boy. I had represented the mother in a custody fight that took two years and the mother was ultimately awarded custody. In 2002 the Father took the kids for visitation the weekend before Thanksgiving. On Saturday he murdered his girlfriend, I suspect she died trying to protect his little girl, and then he shot to death the little girl. The little boy he shot to death the next day. I pray that the little boy hadn’t realized in the interim that his father had murdered his sister, and I pray that the last thing either of them saw in this life was not their father holding a gun to their head.

    A nation-wide man-hunt ensued. After he was captured in Florida the father refused to say where the kids were, except that they were in a better place. My client spent two weeks suspended between hope and despair. On a Saturday a fisherman found the little girl’s body in a river in Illinois. The river was then drug with nets and the little boy’s corpse was found the next day. The father is currently serving a life sentence in Michigan, a state that does not have capital punishment. Yeah, I think capital punishment was warranted in that case.

  • I’d be interestedto hear what the American Catholic thinks about the moral dimensions concerning the dropping of a-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Why?

  • Right-o, Mac and AD.

    My first reaction: “What does that have to do with anything?”

    JL likely is one of the imbeciles that asked, “Why do they hate us?”, after the Islamic terrorists attacked us on 11 September 2001.

    There are tens of millions of them out there: the half-wit, hypocrits we must endure and, apparently, you feel compelled to answer.

  • Hehehehe! What a firestorm one can set-off with a few simple syllables!

    Yes, that was bit snarky. Perhaps unnecessarily so.

    But I do admit that I was disappointed with you, Donald, after following the link you provided. Not with the argument you presented, per say, (I know Fr. Bill personally and think he’s a fantastic guy [his Australian accent is killer], although I definitely think he’s wrong on this one in an objective, categorical way), but with your reaction toward some of those participating in the discussion. Or rather, your lack of a reaction. I’m referring specifically to your unwillingness to call out the knuckle heads who said things like “The BOMB was justified because the entire Japanese population had BLOODGUILT” or that “ALL JAPS WERE COMBATANTS!” These assertions are utter tripe, and reflect poorly on the pro-bomb community. I think your argument (which I still believe is wrong and never really addresses the events’ moral dimensions in a strictly Catholic sense [did you ever actually argue against the damning charges that it’s consequentialism?]) actually gains credibility when you call out nutters like that. Yes, they circled the right answer as you, but they shouldn’t get credit if they didn’t do the math the right way.

    Regarding “pigeonholing,” I think you’ll agree that certain characteristics in individuals are correlated. Liberals generally have Macs. Rednecks like NASCAR. And those Catholics who don’t abide by the Church’s teachings on the use of WMDs against civilian populations generally also don’t agree with Her position on the death penalty. And ironically enough, these people are also very concerned with being perceived, both by themselves and by others, as orthodox Catholics. At least from my experience. From a social sciences perspective, I think it’s an interesting correlation, and certainly worth exploring.

    Specifically regarding the incident you cited, it’s clearly a horrendous, despicable, intrinsically evil crime. But I don’t think this man was deserving of the death penalty. I, in accordance with the Church’s current take, am opposed to capital punishment unless the perpetrator represents a threat to society and those around him and cannot be restrained. Every human soul is precious in God’s eyes, even that of a psychopath guilty of filicide. Better he be kept apart from all others and given a chance to repent than be put to death.

    Let’s see, what else? Foxfier, I admittedly changed the subject, but I’m not exactly sure what stance you thought I couldn’t defend.

    Art, I asked to hear his opinion about the BOMBs because he’s obviously a WWII buff and a Catholic and I find the debate about the BOMB within the Catholic community to be one of the most contentious, and also fairly revealing, a litmus test of sorts.

    And finally Mr. Shaw. Sorry to derail your guys’ discussion about Pearl Harbor and what not. However, I find it extremely ironic that someone with an apparent interest in history calls anyone an “imbecile” anyone who tries to assemble some sort of cause and effect chain with relation to 9/11. Do you always disagree with others in this mild-mannered fashion? No doubt your conclusions on the matter derive from ideological assumptions rather than the historical record. Also, not sure how these people are automatically “hypocrites.” But do tell! Unless, that is, you don’t feel compelled to answer.

  • Donald, thank you so much for your reference to the defense of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Father Wilson Miscamble. My ship, The U.S.S. Cascade, a destroyer tender docked at Wakayama, Japan not too long after the armistice. Many of us preparing for a military assault of Japan would not still be around were it not for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our estimated casualties were three million, and I believe everyone who participated in the occupation of Japan would consider that a conservative estimate. I salute Father Wilson for his defense, and I salute Truman for the wisest decision in the war with Japan.

  • Hehehehe! What a firestorm one can set-off with a few simple syllables!

    Yep. Basic troll.

    How dull. They all think they’re special, when they’re just mosquitoes.

  • Foxfire: thanks for the meaningful contribution. But instead of latching on to an innocuous sentence, delivered tongue in cheek, why don’t you respond to the more substantive ones?

  • Foxfire: thanks for the meaningful contribution.

    Correctly identifying those who aim to take glee in causing chaos is useful. Annoying to the trolls, but useful.

    You are nothing but a vandal, and I refuse to give you more respect than any other idiot who goes around with a spray can and a sense of entitlement to their entertainment.

  • “Hehehehe! What a firestorm one can set-off with a few simple syllables!”

    Barely a flickering candle compared to what we have seen in the comboxes over the years here.

    “Or rather, your lack of a reaction.”

    I’m a lawyer, not a nursemaid. Actually I did delete some comments in that debate where people became too heated in my opinion. However, if people are on topic (hint, hint!) I normally give a fairly wide latitude for participation in fairly free-wheeling debate.

    “Yes, they circled the right answer as you, but they shouldn’t get credit if they didn’t do the math the right way.”

    I actually think that debate was a fairly good example of TAC at its best as it showed most of the participants trying to deal seriously with moral issues in a situation where, no matter what was done, quite a few people were going to die. My ire was roused mostly against a few of the anti-bomb participants who seemed be bone ignorant of the historical facts and weren’t interested in learning about them.

    “Regarding “pigeonholing,” I think you’ll agree that certain characteristics in individuals are correlated.”

    Not really. I think such correlations are frequently superficial. In my case I wouldn’t have a gun in my house, I have never attended a Nascar race and I despise almost all Country and Western music.

    “don’t agree with Her position on the death penalty”

    The position of the last two Popes would be a more accurate formulation. The position of the Church on the death penalty until a minute ago historically speaking was quite otherwise.

    “these people are also very concerned with being perceived, both by themselves and by others, as orthodox Catholics.”

    I guess “others” would include the Pope:

    “3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/bishops/04-07ratzingerommunion.htm

    “Better he be kept apart from all others and given a chance to repent than be put to death.”

    From that statement one can assume that you have never worked in a prison. In regard to repentance, as Dr. Johnson observed, nothing clarifies the mind like knowing that one will be hanged in a fortnight. I think that by keeping a man who murdered his two kids alive we cheapen the value of human life. I have noted that many opponents of capital punishment have absolutely no problem with abortion and the modern trend in the West against capital punishment has very little to do with an appreciation for protecting innocent human life. I can understand prudential arguments against capital punishment, but an a priori stance against it flies in the face of traditional Church teaching in this area.

  • “Donald, thank you so much for your reference to the defense of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Father Wilson Miscamble.”

    Thank you for your service Robert. My late uncle, Charles McClarey, fought his way as a Marine across the Pacific and assumed he would die in the invasion of the Home Islands. Another late uncle of mine by marriage, Bill Taylor, was a sailor in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered. Likewise he attributed his survival of the War to Truman.

  • Obvious troll is obvious, but it was enlightening reading that last screed in light of this.

    By the way it’s per se, not per say.

  • In 409 Anno Domini, St. Augustine felt and Mac feels compelled to repsond to half-witted hypocrties.

    I don’t.

  • Donald, thanks for the response. Or should I say, thanks for “feeding me.” ;-)

    “I’m a lawyer, not a nursemaid.”

    Still, I think it would’ve been laudable of you to condemn those who were bordering on calling the Japanese people sub-humans. I’m a firm believer that voices like yours are actually best used by criticizing error within your own camp. By this I mean that you probably won’t be effective at convincing liberal secularists of much of anything; you’re both starting from a different set of premises. The language you each respectively speak is unintelligible to the other. Thus, I think the best role conservative Catholic bloggers can play is critiquing their own. Instead of going on and on about the depravity of abortion, an idea which probably everyone who reads your blog already subscribes to, attack consumerism; attack tribalism; attack unjust war. Attack those unconservative developments and ideas that, unfortunately, many conservative Catholics have latched onto. I believe that’s where a conservative Catholic can make the biggest impact.

    “However, if people are on topic (hint, hint!) I normally give a fairly wide latitude for participation in fairly free-wheeling debate.”

    Well, as I stated before, I find the BOMB debate to be a highly interesting one. From your knowledge concerning Pearl Harbor and WII at large, I surmised that you probably had an opinion on the matter, and I wanted to hear what it was. By the way, I still don’t think you’ve sufficiently addressed charges of consequentialism. Just saying…

    “My ire was roused mostly against a few of the anti-bomb participants who seemed be bone ignorant of the historical facts and weren’t interested in learning about them.”

    I’m not an expert in historical interpretation by any means, but honestly, it seems like anyone and everyone can come up with some facts and evidence to support his claim. Hindsight is 20/20 except when you’re dealing with only a partial picture.

    “Not really. I think such correlations are frequently superficial. In my case I wouldn’t have a gun in my house, I have never attended a Nascar race and I despise almost all Country and Western music.”

    Well certainly there are exceptions, but I’d argue that stereotypes, like myths, are based on at least part-truths. Not in all cases, but in general. Nevertheless, the correlation I highlighted seems to be a prevalent one. Any thoughts on why THIS particular connection?

    “The position of the last two Popes would be a more accurate formulation. The position of the Church on the death penalty until a minute ago historically speaking was quite otherwise.”

    True. But at what point on the historical stopwatch does what Church says actually become the Truth? I realize it’s not always so cut and try, but as I’m no expert on morality, I’m going to go with the institution that’s been thinking about thinking for 2000 years, as GKC said of the CC.

    “I guess “others” would include the Pope:”

    No disagreement here. I don’t think abortion and capital punishment are on the same level. Still, I don’t think the Church weighs in on triviliaities.

    “From that statement one can assume that you have never worked in a prison.”

    Hahahaha…sorry, after reading that I couldn’t help thinking about those who lambast “celibate males” for weighing in on women’s reproductive issues.

    “In regard to repentance, as Dr. Johnson observed, nothing clarifies the mind like knowing that one will be hanged in a fortnight. I think that by keeping a man who murdered his two kids alive we cheapen the value of human life. I have noted that many opponents of capital punishment have absolutely no problem with abortion and the modern trend in the West against capital punishment has very little to do with an appreciation for protecting innocent human life. I can understand prudential arguments against capital punishment, but an a priori stance against it flies in the face of traditional Church teaching in this area.”

    Well then maybe we should consider putting all sinners on death row? I kid, I kid. Your assertion that keeping a murderer alives cheapens the value of human life seems like a logical leap. How does it cheapen human life? That honestly seems like a rhetorical device, appealing to emotion more than anything else. I don’t think anyone’s life is worth anymore or anyless than anyone else’s…and yes, that includes Osama, Adolf, and all those guys. I pray they all repented and are all up in heaven right now. Well, they’d probably have a near eternity in purgatory first. Your point about the “typical” anti-death penalty advocate in the West doesn’t seem to fit in this discussion, because I’m a zealot pro-lifer who’s arguing against capital punishment from the Catholic perspective.

    Anyway, thanks for the response!

  • “Still, I think it would’ve been laudable of you to condemn those who were bordering on calling the Japanese people sub-humans.”
    I think the comments you were referring to were the ones that pointed out that the Japanese government had enlisted almost the entire population into a militia and planned to use them to attack the Allied invasion force. I pointed out that this does not eliminate the problem of non-combatants although I do agree with the commenters that the Japanese government had done its worst to eliminate the line between combatants and non-combatants throughout the war, and that the intended use of civilians by the Japanese government practically guaranteed that the projected invasion of the Home Islands would have been one of the great blood lettings of civilians in history.

    “attack consumerism; attack tribalism; attack unjust war.”

    Please. I will spare a few words to those ills when Catholics on the Left stop ignoring the greatest evil of our day, abortion. It is a crime that cries out to God, and the fact that liberal Catholics cast almost all their ballots for people who support it, is just as obscene as people prior to the Civil War who voted for pro-slavery candidates while muttering about tariffs or some other lesser issue.

    “By the way, I still don’t think you’ve sufficiently addressed charges of consequentialism.”

    The neologism coined by Anscombe I find fairly bizarre since it is ridiculous to speak about sin or virtue without weighing the consequences of our actions. People raise consequentialism as an ace to win debates in Catholic comboxes. As a moral guide I find it fairly useless, especially in dire situations where quite a few people will die no matter what decision is made. Consequentialism is a form of moral auto pilot where we ask God for a get out of hell free card no matter how much damage our decisions, or unwillingness to make a decision, inflict on others because our hearts are pure and our intentions good.

    “I’m not an expert in historical interpretation by any means, but honestly, it seems like anyone and everyone can come up with some facts and evidence to support his claim”

    Not really. Historical facts are historical facts. Honest opponents of the bomb should admit that the foregoing of the bomb likely meant that vastly more people would die.
    Edward Feser, although I deeply disagree with him about the bombings, is such an honest opponent:

    “Third, for that reason it is probably true that the atomic bombings saved many lives, both Allied and Japanese, that would have been lost in an invasion. It is also probably true that it saved the lives of POWs like Zamperini. Given Japan’s wicked “kill-all” policy of massacring POWs before they could be liberated – which had been carried out already many times in other parts of Japan’s empire – it is likely that only the abrupt end to the war the shock of the bombings made possible could have prevented the implementation of that policy in the home islands. Critics of the bombings should not pretend otherwise: If they hold (as they should) that we should never do what is intrinsically evil, regardless of the consequences, then they should admit that Hiroshima and Nagasaki force them to put their money where their mouths are, if any real-world example does. (That is not to say that there wasn’t a third option, such as an exhibition bombing or dropping the atomic bomb on an unambiguously military target. But it is at least debatable whether that would have had the same psychological effect.)”

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/01/unconditional-surrender.html

    The cry of consequentialism should never be used to ignore the consequences of not taking an action as well as taking an action.

  • “Obvious troll is obvious”

    Ahh, nothing like a good meme to go with the morning joe. I wish I had the techno-capacity to cook up an appropriate lolpic.

    Thanks for the chuckle.

  • “Any thoughts on why THIS particular connection?”

    Abortion has been condemned by the Church since the time of Christ, not so either capital punishment or war, though the evils of war have not been bemoaned in all times by the Church. In the last century abortion began to be celebrated as a right while capital punishment and the concept of just war came under attack. I do not find it unusual that people traditional in their thinking would continue to view these issues through the prism that the Church gave us through almost all of her history, while those eager to jettison tradition would be willing to swallow abortion while marching against capital punishment and war.

    “Still, I don’t think the Church weighs in on triviliaities.”

    Would that were the case. I sometimes suspect that many of the functionaries at the Vatican live down to the statement of Pope John XXIII when asked how many people worked at the Vatican supposedly responded, “About half.”

    “Hahahaha…sorry, after reading that I couldn’t help thinking about those who lambast “celibate males” for weighing in on women’s reproductive issues.”

    It was a purely practical observation. I have two prisons in my county and I have frequently represented guards and inmates. Over the past 34 years three guards and more inmates have been murdered at the hands of other inmates. The Catechism is factually incorrect in its assertion that it is possible to segregate inmates so that it is impossible for them to harm others, as anyone who works at a prison would understand.

    “Well then maybe we should consider putting all sinners on death row?”

    If our primary motivation were repentance it would probably yield a vast crop of repentance, but that is not our primary motivation in regard to capital punishment. Our primary motivation should be justice and throughout almost all of human history it was thought that justice usually required that murderers pay for their crimes with their own lives. I think the burden of proof is on those who wish to deviate from that traditional understanding that crossed almost all cultures and times. The fellow who committed the massacre in Norway in 2011 received a 21 year sentence which can be extended indefinitely by five year increments if he is viewed as a threat to society. He murdered in cold blood 69 people, almost all of them teenagers. I think that the fact that he can in theory get out in 21 years does cheapen human life.

    “Anyway, thanks for the response!”

    Debate is what I am here for, for my own amusement.

  • Thanks WK. Considering what I was linking to, I thought it appropriate.

  • “It was a purely practical observation. I have two prisons in my county and I have frequently represented guards and inmates. Over the past 34 years three guards and more inmates have been murdered at the hands of other inmates. The Catechism is factually incorrect in its assertion that it is possible to segregate inmates so that it is impossible for them to harm others, as anyone who works at a prison would understand. ”

    I also think we have to take into account dangerous gang activity on the streets, which often results in the murder of innocents, that is coordinated from behind prison walls. Deterrence effect also needs to be considered as well.

    One of the things I find ironic about anti-death penalty activism both from Church leaders and secularists is that they are helping make more neccessary the very thing they are trying to abolish.

  • I just saw that Victor Davis Hanson wrote an article on the subject: 20th Century War Paradoxes

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