American Elephants

Why Should We Remember Pearl Harbor? It Was 71 Years Ago! by The Elephant's Child

Every year on December 7, we say “Remember Pearl Harbor” but fail to point out why we should be remembering. John Steele Gordon in his essential history An Empire of Wealth: the Epic History of American Economic Power, outlines the state of the world:

In a fireside chat on December 29, 1940, Franklin Roosevelt first used  a phrase that would prove enduring when he called upon the United States to become “the great arsenal of democracy.”
…..War had broken out in Europe on September 1, 1939, after German troops invaded Poland, and France and Great Britain stood by their pledges to come to Poland’s aid. Few Americans thought the Nazis anything but despicable, but public opinion in the United States was overwhelmingly to stay our of the conflict.  Many newspapers…were strongly isolationist. In 1934 Senator Hiram Johnson of California had pushed through a bill forbidding the Treasury to make loans to any country that had failed to pay back earlier loans.  That, of course included Britain and France.  On November 4, 1939, Congress had passed the Neutrality Act, which allowed purchases of war materiel only on a “cash and carry” basis.
…..Seven months later France fell to the Nazi onslaught, and Britain stood alone.  In the summer of 1940 Germany proved unable to defeat the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain and thus gain the air superiority necessary to mount an invasion across the English Channel. It tried instead to bludgeon Britain into submission with the blitz and to force Britain into submission by cutting off its trade lifelines across the Atlantic. It nearly worked. …
…..At the time American military forces were puny.  The army had about three hundred thousand soldiers—fewer than Yugoslavia—and was so short of weapons that new recruits often had to drill with broomsticks instead of rifles. The equipment it did have was often so antiquated that the chief of staff, General George C. Marshall, thought the army no better than “that of a third-rate power.” The navy, while equal to Britain’s in size, lacked ammunition to sustain action, and much of its equipment was old or unreliable.

Roosevelt realized what was at stake in terms of America’s own security, but he felt that Britain must survive long enough to hold the Nazis at bay while the U.S. rearmed and he was able to  bring the American people around to see where their own true interests lay. This was easier said than done.

On September 16, 1940 Congress approved the first peacetime draft in American history and 16.4 million men between the ages of 20 and 35 registered. But it specified that none was to serve outside the Western Hemisphere and that their terms of service were not to exceed twelve months. In 1941 Roosevelt was able to get Lend Lease through Congress, and after Pearl Harbor, isolationism vanished from the American political landscape.

Japan ran loose over the Pacific for the next six months, taking Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, the Solomon Islands, the Dutch East Indies, and Burma while threatening Australia and India.

The rearming of America was one of the most astonishing feats in all economic history. In the first six months of 1942, the government gave out 100 billion in military contracts— more than the entire GDP of 1940. In the war years, American industry turned out 6.500 naval vessels; 296,400 airplanes; 86,330 tanks; 64,546 landing craft; 3.5 million jeeps, trucks, and personnel carriers; 53 million deadweight tons of cargo vessels; 12 million rifles,carbines, and machine guns; and 47 million tons of artillery shells, together with millions of tons of uniforms, boots, medical supplies, tents and a thousand other items needed to fight a modern war.

We weren’t ready for Pearl Harbor, nor for Africa, nor the European front. We disarmed after World War II and we were once again not ready when North Korea invaded the South. We weren’t ready when Saddam Hussein marched into Kuwait and we weren’t ready for 9/11. America’s national character is perhaps always ready to assume that the war just finished was the last — ever.

Does anyone assume that now, we would have six months to a year to begin to produce the necessary equipment and round up and train the necessary troops? I seem to remember Donald Rumsfeld saying, to vast scorn from the American media—”you go to war with the army you have.”

It’s quite true, and the threats don’t always come from the direction you expected. When America is perceived as weak — as we are today, and indecisive — we are in greater danger. The “Arab Spring” has “unexpectedly” not turned out to be a people seeking for freedom and democracy. Instead the goal appears to be Sharia and dictatorship. Al Qaeda is again on the rise, and we seem to be rearming them. Syria’s Assad evidently is preparing to gas his own people. And we are cancelling missile protection for Eastern Europe because Obama wants a reset button with Russia, and now has more “flexibility.”

We must remember Pearl Harbor as a warning from the past. The troubled world keeps sending us reminders, and we fail to pay attention.


Navy Readiness Crisis, Unprepared for Combat. by The Elephant's Child

The U.S. military is an enormous enterprise, and there are always places to cut. Slashing readiness  as a way to shrink the budget may be a huge mistake. The world remains a dangerous place, and the U.S. Navy has played a large part in protecting the world. So-called “peace dividends” usually end up with an unprepared America that is not ready to defend the nation.

The World Doesn’t Stop Being Dangerous Just Because We’re Having an Election. by The Elephant's Child

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released their long-awaited report on Iran’s nuclear program today. It has confirmed that suspicions are well justified. Iran has made substantial progress in their nuclear weapons program.. Their quarterly report concluded:

The Agency has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the Agency finds the information to be, overall, credible. The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.

That’s fairly politically correct language, but of course Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already denounced the report, and claimed that “The Americans have fabricated a stack of papers and he [IAEA Director General Yukiaya Amano] keeps speaking about them.” The report called for Tehran to clarify, and Iran has continued to spurn all calls for clarification.

While previous IAEA reports have focused on Iran’s efforts to produce fissile material that could fuel a reactor or a weapon, this report cited evidence that Iran has experimented with the components of a nuclear weapon and worked on engineering studies for mating a nuclear payload into Iran’s Shahab 3 ballistic missile.  An attachment covered Iran’s contacts with foreign experts, Iran’s procurement activities and the preparatory experiments for conducting the test of a nuclear device.

In theory, this new report should jumpstart some sense of urgency into the Obama administration about Iran’s speedup in nuclear efforts.  The administration has seemed to be sleepwalking through the possibilities.  Complacency reigns, and they have promoted the idea that the stuxnet virus has dealt Iran’s efforts a decisive blow.  Others see a growing and dangerous threat.  Obama is still wallowing in the celebration of the executions of bin Laden, Ghaddafi, and American born al-Awlaki. Those are supposed to be the proof of the success of the Obama foreign policy.

Today’s liberals don’t like war, or guns or violence. They don’t want funding to go to the military. Defense Secretary Robert Gates launched an “efficiency” campaign in 2009, and we have since cut over half a trillion dollars from our armed forces. Defense spending accounts for less than 20% of our federal budget, yet it has absorbed about half of our deficit-reduction efforts since 2009.

Now the budget super committee is operating under a mandate that holds the military hostage if the committee members cannot agree on $1 trillion in cuts from the huge federal budget. If they cannot agree, an automatic trigger will slash $500 billion from defense along with $500 billion from some other part of the budget.

This is a typical Democrat trick. They are well aware that Republicans are very resistant to extreme defense cuts. President Obama is building his 2012 campaign on the idea of uncooperative and unpatriotic Republicans who will not do what is necessary to save the economy.

Since Obama has already cut and run in Iraq and Afghanistan, and bolloxed-up negotiations with those countries, the outlook is not good. America is perceived as weak and unreliable.  The Taliban is stepping up their attacks. Iraq is quite conscious that when the Americans go home, they are left with Iran and Syria as next-door neighbors. We may have sacrificed, once again, a lot of hard, hard work by our brave military men and women, their enormous accomplishments, not for the good of the country, but for a political campaign.

Americans always seem to think that any war is the last one. We will have peace and we don’t need to worry about that nasty military stuff anymore. In 1933, the year that Adolf Hitler became Chancellor,  the U.S. Army was 16th in the world at 137,000 men. After Pearl Harbor, it was over 6 months before we could strike back at Midway with old outdated equipment, tremendous courage and sheer luck. After the boys came home at the end of World War II, we were totally unprepared for the North Korean invasion of South Korea less than five years later, both in men and equipment.  And we have never been prepared for the other wars, police actions, or challenges that are part of the real world and real human nature.

Let me repeat, failure by the 12-member Joint Committee of Congress to come up with $1.5 trillion in cuts, would trigger an automatic across-the-board process that would make half the cuts at the expense of the defense of the nation.

The idea that they cannot find places to cut in the bloated federal government is so absurd that it doesn’t pass the smell test.  Democrats will not agree to cut the obscene growth rate of entitlement programs — where the real problem lies.  The Department of Defense is not where the problem lies. It’s a dangerous world out there. The supercommittee seems unprepared to deal with reality.

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