Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Prelude to War

John Batchelor, The New York Sun:
Why is America waiting to be attacked by Iran? Why do we sit on the sidelines while Tehran makes war on our ally Israel in order to provoke America to join the fighting, first against Syria and then against Tehran itself? Why do we listen to the European appeasers as they pretend the Lebanon front is a regional conflict, a national liberation contest, when it is demonstrably the prelude to the wider war — the Spain 1936 to the continental war of 1939? What is the explanation for America's willful fiction that the United Nations Security Council can engineer an accommodation in Lebanon, when it is vivid to every member state that this is a replay of September 1938, when Europe fed Hitler the Sudetenland as the U.N. now wants to feed the jihadists the sovereignty of Israel?

The most threatening answer is that America waits to be bloodied because it has lost its will to defend itself after five years of chasing rogue-state-sponsored gangsters and after three years of occupation in failed-state Iraq against Tehran- and Damascus-backed agents. A grave possibility is that America is now drained, bowed, ready to surrender to the tyrants of Tehran.

Then again, perhaps America has been here before, and it is part of America's destiny as the New Jerusalem that we rarely start wars but that we are unusually good at finishing them. READ MORE

There is a strange parallel right now to the first days of December 1941, before the Japanese sneak attack. America was still not in the war in Asia and Europe, but it was busy getting ready for a momentous calamity and was filled with the presentiment of doom.

My treasured evidence that America knew what was coming is Life Magazine, Volume 11, No. 23, dated December 8, 1941, which means it was printed and distributed a week before Pearl Harbor.

The astonishing 13-page cover photo essay by Clare Boothe on Commander of the Far East General Douglas MacArthur is complete with maps showing America's strategic challenges at Manila, including the daunting air and sea mileage from San Francisco to Manila and from "Tokio" to Manila. "Will the Island of Luzon then become the great theater of war, and General MacArthur the outstanding khaki-clad figure in it?" asks Boothe. "Or will peace descend upon the Pacific while the U.S. plunges into the war across the Atlantic?"

Remember, this is before Pearl Harbor. The Atlantic theaters are much on display as well: not only a photo essay about a four-year-old London blitz refugee in New Jersey, but also two essays with photos and maps of the North African front in Libya and another photo essay of the U-boat sinking of a U.S. merchantman off Sierra Leone.

The China front is featured in a photo essay about the Chevrolet trucks maneuvering the 1400-mile Burma Road to keep Free China in the fight against the Japanese. And there are many photos of Japanese war industry, including a shot of 860-lb bombs lined up "for shipment south to the war zones" — which means America may have glimpsed the very bombs to be dropped on its fleet.

For confirmation that America was ready for action on two fronts, there is a photo essay about traffic jams to and from the Martin bomber plant in Baltimore; another photo essay about the "Navy Air Force" on board the (destined for glory) Pacific carrier Enterprise, and a report with photo on WMD, the Japanese using poison gas in China.

Even 1941 Hollywood knew what was coming, for this Life includes a rave review with production shots of Errol Flynn as Custer in "They Died with Their Boots On," as well as snapshots of Sgt. Sidney Avery of the 162nd Signal Photo Company who, with Life's help, was entertained on the West Coast by Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Ann Rutherford, Linda Darnell, and Lana Turner at the Palladium Ballroom.

What this all means to me today is that America was expectant of the crisis that fell on December 7, 1941; and yet America remained reluctant to say out loud that war was unavoidable, inevitable, already under way — the nation holding back as if the obvious war plans in Berlin and Tokyo were going to vanish like a lightning storm. When the Japanese fleet did maul our Pacific fleet, the Roosevelt administration was rattled and the public was grim. It will be the same for us when this premonitory waiting lifts and the main action begins, both frightful and logical. The Lebanese Front, the Iraqi Front, the Afghan and Kashmir Fronts, or the Haifa blitz will no more solve themselves than did the China-Burma Front, the North African Front, the Atlantic Front, the London blitz of 65 years ago. Who will publish the last magazine before the day of infamy comes again?

Mr. Batchelor is host of "The John Batchelor Show" on the ABC radio network.The show airs in New York on 770 AM from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.