Reviews | Pearl Harbor and the ability to surprise

Third Similarity: The direct targets of their aggression are relatively weak.

Taiwan intends to increase its military budget but now spends barely 2% of its gross domestic product on defense. Ukraine has been exhausted by years of low-intensity conflict with Russian-backed separatists, not to mention the corruption and incompetence that characterize its 30 years of independence. Iran has taken advantage of the chaos that followed the Arab Spring and America’s withdrawal from the Middle East to arm and embolden Hamas’ proxies in Hezbollah and the Houthis.

Fourth resemblance: the United States – like Great Britain, France and America in the 1930s – is an ambivalent power, wounded and turned inward, uncertain about its will to remain the guarantor of security threatened nations.

In 1935, just before Italy invaded Abyssinia (as Ethiopia was then called), the British weekly Punch mocked the West’s weak response to dictatorial aggression with a satirical poem:

We don’t want you to fight,
But, by jingo if you do,
We will probably publish a joint memorandum
Suggest you slight disapproval.

Compare that to some of the ideas currently adopted or maintained to punish our opponents. Along with China, America will send athletes, but not diplomats, to the Beijing Winter Olympics. Along with Russia, the Biden administration plans to “prevent Russian oligarchs from using Visa and Mastercard credit cards,” according to the Times. And with Iran, the administration warns it is ready to use “other tools” if diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear programs fails – a warning that would seem more ominous if it had not been the pass. American diplomatic everywhere for nearly two decades.

Fifth Similarity: The balance of military power is increasingly shifting against the West.

The United States still has perhaps the most powerful and sophisticated military in the world, just as Britain had the largest navy and France a huge army before World War II. But the United States would find it difficult to wield decisive power against China in a war for Taiwan, which China would attempt to win quickly while endangering America’s heart with its growing nuclear arsenal. The Pentagon also made the mistake of concentrating firepower on a small number of expensive and vulnerable platforms, such as aircraft carriers, rather than distributing the power among a large number of “good enough” platforms. “.

In other words, the US military has sort of become one large Pearl Harbor – a magnificent row of battleships of towering size but of questionable utility, complacently anchored in a port we imagined secure.

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