What about the lessons of this event, Mr. President?

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USS Arizona

President Obama is visiting Hiroshima, Japan Friday (May 27, 2016). The visit comes just nine weeks shy of the 71st anniversary of the U.S. dropping of the atomic bomb on the city. That bomb, together with the one dropped three days later over Nagasaki, killed upwards of 160,000 people.

It also brought about Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II.

President Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president ever to visit Hiroshima. He has no plans that we know of, however, to mark another important World War II anniversary – that being the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was that surprise attack that set in motion the chain of events that would lead eventually to Hiroshima’s near total annihilation.

Of the two anniversaries, the former has symbolic significance but the latter holds strategic significance.

Here’s why.

The Japanese attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor because of their calculation that the U.S. was ill-prepared to fight back. Neutralize the U.S. Pacific Fleet they thought, and the U.S. would lack the military ability to keep Japanese imperial forces from grabbing off British-held Singapore and U.S.-held bases in the Philippines.

That calculation came close to being correct. The U.S. was ill-prepared. Only a Herculean rearmament effort, a couple of subsequent Japanese miscalculations and some blind good luck allowed the U.S. to regain its footing and eventually defeat the Japanese. Things could have gone the other way.

The significance of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor is that the U.S. military is descending into the same state of un-readiness that first emboldened the Japanese. The numbers are alarming.

Since World War II, U.S. military readiness has been judged against the ability to fight two major conflicts simultaneously. This standard has served us and the world well. The U.S. was able, for example, to fight in Korea while keeping sufficient forces in Europe to deter the Soviet Union.

Toward that end, experts believe that the Army needs 50 brigade combat teams. It currently has 32. The Navy needs 350 ships. It currently has 272. The Marines need 36 battalions. They currently have 23.

Most concerning of all is the Air Force. To be combat-ready in two theaters the Air Force needs 133 active fighter squadrons. It currently has just 26.

Those who dismiss the need for a two war-capable military say that such readiness is from another era. Our military, they say, must be ready for small, concentrated engagements with ad hoc, non-state enemy combatants.

But tell that to China, which is rapidly building its military capacity. Ditto the Russians. There are still geopolitical bad actors out there and they know as well as anyone the state of U.S. military readiness.

Ignoring the lessons of history – particularly as that history pertains to war – is one of the perpetual failures of peaceful nations. Yet it remains as true today as it was 75 years ago. The best way to find yourself in a war is to be unprepared for one.

Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of Gleiser Communications, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The Team FM & KYZS in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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4 Responses

  1. Don Turner says:

    Paul, you should have been a history professor given your knowledge and ability to write..
    Might not have paid as well as radio, but then, there would be less headaches than what you have endured:) good job buddy!

  2. Linda E Montrose says:

    The lessons of history are never learned because history is constantly being rewritten by those who want to CHANGE the course of history.

    There is a stamp in time which has recorded all history as it is made. It is impossible to retract the moment in time as it is made, the imprint is there for all time. Those who try and change it are fools for not everyone forgets and passes it on to those who will carry the torch.

  3. Stan Drake says:

    This president has consistently refused to acknowledge TRUE American history.

  4. Richard Anderson says:

    Mr. Obama should not have gone to Hiroshima, Japan, as President of The United States. America has nothing to apologize for, as President Truman in 1945, acted without malice, by bombing Hiroshima. Mr. Truman saved countless tens of thousands of U.S. Service Men from certain death, which a land invasion would have required. It should always be remembered, it was Imperial Japan’s deliberate unprovoked attack upon Pearl Harbor that plunged us into war. Our Veterans of that epic battle, should be celebrated for their service this December 7, 2016, the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, 1941. America going forward must always be militarily prepared, and never be perceived as vulnerable, but stay forever vigilant, for “*Peace can only remain thru strength” {*i.e. attributed to George Washington}.

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