America: 12/8/41 to 9/12/01 and Beyond

On Monday, Dec. 8, 1941, my mother’s 48-year-old father and her 20-year-old brother went to the Army recruiting office to volunteer to fight Japan. The Army took my uncle but rejected my grandfather based on age.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was in my second week as a history professor at Grove City College. Although a small, highly selective Christian liberal arts school, Grove City College, with a generally conservative student body, boasts the state’s largest College Republicans chapter.

On Sept. 12, the day after 19 Arab terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon and crashed United Flight 93 in the Pennsylvania countryside a few miles south of Grove City, one female student came to my office to ask if the draft might be reinstated in the aftermath of the strikes. She feared her boyfriend might be drafted.

To my knowledge, despite a considerable patriotic outcry among our students, not one left the safe and hallowed halls of academe for military service, though several faculty members with Reserve Component affiliations were mobilized.

In 1996, Air Force Staff Judge Advocate Brig. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap, Jr., published a seminal article titled, “How we lost the High Tech War of 2007.”* In this “warning from the future” the United States, despite its overwhelming superiority in high-tech weaponry and conventional forces, loses a war to radical revolutionary Persia whose armies are adept at asymmetric warfare.

One of the enemy’s asymmetric approaches involved targeting American female soldiers and aviators for capture. When they have secured a hundred women captives, the Supreme War Council unleashes a battalion of teenage boys to torture, rape and mutilate the prisoners … live on television for the American public to witness. The traumatized survivors are then repatriated through the offices of the Red Crescent and International Red Cross.

Accordingly, the National Organization of Women joins with scores of thousands of fathers and husbands to demand that their daughters and wives be withdrawn from front-line service. Despite the fact that 25 percent of America’s soldiers are female in 2007 and Congress had approved the use of women in combat some years before, the Department of Defense caves in to political pressure. Suddenly, U.S. front line units lose one-quarter to one-third of their combat personnel. With its combat capability drastically degraded, the U.S. sues for peace.

It’s been two years since Sept. 11, 2001 and we are three years and three months from 2007. What’s the difference between America in the first decade of the 21st century and America in December 1941?

Where’s the righteous indignation that drove Americans to make “war without mercy” against Japan culminating with history’s only two atomic strikes’ How would we react if a future enemy ravished a company of American female POWs “live and in color?”

Hopefully the response would be swift, deadly and decisive … but don’t bet on it.

In 1941 “multiculturalism” was an unknown term and “diversity” lacked its current socio-political connotations. Back then, Japan had been rampaging across Asia for a decade.

On Dec. 12, 1937, when Japanese dive bombers sank the U.S.S. Panay at its mooring in Nanking, China, many Americans called for war. Motion pictures, comic books and even newspaper editorial cartoons routinely depicted Japanese soldiers as sub-human barbarians. Two years into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t have to remind the American people that the war would be long and costly. American determination and resolve remained undiminished.

By contrast, in the aftermath of 9/11 many college and university professors held that the attacks should be considered within the context of American Middle Eastern policies. Indeed, some argued that America “only got what it deserved.” At a Columbia University anti-war rally earlier this year protesters cheered when a professor cursed America’s soldiers with a “thousand Mogadishus.”

Other multiculturalists carefully reminded us that only a small percentage of Arabs are fanatical Islamists. Airport security agents were admonished not to single out Middle Easterners lest we offend. Reminders abounded not to repeat the injustices inflicted on Japanese-Americans in Hawaii and California during World War II.

Asymmetric warfare involves exploiting the enemy’s weaknesses. Cultural fissures fostered by years of multiculturalism and diversity present such weaknesses to our current enemies.

Indeed, how would Americans react if a hundred female prisoners of war were viciously ravished? Would we “lose the fateful lightening of a terrible swift sword?” Or would Americans form support groups, gather around facilitators dressed as purple dinosaurs and join hands to sing, “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family?”

*Charles J. Dunlap, Jr., “How we Lost the High-Tech War of 2007,” The Weekly Standard, January 29, 1996, pp. 22-28.

Earl H. Tilford

Earl H. Tilford

Dr. Earl Tilford is a military historian and fellow for the Middle East & terrorism with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. He currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A retired Air Force intelligence officer, Dr. Tilford earned his PhD in American and European military history at George Washington University. From 1993 to 2001, he served as Director of Research at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. In 2001, he left Government service for a professorship at Grove City College, where he taught courses in military history, national security, and international and domestic terrorism and counter-terrorism. Email: [email protected]

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