Friday, December 7, 2007

This Day In History

One has to wonder, had Pearl Harbor been attacked by radical Muslims, would Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia be a glass desert? Had the current environment of political correctness existed in 1941, would we still have troops in Japan trying to win the hearts and minds of citizens while attempting to flush out the more radical elements? Would we have targeted aviation, the method of the attack, just as today we are in the Middle East targeting 'terrorism' - the method of the attack on 9/11?

On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, American neutrality in World War II ends when Japanese forces conduct a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Over 400 planes from six Japanese carriers bombed the harbor and airfield, and within two hours much of the American Pacific fleet was rendered useless. Losses were devastating: Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than half the island's aircraft were destroyed. Fortunately for the Americans, all three U.S. Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded in the attack. Japan's losses were 29 planes and four midget submarines. The next day, Japan attacked the Philippines, Malaya, Thailand, and Hong Kong, while Britain and the United States declared war on Japan.

The History Channel

An excerpt from Dan Simmon's Time Traveler:

"So you kept telling yourselves," said the Time Traveler. His voice was very low but there was a strange and almost frightening edge to it. "But the 'peace' in 'Islam' means 'Submission.' You’ll find that out soon enough"

Great, I was thinking. Of all the time travelers in all the gin joints in all the world, I get this racist, xenophobic, right-wing asshole.

"After Nine-eleven, we’re fighting terrorism," I began, "not..."

He waved me into silence.

"You were a philosophy major or minor at that podunk little college you went to long ago," said the Time Traveler. "Do you remember what Category Error is?"

It rang a bell. But I was too irritated at hearing my alma mater being called a "podunk little college" to be able to concentrate fully.

"I’ll tell you what it is," said the Time Traveler. "In philosophy and formal logic, and it has its equivalents in science and business management, Category Error is the term for having stated or defined a problem so poorly that it becomes impossible to solve that problem, through dialectic or any other means."

I waited. Finally I said firmly, "You can’t go to war with a religion. Or, I mean... sure, you could... the Crusades and all that... but it would be wrong."

The Time Traveler sipped his Scotch and looked at me. He said, "Let me give you an analogy..."

God, I hated and distrusted analogies. I said nothing.

"Let’s imagine," said the Time Traveler, "that on December eighth, Nineteen forty-one, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress and asked them to declare war on aviation."

"That’s absurd," I said.

"Is it?" asked the Time Traveler. "The American battleships, cruisers, harbor installations, Army barracks, and airfields at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in Hawaii were all struck by Japanese aircraft. Imagine if the next day Roosevelt had declared war on aviation... threatening to wipe it out wherever we found it. Committing all the resources of the United States of America to defeating aviation, so help us God."

"That’s just stupid," I said. If I’d ever been afraid of this Time Traveler, I wasn’t now. He was obviously a mental defective. "The planes, the Japanese planes," I said, "were just a method of attack... a means... it wasn’t aviation that attacked us at Pearl Harbor, but the Empire of Japan. We declared war on Japan and a few days later its ally, Germany, lived up to its treaty with the Japanese and declared war on us. If we’d declared war on aviation, on goddamned airplanes rather than the empire and ideology that launched them, we’d never have..."

I stopped. What had he called it? Category Error. Making the problem unsolvable through your inability – or fear – of defining it correctly.

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