A day that will live in infamy

Seventy-two years ago, a surprise attack came.

It can be argued that the attack should not have surprised naval strategists, or military leaders of that day.  However, it did.

There is even evidence that the Japanese diplomats in Washington, DC did not know that their nation was shifting from negotiations into armed conflict.

Pearl Harbor is at the edge of living memory now. (Last year at this time, I had five relative alive who could remember that day. Now, only three are alive...) Soon, it will pass beyond living memory.

Even so, the lesson that could be learned has probably not been learned.

Jim Miller has said a little more than I have, and probably more cogently.

His main point is cultural difference. That, blended with an ongoing simmering of preparation-for-possible-war and lack of clarity on the target chosen for military attack, kept American leaders from understanding that an attack might come in Hawaii. Worse, technological advances (some less than a few months old) gave the Japanese naval forces an edge.

The war that shaped a generation, and turned America into a dominant power on Earth, had started years earlier.  But the United States was brought into that war by surprise attack.

UPDATE: like every day in history, there are many important details...and there are also interesting trivia


Rest in Peace

I saw in the news last night that Nelson Mandela has passed away.

This man has a good recounting of Mandela's interaction with Communists. I trust his opinion, mostly because of his personal knowledge of South Africa and his ability to connect that knowledge to his studies of history.

It's an open question whether Mandela's jail time (and his involvement in terrorist-style attacks) are absolved by his later deeds. I can't say much on that. I hope that Mandela's death does not portend a change for the worse in South Africa.

Another comment which I found enlightening is in this comment-thread on Mandela's death.

In part:
The South African struggle against apartheid was seen in this country through the lens of our own Civil Rights struggle.

It was much different. ... it was also the rise from utter disaster of the Xhosa people, of which Nelson Mandela was one.


South Africa didn't have two imperial powers --- the British & the Dutch --- it had three --- the Zulu. The Zulu Empire at its 19th century height had an estimated 14 million subjects. All three imperial powers shared one thing in common: the Xhosa were to be a subject people. Under apartheid, the Zulus had, then as now, much self-determination in KwaZulu, and they often backed the apartheid regime.

The rise of the Xhosa under the ANC was not just a white vs black or an anti-imperialist struggle. It was the story of a broken & despised tribal people rising to power from the ashes. It's a story that is much more interesting in its own terms than in the terms that the rest of the world uses to it.

It appears few outsiders understand the differences between various tribes present in that part of Africa.

And it is easy to forget the racial and tribal animosity, as well as imperial aggression, can be found between those African tribes.


Return to blog

After a hiatus, I wonder what I should post about.

A big problem with a train running faster than safe through a tight turn. Was it operator error? Equipment error? Both in concert?

A murder case in a University town is solved after going cold for a month. A computer was stolen from a neighboring house at the time of the murder. That computer, resold over Craig's List, reported itself when used. Does this mean that Craig's List helps find criminals, or that Craig's List helps criminals resell stolen goods? Much more importantly, how often does solving small crimes lead to criminals guilty of more heinous crimes?

Lastly, just today a Federal judge made a ruling allowing a major American city to enter bankruptcy. That major city is the core of the Metro Area I currently live in.

There's an odd feeling to the area. The Tri-County region has approximately 4 million people. Detroit currently has about 750,000 residents, in a region that used to have nearly 2 million residents. A person can travel a route some 40 or 50 miles long around the edge of Detroit. In many places, they will see a a suburb on one side, visibly nicer than Detroit on the other. In some places, they will look South across the river into Canada.

The area is not doing well, though it is not doing extremely badly. A combination of factors led to noticeable flow of residents leaving the Metro Area shortly before the national housing market boom turned into a bust. Population hasn't shrunk much for the Metro Area, but it hasn't grown either.

The auto business hit a sharp downturn in 2008. Many companies involved in that business have since recovered to their pre-downturn business levels. But some haven't. And not many are doing better.

I wonder what this bankruptcy will do to the local political and business climate...