Voice of the People: Thoughts On Pearl Harbor Day

James J. Devine

James J. Devine

by James J. Devine

Today is the 77th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii that killed nearly 2,400 American service men and women. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that Dec. 7, 1941 was “a date which will live in infamy.” He resolved “the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”

On National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor the more than 3,500 Americans killed or wounded during that deadly attack, pay tribute to the heroes whose courage helped define the Greatest Generation and draw strength from the example set by patriots who have sacrificed for us, displayed valor and fortified our freedoms.

Pearl Harbor Day on Dec. 7, is a time to remember the deadly strike against America’s fleet at the Hawaiian naval base, but also to think of the Alamo, the Maine and 9-11.

Each of these provocations to war has resulted in heroic action as Americans responded to foreign aggression with unity despite our internal political differences.

Should they also remind us of the terrible tragedy associated with violence, even when justified by significant incitement? Should they provide warning to our potential adversaries?

The heroics displayed by brave soldiers in battle cannot suppress the truth that violence does not solve anything.

Measures to protect the U.S. from terrorist attacks should be those that work instead of cosmetic action that disguises our vulnerabilities. Instead of military adventurism, we should make priorities of promoting and defending human rights, aiding refugees fleeing violence around the world, and reducing U.S. military commitments overseas.

Maintaining U.S. military superiority goes hand in hand with limiting the power and influence of Russia, Iran, China and North Korea, along with promoting democracy in other countries, protecting groups threatened with genocide, finding a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, among other long-range foreign policy goals. That may be accomplished without making citizens of our allies feel like they are under garrison.

Rather than seek out and destroy terrorist groups in other countries, a smart American foreign policy goal would be the long-term abolition of root causes of such violence. We should use improved relationships with allies for promoting democracy in other nations, defending human rights abroad, and helping improve living standards in developing nations so that nobody has a reason to engage in fanatic terrorism.

In the nuclear age, humanity can no longer afford to settle political disputes by killing and as we observe events in Gaza and Israel, elsewhere in the Middle East, and in Africa, we should not only remember but learn from history.

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson broadcast a television commercial that is perhaps the most famous of all campaign ads, but overlooked is his simple remark: “These are the stakes: To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the darkness. We must either love each other, or we must die.”

Over-population, climate change and war present grave threats to the survival of our species. Seven-and-a-half billion humans inhabit the planet today.

Dealing with climate change must be a top policy priority for the U.S. and the world, because the simple fact is that it has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner.

Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.

Droughts in the Southwest and abnormally long heat waves everywhere are projected to become more intense, and the intensity, frequency and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes are projected to increase.

Global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began in 1880. It is projected to rise another one to four feet by 2100, as the result of water from melting polar ice and the expansion of seawater as it warms. The Arctic Ocean is expected to become essentially ice free in summer before mid-century. As temperatures in the North Pole have warmed at double the pace of the rest of the planet, the expanse of frozen seawater that blankets the Arctic Ocean and neighboring seas has shrunk and thinned over the past three decades.

In the next several decades, storm surges and high tides could combine with sea level rise and land subsidence to further increase flooding in many regions. Sea level rise will continue past the end of this century because the oceans take a very long time to respond to warmer conditions at the Earth’s surface. Ocean waters will therefore continue to warm and sea level will continue to rise for many centuries at rates equal to or higher than those of the current century.

Today is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, but the next attack on humanity may be the one we inflict upon ourselves by ignoring experts who are concerned about Earth passing one or more “tipping points” – abrupt, perhaps irreversible changes that tip our climate into a new state.

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