Awakening a Sleeping Giant

Dubious historical accounts tell us that Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto believed his plan to attack the American Naval fleet at Pearl Harbor had simply “awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.” It is one of those statements that, if it was not actually uttered, it should have been.

Although the exact quote may have come down to us through movie folklore (“Tora! Tora! Tora!” and “Pearl Harbor”), the sentiment did, in fact, express Yamamoto’s sense of foreboding over the ultimate outcome of World War II. Unlike most Japanese leaders, who had never experienced life in the West, Yamamoto had lived in the United States, studied at the U.S. War College and at Harvard University, and had served as a naval attaché in Washington, D.C.

The admiral understood then what the Islamic terrorists of the 21st century don’t seem to comprehend now. The foes we face today, like many Japanese leaders of the World War II era, are convinced that Americans are weak and unable or unwilling to fight for our way of life. Unfortunately, much of what they have seen in our society has failed to disabuse them of that notion.

With Saddam Hussein gone, the government of Iran is now the center of the terrorist world. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the extermination of Israel, our only real ally in the Middle East, and has insisted on developing the weapons to do just that. With Russian, Chinese and North Korean nuclear material on the world market, it is probably only a matter of time before Ahmadinejad manages to perpetrate the kind of unimaginable attack on America that was depicted on this season’s premiere episodes of Fox’s anti-terror drama, “24.”

In case you were one of the three or four Americans who weren’t glued to their TV sets for that spectacle, suffice it to say that tens of thousands of people in Southern California were vaporized in a mushroom cloud from a suitcase nuke. It was one of the most frightening and infuriating things I have ever seen depicted on television, and it started me thinking about the actual response that might be forthcoming if (when?) such an attack is ever perpetrated upon American soil.

It is for such times that President Theodore Roosevelt intended his admonition to “walk softly and carry a big stick.” Regardless of who has the misfortune to be occupying the White House at the time of such an attack, the response would surely be furious and lethal. The American people would demand such a response, and the resources of this nation would be mobilized in a way we have not seen since World War II.

Americans would like nothing better than to live in harmony with the rest of the world. This has been our history for 230 years. We love peace. But there have been times when war was our only option. Admiral Yamamoto understood this 65 years ago. He knew that when a peaceful giant is prodded from his slumber, there is nowhere to hide from his wrath.

This is a side of America the Islamists cannot understand. It is evident in the heroism of our soldiers and marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, who fight for something these fanatical terrorists have never known: freedom. Religious freedom. Economic freedom. Freedom from tyranny. It is intangible, and yet it is the most powerful force on earth. It cannot be quantified, and yet it is very real. To those of us who have grown up in freedom, it is as necessary as air, and we will defend it by any means necessary.