It's easy to find the needle after the wind has blown away the hay
Posted by aogWednesday, 30 November 2011 at 13:10 TrackBack Ping URL

I dislike defending a President I despise, but I find this kind of thing ridiculous —

Declassified Memo Hinted of 1941 Hawaii Attack. “Three days before the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt was warned in a memo from naval intelligence that Tokyo’s military and spy network was focused on Hawaii, a new and eerie reminder of FDR’s failure to act on a basket load of tips that war was near.”

Yes, I’m sure there was such a memo. But what’s left out is that FDR was getting hundreds (if not thousands) of memos like that every day. It’s so easy, now, after the fact to go back and find the single memo in that massive pile that was important. It’s just a bit harder to do so in real time beforehand.

If you want to impugn FDR’s general handling of the looming war with Japan, that’s fine. FDR had, after all, been acting very aggressively with Japan for a number of years (a foreign policy I agree with, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have readily foreseen consequences like a military response). But to expect him (or anyone) to have magically picked out the one memo is just silly.

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erp Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 14:28

aog, there were many “hints” about warnings that FDR ignored in real time too. He was even accused outright of egging on the Japanese forcing them to attack. Remember, there were papers from a conservative point of view back then — unlike nowadays.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 30 November 2011 at 15:04

That’s what I meant by his general handling of the situation in the Pacific. Given his policies (such as the oil embargo) it was unsurprising that the Japanese eventually went to war. The point is that the specifics of the attack on Pearl Harbor weren’t easily predicted because there was one memo in the pile about it. Let’s not forget, as far as the US Navy knew at the time, such an attack wasn’t possible. It was only feasible because Japan had developed (among other things) a new type of air dropped torpedo.

Harry Eagar Tuesday, 20 December 2011 at 18:04

It would be interesting to compare the treatment by the presidents of J.O. Richardson and Shinseki, but I have never seen anyone do it.

It is not exactly correct that an attack should have been regarded as impossible. The harbor at Taranto is shallow, too, yet the Royal Navy managed a torpedo attack there in 1940.

Roosevelt made a reasoned choice when Richardson objected to basing the fleet at Hawaii, and he understood (I think) there was some risk. The advice, such as it was, from lower levels of the Navy was lousy. What’s a president to do?

But at least Roosevelt was a serious student of naval affairs and had some basis for overruling his CNO.

Contract that with Bush II, who knew and still knows nothing about army affairs, overruling Shinseki. Two people said at the time that the army was too small for the job (Shinseki and me). We were right.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 20 December 2011 at 22:02

You might want to have that Bush obession checked out by a professional.

Harry Eagar Wednesday, 21 December 2011 at 11:18

FDR won his wars. Results count. With me, anyway. YMMV

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 21 December 2011 at 13:19

Because FDR won his wars, it is reasonable for you to bring up President Bush regardless of relevance?

Results count. With me, anyway.

I have yet to see any evidence of that. E.g., the continued existence of the Ba’athist regime in Iraq.

erp Wednesday, 21 December 2011 at 15:04

Harry, you’re slipping. FDR didn’t win his war. His Uncle Joe won it for him. Did ya forget? s/off

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 21 December 2011 at 16:00

Nice catch!

AVeryRoughRoadAhead - Winter is coming... Thursday, 22 December 2011 at 10:50

The USSR defeated Germany, at atrocious cost to the Slavic peoples, but the U.S. reaped the lion’s share of the victory in Europe, keeping hegemony over the civilized parts of the Continent. If we utilize a holistic socioeconomic martial scoring system, then it’s clearly FDR 1, Uncle Joe 0.

erp Thursday, 22 December 2011 at 16:20


The Russians paid a heavy price for Communism, the war was only part of that and even if the Ruskies had won the war (which they didn’t), why was it to our advantage to reap “the lion’s share of the victory in Europe, keeping hegemony over the civilized parts of the Continent” …

It would have been to our advantage and that of the every human on the globe if we had followed Patton’s advice and wiped out the commies when we had the chance.

We didn’t because all the brights backed the Soviets and wanted them to succeed and the h*ll with the Slavs and the all the other low brow peasants in Asia and Africa.

Harry Eagar Sunday, 25 December 2011 at 16:30

He won his war vs Japan, too, without any help from Russia.

It is curious, though, that having a non-Baath regime in Iraq is considered an important policy success for the USA, while having a Baath one in Syria was just jake.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 26 December 2011 at 09:29

You’ve moved from “won” to “important policy goal”. Beyond that, your argument is the “better to curse the darkness than light a single candle” argument. Is there no point in solving one murder if another goes unsolved? You have an amazing knack of wrapping a whole lot of fail in a single sentence. The writer’s gift, apparently.

Hey Skipper Tuesday, 27 December 2011 at 15:05
It is curious, though, that having a non-Baath regime in Iraq is considered an important policy success for the USA …

Going back to 2003, nothing was not an option.

Harry, you and the rest of the MAL relentlessly compare deposing Saddam — BTW, anyone wish he was still in power? — to a nullity.

Which, when you think about it, should be extremely difficult to do. Especially with a straight face. But you all manage it, nonetheless.

So, by all means, put yourself in GWB’s place and come up with a different course of action that takes into account the status quo ante, the Islamofascists, Iran, France, the USSR, the UN, etc.

While you are at it, defend the potential downside risks of any course you choose.

Note: most decisions in international relations are aimed at obtaining the least bad outcome.

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