Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

We can't do WWII anymore



Historians unhesitatingly heap praise on the "Greatest Generation" and so they should. They toughed out the Great Depression, the dust storms of the Great Plains, drought, and crushing poverty for more than a decade and then took on and crushed two highly militarized dictatorships in less than four years, then rebuilt Western Europe's economy. They led the world for a quarter of a century afterword and created the economy that produced the greatest advance in standards of living ever experienced by any nation in recorded history.

To hear academics and naysayers today, none of it matters as their moral flaws negate anything positive that they produced. Many of their children (who are now seniors themselves) seem to agree as they systematically reject the very basis of the prosperity and freedom they enjoy.

When Pearl Harbor was bombed, the WWII generation lined up around the block at recruiting stations to defend their country; pride of country, icons of patriotism, and celebration of our heritage had been taught from their earliest youth. There were no second thoughts, doubts about moral equivalency between the Nazis, Imperial Japan, and Western values. We were the good guys, and the aggressors in Europe and Asia were plain for all with common sense to see.

When the World Trade Center was destroyed and nearly 3,000 Americans killed that morning in 2001, a small number of recruiting stations were busy, but by week's end the naysayers had already begun the familiar drumbeat of blaming America. Our military went to war and remains so but most Americans were hardly affected.

Perhaps what is most striking about the America of today is the illusion of national strength. The reality is so bad that at a recent conference of generals, they concluded that we would likely experience military defeat during the opening battles of a major conflict with Russia or China. Sixteen years of war and massive military cuts have left us in serious military jeopardy.

Author Arthur Herman's book Freedom's Forge details the incredible organizational skill of automobile magnate William Knudsen and what it took to rebuild America's military in WWII. He defied the naysayers of his day and made accomplishing the impossible routine.

For instance, building a ship, a simple freighter, normally took nine to 11 months. Knudsen faced a shortage of shipyards with existing yards already operating at capacity. Knudsen told Henry Kaiser, a major shipbuilder, to put a shipyard in Richmond, California. Naysayers said it would take six months to get the location (local mudflats) properly prepared to start building the shipyard. Knudsen and Kaiser had the ground prepared in three weeks, the yard operational in three months and the first ship launched within six months. By the end of the war, American shipyards cut the time from laying of a ship's keel to launch to four days. "A mobilized America provided two-thirds of allied military equipment in WWII ... including 86,000 tanks, 2.5 million trucks, 286,000 airplanes, 8,800 Naval vessels, and 5,600 merchant ships," Herman wrote.

We also provided the fuel to power that juggernaut we hurled at the Nazis and Japan—oil. Without oil, Japan could not have invaded Southeast Asia or China, and it was for oil that Hitler's Nazis and Japan launched their campaigns of aggression. It was oil that provided the power for American industry to produce that arsenal for democracy, and it was the cutoff of oil to Germany and Japan that hastened the defeat of both.

Today oil is a dirty word, especially in California as we disparage all fossil fuels even though they provide 97 percent of all the energy used for transportation in California. Somehow electric cars are going to magically appear at costs anyone can afford to supplant "dirty" fossil fuels. Actually, it is expensive oil that fuels the Russian military build-up and motivates Chinese expansion in the Pacific. Restricting oil production (and increasing its price) keeps Russia's Vladimir Putin and China happy.

I stated that we couldn't do WWII anymore, and we can't. We have neither the manufacturing base that existed 75 years ago nor the skilled workforce to operate it. We lack the political will to defend the country or recognize evil when we see it. Today, Knudsen and Kaiser would be in their 10th year of environmental report revisions/lawsuits to get their first shipyard off the ground, by which time of course, California would have become a Japanese colony.

We're continuously inundated with alarmist hysteria about the climate, the latest being the sea levels are rising faster than expected. The rise is about one-half a millimeter or 0.02 inches a year, which is barely measureable. (You likely won't hear about the dispute among scientists over the cause of the melt, which is not climate but under-ice melting of the Western Antarctic ice cap.)

But California must save the planet even if it must go it alone. The local environmental warriors will strive to halt all oil production regardless of the economic impact on the county, which oil supporters say will directly deprive us of another $1 million in local taxes and up to $64 million in economic activity. That loss of revenue will impact our safety and quality of life. Δ

Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor atclanham@newtimesslo.com.

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