Remembering Pearl Harbor Day is important for a couple of reasons. First, it the event that got us in to WWII, but that isn't the real reason one should remember and think every December 7th.
Especially for those in the national security arena, that day should cause one to ask questions and to remind oneself some simple truths.
1. It is never if a certain nation "will" do something: It isn't if it makes no sense or is counterproductive from your perspective. No, a nation should not look at what one nation or another "may" do, but what they can do. You must look at the capability of that nation, and plan your counter against it. In a world that had been at war for years, one of the major belligerent powers had the ability to strike Hawaii in 1941, and the reason to strike it. Should not have been a surprise to anyone, and it really wasn't. It was just not that clear to the people who had the ability, power, and influence to counter it.
2. Know other nations’ history: If a nation has a history of expansionism and making large sneak attacks against the main bases of nations who were in their way - then you need to be ready for that. Pearl Harbor was from Chapter 1 of the IJN's playbook. They played perfectly to type.
3. Know their psychology: It isn't what you would think or do if you were in their shoes; it is what they will think they need to do - and what they can get away with given their, not your, priorities, predilections, and strategic vision. That leads right in to ....
4. What image and message are you sending out: No aggressive use of military forces is done in a complete vacuum. An aggressive power is drawn to weakness, especially relative a weakness in national leadership. They don't just look at numbers, but to psychology. To avoid conflict, you must put out a clear signal that you are more than willing to engage in any challenge, and win it. Not just words either, you must have the capability. Likewise, you don't just need the capability; you need the political leadership and martial ethos to use the men and material you have.
5. Don't plan for one Red COA: Just one example: if you plan for what you see as the most likely Red Course of Action, sabotage, don't park your planes so close together that it enables most dangerous Red COA's success, attack from the air.
6. Your cultural norms will always be used against you: Just like George Washington knew that he would have an edge if he attacked Hessians on Christmas morning - the Japanese knew they would have an edge attacking on a Sunday morning.
I find myself using this quote a lot this year, but it is a great one for those who fall easily in to the soft cushions of safety and freedom that the West supplies its citizens. People resting on the cushions other paid for in blood, sweat and toil don't often appreciate that the rest of the world does not have such cushions. They do not have that safety - they don't have that freedom. Their world is one that is defined by power and its use.
“You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”With the above, what are the one-liners for the day after?
― Leon Trotsky
Russia: If there is a nation on its border that is not a vassal state, you are going to have problems there. She is insecure and paranoid, and assumes all other nations are as insecure and paranoid as she is. Russia is not a Western nation, it is not an Asian nation – she is Russia. To try to understand her in any other way is to invite trouble.
China: She is building cyber, anti-satellite and anti-ship ballistic missiles for a reason. She has a huge chip on her shoulder and a long payback list.
Radical Islam: They will continue to expand and grow until they are killed. You cannot negotiate, mitigate or contain it. It must simply be killed. Its Strategic Center of Gravity is the more radical parts of the Koran, and that cannot be attacked from outside Islam – only inside Islam. This is now, as we see every few hundred years, a religious war internal and external to Islam that has some aspects of economic and territorial desires in it - but at its core it is a war one faction’s love of Allah to all others, red in tooth can claw. No one alive today will see the end in their lifetime of this iteration of an aggressive phase of this troublesome religion.