On September 1st, 1939, German forces crossed into Poland. Two days later, on September 3rd, England, France, Australia, and New Zealand all declared war against Germany. Two days after that on September 5th, the United States declared its neutrality in the conflict. The U.S. didn’t see why we should get involved in a European matter. After all, it was happening in Europe, not in our own country, so why should we bother or care? For all we could tell, Poland might have provoked the attack.

It wasn’t until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 that the U.S. realized it could no longer maintain a neutral position in the war. After this rude awakening, the U.S. geared up for war and began to slug it out on two separate fronts. It took many years and the force of an entire nation backing the war effort before we celebrated V-E Day and V-J Day.

This history should be familiar to us, not only because we studied World War II in school and we watch it nightly on the History Channel, but because the same thing seems to be happening now–albeit with a twist of locations. And I need to credit Glenn Beck for first pointing out this historical linkage.

In current history, it was the U.S. and not Poland that received a Blitzkrieg attack. While some of our allies–notably England–have rallied to our aid in this war against the terrorists, most of Europe is sitting back and declaring itself neutral in the conflict. It’s almost as if the world is at a pre-December 7th state in the conflict, but this time the positions of Europe and the U.S. are reversed. Will there be an attack equivalent to Pearl Harbor that will engage Europe fully in this war? Or will the parallel break down? I joked with my wife that since there is a slight twist to these events, I couldn’t really say the two time periods are parallel–more like perpendicular events. Eh, so not everyone appreciates math humor.

To round out this historical parallel, one would expect an attack on Europe as devastating and as unsuspected as the 1941 attack in Hawaii. Imagine the horror of an attack by Islamic fanatics in Berlin, causing the death of thousands. Germany has remained neutral in the war on terror, so any attack against Germany would be unwarranted and unexpected. I hope Europe might be spared the horror and tragedy of such an attack, but I also believe that without the impetus of such an attack, Europe will not fully engage with us against our common enemies. And since the terrorists hate the West and Western civilizations, Europe does have a common enemy even if it chooses not to engage them.

If such a vicious and unexpected attack does occur in Europe, I hope it will serve as a wake-up call. So far the majority of Europe has ignored, however uneasily, the March 11 attack in Madrid, the July 7 attack in London, and the weeks of riots in France. (To be honest, England has been our ally since before the London bombings, and France seems to have found its backbone after the riots, as the Prime Minister recently stated France would be willing to use nuclear weapons against anyone who attacked the nation.)

Having watched the brouhaha surrounding the Danish political cartoons about Mohammed, I am somewhat less than confident in Europe’s strength and determination. So far, Europe has not stood by the Western democratic principle of free speech and has buckled under to Islamic pressure to publicly censor the cartoons. No one really cares about insulting Christianity because they know that Christians don’t believe in cutting throats and turning themselves into human bombs to make a point. But Islam does–or to be more accurate, many followers of Islam do.

I am afraid that Europe is going down the road of acquiescing to Islamist threats. I can’t help but picture the Islamic fanatics as international bullies, threatening and carrying out violence if they don’t get their way. When you are confronted by a bully, you have only a few options. You can run away, assuming that you won’t encounter him again, or that you can successfully run from him again if you do. But as the world shrinks with the swiftness and availability of travel, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hide from those who would hurt you. Alternatively, you could surrender to the bully’s threats. You sometimes see this with dogs. The dog who surrenders to the stronger dog will roll over on its back and piddle on itself to show its submission. I’m not all that keen on the idea of politically rolling over and piddling on ourselves to resist Islamist brutality. The last option is to resist the bully. Yes, fighting against the bully may hurt, and the bully may win the first fight, but if you fight again and again and again, every time the bully confronts you, either you will win the fight or the bully will come to realize that it’s not worth fighting you over and over. Bullies are basically cowards at heart, so when someone stands up to them and fights back, they are likely to roll over and piddle themselves.

Before September 1st, 1939, there were several times when Hitler took risks: arming Germany contrary to the Versailles treaty, sending troops into the Rhineland, and annexing the Sudetenland. He later remarked that he would have backed down if any of the European nations had called him to account for these acts. But because no one had the political backbone to hold him accountable, the world had to endure years of bloody fighting against the Nazis. We saw, and ignored, certain attacks made against us: the first bombing of the World Trade Center, the bombing of our embassies in Africa, the attack against the U.S.S. Cole. Because we did not act decisively against these weaker attacks, I can’t help but believe we encouraged the terrorists to strike us in a way we could no longer ignore.

As much as I’d like to see Europe to join with us in the war against the terrorists, I don’t want them to go through a Pearl Harbor-like event of death and destruction. I just despair that without some historic equivalent, Europe won’t stand up against the bully of runaway Islamofascism.

There are moments in your life that stick in your memory forever. My grandfather remembered Pearl Harbor and the twin joys of VE Day and VJ Day. My father remembers the day that Grandpa came back from fighting in the Pacific. He also told me about anxiously listening to the radio during the tense days of the Cuban missile crisis, and learning of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and later his brother, Robert F. Kennedy.

I don’t know if things really are happening faster in my life, or merely that I have lived through these experiences rather than learning about them secondhand. In my lifetime, I remember where I was the moment I heard President Reagan was shot. I watched live footage of the Challenger exploding on CNN, and wept as the Columbia disintegrated on re-entry. I remember the burning at Waco, Texas and the bombing two years later in Oklahoma City. The Berlin Wall coming down was a joy to see, since I had traveled through Checkpoint Charlie only a few years before. The explosion of Mount St. Helens, and the explosive LA riots showed me the level of destruction nature and man can produce. And I remember where I was as I learned about the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001. It has been three years since this tragic day.

Images from that day evoke many emotions for me: anger at those who did this, sadness for those who died, and compassion for those who watched their loved ones die. I originally picked the picture of the second plane flying into the World Trade Center for this post, but I changed my mind. The firemen who raised the flag at Ground Zero are an example of Americans working to make the United States better. To make this happen, those who support, plan, and execute acts of terror need to be hunted down and stopped. President Bush has served notice to the terrorists that their days are numbered, and warned the nations of the world that harboring terrorists will bring down American retribution. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has fallen, Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq is no more, and the U.S. remains free of any major terrorist attack to this day.

Will the U.S. be attacked again? Most certainly. But for three years the terrorists have been kept on the run, hiding in caves to avoid American military might. Three-fourths of al Qaeda’s leadership and structure is gone, either dead or captured. But al Qaeda is not the only terrorist group out there, and the battle to keep America safe and free from those who want us dead will continue for years, if not decades.

It will take determination, and that is the strongest feeling that the images of the September 11th attack evoke in me.


Some other good places to go today:
* Captain Ed writes about his view of today. He sees many of the same life-changing history events.
* Charles of Little Green Footballs writes about September 11th.