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Sunday, 7 December 2008
Day of Infamy
Topic: Wargaming For Leaders


Today is not only December 7th, but its also a Sunday. If it was 67 years ago, the war would have begun around 1PM EST, so just like others in Washington that fateful day, I woke up, drank some coffee and began reading the morning papers. At that moment the Japanese carriers were NW of Oahu preparing to deliver what they thought would be a killing blow to Americas warfighting capability. I have explored this topic in two commercial wargames (Pacific War and Empire of the Sun, the latter is available for free at: and I continue to study the decision process that brought Japan to attack Pearl Harbor this day 67 years ago.


The reality of war is it is always an uncertain affair and ending a war is much harder than starting one. Since the industrial age all sides pay a high price in war. The Japanese truly believed that they could prevail in a war against the United States and their allies, but their end game thinking was at best heroic in its assumptions and at worse delusional. The lesson is assumptions that are not put to rigorous analysis are often flawed and lead to very poor decisions.


When I think of the Allied alliance in World War II I am struck by how little is written or discussed about the nature of alliances. One  should remember that alliances have traditionally been mechanisms that take small wars and make them big wars, something that our new leadership should take into account as they re-examine our current theory on expanding NATO. Alliances also have more often than not lowered the barrier to war  and reduced security. The reason is it enables less significant alliance members to make emboldened decisions that impact the collective. These two themes have played themselves out since the Peloponnesian War. The lessons of history are pretty clear on these two points.


So on this December 7th, Sunday morning, I would like to remember the suffering of the brave men and women, from all sides who died on this day and those that came after it. May they rest in peace...

Posted by markherman at 10:11 AM EST
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