Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I'll leave it to historians to dig into the context and outcome of that infamous event. Instead, I find myself wondering what would happen if the United States experienced something similar today.
Of course, there is not a war raging all over Europe. But the world remains a dangerous place. As I write, the Biden administration is working furiously to stop what appears to be yet another attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine. Tensions are rising with China and - due to Trump's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement, that country is justifiably playing hardball with negotiations that are attempting to stop them from developing nuclear weapons.
I'm not comparing any of those challenges to World War II as it was raging in 1941. But were any of them to escalate into a much more serious situation, it is already clear how Republicans would respond. Instead of rallying the country around a unified response, they would blame President Biden and deepen the political divide.
In many corners of right wing media, the set-up is already underway. As an example, the editorial board of the New York Post proclaims that: "The world is becoming more dangerous under Joe Biden." They mention the three areas of tension I noted above, making them all Biden's fault rather than holding the leaders of Russia, China, and Iran accountable.
What’s prompting such international boldness? Well, it might be no coincidence that it comes after Biden’s botched bugout from Afghanistan was broadly seen as a sign of gross incompetence and weakness. And his handling of other matters, too, domestically and internationally, has backfired (think: inflation, the southern border) so spectacularly that our enemies may see him as vulnerable.
There was a time when Republican presidents focused on our foreign adversaries as "evil." Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as the "evil empire" to keep the Cold War inflamed and Bush, Jr. talked about Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as the "axis of evil" in order to justify his global war on terror. But these days, Republicans are intent on identifying Democrats as the real threat.
If you have any doubt that Republicans would politicize a global threat and blame Biden, I would merely point you to how they've handled the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of helping to rally the country to stop the spread of Covid - which has now resulted in more deaths than the number of Americans killed in WWII - they have politicized every preventative measure, while blaming Biden for failing to end the pandemic.
An event like the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the 9/11 attacks would not result in the kind of patriotic unity we've seen in the past. Instead of rallying around a president to tackle the threat, we'd see nothing but blame and recriminations from the right. I suspect that leaders like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are intelligent enough to know that. So if they are picking up a sign that the U.S. is vulnerable, that is more likely the source.