Of all the days that will "live in infamy" in American history, two stand out: Sept. 11, 2001, and Dec. 7, 1941.
But why did Japan, with a 10th of our industrial power, launch a sneak attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, an act of state terror that must ignite a war to the death it could not win? Were they insane? No, the Japanese were desperate.
To understand why Japan lashed out, we must go back to World War I. Japan had been our ally. But when she tried to collect her share of the booty at Versailles, she ran into an obdurate Woodrow Wilson.
Wilson rejected Japan's claim to German concessions in Shantung, home of Confucius, which Japan had captured at a price in blood. Tokyo threatened a walkout if denied what she had been promised by the British. "They are not bluffing," warned Wilson, as he capitulated. "We gave them what they should not have."
In 1921, at the Washington Naval Conference, the United States pressured the British to end their 20-year alliance with Japan. By appeasing the Americans, the British enraged and alienated a proud nation that had been a loyal friend.
Japan was now isolated, with Stalin's brooding empire to the north, a rising China to the east and, to the south, Western imperial powers that detested and distrusted her.