Japanese aircraft attacked military targets in Hawaii in a surprise attack, sinking a number of battleships and disabling the airfields used for air defense purposes, not that there were sufficient front-line fighter aircraft around Oahu to put up much of a fight. Within four years, over forty aircraft carriers had been built, 16 million Americans put into arms, over 200,000 aircraft and 120,000 tanks built, the atomic bomb developed and used, and every major city of Japan was rubble, some of it glowing radioactively, and Japan and Germany (which had declared war shortly after Japan's attack) were both ruins and occupied by U.S. sodiers (Japan) and U.S., British, and Soviet soldiers (Germany).
On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by Osama bin Laden. Seven years and two failed wars later, Osama is still alive, and the U.S. military is in tatters, with barely enough combat-ready equipment for 150,000 soldiers. This is the legacy that George W. Bush leaves us. I think a lot of people could have forgiven him for invading Iraq and Afghanistan if he'd actually won -- if the countries had been occupied by millions of American soldiers, and rebuilt from scratch as modern democracies. But that would have required sacrifice on the part of Americans, and Georgie thought that Americans were too spoiled and soft to be willing to pay the price for victory, misunderestimating his own weakness for a weakness in America. And perhaps that's for the good, because if he had indeed gone into the empire-building business big-time, the end of the American Republic would have been just around the corner. Instead he tried empire-building on the cheap, it didn't work, and as a result the Republic still has a few years left.
Still, it makes you wonder about the difference between America in 1941, and America in 2001. They might occupy the same geographic territory, but clearly these are different countries with little but geography in common. I'm not sure yet whether this is a good thing or a bad thing for the world. I guess we're cursed to live in interesting times, eh?
-- Badtux the History Penguin