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First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialists and the trade unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
– Pastor Martin Niemoeller.

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Sleeping Giants and Twin Towers - Tuesday, September 06, 2011 at 22:03


The tenth anniversary of 9/11 is upon us. Rather than ruminating on pious platitudes or reporting the trite remarks of gaseous politicians, I thought it might be appropriate to update some prior columns that attempt to shed light on the subject. This is this fourth. It was first posted on NewsMax Sept. 14, 2001.

Sleeping Giants and Twin Towers

David C. Stolinsky
Sept. 7, 2011

The film “Tora Tora Tora” is an earlier version of “Pearl Harbor.” In it, Japanese Admiral Yamamoto is informed that the sneak attack he planned had succeeded brilliantly. But unlike his staff, who were elated, the admiral remained solemn and predicted, “We have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.”

Whether Yamamoto actually said this is questionable, but he might have – he had lived in America and knew us well. But even if he never made the statement, it was a correct one, as Japan discovered less than four years later. The admiral did not survive to learn the accuracy of his prediction, however. He died when we shot down his plane.

Dictators and fanatics have a bad habit of underestimating republics, and especially America:

● They are used to enforced conformity, so they see our diversity as dissention. They cannot fathom that a nation can be diverse in ethnic origin, political outlook, and religion or lack of it, and yet be united by fundamental beliefs.

● They are fanatics, so they see our lack of fanaticism as lack of conviction. They cannot fathom that someone can hold deep beliefs, yet not scream them obtrusively, or cram them down others’ throats at gunpoint.

● They live under absolute rulers, so they see varying opinions and political parties as sure signs of weakness. They cannot fathom that when people participate in their own government, they feel they are part of it and give their loyalty freely, rather than through coercion.

● They are used to the leader controlling everything, so they see people speaking out as mutiny. They cannot fathom that multiple ideas allow choice of the best one.

● They are accustomed to using force and having it used on them, so they see those who hesitate to use force as weak and indecisive. They cannot fathom that someone may hesitate to use force not because he doesn’t understand force, but because he does.

● They are single-minded, so they see people with multiple interests as uncommitted and irresolute. They cannot fathom that when one is motivated by family, by work, by politics, and by religion, he is stronger than if he had only one of these as motivation.

● They are narcissistic, so they see anyone unlike themselves as inferior. They cannot fathom that strength, intelligence, and commitment come in many forms.

● They are fundamentally unhappy, so they see anyone who is happy as shallow and unrealistic. They cannot fathom that someone who is optimistic is often more motivated and stronger than one who sees life as a miserable state to be left at the first opportunity.

● They are chronically angry, so they see anyone who is not as lacking in seriousness. They cannot fathom that one who becomes angry only when attacked is better able to focus the anger into useful action.

● They equate goodness with whatever they do, so they see anything anyone else does as evil. They cannot fathom that someone who has external standards of right and wrong is in a much better position to convince others of the justice of his cause.

● They study only their own propaganda, so they assume that whatever others say is worthless. They cannot fathom that one who learns from different sources is better informed, and therefore stronger.

● They are motivated by hate, so they see those who are not good haters as ineffectual. They cannot fathom that love is an even stronger motivation, or that one need not hate to be filled with righteous indignation.

● They have no regard for the sanctity of human life, so they see those who respect it as cowardly. They cannot fathom that their atrocities disgust everyone but their own followers, or that those who respect the lives of others can still be willing to risk their own lives in a just cause.

● They are brutal, so they mistake humane actions for weakness. They cannot fathom that the humane may still act forcefully enough when the situation requires.

Perhaps most important, fanatics and dictators tend to be obsessed with their own ideology, so they do not learn from history. The Kaiser told his troops to imitate the ferocity of the Huns, but as he discovered at Belleau Wood, Huns are no match for U.S. Marines. Hitler told his troops that they were the “master race,” but as he discovered on the beaches at Normandy, the “master race” was no match for the multiethnic U.S. Army. The Japanese warlords told their troops that Americans were too weak to fight in jungles, but as they discovered on one Pacific island after another, the “weak” Americans were anything but.

Whether or not Yamamoto actually said what was attributed to him, the lesson is worth heeding. No matter how lazy and lethargic they seem, sleeping giants are best left undisturbed. But if you are unwise enough to rouse them, you had better be prepared for the consequences.

Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: