Editorial: Decisions will have consequences

Dec. 05, 2013 @ 05:11 PM

In the varied moments of time, when decisions have to be made, we react with our best judgments and hopefully always with the best of intentions.

It is only in retrospect that the decision can be judged. Hindsight, indeed, has very good sightlines.

What an Australian pilot saw 72 years ago today was convincing. It appeared a Japanese approach, with cruisers and destroyers, was moving toward Thailand. He reported what he saw. He was also soon shot down from the sky.

On the U.S. mainland that day, Franklin Roosevelt sent a message to Emperor Hirohito before retiring for the evening. He pleaded, “for the sake of humanity,” for the emperor to “prevent further death and destruction in the world” by not attacking Thailand.

Roosevelt had a 10-point plan for peace, and an end to America’s economic sanctions that had roiled the Japanese. They were imposed because of Japan’s threat to China.

We’re unsure of what the Aussie pilot may have added to his report. When FDR’s plan was rejected, he said it meant war, but not one started by the U.S.

The approach toward Thailand, we now know, was a bluff. Pearl Harbor was bombed the next morning. We were in the war we tried to avoid.

We also have no way to know what impact Jeannette Rankin might have had in our lives had those events moved differently. She was in the House of Representatives twice, each time for just two years. She has the distinction of being the only person to vote against both World War I and World War II.

In 1941, she was the only one against it.

Her political career suffered. But she was far from defeated. Her life was full of advocacy, for civil rights, pacifists and feminists. A foundation bearing her name has helped educate hundreds of women with millions of dollars.

Her statue is in our nation’s capitol, and a replica in her native Montana’s capitol.

Time doesn’t stop. For each of us today, we’ll have a chance for decisions and actions. Hindsight will judge us.

We don’t have to earn our place with a statue, but our best intentions should be clear. And perhaps history will also be kind.