Thomas Sowell

 Michelle Malkin's book begins with the essential task of trying to re-create for today's generation of Americans the circumstances and dangers faced by the United States in early 1942, when the relocation of Japanese Americans began.

 The term "relocation" is more accurate than the term "internment" that has become more popular. Japanese American citizens in the west coast military zone could move anywhere else without going into internment camps, and thousands did.

 Relocation was the policy but internment became the reality for most, because at that time many were still citizens of Japan and thus enemy aliens in wartime. Internment on the mainland was an alternative to putting the whole west coast population -- of whatever race or citizenship -- under martial law, as happened in Hawaii.

 The times were grim and the choices stark, even if later second-guessers would grandly dismiss as "hysteria" the weighty concerns of that time. Japan launched many stunning attacks in the wake of its bombing of Pearl Harbor, including the sinking of American ships off the California coast and the shelling of that coast itself. No one knew where Japan would strike next.

"In Defense of Internment" is a carefully researched and carefully analyzed history but it is also a warning for our own times. Too many American lives are at risk today from people already inside this country to be paralyzed by the politically correct rhetoric of those who decry "racial profiling."

 "It is entirely appropriate to take into account nationality when deciding which foreigners present the highest risks," Michelle Malkin says. Agree or disagree with her book, it makes us think -- and political correctness is no substitute for thought.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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