Analogies and comparisons between the terrorists' attack on New York and DC and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor sixty years before are easy to make, and I've heard many of them, from both lay people and the news media. I'm not here to dismiss such comparisons outright, because I believe there definitely is some validity and sense to them. For example, both attacks caught the average American completely by surprise, even though our government had ample warning in both cases. However, the ways in which these comparisons are made, and the (il)logic behind them, demonstrates the self-centeredness of the collective American psyche.
First of all, I've heard many people make the comparison to Pearl Harbor, saying that Pearl Harbor was the beginning of World War II, and that the September 11 attack was the beginning of a new war, "The War On Terror". The problem with this idea is that World War II had been going on for years before Pearl Harbor; the whole of Europe had been embroiled in the war, as had tens of millions of people in Asia. World War II just "woke the sleeping giant" of the US, the giant that had been sleeping through the greatest conflict in centuries.