Anyone watching world events in November of 1941 knew that an attack by Japan on the US was a matter of days or weeks, possibly a month at the most. Anyone familiar with the fleet exercises off Panama in the early 1930s and the British attack at Taranto could have predicted a spoiler attack by the Japanese at Pearl. None of this came as a big surprise to Roosevelt or our joint chiefs.
To the average American, the surprise was devastating. Japan, a land they knew as an exporter of tin toys and wooden dolls, and considered to be comically inferior to Americans, had not only attacked us, but won. Why, if the Japanese could attack us, why not the Cubans or Java Islanders? Suddenly, it appeared that any insignificant-appearing country could in actuality be a ravaging military dictatorship seeking to rule the world.
This fog of paranoia proved so useful to the military-industrial complex that billions have been spent in the years that followed to propagate the tale. Like a cargo cult waiting for the silver bird to return, America waited for the next Pearl Harbor- and it came!
Imagine the feelings of relief and joy at the sight of the two towers falling! For nearly a decade our feelings of fear had been eroded by the collapse of our only "real" enemy, but now we had new proof we should be afraid! America had once again been anointed in the blood of the innocent victim and marveled anew at how such events could so totally come out of nowhere. Now young people as well as old could tell their stories of where they were on that awful day when we were so viciously attacked.
Uh, well, maybe not to the point of raising taxes to pay for a war on our enemy. There are limits.