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Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraqby John W Dower
Synopses & Reviews
Over recent decades, John W. Dower, one of America's preeminent historians, has addressed the roots and consequences of war from multiple perspectives. In (1986), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, he described and analyzed the brutality that attended World War II in the Pacific, as seen from both the Japanese and the American sides. (1999), winner of numerous honors including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, dealt with Japan's struggle to start over in a shattered land in the immediate aftermath of the Pacific War, when the defeated country was occupied by the U.S.-led Allied powers. Turning to an even larger canvas, Dower now examines the cultures of war revealed by four powerful events--Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, and the invasion of Iraq in the name of a war on terror. The list of issues examined and themes explored is wide-ranging: failures of intelligence and imagination, wars of choice and "strategic imbecilities," faith-based secular thinking as well as more overtly holy wars, the targeting of noncombatants, and the almost irresistible logic--and allure--of mass destruction. Dower's new work also sets the U.S. occupations of Japan and Iraq side by side in strikingly original ways. One of the most important books of this decade, offers comparative insights into individual and institutional behavior and pathologies that transcend "cultures" in the more traditional sense, and that ultimately go beyond war-making alone.
"In this fascinating study, a finalist for the 2010 National Book Award, Pulitzer prize-wining historian Dower (Embracing Defeat) draws parallels between the illusion-ridden Japanese top leadership prior to December 7, 1941 and the fecklessness and over-confidence of the Bush Administration after September 11, 2001. The author compares the post-war occupations as well, stating that 'Wishful thinking trumped rational analysis in Tokyo in 1941 and Washington in the run-up to war with Iraq.' Exploring 'the similar rationales and rhetoric of Japan's war of choice in 1941 and America's invasion of Iraq in 2003,' he looks at the way in which emotion-laden terms like 'Pearl Harbor' and 'ground zero' have been co-opted for the War against Terror. And similarly mistaken, in Dower's view, were the beliefs of both commands in the efficacy of bombings targeting civilian populations. Equally telling is his comparison between the occupation of Japan (and to a lesser extent, Germany) and the occupation of Iraq. After Japan's surrender, the U.S. military formulated a set of pre-determined goals based upon New Deal principles that laid the groundwork for Japan's extraordinary economic recovery. In Dower's view, the U.S. not only abdicated responsibility for the Iraqi occupation, but ignored the potential of the sectarian divisions that have erupted there.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Book News Annotation:
Dower (history, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, emeritus) is well known for his books on Japan in World War II and its aftermath there. In this volume, he takes his years of experience as a historian of that war and applies it to the impact of 9/11 and the war in Iraq. Dower's frustration wells up from every page as he chronicles similar beliefs and delusions among both the Japanese high command and the Bush advisers, including the argument that both the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the invasion of Iraq were necessary preemptive strikes. With many substantiated statements on such things as treatment of prisoners on both sides in both wars, Dower makes the point that America belongs to an international "culture of war" and that there are similarities among all participants that shouldn't be ignored. An overarching theme for the book may be that famous quote from Walt Kelly, via Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us." Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Finalist for the 2010 National Book Award in Nonfiction: The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian returns with a groundbreaking comparative study of the dynamics and pathologies of war in modern times.
From the Preface of : "I began researching and writing this study shortly after September 11, 2001, when comparisons between Al Qaeda's surprise attack and Japan's at Pearl Harbor six decades earlier flooded the media in the United States. Japan and World War II in Asia have drawn my attention as a historian for many years, and analogies between the new conflict and the old one were provocative in unanticipated ways--increasingly so, as it turned out, as 9-11 spilled into the U.S.-led war of choice in Iraq, and that war and ensuing occupation in turn led to chaos and great suffering in a supposedly liberated land." Praise for John W. Dower's Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award "One of the handful of truly important books on the Pacific War . . . a cautionary tale for all peoples, now and in the future."--Foreign Affairs "May well be the most important study of the Pacific War ever published."-- Praise for Dower's Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award "Extraordinarily illuminating . . . the most significant work to date on the postwar era in Japan."-- "Magisterial and beautifully written. . . . [A] richly nuanced book. . . . A pleasure to read."--New York Times Book Review "One senses that Dower set out to write the most important Japan book in a generation (and perhaps more). The uplifting news is that he has succeeded. . . . A masterpiece."--
About the Author
John W. Doweris the Elting E. Morison Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for War Without Mercy.
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