Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq

Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq

by John W. Dower

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian returns with a groundbreaking comparative study of the dynamics and pathologies of war in modern times.See more details below


The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian returns with a groundbreaking comparative study of the dynamics and pathologies of war in modern times.

Editorial Reviews

Gerard De Groot
It's not an easy book, but it is consistently perceptive. Dower examines Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Sept. 11 and the second Iraq War, drawing disconcerting linkages.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

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.
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From the Publisher
"An unrelenting, incisive, masterly comparative study." —Kirkus Starred Review
Anna Mundow - Boston Globe
“Dower exposes the dubious nature of any nation’s or movement’s claim to moral purity or clear conscience in an era when 'modern war remains largely wholesale killing.'”
Washington Post
“Consistently perceptive.”
Michael Sherry - American Scholar
“A whopper of a book in both length and intellectual substance. . . . The chapters on the U.S. incendiary and atomic bombing of Japan and the start of the nuclear arms race could stand alone as the wisest current treatment of that vexed history.”
National Book Award citation
“Cultures of War distills a lifetime of reflection and scholarship, persuasively connecting aspects of the 'War of Terror' to Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima, the better to illuminate the kind of wishful thinking—regardless of cultural difference—that is characteristic of modern warfare.”
Seymour M. Hersch
“Dower has found much new and revelatory to tell us about the inanities and horrors of the Bush/Cheney years, and this book goes much deeper-and raises devastating questions about the history we think we know.”
Gar Alperovitz
“A profoundly sobering reflection on war and the many cultures of self-delusion that we, like all other mortal nations, continue to ignore at ever deepening peril.”
Library Journal
Wars often happen because decision makers make bad decisions. But we elect smart people to make reasoned decisions. Dower (history, emeritus, MIT; Embracing Defeat), a winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, among other honors, examines four cases in which he asserts that a combination of blindness, arrogance, strategic imbecility, and institutional failures of intelligence led to massively bad results. A great deal of his discussion deals with the—in his view—disastrous George W. Bush presidency and its obstinate refusal to replace preconceptions and posturing with fact. Much of his argument involves the psychological and institutional similarities between the Japanese decision for war with America and the equally misguided American attack on Iraq. Wherever destruction is possible, someone will justify it on the grounds of reason and morality in the name of God; is there a way to avoid that trap? VERDICT This dense, well-documented historical survey sometimes descends into anti-Bush diatribe but casts a different light on the decision to use the bomb on Japan and to use shock and awe on Iraq. Best for dispassionate students of 20th-century war history who are open to iconoclastic opinion; with extensive notes.—Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS

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Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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From the Publisher
"An unrelenting, incisive, masterly comparative study." —-Kirkus Starred Review

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