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

Overview

Over recent decades, John W. Dower, one of America's preeminent historians, has addressed the roots and consequences of war from multiple perspectives. In War Without Mercy, 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. Embracing Defeat, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, dealt with Japan's struggle to start over in a shattered land in the immediate ...

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

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Overview

Over recent decades, John W. Dower, one of America's preeminent historians, has addressed the roots and consequences of war from multiple perspectives. In War Without Mercy, 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. Embracing Defeat, winner of 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, Cultures of War 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.

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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.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher
"An unrelenting, incisive, masterly comparative study." —-Kirkus Starred Review
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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400119585
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/30/2010
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged 14 CDs, 17 hrs
  • Product dimensions: 6.96 (w) x 11.28 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author


John W. Dower is the author of a number of books, including Embracing Defeat, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and War Without Mercy. He is a professor emeritus of history at MIT and lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Kevin Foley has over thirty years' experience in radio and television broadcasting, commercial voice-overs, and audiobook narration. He has recorded over 150 audiobooks, including Storm Rising by Gary Naiman, 100 Ways to Bring Out Your Best by Roger Fritz, The Last Witness by Joel Goldman, and River Thunder by Gary McCarthy, for which he earned a Spur Award for Best Audiobook from the Western Writers of America. He has also won an Earphones Award from AudioFile magazine for his narration of Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky.
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 8, 2010

    Should be titled: "How to Ruin a Reputation in One Book"

    John W. Dower has the credentials: two award winning books and professorship at MIT. Unfortunately, he allows his hatred for the two Bush administrations to cloud his judgment and wrote a despicable book which should not be classified as history but as political philosophy. Fundamental to understand his complete collapse as a historian is to read the completely erroneous information he cites when describing the raid at Pearl Harbor. Authors such as Gordon Prange have been refuted over the years as access to more information became available. Books like EMPIRES IN THE BALANCE, KAIGUN, A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO WAR and A BATTLE HISTORY OF THE IMPERIAL JAPANESE NAVY refute many of the observations people accept as "fact". Some of Dower's glaring errors include: (1) The Imperial Japanese Navy did not plan the raid; it was the brain child of the Combined Fleet. And the assault on the Southern Resource Area was not contingent upon the success of the raid. The first planned shots by the Imperial Japanese Navy did not occur at Ford Island in Pearl Harbor; about the time the USS WARD was engaging the IJN minisub trying to enter Pearl Harbor, IJN warships were shelling British defenses on Kota Bharu. (2) The two carriers currently operating out of Pearl Harbor were not "conveniently" out of port on exercises the morning of 7 December 1941; Admiral Kimmel was using them to resupply and refit Wake and Midway Islands, both of which were attacked within 24 hours of the raid at Pearl Harbor. (3) For years, the IJA and IJN competed for dollars, as all services do. The IJA recommended going north, a land problem; the IJN recommended going south, a naval problem. But the IJA would be devastated at Nomohan by Zhukov and suddenly the IJA supported the IJN's policy. These are but a few of the glaring errors of John Dower's book. One would think such a renowned Pacific War historian would know about these. His attacks on the Bush administrations are equally flawed. He spends time associating the post-DESERT STORM sanctions with Bush 41 while highlighting the devastation DESERT STORM brought to the dual-use infrastructure. Missing from his commentary is the eight-year period when President Clinton maintain, even strengthened the sanctions. Additionally, he never discusses the deaths as a result of the destruction of dual-use infrastructure during Operation DESERT FOX, one of the largest air campaigns in history. If it were possible, I would seek a refund for the purchase price of this book.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 15, 2011

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