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Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq Hardcover – September 7, 2010
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The book, Cultures of War, juxtaposes Pearl Harbor with 9-11 to amazing effect. Here we get the impression that nothing is new under the sun. We see political leaders playing the same set of cards, populations falling in line as hoped, empires growing and waning - and tragedy. Nothing changes because human nature doesn't change.
For example, the leaders of imperial Japan that launched a surprise attack against the U.S. at Pearl Harbor believed they would emerge at the head of the largest unified territory in the history of the world. They planned an East Asia Cooperative Body that would include much of the Middle East, Australia, India and some of the Soviet Union, with the Yamato race occupying the seat of authority. This type of grand thinking is compared to that of former Vice President Cheney. In an interview with BBC in November 2001, Cheney spoke of targeting "as many as 40 to 50" nations for a range of actions including military force for harboring enemy terrorist cells. In their times, this all seemed somewhat plausible.
Dower explains the tendency toward groupthink that nurses risky military policy.Read more ›
For example, in the run up to World War II, racism played a significant factor in dismissing the clear indication that Japan's leaders "were clearly poised for war" (page 15). The same was true with the fatwa declaring holy war against "the Judeo-Christian alliance" issued by Osama bin Laden and other Islamist militants nearly eight years before the events of 9/11/01. Rather than take them seriously, U.S.Read more ›
Dr. Dower's book seems to hit a nerve among some readers. This is because it destroys the myth of moral superiority that some harbor when atrocities are committed by their side, as opposed to when this is done by the other side. It is high time that such a myth be destroyed.
Historically, the mixture of national hubris, militarism and religion have proven to be toxic. In the Twentieth Century, imperial Germany and imperial Japan provided illustrations of that social disease. I don't say that imperial America has reached such a state. However, nobody can deny that there is a trend here. Aggressors always think that their justified war would be both short and victorious! The Bush-Cheney war of aggression against Iraq, begun on March 20, 2003, still fits the pattern, more than seven years later.
For half a century now, Hollywood, and now cable TV, has promoted the delusional idea of American exceptionalism, professing that the United States is "the Greatest Country" in the world, with the more or less clear implication that other countries are less worthy. In due time, this is bound to have a profound effect on the collective cultural psyche.
As for militarism, President Dwight Eisenhower, a military man himself, decried in his 1961 Farewell Address the rise of the military-industrial complex in the United States. Half a century later, nobody can say that the situation has improved. If something, it has degraded. And as to religion, poll after poll indicate that the U.S. is, with Turkey, the most structurally religious democracy in the world.
There you have it.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
“Cultures of War” is thought-provoking but several items needed work.
I'll never win a Pulitzer by prattling “group-think is no cure for group-think. Read more
Interesting deconstruction of the Bush era propaganda which used WW2 language for marketing ( includes justifications on religious, "moral", historical rationals ) of the... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Terence A. Dodge
The author presents a most intellectually stimulating argument concerning nations that have developed a real culture for war. Read morePublished 23 months ago by richard e whitelock
Dower is the most knowledgeable and insightful of experts on Japan in WWII. "Embracing Defeat" is another of his works I highly recommendPublished on December 26, 2013 by B. K. Marshall
Award-winning historian, John W. Dower offers the best explanation of why humans resort to slaughter instead of reason. Read morePublished on October 15, 2013 by DUSA
John Dower has made significant contributions to our understanding of the War in the Pacific and the cultural context in which it ocurred. Read morePublished on January 20, 2013 by William M. Hess
the writing is excellent, scholarly yet clear; the book makes strong connections among different events; very thorough analysis and development of his argumentPublished on January 8, 2013 by larry abbott
A great historian, according to my understanding, is one who examines ALL primary sources for the topic, understands ALL of them, and then forms conclusions based on ALL of them. Read morePublished on August 16, 2012 by Flamecooler