Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq
John W. Dower
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Finalist for the 2010 National Book Award in Nonfiction and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize: “A thought-provoking . . . book about the way events echo―and mis-echo―down the corridors of history.”―Financial Times
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 (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. Embracing Defeat (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, 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. 122 black-and-white illustrations
giving the name, age, hometown, and even street address of each crew member—an almost perfectly individualized and asymmetric counterpoint to the anonymous Japanese who were about to be obliterated miles below. Although photographs and replicas as well as its “Fat Man” nickname reveal how squat and ungainly the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki was (seven feet eight inches in length and five feet in diameter, more than twice as wide as the “Little Boy” uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima),
“brothers in Pakistan” with the declaration that “those who believe in God and his messengers are the truthful ones who will bear witness before their Lord: they will have their reward and their light.” This message ended with a quote from the Qur’an to the effect that “if God helps you, no one can overcome you; if He forsakes you, who else can help you?” Early the next month, still before taking responsibility for the attacks, bin Laden released a statement that again formulaically began and
suggested that a more appropriate revision would have been “Operation Infinite Injustice,” while an Iranian newspaper proposed “Operation Infinite Imperialism”; BBC News (news.bbc.co.uk), September 25, 2001. 89. Lawrence Wright offers a fascinating appraisal of Fadl’s subsequent recantation of the violent doctrinal writings on jihad he originally produced for Al Qaeda; “The Rebellion Within,” New Yorker, June 2, 2008. For “no act of ours,” see the president’s address to the National Endowment
strategy); also Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire, 286. A little more than a month after September 11, Vice President Cheney told the BBC that there might be “as many as 40 or 50” nations harboring Al Qaeda cells that could be targeted for a range of actions ranging from financial to diplomatic to military; Guardian International, November 17, 2001. 160. Wohlstetter, Pearl Harbor, 341–43, on Japan’s opening strikes. Although rapid U.S. advances in military technology put the Japanese to shame as
was the high point of innovation. Even before his death in 1943, the Imperial Navy fell back on the dream of a “decisive battle” conducted by battleships and failed to throw off “old, obsolete concepts from the days of Nelson and the Russo-Japanese War”; see former vice admiral Toshiyuki Yokoi’s stinging “Thoughts on Japan’s Naval Defeat” in David C. Evans, ed., The Japanese Navy in World War II: In the Words of Former Japanese Naval Officers, 2nd edition (Naval Institute Press, 1986), 499–515.