Find your next favorite audiobook

Become a member today and listen free for 30 days
Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq

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

Written by John W. Dower

Narrated by Kevin Foley


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

Written by John W. Dower

Narrated by Kevin Foley

ratings:
3.5/5 (7 ratings)
Length:
17 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 22, 2010
ISBN:
9781400189588
Format:
Audiobook

Description

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.
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 22, 2010
ISBN:
9781400189588
Format:
Audiobook

About the author


Related to Cultures of War

Related Audiobooks
Related Articles

Reviews

What people think about Cultures of War

3.7
7 ratings / 5 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    This account seems fair to me. Of course, anyone who thinks that Operation Iraqi Freedom was an unqualified success and a wholly noble enterprise, both justifiable and necessary, well... they will doubtless be hard-pressed to finish the first chapter. John Dower takes the arguments of the Iraq War boosters seriously; specifically, that the 9-11 attacks were neatly comparable to Pearl Harbor and that reconstruction of a conquered Iraq would mirror the long-term success found in post-war Japan. Along the way he analyzes the evolution of weapons of mass destruction, the world-wide threat of nuclear attack, and the tacit acceptance of civilian (or non-combatant) deaths by both military bureaucracies and non-state belligerents.The focus of the book is appropriately narrow, even though there are portions that veer off onto interesting tangents. Overall, this book is an excellent example of how comparative historical analysis - even if that analysis is steeped in subjectivity, humanity, and passion - can bring clarity to our understanding of current events.
  • (2/5)
    While a fascinating and detailed history of the parallels between Pearl Harbor/WW II/Hiroshima and 9-11/Iraq War - the work was far too repetitive. The author made his point and very effectively damned Bush and his "team" for their actions pre and post 9-11. Dower did this early in the book and most of the rest was more of the same.Some very interesting and revealing facts about USA'a decision to use nuclear weapons to end WW II.
  • (5/5)
    John Dower is one of our most respected historians, having won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for his brilliant studies of the war against Japan in World War II. In Cultures of War, he again returns to Japan in WWII, this time to compare the U.S. response to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the war with Japan to the attack of 9/11 on the U.S. and subsequent war against Iraq. Dower argues that the “clash of civilizations” argument to explain both wars is insufficient to understand why they took place, and in any event, is based on a postulate of “an imagined essentialism” about everyone in the cultures in question. It is largely invoked to contrast the alleged rational and enlightened outlook of Westerners with the irrational, nonwhite Eastern foreigner. But as Dower maintains, just as often as the West exhibits “more civilized” behavior, it is apt to exhibit “wishful thinking, delusion, and herd behavior” at top levels of government. For example, he shows how irrational notions characterized both the American attitude toward the Japanese before WWII, and toward the Islamists six decades later. He cites the example of the Admiral of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor explaining why he ignored “war warning” messages just prior to the attack: "I never thought those little yellow sons-of-bitches could pull off such an attack, so far from Japan.” Similarly, in spite of repeated warnings about bin Laden and Al Qaeda from the CIA and the National Security Council, the Bush Administration chose to ignore them. As Michael Scheuer, who headed the CIA’s “bin Laden unit” until 1999 reported: "The elites simply could not fathom that ‘a polyglot bunch of Arabs wearing robes, sporting scraggly beards, and squatting around campfires in Afghan deserts and mountains could pose a mortal threat the United States.’”In other words, the U.S. was surprised both in 1941 and 2001 because of the same “racial arrogance and cultural condescension.”Furthermore, Dower charges, it is absurd to assert that the Japanese in the 1940’s or the Islamists, Muslims and Arabs in current times, do not value human life as much as people do in the West, just because so many civilians died on 9/11. The U.S. can only make this argument by sanitizing our own history. Dower adduces plenty of evidence to show that the Allies deliberately targeted civilians in WWII with fire bombing to “break morale.” He reserves especial disgust for “the ardor” with which the U.S. military reconstructed German and Japanese houses in the U.S. desert beginning in 1943, to test how thoroughly they could be incinerated. And in fact, “somewhere around one million German and Japanese noncombatants were killed in Allied bombing missions between 1943 and 1945.” Moreover, Dower argues convincingly that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic weapons was less about ending the war (and thus saving American lives) as is usually contended, but more about demonstrating our strength to the Soviets: "The decision makers opted [to use] the bomb essentially without warning in a manner that would shock and awe the Russians every bit as much as the Japanese – and, in the process, ideally deter them from their territorial ambitions in eastern Europe while simultaneously undercutting them in Asia.”He even gives evidence of a rush to drop the bombs on Japan prior to their expected surrender, which was considered inevitable as soon as the Soviets entered the war against them. Thus the weapons were shipped out even before they were tested. Japan, according to sociologist Michael Sherry, was “viewed as little more than ‘a vast laboratory in destruction.’”Nevertheless, the U.S. Government felt it necessary to justify the bombs by harking back to the patriotic fervor drummed up after Pearl Harbor, and to the racism against the Japanese that had fueled the fighting against them thereafter.A similar process of racism, mendacity and deception characterized the war on Iraq, Dower avers. He begins with the failure of intelligence, or rather, the Administration’s refusal to acknowledge the intelligence. He then goes into the justification given to the American people and the rest of the world for the Iraq War, reasons which were later shown to have been false.He also writes about the “rebuilding” process in Iraq after the war, and why it has been such a failure compared to the same process in Japan. Some of the most important reasons include that in Japan, McArthur went in with a lot of advanced planning in place, whereas in Iraq, planning was rejected in favor of what Dower calls “faith-based policy making” – i.e., the conviction that a new government would just emerge “somewhat by magic.” Although the U.S. State Department had prepared plans, they were rejected because, in large part, of bureaucratic turf wars between the Departments of Defense and State. Moreover, it was important that, after WWII, while the U.S. guided Japan, they made sure the Japanese themselves were part of the recovery and became self-sufficient. Laws were passed at the urging of the U.S. to provide protection from “international as well as domestic predators.” Iraq has been a different story altogether. Most reconstruction work was given over to the private sector in the U.S. (and funded by citizen tax money): much to the Iraqis’ bitter disappointment, Iraq’s “own skilled workforce was obviously deemed incapable of handling such engineering projects.” The U.S. permitted 100 percent foreign ownership of Iraqi firms and tax-free repatriation of all investment profits. Iraq became “a gold rush”; “a carpetbaggers’ free-for-all”; especially for Republican supporters. Outsourcing the rebuilding to private and largely American contractors resulted in “confusion, cronyism, non-transparency, and corruption that had no counterpart in Japan.”Like other policies imposed upon Iraq, these only served to create more resentment, and recruiting material for Arab terrorists.In sum, Dower accuses the U.S., particularly during the Bush years, of “racial arrogance and cultural blindness,” “historical cherry-picking” for propaganda purposes, “irrationality and groupthink” and “strategic imbecility.” But this is all part, he argues, of what he identifies as the concept of war culture. This meticulous scholar backs up his accusations with irrefutable facts from an enormous amount of documentation. Evaluation: Dower is a first-rate historian who expresses a great deal of frustration over what he considers to have been ill-conceived strategies of the U.S. in responding to the 9/11 attacks; abuses of international law; and perversion of the historical record. This book is extremely illuminating for anyone seeking to understand what happened immediately preceding and after 9/11. It is neither dry nor dispassionate, and while some might maintain that Dower has a political agenda, I would identify his bias to be more one of anger over the taking of lives in service of a "war culture" no matter which side perpetrates these acts.Note: Quite a few photos are included in the book, which was a 2010 National Book Award Finalist.
  • (2/5)
    While a fascinating and detailed history of the parallels between Pearl Harbor/WW II/Hiroshima and 9-11/Iraq War - the work was far too repetitive. The author made his point and very effectively damned Bush and his "team" for their actions pre and post 9-11. Dower did this early in the book and most of the rest was more of the same.Some very interesting and revealing facts about USA'a decision to use nuclear weapons to end WW II.
  • (5/5)
    Fascinating and passionate comparative study drawing many contrasts and parallels, for example the immediate and uncritical adoption of “Ground Zero” for the WTC site that built on the US history of not thinking too hard about who’d been killed in Japan and erasing the Allies’ own history of “terror bombing.” Pearl Harbor was a tactical success for Japan but a strategic disaster, and many observers blamed Japanese culture for that catastrophic decision, but the US made similar decisions to choose war in Iraq; etc. Ethnocentrism emerges as as both denigration of the other as irrational and weak and ignorance of one’s own weaknesses: “they” won’t react like “we” will (which is why they’ll accept humiliation and learn their place, as both the Japanese and the Americans expected about their respective choices). He’s particularly brutal about the use of Japan’s postwar reconstruction as a model for Iraq, given that it proceeded completely differently, not least with a plan in place early on that involved substantial government guidance of the economy, as opposed to outsourcing reconstruction to US contractors who saw Iraq as a profit center along with a free-market ideology readily perceived by the rest of the world as its own form of looting.