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Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II

Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II

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Author: Bess, Michael

Brand: Vintage

Color: White

Edition: Illustrated

Format: Illustrated

Number Of Pages: 395

Release Date: 11-03-2008

Details: Product Description World War II was the quintessential “good war.” It was not, however, a conflict free of moral ambiguity, painful dilemmas, and unavoidable compromises. Was the bombing of civilian populations in Germany and Japan justified? Were the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials legally scrupulous? What is the legacy bequeathed to the world by Hiroshima? With wisdom and clarity, Michael Bess brings a fresh eye to these difficult questions and others, arguing eloquently against the binaries of honor and dishonor, pride and shame, and points instead toward a nuanced reckoning with one of the most pivotal conflicts in human history. Review “Wise, judicious, eloquent.” —Geoffrey Ward“A stunning and brilliantly written case for using history as a filter to examine the great traumas of our more recent past, adding a moral compass to see the true roots of war and violence in our time.” — Rocky Mountain News“Meticulous, unsparing, and a brilliant case study in the complexity -but also the necessity--of coming to moral judgments even in a time of “total war.” —Sanford Lakoff, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of California, San Diego“A tough-minded, courageous, ultimately optimistic book, sure to spark debate among readers interested in the history of warfare and the future of our planet.” — The Tennessean About the Author Michael Bess is professor of history at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of The Light Green Society: Ecology and Technological Modernity in France, 1960-2000, and Realism, Utopia, and the Mushroom Cloud: Four Activist Intellectuals and Their Strategies for Peace, 1945-1989. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. Chapter One A WIDE WORLD OF RACISMS It’s a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown man. —Austin Anson, California Grower-Shipper Vegetable Association, 1942 World War II was not a race war, but it was—to an extent that is often overlooked—a conflict in which race played a central role, from start to finish and in every theater of combat. To speak of a “race war,” in the conventional sense, is to imply a military struggle for supremacy between two groups who perceive themselves as being racially distinct. The Second World War was far too complex to be contained within such a clear-cut rubric: this conflict was just as much about territorial expansion, economic resources, and global hegemony as it was about racial purity; it ended up pitting Asians against other Asians, and led Germany into a mortal struggle with Great Britain—a nation categorized by the Nazis as falling clearly within the Aryan fold. Nevertheless, if we conduct a careful survey of this global conflict, bearing the concept of race in mind, we may be astonished at the result. It is hard to find many significant aspects of this war in which racial distinctions did not play an important role. Racial ideas shaped both German and Japanese war aims, and helped spur these two peoples to take the aggressive actions that precipitated military hostilities. Racial prejudices on the Allied side led to a gross underestimation of Japanese capabilities in 1941—a misperception for which Britain and the United States paid dearly in December 1941 and the early months of 1942. Racial distinctions permeated the American war economy and the American military; they also led to one of the greatest breaches of constitutional governance in the nation’s history, the forced internment of a racially demarcated subset of American citizens. Racial hatreds animated soldiers on both sides in the Pacific War, leading to unprecedented levels of brutality in the conduct of combat and the treatment of prisoners. And racism, of course, lay at the heart of the Nazi genocide that has marked World War II as a chapter of unique horror in human history. This chapter explores some of the manifold ways in which racial thinking shaped the Second World War; it is an exploration that

EAN: 9780307275806

Languages: English

Binding: Paperback

Item Condition: UsedLikeNew