Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Oh, so that's why history education is so screwed up ...

Want to know what passes for the higher-level history education now days?

Read the whole H-Diplo Roundtable Review, Volume XIII, No. 1 (2011), 1 September 2011 on their review of John Dower's book, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq. The Onion couldn't do it better.

These are the quotes from the best minds from Columbia to MIT. As usual, their prose is a bit opaque - but gut it out for the greater good.
Dower argues that whether ruled by monarchs or “imperial presidents,” such states--and the U.S. most notably--cannot qualify as genuine democracies. ... the rhetoric of empire cannot hide the American rulers’ historical hostility to democracy. They manifested their hatred of democracy for others under the guise of “benevolent assimilation” in the era of McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, when U.S. troops killed “at least two hundred thousand Filipino civilians in the Philippines war” (p. 82), and they do the same in our own time--the era of “benevolent global hegemony,” when our armed forces slaughter even greater numbers of civilians.
...
... it is impossible to explain the behavior of Japan’s top leaders in the 1930s and America’s senior leaders today without taking account of their “failures of imagination,” and “absence of transparency, accountability and plain common sense” (p. xxxii). This is as true for George W. Bush and his small, six-person, inner circle as it was for Japan’s collective decision makers grouped around Emperor Hirohito.
...
“American veneration of force,” self-righteousness, and arrogance are a third group of themes running through Dower’s book.
...
... once in Iraq, over-confidence and arrogance led them to discount the many “red flags” (p. 121) that went up, suggesting that they had not thought through the aftermath of their military intervention and had no exit plan. Irrationality, I would add, was inherent not only in their ideological passions but in every action they took in violation of Kant’s categorical imperative maxim.

... a major failure of imagination, on a par with Japan’s failure to grasp what Pearl Harbor would look like from the American viewpoint or how quickly the enormous war potential of the U.S. could be brought to bear against their forces. Racism on both sides led to denigration of the enemy.

Part Two explores terror bombing and the American change of attitude about the aerial killing of civilians before and after Hiroshima. Its six chapters focus on code words such as “Pearl Harbor”, “ground zero,” “Hiroshima,” and “shock and awe,” and how they came to be used to conceal reality and inhibit reflection on the past.
...
Dower’s larger thesis is that the errors imperial Japan committed, and the pathologies to which its leaders succumbed in the 1930s and early ‘40s, are especially instructive in the present era of U.S.-led aggression, when it is U.S. policy that openly flouts international law and engenders massive atrocity-producing situations by attacking and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq.
...
U.S. attitudes toward Japan reflect a deeply rooted racism whereas Japanese attitudes toward China had a racial basis but were attributable more fundamentally to a fear of instability and Communism, et cetera. At worst, Japan’s misdeeds are equated with those of the Allied powers: “In theory, Japan’s defeat liberated hundreds of millions of Asians who had been invaded, occupied, and oppressed by the emperor’s men. In actuality, it paved the way for wars and occupations that involved the Allied victors themselves – and that hold a murky mirror, in their own way, to the invasion of Iraq and aspects of that later tragedy that are less unique than often claimed”
It gets worse.

If you wonder who such smart people can see the world so wrong - a lot of it has to do with their poor eduction at our "best" institutions.

42 comments:

The Usual Suspect said...

Reads just like a Hate America First primer.  Moral equivalency is overused as a canard against the United States.  The problem with the institutions that produce "thinkers" such as John Dower is that there is no diversity (small d) of thought.  It is a kind of intellectual incest that continues to produce more defective ideas with each iteration.  College campuses are not the real world and it is easy to armchair quarterback from the ivory tower.  There are no bombs, bullets, or bayonets immediately threatening anyone in the ivory tower and with the luxury of time and more information than was available to the commanders in the field, it is easy to second guess their actions.

Dower's account of history has crossed the line to that of an editorial piece, rather than being a scholarly work.

Kristen said...

I was a history major in college and I heard and read plenty of anti-American sentiments.  I used to look around the classroom at the other students and wonder how many of them were really believing all of the stupidity and lies that we were being fed.  Then 9/11 happened and I saw my campus sprout flags and a huge wave of emotional patriotism.

It's sort of analogous to soccer.  For thirty years or so, kids in the suburbs have all been signed up for soccer, and dutifully gone off and kicked the ball around the field, and then forgotten all about soccer and watched the traditional American sports of football and baseball when they grew up.  And somehow, several generations of American students have been earnestly taught that their country is evil, but they've chosen to believe the evidence of their eyes instead.

andrewdb said...

As soon as they start talking about Kant, I tune out.

habap said...

I was dumb-founded that the review gives Japan a pass on the Rape of Nanking and the wholesale slaughter of anyone who was non-Japanese (and therefore sub-human in their mind-sets) and the assertion that more than 200,000 Iraqi civilians were killed by American arms. Many people venerate the modern Japanese without knowing how ruthlessly cruel they were during WWII.

habap said...

The link for the H-Diplo review is http://www.h-net.org/~diplo/ISSF/PDF/ISSF-Roundtable-3-1.pdf

It is a veritable polemic and tiresome to try reading.

steeljawscribe said...

Navel gazers and lint pickers -- there is always a bit of jealousy, I think, on the part of academics who can only write of/about history rather than actually have had some part in the making thereof. 
w/r, SJS 

11B40 said...

Greetings:

I saw a bit, as much as I could handle, of Mr. Dower on the Miller Center TV broadcast a couple of evenings ago. He seemed to be very much in line with Japan's NHK TV broadcasts about the horrors of Japanese-American internment and Hiroshima. You know, that A-bomb thingy didn't seem to be a "failure of imagination" to me. And like my father, who was interned for four years in the Pacific Theater of Operation with the requisite stops at Saipan and Peleliu, the only thing wrong with the A-bombings was we only dropped two.

It never ceases to amaze and annoy me how supposedly intelligent people can be so mired in their hate that they can overlook the millions that the Japanese Empire murdered, mutilated, raped, starved, and tortured over more than a decade.  

WCOG said...

You know, I actually tried to read this book. It's outrageous, but that doesn't even begin to make up for how BORING it is. God almighty, it was like reading the senior thesis of some Yale political science major who thinks she's way more smart and "aware, man" than everyone else. It doesn't matter what you're trying to say if you're going to be so freaking lazy about it. If you want a well-delivered dose of hatred, pick up one of Noam Chomsky's books; he's written like seventy of them by now and they're all mercifully short.

ewok40k said...

One could ask the survivors of the Japanese Nanking conquest how they felt about Hiroshima...
As for the post-war problems, how about millions of Mao's victims, btw? Or the killing fields of Cambodia? Compared to that, both Vietnam wars pale in comparison. There is one thing worse than war, an unopposed totalitarian killing machine. US disengaging after WW2 would produce unified Korea, North style, and God knows how many victims - at the least. How would fare communist Malaysia (uprising put down by Brits in textbook example of succesful COIN), Indonesia etc? There were costly errors along the way, like trying to  support failed South Vietnam or invading Iraq lately, which ends with Iran being more influential there than US. But only he who does nothing commits no errors - technically, because inaction sometimes is gravest of errors...

Kristen said...

Andrew, you went to Cal, right?  I bet it was the same up there after 9/11.

Kristen said...

Aubrey!  Oh my gosh, did you see what the governor of North Carolina said about suspending the elections?  I thought of you the second that I heard it.  She's backtracking as fast as she can, but I can't believe that any American politician would actually say that out loud.

virgil xenophon said...

This sort of lefty mind-set is on display every day at uber lefty academic sites like Crooked Timber and Lawyers, Guns, and Money. An echo chamber of conceited lefties that, over the years have become increasingly intolerant of dissent from the "party-line" (Quelle Surprise!!)and subject to deranged rants in place of what once (say 2008) was fairly reasoned, even if far left, argumentation. Those of us who used to regularly engage in spirited--even tho outnumbered--debate at those places have largely fled the scene as the personal invective has simply gotten to DU/Daily Kos (know your enemy :) ) levels--and *I* pretty much have a hide like an alligator. Argue TOO hard and one gets banned--and I'd prefer to keep visiting privileges just to gather intel. But it's always worth an occasional visit just to gain perspective on what we're up against. Unfortunately one of their ilk--Robert Farley--is now a regular contributor/Fifth Columnist at Information Dissemination.

cdrsalamander said...

Circa 1987 Philosophy Class at UNC-CH; Prof (really a grad student): After telling everyone how great Kant is, he very ramatically starts yelling with arms outstretched, "You should be asking for MORE KANT!  MORE KANT, MORE KANT, MORE KANT."

Much snickering from the undergrads.  Clueless faced grad student instructor, "WHAT?"

Byron said...

There's nothing wrong with this dork snorkler that a swift kick in the ass wouldn't cure...

In the immortal words of Mr. T...


PAIN!!!! LOTS AND LOTS OF PAIN!!!!!

Grumpy Old Ham said...

<span>Yes, but...Kristen, you know that you could walk down Bruin Walk or go into the Kerckhoff Coffee House any day of the week these days and hear the same vitriol that Mr. Dower spews...it's not so much whether or not the average student believes it or not, it's that the "Hate America First" crowd isn't challenged on their nonsense in the echo chambers of "elite academia".  I dimly recall some adage along the lines of "Repeat a big lie often enough, and it becomes the truth."   I guess it worked well enough in 2008 to convince 52% of the people to vote for "Change"...we'll see if your belief in the good judgement of the electorate is vindicated next year.  Frankly, I have my doubts. 
</span>

Aubrey said...

Barry's ex-OMB guy said something similar the other day as well...he said, specifically that "we need less democracy to solve our problems".

Surfcaster said...

People from Nanking, Dachua, Katyn Forest, Halabja, and a bunch of places on Kristallnacht were unavailable for comment.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

So why is everyone so surprised?  This follows precisely POTUS' narrative for his country.  Hence the apology tour to people who hate our guts because we are not Muslim, and who would kill us simply for that reason

The Teachers' Unions are HUGE Democratic campaign contributors, Arne Duncan is a far-left anti-gun and anti-free speech idealogue, it is almost a requirement to be an America-hating liberal to become a college professor today, and Hollywood's contribution to the perception of America abroad since WWII has been entirely negative. 

The excrement taught in secondary and higher education that passes for an accurate representation of events would be laughable if it weren't hammered into students like a North Korean re-education camp.  With just about the same tolerance (there's that word!) for dissenting pro-American views. 

Education, since the Federal Government has horned in on it, has increasingly become indoctrination of America's youth.   The damage will be decades in the making, and centuries in the undoing, if there is anything left to undo.

Adversus Omnes Dissident said...

A note for Kristen:  I was in school in NROTC, Washington DC on 9/11.  The waves of patriotism on behalf of the majority of the students didn't come until it was obvious that the Congress and President weren't going to reinstate the Draft.  once the President told the nation that the only thing they needed to do in order to support the war effort was to go shopping, suddenly the flags came out.  YAAAAY!  Someone else will do my bidding and I can just sit here and cheeeer!  Yaaaaaay!

I make no excuses for people who learn this and don't have the audacity to question their instructors or seek out other opinions.  This drivel is convenient for them.  This drivel, and drivel like it, obsolves them of hardship, affirms that they are owed something if only they believe in liberal bullshit doctrine.  Neigh.  The student who believes this also stands against hard work and the true American values.

11B40 said...

Greetings:

Not much different than all the glad-handers who turned out after Bin Laden bit his dust.  I didn't notice any lines at the recruitment offices then either.

Jing said...

Dower and his ilk are on the right path but walking in the wrong direction. America is a militarized totalitarian empire bent on global revolution and subversion. The Cold War was I think almost singularly responsible for this and in true Nietzschian fashion, America has become the monster she struggled with for so long. However the cause she serves isn't the spectre of rightism as imagined by the deluded left but another form of revolutionary Bolshevism.

America as a nation no longer exists. A nation is fundamentally a people bound by ethnic kinship. Even in America, a nation of immigrants, those were still Western European Christians and the largest group of them all were ethnic Germans. Now America has become a proposition nation, which is no nation at all, bound together only by ideology and military glory. A polyglot multi-ethnic state with soon no one people comprising a majority. No different at all than Persia, Rome, or the Soviet Union.

It's values are subverted by a new leftist Commisariat espousing a doctrine of diversity, democracy, and multiculturalism. It's laws designed to drive it's citizens into a neo-feudal condition. It's media; owned, suppine, and compliant and completely unwilling to challenge the political orthodoxies with the occassional apostates subject to public struggle sessions to rectify their thinking. It's military forces, the largest and most powerful in the history of the world, are constantly in a state of perpetual fear that their total hegemony declines to mere overwhelming hegemony. It's wars of choice, designed to "revolutionize" recalcitrant alien societies into the proper ideological mold that it has cast itself to.

I could go on but really the new Martin Luther King memorial sums up the false ideology of the American Empire rather well. The patron saint of white guilt crafted by the hands of a Maoist. A bolshevik, a plagiarist, a whore monger, beatified materially in marble, spiritually by unrelenting propaganda. Funded by monies extorted from corporate clients and transferred to his parasitic descendants. The only touch missing is an epitaph that reads "Look upon my works ye Whitey and despair!".

Vigilis said...

Going along to get along has never defined the smartest historical researcher.  Why are these a$$es interpreting history in a manner at odds with the bigger picture?  Either they are ungrateful idealists without a clue as to why they can even have a history book published, or they are sell-outs to an education establishment which demands books like theirs to influence the next generation.

Either way, they have squandered an opportunity only America so easily grants, and they have unwittingly memorialized their myopia to boot.

DeltaBravo said...

I shouldn't encourage posts like that by laughing... but that was funny.

Bistro said...

I'm curious now, is a dork snorkler anything like a twatwaffle? ;}

UltimaRatioRegis said...

They musta really snickered when he began to discuss Immanuel's brother Harold.  8-)

cdrsalamander said...

"<span>America as a nation no longer exists. A nation is fundamentally a people bound by ethnic kinship. Even in America, a nation of immigrants, those were still Western European Christians and the largest group of them all were ethnic Germans. </span>"

You really have no idea what you are talking about.  You need to read more of your American history from Jamestown to WWI.

Bistro said...

Not to create a difficulty but I rather enjoyed reading on the beautiful and sublime. when he went into his pure distillation of the european ethno groupings i thought he had it bang on and nobody will ever say otherwise since we don't talk about that sort of thing anymore in polite society. of course, i was nobutt an ensign at the time and riding the rails from DC to Newport.
and Socrates at a fair, 'how many things there are that i do not need.'
It was a stand up kind of ride. the same train 2 hours behind us derailed with considerable loss of life and injuries. I scored a ride to Newport from a most anxious family that drove over to see if their daughter was safe and after dropping her at her university URI gave me a lift back to my house in Newport.

Adversus Omnes Dissident said...

Jing, you are knocking on a lot of interesting doors, however you are unable to cross the threshold on any of them.  Less spew, more development.

Start with "Neo-feudal Condition."  I'm being serious here.  Take thirty minutes and put something together. YN1 did, and it got its due.  Develop your thesis and make your case.

Less spew, more development.

Adversus Omnes Dissident said...

Uh oh.  Did I just say "neigh?"  Giving myself away here...

andrewdb said...

Kant was brillant and his framework is very useful.  He also seems to be used as a crutch by every half-baked crackpot (a category in which I would include Prof. Dower).

andrewdb said...

The German-language immigrants (they weren't a single united country until 1870) were the second largest group of immigrants. 

At least since the late 1700's the USA has been a nation around an idea - the Constitution - not ethnicity. 

The idea that the Western Europeans were somehow a single group - well the French and the Germans, to say nothing of other "nations," haven't seemed to get along very well except for the last 50 years or so.  Given how the EU project is going it may not work out so well for much longer.

twinkie said...

Dower never met an American he liked.  As a graduate student in history, I read War Without Mercy, his first book, which opened up a lot of social history into military history.  It opened some angles for military history to get back into where the rest of academic history is, but it's dated now.

That said, Dower is not a military historian.  He is a social historian with some diplomatic history background.  If I want to read real military histories, I dig out Brian McAllister Linn, Mark Grimsley, Robert Citino, or Allan Millett, among others.  It's a shame military history is still somewhat of a fringe discipline within history itself, although that's a legacy of over 40 years ago.

I have hope for the future.  But I'm not holding my breath.

Byron said...

Yup.

Anonymous said...

Concur with Twinkie--I'd take War Without Mercy as a "first in the field" book. Some of the ideas Dower advanced have worn well; others, not so, but that's par for a "first in the field." Also concur with liking the four mentioned (disclaimer: I studied under Grimsley and Millett; YMMV), but I can't really call up a current specialist on WWII Japan. (Linn does Philippines, Grimsley is US Civil War, Citinio is WWII Europe/Russia, and Millett is Korean War.)
Bill the Shoe

Kristen said...

AOD and 11B40, you seem to be making the point that only those who have served or are serving can be genuinely patriotic.  I disagree completely and utterly.

Kristen said...

Aubrey, yikes.

Kristen said...

GOH, yes, I think that campuses are still full of professors who hate America, and also a minority of students who agree, and who dream of being community organizers one day.  I was making the narrower point that I was pleased to see that when the country was attacked, the instinctive reaction among a large majority of students was not to wonder what we had donw to provoke such behavior.  The instinctive reaction was fervent patriotism, even among those who were being marinated in anti-American drivel daily.

And I'm going to stick to my optimism for 2012.  He's going to lose 40 states.  You heard it here first.  :)

Kristen said...

AOD, I should have added that with regard to your second paragraph, I agree that it would be better (and braver) for students to disagree with the professors publicly in the classroom.

Actus Rhesus said...

Can I just tell you how much I hate it when people

a. say something completely ignorant about the war in Iraq.
b. I correct them based on my own FIRST HAND OBSERVATIONS
c. I get fed an angry rant about how I think I know everything just because I claim to have seen it.

seriosly.  I have had this conversation.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Come on AR!  What are you going to believe?  The intellectual elite, or your own LYING EYES!!!

My first day back at work at Dartmouth following my tour in Iraq, I had a guy I had never met make a point of walking into my office, sitting down at my desk, and commence lecturing me on all that we are doing wrong in Iraq, and how screwed up our military is. 

Three voices were in my head.

1) I can't believe this is happening.

2) This is some sort of joke my boss is playing on me (he had a great sense of humor).

3) Palm behind right ear, palm on left side of chin, violent twist until you hear the double-pop.

LT B said...

Well, when you work on multiple star staffs, you notice an abundance of butt snorklers. 

Actus Rhesus said...

I've found the best response is:


"well, I'd love to share with you all the additional information upon which I base my opinions, but you don't have the appropriate security clearance.  Come back and talk to me when you're cleared TS (SCI)."

It drives them INSANE and if you're really lucky you get an angry tirade about government conspiracies.  I've actually outed a truther - in public - with that line.

went something like this:

Me: we really can't have a full debate on this because I have to keep my comments unclass. It's like dueling with one hand behind your back...the sword hand.
Idiot: so you just believe this "classified" information?
Me: the stuff that's vetted and credible, yes.
Idiot: what about all the 9/11 documents that were destroyed?
Me: what?
Idiot: well if you have such a great clearance you should know it was planned by the Bush administration.
Me: You lose.

Onlookers: Stunned silence.

And for bonus round lulz

Me: By the way, offhand do you know the GPS coordinates for your house?  Nevermind, I have other ways to find them.