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The Pacific War and Contingent Victory: Why Japanese Defeat Was Not Inevitable

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About the Allies' victory in the Pacific in WWII, it goes almost without question that Japan's defeat was inevitable in the face of overwhelming American military might and economic power. But the outcome, Michael W. Myers contends, was actually anything but inevitable. This book is Myers's thorough and deeply informed explanation of how contingent the "foregone About the Allies' victory in the Pacific in WWII, it goes almost without question that Japan's defeat was inevitable in the face of overwhelming American military might and economic power. But the outcome, Michael W. Myers contends, was actually anything but inevitable. This book is Myers's thorough and deeply informed explanation of how contingent the "foregone conclusion" of the war in the Pacific really was. However disproportionate their respective resources, both Japan and the Allied forces confronted significant obstacles to ultimate victory. One the two sides shared, Myers shows, was the lack of a single individual with the knowledge, vision, and authority to formulate and implement effective strategy. Both exercised leadership by committee, and Myers cogently explains how this contributed to the contingent nature of the conflict. A remarkable exercise in logical methods of strategic thinking, his book analyzes decisive campaigns in the Pacific War, examining the economic and strategic challenges that both sides faced and had to overcome to achieve victory. Japan, for instance, had two goals going into the war: to expand the boundaries of what they termed the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" and to end their long and frustrating war in China. These goals, as Myers shows us, had unforeseen and devastating logistical and strategic consequences. But the United States faced similar problems--as well as other hurdles specific to a nation not yet on full war footing. Overturning conventional historiography, The Pacific War and Contingent Victory clarifies the proper relationship between freedom and determinism in historical thinking. A compelling retelling of the Pacific war that might easily have been, the book offers historical lessons in thinking about contemporary American foreign policy and American exceptionalism--most saliently about the dangers of the presumption of American ascendancy.


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About the Allies' victory in the Pacific in WWII, it goes almost without question that Japan's defeat was inevitable in the face of overwhelming American military might and economic power. But the outcome, Michael W. Myers contends, was actually anything but inevitable. This book is Myers's thorough and deeply informed explanation of how contingent the "foregone About the Allies' victory in the Pacific in WWII, it goes almost without question that Japan's defeat was inevitable in the face of overwhelming American military might and economic power. But the outcome, Michael W. Myers contends, was actually anything but inevitable. This book is Myers's thorough and deeply informed explanation of how contingent the "foregone conclusion" of the war in the Pacific really was. However disproportionate their respective resources, both Japan and the Allied forces confronted significant obstacles to ultimate victory. One the two sides shared, Myers shows, was the lack of a single individual with the knowledge, vision, and authority to formulate and implement effective strategy. Both exercised leadership by committee, and Myers cogently explains how this contributed to the contingent nature of the conflict. A remarkable exercise in logical methods of strategic thinking, his book analyzes decisive campaigns in the Pacific War, examining the economic and strategic challenges that both sides faced and had to overcome to achieve victory. Japan, for instance, had two goals going into the war: to expand the boundaries of what they termed the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" and to end their long and frustrating war in China. These goals, as Myers shows us, had unforeseen and devastating logistical and strategic consequences. But the United States faced similar problems--as well as other hurdles specific to a nation not yet on full war footing. Overturning conventional historiography, The Pacific War and Contingent Victory clarifies the proper relationship between freedom and determinism in historical thinking. A compelling retelling of the Pacific war that might easily have been, the book offers historical lessons in thinking about contemporary American foreign policy and American exceptionalism--most saliently about the dangers of the presumption of American ascendancy.

25 review for The Pacific War and Contingent Victory: Why Japanese Defeat Was Not Inevitable

  1. 5 out of 5

    Preston

    This is a well written book with an interesting thesis, however I did not find it particularly captivating, even with me being a history buff. I do appreciate the rebuttal the author provides and articulates.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Relstuart

    The argument is fairly straightforward. Is it true Japan was doomed to lose WWII as soon as they attacked America at Pearl Harbor? Many writers/historians have taken this stance and quote the Japanese general Yamamoto, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." as evidence that Japan didn't have a chance against the USA. They also point to the fact that America announced and followed a policy of fighting Germany first instead of the enemy that The argument is fairly straightforward. Is it true Japan was doomed to lose WWII as soon as they attacked America at Pearl Harbor? Many writers/historians have taken this stance and quote the Japanese general Yamamoto, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." as evidence that Japan didn't have a chance against the USA. They also point to the fact that America announced and followed a policy of fighting Germany first instead of the enemy that actually attacked them as proof Japan did not have a chance to win against the USA. However, as the author points out, for that to be true analysis ought to be able to demonstrate no reasonable way for Japan to win. The author analyzes Japan's desired outcome (no plan to invade USA mainland) and then whether or not Japan had a chance to achieve their goal. I won't go thru all of his arguments but I think he has some good points. One I will mention, the economy/industrial might of the USA is often noted a reason Japan could not hope to win against the efforts of the USA. The author does point out that Germany had all of mainland Europe to draw manpower and industry from and yet lost despite their advantage. While this does not prove Japan could have won it does show that it is not without precedent for a nation with the industrial advantage to lose. The book itself was a bit slow in parts but the time spent discussing possibilities and history are not wasted and this is a thoughtful book that asks the reader to consider some interesting questions about how the war could have gone differently.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tobias

    I wanted to like this book more but the more I read it the more I thought that Myers was beating a dead straw horse (to mix metaphors). And for all that I don't think he made a strong case for why Allied victory in the Pacific wasn't inevitable. I think his discussion would have been better informed by a discussion of the US home front and war weariness - since he concedes that the only way Japan could "win" was by forcing the US to negotiate - and a discussion of "unconditional surrender" in US I wanted to like this book more but the more I read it the more I thought that Myers was beating a dead straw horse (to mix metaphors). And for all that I don't think he made a strong case for why Allied victory in the Pacific wasn't inevitable. I think his discussion would have been better informed by a discussion of the US home front and war weariness - since he concedes that the only way Japan could "win" was by forcing the US to negotiate - and a discussion of "unconditional surrender" in US strategic culture. When making counterfactuals, one needs to do better than say "well, this happened but it wasn't guaranteed to happen." it is necessary to sort between plausible and implausible counterfactuals. Myers really needed to grapple with how the US mobilized for and innovated during total wars in its past, the civil war for example. While the civil war was a different sort of war than the Pacific war, the US nevertheless mobilized in similarly creative ways, invented new technology, harnessed logistical and financial innovation, etc. Given this legacy, arguably it is incumbent Myers to explain why the Pacific war was different.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brett Matzenbacher

    The premise of this book is straight forward. My biggest issue with this book is that the evidentiary support for the author's thesis is just as subjective as the position he attempts to debunk. Subjective does not necessarily equal bad, and overall I agree with his thesis, but in the end this book was less interesting and compelling than I had hoped.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mike Dow

  6. 4 out of 5

    The White Tiger

  7. 5 out of 5

    Eric Walters

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mikael

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jason Vigorito

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lee

  11. 4 out of 5

    Scott Weeks

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jon Klug

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josh Liller

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Boiko

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dеnnis

  16. 5 out of 5

    Al Johnson

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Lan

  19. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mitch Wragg

  21. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Dambro

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Peacock

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nick Lloyd

  24. 4 out of 5

    Steve Strait

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jay

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