War Without Mercy by Dower

1610 Words7 Pages
War Without Mercy by Dower

In “War Without Mercy”, Dower’s principle is a surprising one: Though Western allies were clearly headed for victory, pure racism fueled the persistence and increase of hostilities in the Pacific setting during the final year of World War II, a period that saw as many casualties as in the first five years of the conflict combined. Dower does not reach this disturbing conclusion lightly. He combed through loads of propaganda films, news articles, military documents, and cartoons. Though his case is strong, Dower reduces other factors, such as the prolonged negotiations between the West and the Japanese.

During World War II, with the alliance of Germany and Italy made a propaganda campaign of obvious anti-white racism somewhat unreasonable. Furthermore, Japan's history of rapid and often passionate Westernization while opposing to colonialization by western powers largely prohibited such a propaganda approach. It is Dower's central idea that racial fear and hate were major factors that determined how both sides, Japanese and Anglo-American, perceived and dealt with the respective enemy, the "formulaic expression of Self and Other."

Dower begins by examining the propaganda thrown out by both war machines (including a Frank Capra documentary, Know Your Enemy - Japan) and finds fundamental patterns of stereotyping. A few clichés that were found in this film was that it originally portrayed the Japanese as ordinary humans victimized by their leaders. "In everyday words," he writes, the "first kind of stereotyping could be summed up in the statement: you are the opposite of what you say you are and the opposite of us, not peaceful but warlike, not good but bad...In the second form of stereotyping, the f...

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...cking. It does a valuable service in exposing many of the prejudices of the time and especially in showing how those prejudices were at least partly responsible for the string of debacles endured by U.S. and other allied forces in the war's opening stages. It also does a very good job of giving the reader a glimpse of the kind of thinking that was prevalent in Japanese society prior to and during the war. In this sense it is an extremely important work and is highly recommended to anyone with a serious interest in the Pacific Theater. However, having said that, I will also say that the author overplays his hand and puts far too much emphasis on the role of racism, portraying it as the primary cause of the war and of the evils that transpired during its execution. As a result, it has a tendency to explain away a good many complex issues that deserve a fuller treatment.
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