29 May 2008


My recent reading has included RETRIBUTION: The Battle for Japan 1944-45, by Max Hastings.

As the subtitle indicates, the subject is the Asian/Pacific theatre (or theatres) of the Second World War, in their final year, beginning roughly with a summit meeting in Hawaii in July 1944.

At that meeting, held as the Marines were securing the Marianas islands, FDR asked MacArthur, Nimitz, and Halsey: Where do we go from here? The most direct route to Japan involved continued island-hopping across the center of the Pacific. From the Marianas to Iwo Jimi to Okinawa. And there was a southern-Pacific variant, one that would let MacArthur make good on his vow to return to the Phillipines.

Roosevelt, rather characteristically, made no choice, and both the south and the central Pacific campaigns proceeded.

Insofar as Hastings has a 'big picture' point to make, it is that this was probably a mistake, that the Phillipines campaign was redundant and humanly a disaster. The war could have been brought to a quicker end had all the available resources been channeled through the ocean's center.

But then, Hastings' heart really isn't in making a big picture point at all. His heart is in the idea of history from below, history that deliberately foresakes the task of mapping the forest for the detailed description of lots of otherwise inconspicuous trees. I'll say something about that aspect of the book tomorrow.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.