[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-War]: Flanagan on Myers, 'The Pacific War and Contingent Victory: Why Japanese Defeat Was Not Inevitable'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Sun Nov 24 15:56:30 MST 2019


---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
Date: Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 7:56 AM
Subject: H-Net Review [H-War]: Flanagan on Myers, 'The Pacific War and
Contingent Victory: Why Japanese Defeat Was Not Inevitable'
To: <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>


Michael W. Myers.  The Pacific War and Contingent Victory: Why
Japanese Defeat Was Not Inevitable.  Lawrence  University Press of
Kansas, 2015.  x + 198 pp.  $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7006-2087-6.

Reviewed by Owen P. Flanagan (Monmouth)
Published on H-War (November, 2019)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

_The Pacific War and Contingent Victory_ presents a staunch challenge
to the widely accepted notion that Japanese defeat at the hands of
the United States and its allies in World War II was inevitable. The
thesis presented by author Michael W. Myers, a faculty member at
Washington State University's School of Politics, Philosophy, and
Public Affairs, is that the Japanese war effort was not in fact
doomed from the beginning. Rather, Myers contends that Japanese
defeat in World War II was anything but inevitable. A fascinating,
challenging, and beautifully written work, _The Pacific War and
Contingent Victory_ holds the door open for continued debate on World
War II in the Pacific. Myers presents his argument through the idea
of a paradigm shift, stating, "the view that Japan had no chance to
win the Pacific War is the cornerstone of a historical paradigm that
doesn't work anymore" (p. 1). He pointedly contends that caution is
thrown to the wind regarding Japan's role during World War II.
Through this contention, he seeks to pull the rug out from under what
he describes as the inevitability thesis: the school of thought in
which Japan's defeat in World War II was inevitable due to US
economic/industrial superiority and the ability of the US military to
dictate the direction of the war against the Japanese.

With thorough research and a succinct dissatisfaction with the
conventional historiography of World War II in the Pacific, Myers
presents evidence throughout the book to prove his point. He wastes
no time before diving into his analysis of Japanese strategy for the
conflict and how some of the most famous battles of World War II
reflect it. The Battle of Midway and the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor, for example, are cited by Myers as contributing to the
overall Japanese strategy in the Pacific. That is, the Japanese
Imperial Navy, rather than depending on one decisive victory against
the enemy, was looking to bring the United States to the negotating
table by demonstrating its strength and ability to achieve victory.

A central part of Myers's argument concerns the contingencies of war
and their effect on the success of Japanese strategy. He claims that
overall, the contingencies of war played the largest role in
influencing Japanese strategy as the war went on, causing reactionary
measures to be taken. Myers also contends that the Japanese defeat
was not inevitable but rather a great accomplishment by the United
States, as the Americans and their allies proved better able to adapt
to the unpredictability of war. To Myers's credit, his logic is very
difficult to fault throughout. Myers is contending that the course of
World War II in the Pacific was dictated by a series of contingent
events and reactions by both sides. With this in mind, it is
difficult to accept the thesis that Japanese defeat was inevitable in
World War II. Myers further adds to his argument by claiming that
while victory over the Japanese was a great feat for the United
States, it was certainly not preordained.

It is on this point that _The Pacific War and Contingent Victory_ is
at its strongest, as it presents Japanese strategy to the reader
while simultaneously challenging the given historiography of the
subject. Throughout the book, Myers questions the historians tied
most closely to the inevitability thesis, includingH. P. Willmott
(_The Barrier and the Javelin_, 2008) and former RAND employee
Roberta Wolhstetter (_Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision_, 1962). He
claims that these works, among others, tend to paint Japanese
victories during the war as US or Allied intelligence or military
failures rather than Japanese feats. This critical analysis of the
historiography of World War II in the Pacific sprinkled in throughout
presentation of Japanese strategy is a testament to Myers's wonderful
writing skills. Additionally, it is during its critical review of the
historiography that _The Pacific War and Contingent Victory_ reaches
its high-water mark, as it allows the reader to grasp the challenge
that Myers believes his argument is facing, while simultaneously
driving home his point.

As strong as _The Pacific War and Contingent Victory_ is in its
writing, argument, and presentation, it does go on somewhat of a
downward spiral in its latter half. Myers spends the second half of
the book presenting the inefficiencies and hardships that the United
States and its allies endured during the war. Whether it was overall
strategy, economics, bureaucracy, or leadership, Myers contends that
the Japanese did not figuratively wake a sleeping giant and ensure
its own defeat when it decided to attack the United States, and that
the United States and its allies faced many logistical struggles in
preparing for and fighting the conflict. While the argument is
compelling, it feels rushed and would have benefited from further
development.

Despite its hurried conclusion, _The Pacific War and Contingent
Victory_ is a well-researched, beautifully written, and very useful
study. Myers proves his point that Japanese defeat was not inevitable
in World War II. Challenging the accepted wisdom on the subject, he
introduces a fascinating and careful thesis that forces a
reexamination of World War II in the Pacific. _The Pacific War and
Contingent Victory_ is a must-read for anyone looking to broaden
their own understanding of World War II in the Pacific, and just how
fluid that theater of the conflict was as a whole.

Citation: Owen P. Flanagan. Review of Myers, Michael W., _The Pacific
War and Contingent Victory: Why Japanese Defeat Was Not Inevitable_.
H-War, H-Net Reviews. November, 2019.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=54447

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
License.




-- 
Best regards,

Andrew Stewart



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