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The Violent American Century
War and Terror Since World War II
The Violent “American Century” addresses the U.S.-led transformations in war conduct and strategizing that followed 1945.
World War II marked the apogee of industrialized “total war.” Great powers savaged one another. Hostilities engulfed the globe. Mobilization extended to virtually every sector of every nation. Air war, including the terror bombing of civilians, emerged as a central strategy of the victorious Anglo-American powers. The devastation was catastrophic almost everywhere, with the notable exception of the United States, which exited the strife unscathed and unmatched in power and influence. The death toll of fighting forces plus civilians worldwide was staggering.

The Violent “American Century” addresses the U.S.-led transformations in war conduct and strategizing that followed 1945—beginning with brutal localized hostilities, proxy wars, and the nuclear terror of the Cold War, and ending with the asymmetrical conflicts of the present day. The military playbook now meshes brute force with a focus on non-state terrorism, counterinsurgency, clandestine operations, a vast web of overseas American military bases, and—most touted of all—a revolutionary new era of computerized “precision” warfare. By contrast to World War II, postwar death and destruction has been comparatively small. By any other measure, it has been appalling—and shows no sign of abating.

The winner of numerous national prizes for his historical writings, including the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, Dower draws heavily on hard data and internal U.S. planning and pronouncements in this concise analysis of war and terror in our time. In doing so, he places U.S. policy and practice firmly within the broader context of global mayhem, havoc, and slaughter since World War II—always with bottom-line attentiveness to the human costs of this legacy of unceasing violence.

Reviews
  • "John Dower ends this grim recounting of 75 years of constant war, intervention, assassination and other crimes by calling for “serious consideration” of why the most powerful nation in world history is so dedicated to these practices while ignoring the nature of its actions and their consequences – an injunction that could hardly be more timely or necessary as the Pentagon’s “arc of instability” expands to an “ocean of instability” and even an 'atomic arc of instability' in Dower’s perceptive reflections on today’s frightening world."
    —Noam Chomsky

    “No historian understands the human cost of war, with its paranoia, madness and violence, as does John Dower, and in this deeply researched volume he tells how America, since the end of World War II, has turned away from its ideals and goodness to become a match setting the world on fire. George W. Bush's post-9/11 'global war on terror' was not a new adventure, but just more of the same.”
    —Seymour Hersh

    In The Violent American Century, John Dower has produced a sharply eloquent account of the use of U.S. military power since World War II. From "hot" Cold War conflicts to drone strikes, Dower examines the machinery of American violence and its staggering toll. This is an indispensable book.
    —Marilyn Young, author of Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990

    "John Dower is our most judicious guide to the dark underbelly of post-War American power in the world. Those who focus on Europe and North America speak of a Pax Americana. This is to ignore the technologies of violence that Washington meticulously deployed in Asia and the global South, from total war to "shock and awe," of which Dower is our unflinching analyst."
    — Juan Cole, author of The New Arabs

    A lucid, convincing, and chilling account of the self-deceiving American fall into violence. Dower’s clear-eyed analysis of a terrible history, for its faith in the power of truth, invites a fresh determination to demand another way. Just in time.
    —James Carroll, author of An American Requiem

    A timely, compact, and utterly compelling exposé of the myriad contradictions besetting U.S. national security policy. John Dower has written a powerful book.
    —Andrew J. Bacevich, author of America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History

    “If you think that because we’ve never experienced World War III the world is becoming far more peaceful, John Dower’s book is mandatory reading. In clear, carefully documented fashion, this superb historian shows just how much violence the United States has unleashed outside its borders since 1945, so much of it below the radar of our awareness at the time—and of our memories today.”
    —Adam Hochschild, author of Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939

    Praise for Embracing Defeat:


    “Extraordinarily illuminating.... Dower has deftly mixed history from the 'bottom up' and the 'top down' to produce what is surely the most significant work to date on the postwar era in Japan.”
    — Jacob Heilbrunn, Wall Street Journal

    “Masterly.... A penetrating analysis of Japan in the aftermath of defeat.... A profound and moving book, the best history ever written of Japan and its relations to the United States after the Second World War.”
    — Akira Iriye, Harvard University, Boston Sunday Globe

    “Richly detailed and provocative.... For anyone who knows modern Japan, it is an endlessly fascinating explanation of why things work as they do.... A marvelous piece of repo