By moving China to center stage, Robert Smith Thompson expands the traditional boundaries of the Pacific Theater of World War II and casts the conflict in an entirely new light. What is commonly viewed as a discrete military conflict between an aggressive Japan with imperial ambitions and a reluctant, passive America now becomes the stuff of Greek tragedy. The overreaching British Empire is waning, yet is unwilling to relinquish its foothold in China, while an increasingly ambitious Japan is determined to dominate the region and conquer China as part of that plan. Enter the young upstart, America, with imperial ambitions of its own in Asia. The United States meant to replace Britain as the dominant power in Asia and saw Japan as a direct threat to that dominance. For Franklin Delano Roosevelt and for the United States, the war with Japan had little to do with revenge for Pearl Harbor. Japan would have to be vanquished so that it would never again be an imperial rival. This recasting of the Asian conflict profoundly alters our understanding not just of World War II in the Pacific but also of what followed in the Korean War and the war in Vietnam. Revisionist history at its best, Empires on the Pacific will provoke discussion and debate and it will alter our view of what many still consider the last “good war. “Interest in WWII has never been higher: The summertime release of Touchstone Pictures’ blockbuster Pearl Harbor-accompanied by Basic Books’ own Pearl Harbor (April 19 release)-will create tremendous interest in the Pacific theater of WWII. Timely publication: The book anticipates the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 2001. Striking, revisionist, controversial: America’s wartime actions in the Pacific were not revenge for Pearl Harbor but were part of America’s larger imperial ambitions to replace the British Empire as the dominant force in Asia, and, especially, in China. America won the war with Japan but lost the peace, which led, inevitably, to the Korean War and to the war in Vietnam. A long overdue explanation of what America’s war against Japan was all about-in a word: China.
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