Human Smoke: The Beginnings Of World War Ii, The End Of Civilization
- Simon & Schuster Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 02 March 2009
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This book was one of the very few works that made me reconsider cherishshed opinions. While I knew that the Allies had not gone to war to save the Jews, I had no idea that prewar opportunities to save millions of lives were rejected because of the antisemitism of Roosevelt and Churchill. This is a tragic story of missed opportunity, and inhumanity on both sides of the war.
Such a strange book. It's history as haiku, little more than a series of snapshots from the road to war. And while it's bereft of any direct editorializing, Baker manages to select his material in such a way to promote the idea that World War II, "the good war," was actually anything but.<br/><br/>That said, I'm not sure that I actually buy his argument. Nobody comes off well in the book, especially figures such as Churchill and Roosevelt. But even the pacifists seem more than a little foolish and naive. It's hard not to cringe when Gandhi says, "I can conceive the necessity of the immolation of hundreds, if not thousands, to appease the hunger of dictators ... Sufferers need not see the result in their lifetime." I'm reminded of Nader supporters in 2000, angrily claiming that there was no difference between Gore and Bush; while I can understand their perspective, the eight years since have proven pretty conclusively that their argument breaks down in the face of reality.<br/><br/>I don't like war, but it's hard, especially after reading about the vast brutality of Hitler and the Nazi party, to believe that World War II could have or should have been avoided.
A very interesting look at "The Beginnings of World War II", as the sub-title says.The style is unusual. It's a collection of snippets of information, quotes, anecdotes, etc, in chronological order. Most are just a paragraph or two; few are longer than one page.While it's not an anti-war book per se, it does appear to concentrate on things which make the reader question the justification ofr World War II. It is very selective and misses out much that might support the war, but in my view that is justified as the accepted myths of the war are well known and widely publicised. The counter arguments have received very little attention elsewhere, so this is a welcome attempt to redress the balance. It contains some classic quotes.Far from being a clear cut case of good chaps v evil blokes, the book raises complexities and ambiguities. These include the ambuguity of all nations towards the Jews; the strong feeling by many that Communism was the greatest of all enemies; the pervasive influence of the arms industry; the games that all the great powers were playing; and much more.All in all, an excellent book, and a valuable resource for those who wish to explore non-violent solutions to conflict.
Baker has turned over his usual microscopic detail to others and let them speak about the era leading to the US declaratio of War. He chooses who will speak, and often comments, nonetheless the book indites all of us, living and dead, for believing war is in anyway a solution to conflict. We may have to wage war, but it is no solution. Baker shreds the whole idea of "a just war" that surrounds WWII--you may not agree with him but you do have to listen carefully and think with him.
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