Doug Vanderweide's Reviews > In the Ruins of Empire: The Japanese Surrender and the Battle for Postwar Asia

In the Ruins of Empire by Ronald H. Spector
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May 01, 13

bookshelves: history, world-war-2, vietnam, asia, european-history, military, politics, russia
Read from March 28 to April 25, 2013

An exceptionally well-written overview of the three years following the end of World War II in Japanese-occupied Asia.

The major takeaways from this breezy, fascinating history:

-- The United States effectively created most of the Far East trouble it would deal with in later years by simultaneously advocating independence and free elections, and subsequently doing little to promote either. Little, that is, except send mixed messages to the Soviets, Chinese and British, so that they were equally ineffective in plotting a course forward.

-- For all their modern-day caterwauling about the evils of American imperialism (which gripes are entirely legitimate, mind you), the French and Dutch were pretty horrible when it came to attempting to reimpose their dominion in the region.

-- The Japanese basically kept most of Asia together in the wake of World War II, and were largely amenable to Western ends, even after having promised those nations independence as the war waned, and many within the former Imperial Army wanting to create a pan-Asian league that could resist the West.

-- Without question, the Far East was a terrible place to be after World War II, even in the few places with relative political stability. Famine was the rule everywhere, as were land grabs, looting and all the other spoils of war.

Ronald Spector has mastered the elusive art of being able to plumb a topic in an engaging, but humble, way. Most histories of this kind of breadth tend to either come off as arrogant or, worse, torpid; not so here. Just the right amount of fact, quote, background and detail to give an understanding of the situation without bogging the reader down in minutiae.

Highly recommended.
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