I started this book with great excitement. Flags of our Fathers was one of my most enjoyable reads and finding that there was a sequel of sorts in this book I hurriedly got a copy. But the excitement turned to confusion. Then confusion turned to suspicion. The opening chapters turned back the clock of history and exposed some arrogant actions of our nation and he appeared to be blaming the US for the actions of WWII Japan. I began to fear that I had gotten another piece of elitist US bashing. You know the kind, they are ashamed to be American and spend most of their time talking about how backward and arrogant the US is (do you ever wonder why they don’t just move to France). As the book progressed I came to see that Bradley had other intentions for including the bits he did.
The arrogant act of driving our warships down Tokyo Bay had consequences beyond intimidating the Japanese. Japan came to see that they would have to change to keep up with the world, while not blaming the US it is clear that our actions contributed to Japans need to enter the modern world. Bradley carefully never blames the US for the twisted form of Bushido that was used to brainwash an entire generation, but our nation certainly had a role to play. Now at the time Commodore Perry had no idea what would come of his actions yet there were consequences. There are always consequences to our actions, small and large and we cannot easily escape them as I wished throughout the reading of this book. I wanted the US to be a spotless bastion of Democratic glory yet we came out spotted and our actions had many unforeseen negative consequences.
I have heard war described as an inhuman thing. This is certainly true. The very act of fighting a war, of taking human lives is goes beyond the pale of what we would allow in our everyday lives. The taking of life even accidently or innocently is regarded with horror, but it is the business of war, an inhuman thing without doubt. But what I learned in this book was that it also makes those who participate less than human. There are reports throughout the book about the Japanese soldiers torturing, beheading, and even cannibalizing captured soldiers (they were systematically dehumanized because their leaders believed it would make them better soldiers). But what I found most shocking was the reports of Americans who strafed schoolyards killing children. American pilots firing on fishing boats while returning or even shooting Japanese pilots as they were parachuting to the ground. I thought that Americans would be different since we were bound be Geneva conventions and had been raised in a society shaped by a Judeo-Christian worldview. Yet this inhuman thing called war turned young men into beings less than human at least for a time.
I learned a great deal in this book about our history, about the history of the pacific theatre of WWII. I also very surprisingly learned a great deal about the nature of war and its effects on people. I also learned a great deal about how far we can sink even though we are made in the image of God. But the lasting effect on me has nothing to do with American history; an old hunger was given a new dimension. The hunger for the return of Christ now has a new wrinkle for me. Because after Christ returns I will have no sin left to create horrific consequences, there will be no more war to take lives or deaden our hearts and make us less than we are even by nature. Let us long for the new world that Jesus will reign over where there will be true and lasting peace.