Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: The Imperial Cruise

Summary: On the success of his two bestselling books about World War II, James Bradley began to wonder what the real catalyst was for the Pacific War. What he discovered shocked him.

In 1905 President Teddy Roosevelt dispatched Secretary of War William Taft, his daughter Alice, and a gaggle of congressmen on a mission to Japan, the Philippines, China, and Korea with the intent of forging an agreement to divide up Asia. This clandestine pact lit the fuse that would-decades later-result in a number of devastating wars: WWII, the Korean War, and the communist revolution in China.

In 2005, James Bradley retraced that epic voyage and discovered the remarkable truth about America's vast imperial past. Full of fascinating characters brought brilliantly to life,
The Imperial Cruise will powerfully revise the way we understand U.S. history. -- Back Bay

Booking Pap Pap is always eager to read books about U.S. history. So when I heard that James Bradley had a new book out called THE IMPERIAL CRUISE: A SECRET HISTORY OF EMPIRE AND WAR, I thought he might be interested. As you can see from his review, he had some conflicted feelings about this book. Here are his impressions:

The Imperial Cruise, a Secret History of Empire and War is yet another perspective of the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Author James Bradley, the son of one of the men who raised the American Flag over Iwo Jima and author of two books on the Pacific War researches the real catalyst of the war in The Imperial Cruise. The premise of the book is that Roosevelt’s bungled foreign policy ultimately led to the Pacific conflict of World War II.

James Bradley builds his story around a 1905 Roosevelt sanctioned cruise around the Pacific that included William Taft, Secretary 0f War and Alice Roosevelt, the president’s twenty-one year old daughter along with numerous congressmen, civilian and military officials. The ocean liner traveled from San Francisco to Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, China, Korea and back to San Francisco. According to Bradley, over the course of this cruise Roosevelt made decisions that would affect U. S. involvement in Asia for generations. The most important issue was the decision to authorize Taft to enter secret diplomacy with Japan that effectively divided up Asia and encouraged Japanese imperialism. This agreement was kept from Congress and therefore never ratified.

Bradley utilizes the stops on the cruise to share his opinion of U. S. political and social views of each country at the time. The common tenet which Roosevelt and Taft also held was that Asians were an inferior race not capable of governing themselves and therefore needed help from the White race. Bradley asserts that Japan avoided this prejudice by copying the behavior of the West and differentiating themselves from other Asians. The author documents the status of racism at the time in photos, letters, cartoons and political speeches. However, Bradley’s overuse of terms such as Aryans, Christian Whites, and Japs may actually reflect his own biases and harm his credibility in an otherwise well documented story.

Bradley does not hide his dislike for Roosevelt. He demonizes him as insincere, a racist and a warmonger. He criticizes his wild-west image as fabricated in a New York studio and claims his Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Russo-Japanese War was undeserving. His view of William Taft is not much better.

The Imperial Cruise is a unique look at the historical account of the United States foreign policy in the early 20th century through the eyes of James Bradley. The reader may disagree with the author’s assessments and conclusions that Roosevelt’s policies in 1905 led directly to the World War II Pacific conflict but it is none-the-less an interesting and well documented account of an important historical period.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in American history.

Thanks to Booking Pap Pap for his insightful review and to the publisher for sending a review copy.


Anonymous said...

Oh, this sounds really interesting! I was a political science major so this sort of thing really appeals to me, even so many years after college. Fun!

bermudaonion said...

Sounds interesting since I know nothing about that time in history. Great review, as always, Booking PapPap!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

We have this but I had no idea it was a critical examination rather than one of the usual idealized accounts of the war. Must read it now! :--)

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Great review Booking Pap Pap! I love anything (well almost) having to do with American history, so this one looks like it's for me -- and yet I wouldn't have found it without you and Booking Mama. Thank you both! xo

Beth Hoffman said...

My husband just finished reading this book last month and liked it. Enjoyed your review, Booking Pap-Pap