Korea: Where the American Century Began

Michael Pembroke. Oneworld, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-78607-473-7
Australian Pembroke, a member of the New South Wales Supreme Court, gives a provocative leftist account of the Korean War and its legacy. The author’s assertion is that U.S. relations with China and North Korea at the time of writing (before the recent friendly interactions between president Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un) are directly connected to U.S. policy failures during the Korean War. He highlights several failures—including the decision to cross the 38th parallel without clear U.N. authorization, which turned the war from a morally justified defensive one to an ambiguous war of aggression, and the decision to wage a strategic bombing campaign against North Korea that devastated it economically and cost millions of lives—without giving much larger Cold War context or accounting for the influence of China, North Korea, and Russia. The book also operates from certain assumptions—for example, that any use of nuclear weapons is immoral—that not all readers may share. For readers with a solid understanding of the Korean War, Pembroke’s work is an interesting and challenging alternative view, but it’s too slanted to serve as an introduction to the topic. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/02/2018
Release date: 08/01/2018
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