Books by Bruce Cumings

THE KOREAN WAR by Bruce Cumings
Released: July 27, 2010

"Few conservatives will change their minds, but Cumings makes a convincing case that Korea, not Vietnam, was the first modern war America entered abysmally ignorant of what it was getting into."
An eloquent, squirm-inducing account of the war's long background and murderous destruction, which began well before the fighting. Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 2004

"All in all, a persuasive argument that the axis-of-evil trope is as illusory as those elusive WMDs."
Is there an axis of evil? Perhaps, but its headquarters may be in Washington. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1997

An elegantly informative account of Korea's convulsive transformation from a cohesive, if authoritarian, agrarian society into a nation uneasily divided between the North's seemingly backward Marxist police state and the South's modern industrial showcase whose governance still owes much to dynastic, neo- Confucian principles. While Cumings (War and Television, 1992, etc.) focuses on the East Asian country's recent past (i.e., from the mid-19th century to the present), he provides a wonderfully discursive appreciation of the small peninsular nation's development in earlier eras, when it was frequently caught up in the geopolitical struggles of aggressive neighbors like China and Japan. Stressing the traditionally shrewd approach to foreign policy of those who have ruled Korea, the author (director of Northwestern University's Center for International and Comparative Studies) assesses the country's forcible annexation by Japan in 1910, its subsequent liberation, and its postWW II partition. Also reviewed in detail is the war between North and South during the early 1950s, and the Republic of Korea's unlikely emergence as an economic power (thanks in large measure to a well-educated indigenous workforce). Cumings goes on to record the mountainous South's progress toward establishing democratic institutions, a process accelerated by the pragmatic impatience of influential chaebols (conglomerates) with the capriciously acquisitive tyrannies of military strongmen. Covered as well are prospects for German-style reunification (an outcome that could discomfit Japan), the North's ``cloistered regime'' and the putative perils posed by its nuclear capabilities, the aspirations of expatriate Koreans (deemed a model minority in the US), and the place a united nation might claim in the Global Village's pecking order. An immensely illuminating and accessible history of a strategic Pacific Basin outpost whose yesteryears are remarkable for sudden reversals of fortune and arresting discontinuities. (maps, color and b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1992

An eloquent critique, from a politically progressive perspective, not only of TV's coverage of war but also of its treatment of topical and historical events and of ``politics in contemporary America—an imperious, camouflaged politics known best to those who transgress implicit limits, tread on unvoiced premises [and] traffic in the heterodox....'' Cumings (East Asian and International History/Univ. of Chicago) uses TV's coverage of Vietnam and the Gulf War as a way of analyzing the assumptions underlying its treatment of all sorts of political issues. Drawing on his own experience as an expert consultant on a TV documentary about recent American wars, Cumings shows strikingly how a type of consensus evolves about America's role in wars, a consensus that prevents alternative views from being expressed. The TV coverage of the Gulf War perfectly illustrates this situation, in which, Cumings contends, TV not only failed to present a sophisticated analysis of Arab culture or of the true issues in the war, but also allowed itself to be stage- managed into producing a false account of the fighting (the author claims that the precision of America's ``smart weapons'' was greatly exaggerated, and that the destruction wrought by the war was not adequately covered). Cumings argues convincingly that the purported ``objectivity'' of the camera is an illusion, and that TV is a medium that makes points and takes sides despite its supposed impartial coverage of news events. A provocative and intelligent analysis. (Illustrations—not seen.) Read full book review >