John Koster's Operation Snow is the most comprehensive account in the English language of Harry Dexter White role in provoking war with Japan. This period of history is still an emotionally charged subject as several of the reviews demonstrate. There is still lingering hostility towards Japan and this is supplemented by the need of progressives to maintain many of the myths that surround the period. Were the Japanese ruthless? Certainly. Koster is accused of "glossing over" Japanese atrocities which Christopher Best found "disgraceful." The Chinese have condemned the Japanese for not dealing with the subject of the Rape of Nanking in their textbooks. Do the Chinese deal with the tens of millions of deaths under Mao in their textbooks? Chris might check out The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Planning for atrocities that have been "glossed over." Chinese workers were migrating to Manchuria while it was under Japanese rule.
Koster's critics are very revealing. A book review that begins with, "I have not read Koester's (sic) book," is bound to be informative. Another critic states, "this book did not hold my attention long." This individual is an authority because he once sat on Stalin's toilet seat. Other criticisms include, the book "truly demonstrates the paranoid nature of some in these times." "The Reds under every bed conspiracy theory still has legs." And "only conspiracy theorists and the very gullible would believe." In other words if you believe Koster's theory you are either stupid or crazy. Name calling is not a convincing argument.
One criticism of the book involves the subtitle. It states that White "triggered" Pearl Harbor. This led Kenneth Goff to ask, "Could an assistant treasury secretary have precipitated the attack on Pearl Harbor?" Steve Daugherty "was unconvinced . . . that HDW was almost exclusively responsible for the US-Japan war." I did not draw that conclusion from the book. Koster deals with Stanley Hornbeck in the State Department who was part of the pro-Chinese group and certainly Lauchin Currie and Harry Hopkins, White House advisors, supported White pro-Soviet position. White played a key role in composing the "ultimatum" sent to the Japanese as well as in the oil embargo that preceded it.
White still has his defenders. He was a "victim of prejudice and bias," who "got seduced by falsified claims of Soviet economic gains." It has been pointed out that White helped the Soviets because he "wanted to help whoever was fighting Hitler." This is an excellent argument except for the fact that White met with Pavlov in May 1941 while the Soviets and Nazi were still allies. White is frequently referred to as a humanitarian. Dietz Ziechmann claims White, "felt the need for . . . government action against poverty and human suffering."
HDW was not merely a Communist. He was a Stalinist. He conscientiously worked for the second greatest mass murderer of all times. He also played a role in bringing the greatest mass murdered in history to power in China.
It has been pointed out that White had an incredible impact on history. Yet he is virtually unknown even to many members of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; two organizations he was instrumental in founding. There is indeed "a great deal more to this story." White played a major role in eliminating the two world powers containing the Soviet Union. His story is yet to be told. Koster's book and The Morgenthau Plan are a good start.