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When Japan attacked the United States in 1941, argues Eri Hotta, its leaders, in large part, understood they were entering a conflict they were bound to lose. Availing herself of rarely consulted material, Hotta poses essential questions overlooked by historians in the seventy years since: Why did these men-military men, civilian politicians, diplomats, the emperor-put their country and its citizens in harm's way? Why did they make a decision that was doomed from the start? Introducing us to the doubters, bluffers, and schemers who led their nation into this conflagration, Hotta brilliantly shows us a Japan never before glimpsed-eager to avoid war but fraught with tensions with the West, blinded by traditional notions of pride and honor, nearly escaping disaster before it finally proved inevitable.