Creating An American Lake: United States Imperialism and Strategic Security in the Pacific Basin, 1945-1947

By Hal M. Friedman | Go to book overview

Foreword

Following World War Two, decolonization became an avowed policy of the victorious powers. The establishment of the United Nations committed the founding signatories to a determined course of colonial dissolution. In the Pacific, colonialism was seen as a moral evil that should be eradicated. This was a response to the colonial-imperial situations that had existed in the region since the sixteenth century.

The major European colonial powers of Spain, France, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States were all advanced capitalist nations by the time of the Second World War, and with the exception of Spain, whose colonial motivations were religious, all employed economic arguments in the advocacy of their expansionist views and political imposition on the fragile cultures of the Pacific.

After a series of bloody battles in the Pacific, whose names—Kwajelein, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, and Peleliu—will live for all time in the annals of military history, America wrested the islands of Micronesia from the Japanese at a cost of more than 10,000 lives. After such a horrendous struggle and sacrifice, it is not surprising that America designed to keep its hegemony in the islands. The intent was to annex the islands and make Guam—a US territory since the Spanish-American War of 1898—the capital, and a young Congressman, Mike Mansfield, Democrat from Montana, was a leading proponent of outright annexation. However, President Truman’s Secretary of State, James Francis Byrnes, advised against this since the Russians, who had entered the war against Japan in July 1944 and had seized and held a few of Japan’s northern islands, contended that with annexation of Micronesia, America would set a precedent that Russia could use against the United States in the future.

To enable hegemony without annexation, the Americans worked out an in-

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