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

By Hal M. Friedman | Go to book overview

Introduction

Between 1945 and 1947, the United States embarked on an imperial course to guarantee its security in the postwar Pacific by taking direct control over several island groups conquered from Japan and wielding strategic influence throughout the Pacific Basin from these islands as well as from prewar American possessions. American policymakers and planners were convinced by the perceived failure of the interwar Washington Treaty System, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the costly island-hopping campaign in the central and western Pacific, and rising tensions with the USSR that future American security in east Asia could only be ensured by consolidating American control over the Pacific Islands and turning the Pacific Basin into an ‘‘American lake.’’

American actions in the region constituted a unique chapter in Early United States Cold War history for a number of reasons. First, these actions were inconsistent with contemporary American foreign policy toward the rest of the world, at least at the rhetorical level, since foreign policy in the 1940s stressed decolonization and an abstention from ‘‘territorial aggrandizement.’’ The Pacific represents the only region of the world where the United States deviated from its wartime political pledge not to obtain direct physical control over foreign territory. Accordingly, American policy toward the Pacific Islands provides historians with a means by which to gauge the wartime rhetoric of cooperative internationalism against the postwar realities of great power competition and self-interest.

Second, US policy toward the Pacific Basin represents an exception to the notion of a postwar American-led multilateral attempt at obtaining stability in the region. Far from pursuing stability through collective security arrangements, great power cooperation, or the free flow of trade and information, the United States in fact sought to create a closed and unilateral sphere of influence in the

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