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

By Hal M. Friedman | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Modified Mahanism: Pearl Harbor, the Pacific War, and the Mobile Defense of the Postwar Basin

American strategic planners became convinced by their interwar and wartime experiences that the future security of the United States could only be guaranteed by the complete control of Micronesia, the exercise of dominating influence throughout the rest of the Pacific Basin, and the wielding of significant influence in continental east Asian affairs. Most importantly, this imperial solution to American anxieties about strategic security in the postwar Pacific exhibited itself in a bureaucratic consensus about turning the Pacific Basin into an ‘‘American lake.’’ 1

Unlike the interwar period, when civilian and military officials clashed over the strategic efficacy of the Washington Treaty System, there was general agreement in 1945 by officials in the concerned government agencies about the need to treat the Pacific as an exclusive American strategic preserve. There was little, if any, talk of postwar arms control or multilateral agreements as a strategy of national security and even vocal critics of American military rule over civilian populations in the Pacific Islands, such as Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, were not opposed to American rule per se. Bureuacratic consensus within the government over strategic goals was still accompanied by interdepartmental disagreements over tactics, but it was an accepted strategic ‘‘lesson’’ of the Pacific War that the solution to American security was to treat the Pacific Basin as one ‘‘integrated strategic physical complex’’ and to control entire chains of islands with a combination of mobile forces and permanent bases. 2

In fact, the prewar Mahanian emphasis on mobile power as the key to postwar Pacific defense was reasserted and was now widely subscribed to, even by officials outside of the Navy Department. In effect, prewar Mahanian doctrine was reaffirmed by the experience of Pearl Harbor and the island-hopping campaign but with a different emphasis on the role which island bases would play as

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