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 4

The Limitations of Collective Security: The United States, the Great Powers, and the Pacific Basin

American imperialism in the postwar Pacific was expressed most clearly during the post–1945 diplomatic negotiations between the great powers over the future disposition of conquered and colonial territory. Between 1945 and 1947, American officials made it clear that the United States wanted a free hand to dictate the future strategic-political framework of the Pacific Basin. In addition, these negotiations illustrated a number of points about American attitudes toward the United States’ wartime allies and its wartime rhetoric about postwar great power cooperation and collective security.

One, postwar relations illustrated the very low level of confidence which many American policymakers and planners had in the UN. Conditioned by the perceived failures of the Treaty of Versailles, the League of Nations, and the Washington Treaty System, many American strategic planners saw UN trusteeships as a suspect and substandard way to guarantee that the Pacific Basin would become a postwar American lake. Historians have traditionally looked at the issue of international atomic energy control to demonstrate the low level of American confidence in the UN. 1 Trusteeship negotiations provide another early example of the same phenomenon.

Second, UN negotiations over international trusteeships became an arena for polarized relations between the United States and the Soviet Union as well as the scene for contentions between the western Allies over the future of the region. American fears about strategic security in the postwar Pacific were expressed in its lobbying for a special ‘‘strategic trusteeship’’ over Micronesia which made a mockery of the trusteeship concept and which fostered suspicions among other nations about American intentions in the postwar Pacific. 2

Finally, postwar negotiations illustrate just how intertwined the Pacific Basin became with other areas of the world. The region has been considered an isolated

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