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 5

Chosen Instruments and Open Doors in the Pacific: US Strategic Security and Economic Policy in the Pacific Islands

American consolidation over the Pacific Basin included a significant economic dimension since economic control over the region was seen as one strand of a broad, multidimensional policy to ensure US strategic security in the region. Three aspects of this economic dimension to American Pacific policy are important in deciphering US actions during the origins of the Cold War.

First, American efforts at physical economic control over the islands reveal an intriguing phenomenon of self-denial by US officials about American imperialism. Policymakers and planners defined the word ‘‘imperialism’’ along very narrow economic lines in order to repel charges by other nations that the United States was indulging in ‘‘territorial aggrandizement.’’ These individuals hoped to deny charges of great-power imperialism by claiming that the United States wanted control of the islands in order to guarantee international security in the Pacific region, not to close the area to other nations because of US national insecurity resulting from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Second, American economic policy in the postwar Pacific Islands was an exception to postwar American protestations of free trade and ‘‘Open Doorism.’’ The Pacific Basin represented one area of the world in which the United States did not attempt a free trade approach to postwar reconstruction. While some State Department personnel argued for open areas of trade in parts of Micronesia, most American policymakers and planners had no intention of leaving the Pacific Islands ‘‘open’’ to foreign merchants of any nationality because of the perception that foreign economic penetration could be a forerunner to the subversion of an American administration.

Third, the economic dimension of US policy illustrates that American perceptions of strategic security equated with a broad definition of military control over the Pacific Basin. Physical military control over the strategic islands was

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