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 6

‘‘Races Undesirable from a Military Point of View’’: US Cultural Security and the Pacific Islands

American strategic control of the postwar Pacific also meant ensuring ‘‘cultural security’’ in the region. Because of the pervasive Japanese influence which thirty years of occupation had produced in Micronesia, 1 some strategic policymakers, planners, and thinkers saw the need for completely eradicating Japanese cultural influence from the islands before they could be declared ‘‘secure’’ in a military sense. Along this vein of thought, there was a perception among officials that ‘‘Americanizing’’ the Pacific population by coupling the Pacific Islanders to the domestic American polity would ease the burden of American administration and help consolidate US control over these vital island chains.

Thus, the Pacific Islanders’ racial composition, language, perceived values, and political-ideological orientation were central to strategic officials’ considerations while planning for a secure American administration in the postwar Pacific. In significant contrast to the Roosevelt Administration’s rhetoric about national self-determination for non-Caucasians, American policymakers and planners in the postwar period denied that the Pacific Islanders were capable of self-rule at a national level and sought to complement American security in the area by linking the islanders’ future loyalty to the United States through the importation of mainstream American culture and the imposition of an American ‘‘way of life.’’ 2

In addition to providing an elaboration on the multidimensional aspects of strategic policy, American cultural perceptions of Pacific Islanders can also be seen as a chapter in the history of mid-twentieth century American racism. Much of the language used in planning documents and public statements was permeated with racist and cultural assumptions about the alleged superiority of mainland, Caucasian-American values. American officials perceived the Pacific Islanders as helpless children who needed paternalistic guidance from the United

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