Until World War II we Americans tended to argue about United States policy toward Europe, while we took policy in the Far East more or less for granted. Europe was properly regarded as the more important center of world power, Asia as a backwater. Our Far Eastern policy, in addition to its secondary role, was a subject on which there was broad national agreement. Few voices dissented from our main interests of safeguarding our strategic position in the Pacific, in keeping an open door for trade and in carrying out missionary, educational, and other philanthropic activities. Most of us knew little about only a few of Asia's many lands. We were friendly well-wishers of turbulent China. As war came closer, we were suspicious of Japan's militarism. We were sympathetic to India's quest for independence, and we were sincere in our intention of granting sovereignty to our own colonial outpost, the Philippines. The rest of Asia we knew less well. We were aware only dimly, if at all, of the different peoples, problems and ways of life that stretched from the Khyber Pass to the Celebes Sea.
Today the picture is sharply different. We have learned-- and are learning--of many of Asia's complexities. Some of the lessons have been painful. We recognize that Asian events can be directly related to our own well-being; we have buried our dead in the Korean hills. As a result, our Far Eastern policy has become one of the most controversial subjects on our political scene. We argue strenuously among ourselves about the proper course of action our government should take. And at times, we argue even more heatedly about the past--about how we got to where we now are in our relations with Asia.
Looking back we can see that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was only the starting point for a chain of events that accelerated Asian history. The war in the Far East, like wars everywhere, not only changed the map, it changed life in the villages as well. The war's outcome stripped Japan of Korea and