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9-08-2015, 22:11

A RELUCTANT WORLD POWER

As seen from Europe during the first post-war years, the US was a land of plenty. The GIs, when they came to London or Paris, looked remarkably well fed and groomed, quite different to Europeans in their fourth year of war. The fabled US army stores, the PXs, were filled with candy, cigarettes, lighters, watches, pens – everything that was in such short supply for the Europeans was available to the US troops in abundance. The image of wealth was reinforced by the dream kitchens and cars shown in Hollywood films. But these were false impressions. The life of John Doe did not match the celluloid representation. At home Americans, too, faced shortages, and industrial dislocation as the country after 1945 turned from the needs of war to those of peace. Worst off were the 20 million black citizens. They had already experienced discrimination in the army while fighting the ‘crusade for freedom’. Now they were not willing to accept the conditions of ghetto housing or the prejudices and discrimination of the Deep South, where they were deprived of basic civil rights and prevented from voting by such subterfuges as the notorious ‘literacy tests’. Southern juries, moreover, were overwhelmingly selected from white citizens; indeed, the chance of securing genuine equality before the law was not easy for non-whites to attain in the US in 1945. Segregation was common in restaurants and diners, and on transportation. In education, black children in Southern states attended inferior black schools. Even occasional lynchings were still occurring in the Deep South. African American citizens could well ask themselves: ‘What were we fighting for?’ But there were both black and white citizens who wanted to right these wrongs. The longestablished National Association for the Advancement of Colored People began to win some significant legal battles. But the struggle for civil rights proved long and hard. President Harry S. Truman, at first cautiously, then more boldly, took his stand on the issue. His motives were both altruistic and practical. The African American vote was increasingly important as black people became more involved in politics and their support was moving from the Democrats to the Republicans. Truman had to destroy the impression that on civil rights his party was dominated by the Southern Democratic wing. Yet he could not persuade Congress to pass civil rights legislation. The evidence of his concern was the setting up of a Committee on Civil Rights. Not all white Americans were well-to-do either, as the European GI brides discovered when their husbands took off their uniforms. But the war had brought full employment to the US. The GI Bill of Rights provided federal grants which gave to ordinary Americans opportunities to advance themselves in education and to acquire new skills. Army gratuities enabled many a new small business to be started or a home to be built. The average American was better off than ever before. But would the boom be as short-lived as that which followed the First World War? Would Roosevelt’s New Deal and its network of benefits for those in need survive the death of its begetter? There was strong Republican resistance to the New Deal and to federal interference in industrial relations and social welfare. The New Deal, Republican Senator Taft claimed, was taking away independence and enterprise from the American people and substituting government paternalism. Up and down the country he preached: ‘We have got to break with the corrupting idea that we can legislate prosperity, equality, and opportunity. All of these good things came in the past from free Americans freely working out their destiny.’ Roosevelt and what he stood for were denounced by conservative Americans with a vehemence that approached hatred. Which way would America now turn? The answer was by no means clear and Truman, Roosevelt’s successor, seemed to hesitate and fumble, overwhelmed by the size of the task that had unexpectedly fallen on his shoulders. The immediate problem facing the US, as everywhere else, was to convert the economy to peacetime conditions. Should wartime controls of prices and wages continue? Inflation was gathering pace, too much money was chasing too few goods. Workers demanded wage increases to keep up with price rises. By inclination Truman was a New Dealer, believing that some federal intervention was essential to protect the vast majority of less well-off Americans, yet he also thought that government controls as established in wartime should be reduced, especially the many regulations holding down prices. Throughout 1945 and 1946, price controls were progressively relaxed. One consequence was that organised labour demanded an end to wage controls. The crunch came when the powerful United Automobile Union went on strike against General Motors to gain wage rises that would maintain the workers’ standard of living. Then in April 1946 the redoubtable John L. Lewis led 400,000 coal miners on strike. The following month the locomotive engineers were ready to bring the railway system to a halt. Truman reacted as if this was a declaration of war, threatening as commander-in-chief to draft into the army all workers ‘who are on strike against their government’. The rail strike was called off. Nevertheless, wages were inevitably rising fast as the controls proved to be increasingly leaky. But Truman had demonstrated that he was prepared to use the presidency and federal powers against any group which in his judgement was acting against the national interest. In the making of policy much depends on the degree of collaboration achieved between the president and Congress. In September 1945, Truman enjoyed in the Seventy-Ninth Congress a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate. But the Democratic Party lacked cohesion more than the Republicans did, the Southern Democrats aligning themselves with the conservative Republicans on many domestic issues. There was thus a majority of anti-New Dealers in Congress. Truman drew on his experience in the Senate to cultivate good relations with Capitol Hill. In his first message to Congress, outlining the twenty-one points of his administration’s programme, he steered a moderate course, but he included some New Deal policy proposals for unemployment compensation supplementation, a commitment to full employment and assistance for black people and other minorities. Truman was only partially successful. On civil rights issues, the alliance of Southern Democrats and conservative Republicans proved a virtually insuperable obstacle. Truman’s single biggest failure was his inability to check inflation. Wartime controls had been abandoned too quickly to stop the spiral of price rises and wage demands backed by crippling strikes. Congress blamed Truman, and Truman blamed Congress. The decline of Truman’s popularity made itself felt during the elections in November 1946 for the Eightieth Congress. The Democrats lost heavily, and the Republicans now gained majorities in both the Senate and the House. A Democratic president and a Republican Congress could easily lead to recrimination and paralysis in government, bad for the US and bad for a Western world looking for American help and leadership. On domestic questions, Congress and the president found themselves at loggerheads. Taft and the conservatives dominated the Eightieth Congress, and their nominees chairing the crucial Senate committees set out to push back the frontiers of the New Deal. Income tax was redistributed to favour the better off; proposals for more federal help for farmers, for public housing, for education and for additional social security were rejected. Taft set his sights on ‘straightening out domestic affairs’. The most important measure of 1947 was probably the Taft–Hartley Act, which limited union power. The strike record of the unions and the disruption they had caused made this acceptable outside the circles of organised labour, and Truman’s veto of the bill was overridden by Congress. Yet, despite undoubted problems, the US economy passed successfully from war to peace. The post-war depression that many Americans feared, repeating the historical experience after 1919, did not occur. There was a clamour for houses, furniture, consumer goods and cars. In Europe, unable to produce what it needed, there was a great demand for American exports. Some unemployment persisted in the US but the great majority of the millions demobilised from the armed services found work. American industry took up the slack left by the fall-off of wartime production, and during the post-war years from 1945 to 1949 Americans enjoyed growing prosperity. It was perhaps natural that the American people should now wish to get on with their lives at home. Most of them felt that they had settled the world’s problems. They were aware of great hardships suffered in Europe and as individuals responded generously, despatching food parcels through organisations set up to care for the needy. But to pay taxes and then have Congress vote huge sums as gifts to the rest of the world while there were still plenty of urban slums and much real poverty at home, was a different matter. Should charity not begin at home? Something akin to the sacrificial spirit of wartime would be needed to alter these attitudes. The spectre of communism eventually provided the motivation, but not in 1945, when the Russians were still regarded by most of the American people as valiant allies. Congress, too, reflected a desire to get back to normal times as fast as possible and to reduce America’s huge wartime commitments. With the end of the war against Japan, the administration suddenly cancelled the Lend- Lease arrangements. Special measures were justified in war but not in peace. Yet financial experts in Washington were perfectly aware that interim measures would be necessary to smooth the passage from war to peace. A blueprint for postwar international finance and trade had been worked out at Bretton Woods from 1944 based on freeing trade and currencies from restrictions. But how to get there, given the imbalance between the American and European economies? The US in 1946 exported twice as much as it imported; its exports were now three times as large as in 1939. The exports of France and the rest of Europe combined amounted to less than half the imports to these countries from the US. Italy, Germany and Japan had been crushed by the war, and their import needs, to maintain even the lowest standards of living, exceeded their exporting capacity. There was clearly a huge trade imbalance. Western Europe faced penury, and hopes of a better life depended on the US. Eastern Europe also received relief through UNRRA until 1946, but then East and West parted company, and the Soviet Union and the nations under its control faced the daunting task of recovery without American assistance. The gap between progress in the two halves of Europe widened in 1945 and communist mismanagement continued to increase the differences in the era from 1945 to the 1990s. Only the US now had the financial capacity to become the world’s banker and to recycle through loans and gifts the huge surpluses America’s favourable balance of trade earned it. The war had greatly increased the US’s productive capacity, and to a lesser extent that of Canada; the needs of Americans at home and worldwide shortages provided the market for them. American financial policy responded with enlightened self-interest. New loans were negotiated on generous financial terms so that goods being shipped from the US could be paid for. But the US wished to return to normal commercial practice as soon as possible. American financial advisers were no doubt too optimistic about the timetable of West European recovery and thought special assistance would be needed for only two or three years. In their desire to move quickly towards conditions of freer trade and unimpeded currency exchanges in order to avoid a repetition of the 1930s, the Americans attached conditions to their loans which the West European economies were unable to meet when called upon to do so in 1947. Far more help would then be needed. The void left by Roosevelt’s death was felt even more deeply when it came to chart the course the US should pursue in world affairs than it was in domestic affairs. Roosevelt had followed what at first glance appeared to be contradictory aims. The strong support the US gave to the setting up of the United Nations and the freeing of international trade involved a global commitment to a peaceful world. The inevitable conflicts would be handled and resolved peacefully in the world forum of the UN. Simultaneously Roosevelt strove to maintain the wartime alliance of the Big Four, the Soviet Union, the US, Britain and China. Each of the Big Four would be responsible for peace and security in its own part of the world. Roosevelt set great store by personal diplomacy, developing friendly relations with Stalin and Churchill. He was ready to deal with Stalin directly, to the discomfort of his British ally; but when there was a need to check Stalin he would acknowledge and emphasise the ‘special relationship’ that existed between Britain and the US. He was opposed to colonialism and he looked forward to a gradual transformation of the European colonial rule in Asia, the Middle East and Africa with his country’s benevolent encouragement, but these were ideals that could not easily be put into practice without losing the confidence and support of the West European states. The problem of what to do about China already loomed large in 1945, with the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek facing the well-entrenched Communists led by Mao Zedong in a struggle for the control of China. Roosevelt’s aim was to unite the two hostile sides against the Japanese invaders by persuading the Communists to subordinate themselves to the Nationalists – a hopelessly impractical endeavour. Roosevelt had deliberately avoided any coherent detailed master plan to guide American policy in the post-war world. He was a pragmatist. Events would decide the degree of emphasis to be placed on one tactic or another so that they might complement each other in a workable way. The handling of the various policy threads would thus require a virtuoso in the White House, constantly adjusting a policy here while trying out new initiatives somewhere else. Whether Roosevelt could have handled the problems as successfully as he supposed must be doubted. But the clash did not seem inevitable in 1945 or 1946. An early ‘hot’ war was not expected either in Moscow or in Washington. No thought was as yet given to building up rival armies or alliances to meet such an eventuality. The US after victory on the battlefields wished to bring its troops home from Europe and Asia as quickly as possible. The army, navy and air force were massively demobilised; aircraft, warships and tanks when not actually broken up were mothballed or left rusting in fields and creeks. Roosevelt and Truman felt it safe to rely on America’s nuclear monopoly. The American people wanted to return without undue delay to normality. They were not prepared to pay higher taxes for large armed forces in peacetime, and Truman for reasons of domestic policies wanted to balance the budget. Occupation troops in Germany and Japan were kept at the lowest level consistent with internal security. Assistance to former allies was limited to economic aid, to loans and goods, and, in the case of Nationalist China, to weapons. Truman talked tough and gave an outraged Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov a dressing down in April 1945. But, in what became the Soviet ‘sphere’ in Eastern and central Europe, the US and Western Europe had neither the means nor the will to interfere effectively; all they could do was to refrain for a short time from recognising the Soviet-created governments. Truman’s experience of world affairs was limited. On the complex questions confronting the US in the spring and summer of 1945, he tried to follow through Roosevelt’s policies. But the counsels of his principal advisers were divided. The most important issue was whether to confront Russia or to try to arrive at some working arrangement with Stalin over disputed issues such as the future of Germany, agreements that would allow East and West to accept each other’s differences and yet be able to live side by side. The future of Poland, and Stalin’s determination to secure a ‘friendly’ neighbour here on his own terms, soured relations from the start. But if the United Nations could be set up, a world forum for resolving conflicts might settle current and future problems of this kind. The conference called to draft the UN Charter met at San Francisco in April 1945. Vital differences still remained. The United Nations might yet founder. The US was the keenest proponent of setting up the world organisation and that this was accomplished by the end of June 1945 was the most important diplomatic success of the early months of the Truman administration. It was of course clear that the United Nations would not be a ‘world government’. Its members remained sovereign nations. The decision-making procedure, however, would be based on the Western democratic process of the majority vote, which would place the Soviet Union and its associates in a minority. Therefore the nub of the problem became how far any nation would have to accept a decision by majority vote. Clearly nations were not equal in size or power, nor did they share the same ideals of government. The inequality of states had to be recognised by giving to what were then regarded as the most important nations – the Soviet Union, the US, China, Britain and, sentimentally, France – a special status; they were to be the permanent members of the Security Council; a number of smaller states, six in 1945, were then elected by the General Assembly of the UN to the Security Council to join the five permanent members for a fixed period. All the founding member nations, fifty-one in 1945, were also members of the General Assembly. But this division of General Assembly and Security Council did not solve the problem. The Soviet Union in particular wished to restrict the UN’s powers to interfere in case its vital interests were affected, and it was clear that in voting strength in both the General Assembly and the Security Council the US and the West could be certain of majorities. Nevertheless the US and Britain did share one interest with the Soviet Union and that was to give themselves a special status; the five permanent members were therefore each given the right of a veto. The wrangling at San Francisco, where Molotov earned a reputation for dour negativity, concerned how far this right of veto should extend – whether it should extend to practically everything or only to proposals to enforce decisions of the United Nations. Molotov wished to be able to veto even mere discussion of problems. A complicated formula, full of ambiguities, was eventually evolved to determine when a veto could or could not be exercised by a permanent member. There was no doubt, however, that any one of the permanent members of the Security Council could stop military action or any other form of sanction by the exercise of a veto. Perhaps the limitations placed on UN powers in the end saved the organisation, for how otherwise could nations in conflict have continued to belong to it? The confidence reposed in the UN early on, by public fervour in the West, expressing the faith that it could solve the world’s problems by diplomacy and debate, was misplaced. The Russians were more realistic in their assessment of what a United Nations based in New York meant from their point of view. It was therefore remarkable that they agreed at all and that the Charter of the UN was unanimously adopted on 25 June 1945. The United Nations over the years did prove itself a significant tool for the settling of problems, negotiations being conducted as often in the corridors and coffee bars as in public debate. The United Nations thus served as an important adjunct to the channels of international diplomacy. Sometimes in disputes countries have indeed used the UN as the principal forum of negotiation, but at other times they have bypassed it altogether. Truman’s UN policy was as successful as the West could have hoped. But American expectations were not fulfilled in China. During the Second World War, the Chinese people and their leader Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek were built up as heroic allies. Pro-Chinese sentiments had been strong in the US for decades as long as the Chinese people remained in China and did not emigrate to the US. Something of a special relationship had developed. China became the principal preoccupation of American missionaries, who maintained an influential lobby in Washington. As for American business relations with China, they were as old as the American republic itself. Thus China loomed large in America’s consciousness. Truman continued Roosevelt’s policy of mediation between the Nationalists and communists but not on the basis of equality for both sides. The Americans tried to persuade the communists to be satisfied with a junior participating role in a Nationalist Chinese government, subordinating the communist army divisions to a Nationalist supreme command. At the same time, despite the corruption of Chiang’s rule and that of his party, the Kuomintang, the US backed Chiang with weapons and logistical support. In Washington it was thought that civil war might still be avoided. The true strength of the communists was underestimated in Washington during 1945 and 1946. The Soviet Union, too, wished to prevent an open conflict breaking out in China in 1945 and so was ready to recognise and cooperate with the Nationalist regime. Nevertheless, this did not inhibit the Soviets, when they evacuated northern China and Manchuria, from giving the local communists assistance in the expectation that they would take their place. The US meanwhile provided massive support for Chiang Kai-shek’s forces. At the end of the war the Americans transported nearly half a million Nationalist troops by air and sea to the north to put them in place in the regions vacated by the Japanese before the communists could get there. There was also a direct military intervention by the US when 53,000 marines were landed to occupy key areas in northern China. Confrontation in northern China became inevitable as the Nationalists increasingly clashed with communist forces, who had the advantage of fighting close to their bases whereas the Nationalists were hundreds of miles from theirs. From 1945 to 1949 the US shipped large quantities of arms to China’s Nationalist forces to help them gain control of the whole of China. But, to begin with, US policy aims were fine tuned. Chiang was not to receive so much military support that he should feel confident about discarding his American advisers and American mediation efforts and so start an all-out civil war, yet he was to be given sufficient arms to bring Mao to the conference table. In this way the Americans wished to induce the communists to merge with Chiang’s government. General George Marshall, America’s most distinguished soldier of the Second World War, was sent out by Truman to mediate in January 1946. He spent a fruitless year in China. He succeeded in bringing Chiang and Mao Zedong to the negotiating table, and to all appearances they even came close to agreement. But appearances hid the realities. Neither Chiang nor Mao was ready to compromise his position; both sought total control of China. Mao did not think American hostility was inevitable; both leaders wished to be able to persuade Washington that the failure of mediation was due to the intransigence of the other side. Mao’s faith in ultimate victory was remarkable. Although in 1945, 100 million Chinese lived under Communist Party leadership, the communists were still numerically far weaker than the Nationalists, whose army outnumbered theirs by four to one. If it came to war, the US expected Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces to beat the communists in the long run, but more damage would be inflicted on China. The Americans urged Chiang to reform the corrupt Kuomintang regime and to make his government more acceptable to the people of China. But in the summer of 1946 full-scale fighting broke out for control of north-eastern China in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal. Advice and military aid was showered on Chiang but simultaneously the Americans disengaged themselves from direct involvement. The American marines were withdrawn, and the Truman administration concluded that if Chiang’s regime could not be saved by aid, the alternative of a massive US military commitment in China was simply out of the question. The rival Chinese forces would have to be left to decide the fate of China. This was a sensible view, showing that the Truman administration had a sense of the limitations of American power in the world. If at the same time in Washington a more balanced view had been taken of the Chinese communists, if it had been understood that the communists too were nationalists and that relations between Moscow and Beijing were full of ambiguities, then a more realistic China policy might have emerged. The restoration of a friendly China as a great power – one of the Big Four – a China linked to the West, had been an essential cornerstone of Roosevelt’s cherished concept of an orderly and peaceful post-war world. China, so he intended, would help the US to maintain peace in Asia and the Pacific and hold Japan in check. Inevitably, Japan would one day recover and, against that day, it was to be China’s role to prevent another round of Japanese aggression. The Chinese people, in contrast to the Japanese, were broadly perceived as humane and civilised, worthy allies in the cause of freedom. But during the ‘decisive years’ (1945– 50) quite a different post-war world in Asia took shape. Communist China became the enemy, and Japan the indispensable base in Asia of the free world. During the war Japanese behaviour was judged by Allied governments and peoples to have been even worse than that of the German National Socialists. In one important respect, as far as the Western Allied nations were concerned, the Americans, the British and the Dutch, this was true: the Japanese had treated captured prisoners of war with barbarity, many thousands perishing from starvation and overwork. In China, Japanese cruelty inflicted horrors indiscriminately on civilians and soldiers which had shocked the civilised world when the China war began in 1937, at a time when the rest of the world – except for Spain – was then still at peace and still shockable. These anti-Japanese perceptions were reinforced by long-held Western attitudes of racial superiority. The Japanese people, like the German people, would be made to submit totally, and could not be trusted. Henry Morgenthau’s treasury had drawn up a punitive plan for the post-war treatment not only of Germany but also of Japan. It was at first expected that Japan would need to be occupied and the Japanese ruled for a long time, not so much for their own good, but to safeguard the world from their aggressive and barbarous impulses. Despite unconditional surrender, the trial of war criminals and the purging of thousands from positions of influence in Germany and Japan, the history of the occupation in the two countries nevertheless developed differently in one important respect. Although Japan was stripped of all its overseas conquests acquired since its war with China in 1894, the Japanese homeland was not divided into separate Allied zones of occupation but remained a whole nation. Above all, the entry of the Soviet Union into the war only a few days before Japan’s surrender and the fact that no Soviet military forces set foot on the main islands of Japan, meant that West–East disputes about the post-war treatment of Japan were contained on the purely diplomatic level. The Russians were represented on the Far Eastern Commission in Washington, and a Russian general was sent to the impotent Allied Council in Tokyo, but all real power remained in American hands, and American troops supplied the bulk of the occupation forces. In Tokyo that power was exercised by one man, a war hero who was already a legend in his lifetime, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers for the Occupation and Control of Japan, SCAP for short. MacArthur was pretty well able to do what he wished. In the immediate post-war years the problem regions of the world that commanded the anxious attention of Washington, London and Moscow were Europe and China. It was in these regions that the well-publicised crises were occurring, the European ones appearing even more urgent and menacing than the cataclysmic changes in China. Japan had seemingly become a backwater. General MacArthur’s high-handedness in settling occupation policies without paying much attention to his superiors in Washington or to the other Allied governments caused irritation, but, as long as Japan did not become an added problem, matters were left in his hands. It would certainly have been hazardous to tangle with a living legend, who, although he did not regard himself as semi-divine, thus usurping the former divinity of Emperor Hirohito, did see himself as the benevolent guide of the Japanese people, on whose shoulders the shaping of their destiny had fallen. He was determined to break up the pre-war feudal structure of Japanese society, to deprive the military-aristocratic and business elite that had run Japan before 1945 of all power, to ban notions of future military conquests from Japanese minds and to democratise Japan by order from above. General MacArthur’s supreme command, which ended with his dismissal in 1951, has remained in many respects a controversial period of Japanese history. Was his impact as great as he assumed or did the Japanese continue to control their own development more than is supposed? Would many changes have occurred just the same without the autocratic MacArthur? Was Americanisation just skin-deep, a matter of outward form, while the essence of the Japanese spirit remained intact? Such questions stimulate thought, but the reality is not so polarised. Of course, Japanese institutions and Japanese attitudes persisted, but defeat by the West had made an enormous impact. Japan was the first nation to experience the horrors of atomic devastation, and the long-term suffering of the victims who were not killed outright served as a constant reminder that war could now destroy a whole people and deform babies born years after their parents’ exposure to radiation. Article 9 of the Japanese constitution of 1946, largely written by MacArthur and his staff, is unique in its declaration that: ‘the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation. . . . Land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.’ It later proved an embarrassment to the Americans, who wanted Japan to be in a position to defend itself against China. So quickly do world perspectives change. But was it just MacArthur and his constitution-making that turned the Japanese away from military adventure? Clearly the Japanese experience had demonstrated the futility of war and went on to nurture a strong peace movement. Many reforms introduced by the Americans during the occupation years fitted in with earlier Japanese traditions and were in practice adapted by the Japanese to suit their needs. Thus the associations which they were encouraged to form in rural and urban communities for social, political or cultural purposes were nothing new; the same was true of agricultural and fishing cooperatives. In the 1930s many such organisations had existed; they were not democratic but they were controlled and tightly supervised by the government, for which they were a useful means of communication. The occupation also introduced new legal freedoms to limit direction by the central government and to provide a basis for democracy. But they did not, as it turned out, inhibit ‘guidance’ from the national government – which was generally followed. The Japanese people were accustomed to act in a group and to look to authority for leadership. Nor did the American encouragement that they form trade unions to check the powers of industrialists lead to the results experienced in the US. Japanese trade unions tended to be rather different. They were organised on the basis of each enterprise, that is all the permanent employees in one company would form a union to negotiate with management, rather than workers of particular trades organising themselves nationally. The family and the company became the dominant groupings of post-war Japan. Decentralisation of education, equal political rights for women and social welfare were among other notable innovations of the occupation dictated to the Japanese people from above. A constitution designed to make the elected parliamentary assembly sovereign, and reducing the emperor to symbolic status, provided the political framework of post-1945 Japan. Until the Cold War in 1947 began to cast shadows, free political activity was permitted. From Japan’s prisons communists and socialists emerged and they set out to radicalise the trade unions and politics. MacArthur, anything but a socialist, regarded such freedom as necessary. He was determined to teach the Japanese the meaning of democracy. The single most remarkable difference between the occupation of Japan and that of Germany was the continuity of institutions that was maintained in Japan. While making it clear that he was the ultimate authority, MacArthur ruled indirectly through a Japanese government and Diet. He remained an austere and aloof figure, very much in the tradition of the Japanese genro, the elder statesmen, who had ‘advised’ the emperor and who behind the scenes had once exercised much real authority. MacArthur observed oriental courtesies and, except in pursuit of those accused of war crimes, was benign. An extraordinary relationship developed between him, the occupying forces and the Japanese people. MacArthur issued no orders against fraternisation such as proved so ineffective in Germany: the Japanese people were not to be treated as enemies or outcasts. It was not pleasant for them to be under foreign occupation but in the first few months there were advantages too. The occupying forces brought in food to save the Japanese people from starvation and helped to rebuild the infrastructure of the Japanese economy. The wholesale introduction of Western, especially American, models and their imposition on Japan, as if Japan were a blank sheet in 1945, did not always work. For example, MacArthur condemned the big business corporations like Mitsui and Mitsubishi – the zaibatsu which had dominated Japanese industry and which had been closely bound up with the ruling political oligarchies before 1945 – as bearing, with the military, the responsibility for the wars Japan had launched. He set out to break them up. Yet they were to recover dramatically after the occupation had come to an end in a new, more efficient form of cooperation of ‘business groupings’, the keiretsu. The close relationship between government and business in planning industrial development and economic policies was revived. The keiretsu became the pace-setters in the astonishing rise of Japanese industry in the 1950s and 1960s. The land reforms instituted by MacArthur expropriated the large landowners and favoured the small tenant farmers. But holdings were insubstantial and relatively unproductive; with the industrial boom of the 1950s labour moved to the towns, so agricultural productivity had to be raised. This required mechanisation and investment; cooperatives were thus developed which pooled resources, attracted finance and took advantage of the economies of scale, although many small farmers had to supplement their income with other work. Politically and socially, the land reforms made an important impact in depriving absentee landlords and aristocrats of their wealth and with it their potential for special influence, while raising the living standards of the farmers, who formed a declining proportion of Japan’s population. For the conservative elite in government and business, 1947 proved a turning point. MacArthur and his headquarters staff during that year reversed their earlier democratic encouragement of industrial relations when a general strike was called by the unions in February 1947. Though in its aftermath a socialist coalition government was elected (May 1947 to October 1948) it could not cope with Japan’s economic problems, the mass unemployment and hyperinflation. An entirely new wind too was blowing from Washington, that of containing communism. This reordering of Washington’s priorities in Europe and Asia benefited Japan, which was to be allowed to revive so that communism would lose its attractions. With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, these attitudes were reinforced. In Japan, communists and left-wing sympathisers were suppressed. Once the conservative parties had come together into the Liberal Democratic Party in the mid- 1950s, the political growth of the left was halted for more than three decades, during which the conservatives and business elites dominated Japan. Japan became America’s principal ally in eastern Asia and a global economic giant. At the same time a uniquely Japanese way of government survived defeat and occupation. It was a Japan nevertheless, that had been transformed by the experiences of the Pacific War, by defeat and by close contact with the US. MacArthur found it best to assert the authority of his headquarters indirectly through a Japanese government. A remarkable Japanese statesman, Shigeru Yoshida, served during most of the occupation years and after (1946 to 1947 and 1948 to 1954) as Japan’s prime minister. A subtle pro-Western diplomat, Yoshida created good personal relations with MacArthur but was determined at the same time to maintain what he saw as sound conservative Japanese government, free from any new military adventurism. The Japanese people were in desperate straits at the end of the war, relying on American food to save them from starvation. Yoshida was less concerned with a democratic transformation than with recovery, and he regarded with deepest misgivings MacArthur’s new labour laws favouring militant unionism in the early years of severe shortages, as well as the upsurge of the left. The bureaucracy he recreated and the businessmen working closely with government bodies, which from the earliest days were masterminding Japan’s recovery, were the same men who had efficiently overseen Japan’s mobilisation for war in the 1930s. Now they were mobilising Japan’s resources for peace and subtly avoiding SCAP’s directives, relating for example to the dismantling of factories or to reparations, which would impede the recovery. As in Western-occupied Germany, managers, despite their early associations with the totalitarian regime, were the only ones available to bring about the economic revival on which, alone, a secure political structure offering individual rights and freedoms could be based – a strange irony. The year 1947 was one of major foreign policy reassessments in the US after the failure to reach a settlement with the Soviet Union. It was the year when George Kennan was instructed by Secretary of State Marshall to set up the Policy Planning Department in the State Department, the year of the Truman Doctrine, intended to stop Soviet subversion in the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey, and the year of the Marshall Plan, designed to speed up the economic recovery of free Europe and thereby block the Soviet Union from spreading communism. In eastern Asia, too, some new defensive line had to be considered. The growing disillusionment with Nationalist China led to thoughts, by the end of that year, that US interests did not necessarily require an ally on the mainland of Asia. American security in the Pacific could be based on the islands of Japan and the Philippines. Japan would have to be sufficiently built up economically and militarily on land, on the sea and in the air to be able to defend itself. Since Japan was supposed to have no armed forces at all a National Police Reserve was recruited which eventually (after 1960) became the well-equipped and formidable National Defence Force with warships, an air force and tanks some 250,000 strong. MacArthur’s call for a peace treaty in 1947 and his suggestion that the Japanese be left to themselves was shelved when Russia and China rejected the initiative. Meanwhile the American occupation changed course. Conservative supporters of the pre-1945 Japan, purged in their hundreds of thousands, were quietly allowed to regain their civic rights; the liberal trade union laws were hedged about and this time it was the communists and the radical left who were purged. Having survived a period of political uncertainty, the conservative Japanese politicians gained a virtually permanent hold on power. Japan’s rapid recovery should be attributed principally to the hard work and skill of the Japanese people. Nevertheless, the US during MacArthur’s ‘viceroyalty’ had made, on balance, an important, positive contribution. In allowing the Japanese to retain their institutions in modified form, in ruling through the Japanese government with the full support of Emperor Hirohito, in rebuilding Japanese self-esteem, in providing humanitarian assistance and stimulating necessary reforms, the occupation was relatively benign. And this despite the injuries inflicted by the Japanese on the US and its Allies during the war. The US became not only Japan’s most important export market, but also a model for the consumer’s paradise which hard work would allow the Japanese to enter. The bitterness of the war years was expunged, and while American– Japanese relations have not always run smoothly since, a firm basis for the attachment of Japan to the West had been laid during these years of overwhelming American influence. The confrontation that built up between the US and the Soviet Union reflected each side’s strong ideological preconceptions. The West believed it faced a relentless communist drive in Europe, Asia and the oil-rich Middle East, while the Soviet Union felt exposed to the hostility of the capitalist West. In Europe in 1945, neither the Soviet Union nor the Western powers were certain where the ‘frontier’ would finally run between them. Only in conquered Germany was the division becoming clear. In Germany overwhelmingly large numbers of Red Army divisions and far fewer American and British troops faced each other across zonal occupation lines that were rapidly hardening into an armed border. Neither politically nor economically was Germany being treated as one unit, as had been agreed at Potsdam in 1945. Mutual recriminations grew. West and East were each piling up grievances against the other. For the Americans, the problems of Europe after the defeat of Germany were seen more in economic and political terms than military. The agreements reached at Potsdam were difficult to carry out. The Soviet Union was proving an awkward ‘ally’. But in 1945 and 1946, despite growing tension with the Soviet Union, American forces were leaving Europe to be demobilised at home. The divisions that remained were intended not as a defence against Russia, but as the minimum necessary to control the Germans. The main aim of US policy was to ensure that basic living standards were maintained and that money was made available for relief supplies. Each occupying power in Germany – the USSR, Britain, France and the US – went its own way. For the British, themselves weak economically, the task of maintaining food supplies in their zone was a heavy burden, using up the dollars loaned from the US. General Lucius Clay was the man appointed to oversee the US zone. Accusing the Soviet occupation authorities of not fulfilling agreements reached, in May 1946 he cut off German reparations to the East. As tensions grew, the US continued to feel safe in the knowledge that it was the only nation to possess the atomic bomb. It was unrealistic to expect America to share its secrets with the Russians, any more than the Russians were willing to share their armaments secrets with the Americans. But the atomic weapon was something different. One day the Soviet Union would be able to make its own nuclear weapons – sooner than anyone expected – and other nations too. The US could use its advantageous position to reach an international agreement that would eventually control production, perhaps eliminate the weapon altogether, so avoiding a nuclear-arms race. The Americans did evolve a plan (the Baruch Plan) in June 1946 which entailed, as it was bound to, control and inspection in stages over raw materials and atomic plants through the establishment of a UN International Atomic Energy Authority. But the US insisted it would retain its atom bombs until all the stages of control and supervision had been satisfactorily completed. Thus the Russians would have to reveal all their secret nuclear research while the US alone would hold viable atomic weapons. The Russians countered with a plan to ban the production of atomic weapons, to be followed by the destruction of existing (US) weapons, and at the UN they vetoed the American proposals. Without trust between the Soviet Union and the US, neither plan would work. The Russians were determined to catch up with the Americans and the Americans understandably were not going to throw away their advantage and fall behind. Would an act of faith on America’s part have persuaded the Soviet Union to be more amenable to Western demands over Germany or Eastern Europe? It seems unlikely. For Washington the most urgent need was to assess Stalin’s future intentions. There was a consensus that the Soviets were concerned for their own security and that Stalin was isolating the Soviet Union while continuing to build up its industrial might and thus its military potential at the expense of its people’s standard of living. But in ensuring its security how aggressive would the Soviet Union prove to be? How many countries on its borders, not yet within its full grasp, would it seek to dominate? The degree of destruction the Soviet Union had suffered during the war, the paramount need for reconstruction which constrained Soviet leaders from risking war with the West, Stalin’s own preoccupation with consolidating his power at home and Soviet power in Eastern and central Europe, his innate caution – all these factors were given insufficient weight. They were certainly underrated by George Kennan, an American diplomat serving in the Embassy in Moscow who did more than anyone else to provide on the Western side the intellectual Cold War rationale. In February 1946 he sent an 8,000-word telegram to Washington with his psychological assessment of the Soviet leadership’s outlook on world affairs. In it Kennan explained that he did not accept that the comparative weakness of the Soviet Union would force the Soviet leadership to pursue limited goals. But whatever utopias of distant future world conversion Marxist-communism held out to its believers, it was current realism that would dictate Soviet policies. Kennan advised that Soviet behaviour in world affairs was not the result of any objective analysis of the situation beyond its borders but was shaped by a traditional and instinctive sense of Russian insecurity. Soviet leaders reacted to this insecurity by taking the offensive ‘in a patient but deadly struggle for total destruction of rival power, never in compacts and compromises with it’. Therefore, coexistence between the West and the Soviet Union was not possible. The Soviets sought complete control to secure Soviet power, the international influence of the US therefore had to be destroyed. The Soviet Union was impervious to reason, Kennan warned, and responded only to force. It will withdraw, and usually does, he added, when strong resistance is encountered at any point. Soviet aims were revolutionary, unlimited and global. Was the West not then facing a situation similar to the 1930s, when Hitler had aimed at domination while lulling his neighbours with talk of peace and limited aims? Munich and the folly and danger of appeasement provided a vivid lesson of history about which no one needed to be reminded a decade later. The opposite to appeasement was the new doctrine of ‘containment’. The Soviet Union would not be allowed to expand further by direct aggression or indirect subversion. The provision of military equipment and economic assistance to the countries bordering on the Soviet sphere was intended to create the ‘strong resistance’ at every point which Kennan’s ‘long telegram’ (as it came to be called) had advocated. Soviet intransigence in diplomacy over the German question and at the United Nations appeared to confirm Kennan’s analysis, as did the Soviet refusal to withdraw from northern Iran. Soon after the arrival in Washington of Kennan’s cable, which was much admired and widely distributed, the crisis in Iran broke. Iran during the Second World War had provided a vital supply route for Western aid to the Soviet Union. But the Shah’s inclinations had been pro- German, so in 1941 the Russians in the north and the British in the south had jointly occupied the country. The Shah had been forced to abdicate in favour of his son, with whom Britain and the Soviet Union had then signed a treaty undertaking to leave Iran six months after the end of the war. The Russians after the war promised to withdraw in March 1946. Meanwhile in the provinces they had occupied they were encouraging autonomy, promoting an independence movement and refusing the Iranian troops entry. As the price for withdrawing its troops, the Soviet Union demanded oil concessions and autonomy for the province. At the UN Security Council there were sharp debates. The American secretary of state, James F. Byrnes, who until then had taken a conciliatory line towards the Soviet Union, now strongly backed Iran. In May 1946 the Russians withdrew from Iran without gaining any of their aims. The crisis was important for the lessons that were read into it. Firmness in resisting Soviet expansion had paid off. The Russians had been warned off. The US had joined Britain in a region traditionally within Britain’s predominant sphere. The US judged its national interests to have been affected by events in a country on Russia’s borders, thousands of miles from its own. This was an important psychological step to have taken. The new assumption, expressed in the policy of containment, was that after the great expansion of the Soviet sphere of control in central and Eastern Europe, further expansion must be resisted in regions on its borders to which Soviet control had not yet expanded – Turkey, Afghanistan and, lying in between, Iran. American motives were not entirely altruistic. Oil had become a vital issue. Oil reserves in the US were no longer judged sufficient for its future needs and it was seeking, in commercial rivalry with the British, to expand its oil interests in the Middle East. American oil companies were accordingly receiving strong backing from Washington. When the Russians in that summer of 1946 delivered a strong note that made demands on Turkey, it seemed in the West, so soon after the Iranian crisis, to be part of a well-planned Soviet tactic to probe for the West’s weak points. In fact Soviet desires for a revision of the Straits had been raised by Stalin during the wartime Allied conferences. The Turks had secured in 1936 complete sovereign rights over the Straits, and the Russians indicated their wish to reverse this, reverting to a degree of international control. At the time Roosevelt and Churchill told Stalin that they thought Russia’s aims reasonable and just. But by August 1946 the wartime comradeship in arms had given way to deep distrust. The Soviet Union did not persist in its pressure on Turkey, and the tension eased. By the winter of 1946–7 communist forces were also threatening the stability of Turkey’s neighbour Greece, which was in the throes of a civil war, with Britain assisting the royal Greek government financially and militarily. By this time a consensus was emerging in Washington that the West was facing a tenacious and persistent Moscow-led communist offensive designed to expand Soviet control and to undermine the cohesion of the West through subversion or through local communist parties wherever points of weakness could be exploited. What was probably true up to a point became exaggerated in Washington into a belief that there was a masterplan in existence in Moscow and that everything that was happening was in accordance with such a plan. No doubt schemes were being devised in the Kremlin, argued about and constantly changed when the unfolding of events did not correspond to the scientific precepts of Marxism–Leninism. Nor were communists outside the Soviet Union entirely free from primitive nationalist deviations, as Yugoslavia was so soon to demonstrate to the world. In 1947, Moscow’s communist empire was by no means secure and the devastated Soviet Union was far behind the West in economic strength. Stalin would not hesitate to take advantage of Western embarrassments where he could, and in the longer term would hope to benefit from social revolutions in the West. But the Soviet Union was in no condition to risk war. The Greek communist guerrillas had received help from their communist neighbours, and it was believed in Washington and London that the Russians were really behind the conflict. The Greek communists on the contrary felt let down by Stalin. The most likely explanation is that Stalin kept to his undertaking not to help the Greek communists directly. The help they did receive from Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania branded them, in the eyes of many Greeks, as traitors to the national cause, especially as this assistance was being offered by former enemies. The American administration was no partisan of the corrupt and inefficient royalist government but the need to check the Soviet Union, which stood to gain from a communist victory in Greece, overshadowed other considerations. When Foreign Secretary Bevin’s telegram arrived in February 1947 announcing that Britain could no longer sustain the financial burden of supporting the anti-communist Greek government, Washington was ready to respond. Kennan’s long telegram and the discussions in Washington during the course of 1946 and 1947 prepared the way for a spectacular American reaction to the ‘Soviet communist threat’. The response would be global, not piecemeal, and so would mirror the perceived global communist threat. Greece was the catalyst, not the cause. Secretary of State General George Marshall was helped in his new task by the experienced Dean Acheson, under secretary in the State Department and a strong supporter of Soviet containment. A difficulty to be overcome, however, was Congress, which would have to vote the funds, and the Senate was controlled by the Republicans, who were in no mood for high federal expenditures and had already blocked much of Truman’s domestic programme. If bipartisan support could not be secured, Truman knew that his world policies would be wrecked just as surely as Wilson’s had been after the First World War. So he carefully cultivated the Senate and was extraordinarily fortunate in that the leading Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was Arthur Vandenberg from Michigan. Once an isolationist, he had been converted by Pearl Harbor to a global view of America’s national and security interests. On 27 February 1947 Truman met congressional leaders, including Senator Vandenberg, in the White House and put forward the case for aid to Greece. Yet something more striking than Greek difficulties was needed to persuade Congress, and Dean Acheson supplied it. Aid to Greece was placed in the context of combating the designs of a communist assault on the free world. Kennan and Marshall thought that Truman’s celebrated message to Congress, which was to go down in history as the Truman Doctrine, was rather too sweeping, indeed an overstatement of the case, especially as Turkey was now included. But on 12 March 1947 Truman went ahead regardless and delivered the message in person to Congress. The Soviet Union was not mentioned by name, but no one doubted which enemy he had in mind. ‘I believe it must be the policy of the US to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure’, he declared. ‘In helping free and independent nations to maintain their freedom, the US will be giving effect to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.’ Truman then asked for financial aid for Turkey and Greece and authority for American military and civil personnel to assist their governments. Voices were raised in opposition, but the great majority of both Houses of Congress approved. As far as American and world opinion was concerned, the Truman Doctrine was regarded as a dramatic turning point in US policy. On close examination it can be seen to have been steadily evolving during the first two years of the Truman administration. But it still left many questions unanswered. Was the US committed to aid every government, however corrupt, provided it was faced with internal or external communist pressure? The world after all was not simply divided between communist tyranny and free nations. The Truman Doctrine did not provide a guide that could be uncritically and automatically applied regardless of all other considerations. The Truman Doctrine set the stage for its natural complement, the Marshall Plan, publicly unveiled in a speech delivered by Secretary of State George Marshall at Harvard on 5 June 1947. He appealed to American altruism and generosity to help check hunger and destitution in Europe, but he made no references to combating communism, although that was the Plan’s principal aim. On the contrary, all of Europe, as well as the Soviet Union, was included in its scope. In 1945 the US had extended economic aid on no more than a short-term basis in the belief that Western Europe would speedily recover. The problem at that time seemed to be one of international financial mechanisms, a temporary dollar shortage, to be solved by pressuring the European recipients of American loans to accept the new international financial order worked out at Bretton Woods. In 1947 the Truman administration recognised that West European recovery was desperately slow and without further American aid would be slower still. Severe food shortages continued and Western Europe could not pay with its exports what it needed to import from North America. Without American aid, the West European peoples would experience not only great hardship but possible internal disruption. Distress was the seedbed on which communism flourished. Occupied Western Germany, Italy and France were believed in Washington to be most directly threatened. In extending massive economic help to Western Europe, however, the Truman administration faced several problems. How to ensure that the enormous funds required would be properly used? The Americans intended to run the programme, yet a way of doing this without injuring European national susceptibilities had to be found. Which countries were to be offered aid? The Americans rightly believed that it was essential for the recovery of Western Europe that the West German occupation zones should be included, yet the recovery of West Germany would create difficulties with France. It was clearly not America’s aim to extend economic aid to the Soviet Union, yet Marshall did not wish to be accused of dividing Europe, so he avoided excluding any European nation by name from his proposals. Marshall and his advisers, above all Dean Acheson, solved these problems with subtlety. In his speech announcing the Plan, Marshall said that the offer of aid was directed not against any country but against hunger, desperation and chaos; assistance, he continued, should not be piecemeal, nor a mere palliative, but should provide a cure. The gist of Marshall’s proposal was that the European countries should first reach agreement among themselves on what they could do and what help was needed from the US. The US would not formulate a programme – that was the business of the Europeans, from whom the initiative must come: The programme should be a joint one, agreed to by a number of, if not all, European nations. The role of this country should consist of friendly aid in the drafting of a European programme and of later support of such a programme so far as it may be practical for us to do so. A week later, Marshall affirmed that the Soviet Union was included in the offer. The American chosen to run the show was Paul Hoffman, president of the Studebaker automobile corporation. But it was now up to the European nations to respond. In London, Bevin recognised at once the significance of the ideas set in motion by Marshall’s speech; it meant not only the involvement of the US in the economic recovery of Western Europe, but American readiness to participate in its defence against communism. What mattered was to secure an immediate favourable response from the French. On his own initiative Bevin paid the French the compliment of flying to Paris in June to consult Foreign Minister Bidault and other members of his government. The French insisted that the Russians should be invited and be given an opportunity to join. Molotov duly came to Paris on 27 June 1947 to join the Paris conference on the Marshall Plan. Had he remained and dragged out the negotiations, the chances of the US Congress voting large sums to aid the Russians were nil. But Molotov played no sophisticated game; he denounced the Marshall Plan and forced the East European states to boycott the offer. The Czechs, who had already accepted an invitation to attend, were forced to recant. The West went ahead. Ministers of sixteen European nations met in September 1947 together with the three military governors representing the Western German occupation zones. They agreed on the outlines of a four-year European recovery programme. By the following April 1948, a permanent Organisation for European Economic Co-operation, the OEEC, had been set up. This in turn worked out the individual programmes of the participating countries (the German Federal Republic, formed from the Western occupation zones, became a full member in October 1949). Congress meanwhile had established an American counterpart in 1948, the US Economic Co-operation Administration. Through it, $12,992 million of aid between 1948 and 1952, as well as technical assistance, more than 90 per cent of which was not repayable, was channelled to the Western European nations. In the event little Western European economic integration, one of Marshall’s aims, was achieved; but the aid was a significant accelerator of the recovery already under way before 1948. The need the US perceived to reconstruct Western European societies was not entirely altruistic of course. Americans saw such reconstruction as the necessary condition of preventing the spread of communism. What did converge, however, were American policy aims and the greater prosperity and happiness of the peoples of Western Europe. It has been argued that a desire for American export markets was one of the motives behind Marshall’s offer; in fact, exports to Europe constituted only a small fraction of US trade. More notable is the American insistence on European economic cooperation. What most concerned the Truman administration was not any narrow US economic advantage – indeed, some of the policies Americans now urged ran counter to their immediate economic interests – but the strengthening of Western Europe. American policy in this respect coincided with the hopes and aims of the West European governments. Relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated to a new low point in the wake of the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and the evident determination of Britain and the US to move towards a separate West German state. The agreements reached at Potsdam to treat Germany as a whole were for all practical purposes dead by the spring of 1948. Would it be possible to maintain the Potsdam arrangements for the four-power occupation of Berlin? The Kremlin was to test the West’s resolve. In the summer of 1948, the Soviet blockade of Berlin created the most serious crisis of the immediate post-war era.

 

 

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