Governing the American Lake
The U.S. Defense and Administration of the Pacific Basin, 1945-1947
Published by: Michigan State University Press
Imprint: Michigan State University Press
Sales Date: 2007-02-15
In this carefully crafted and meticulously researched book, Hal M. Friedman contends that US fears after World War II led the nation into military domination of the Pacific Ocean, turning it into an "American lake" in the hope of keeping the mainland safe from attack. According to Friedman, with the country still reeling from a bad case of "Pearl Harbor Syndrome," four departments of the Executive Branch —War, Navy, State, and Interior— succeeded in creating a new US strategic sphere in the Pacific Basin. However, while the departments agreed on the goal, there were many arguments about the means of reaching it. Friedman recounts disagreements about the best ways to secure the Basin against potential enemies, particularly a resurgent Japan and a hostile Soviet Union.
With the United States unofficially claiming jurisdiction over a vast ocean and all of its human occupants, there were titanic clashes of opinion about how to exercise this newly-declared power. Working from primary sources, including declassified materials, Friedman describes the many conflicts between military and civilian services in the period immediately following the war. He provides an indepth analysis of the policies that were thrashed out, often after intense interdepartmental infighting, to turn the Pacific into an American lake. In addition, he investigates the civil administration of Guam and American Samoa, along with the governing of the islands of Micronesia and the Ryukyus, which were formerly occupied by the Japanese.
While a few scholars have studied post-war American imperialism, only Friedman has investigated the bureaucracy of policymaking and its consequences on Pacific islands and peoples with this much detail. Not only does Friedman examine the bureaucratic history, but he also illuminates the equally important impacts of Americanization that accompanied the imposition of US ideas about government, economics, and culture far beyond mainland America. This is a revealing examination of how the US took over the Pacific Ocean after World War II.