Browsing "Future Wars of the Empire"

Betraying the American Republic

William E. Borah was a turn-of-the-century Idaho lawyer and Republican who compared McKinley’s annexation of the Philippines to Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase – he did not overestimate the imperialist appetite of the American people. An ardent supporter of Roosevelt the First in 1902, he lost his appetite for imperialism when a Democrat occupied the White House.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Betraying the American Republic

“[Woodrow Wilson] thought America, both for humanity’s sake and because its own interests were linked with Europe’s, could not stand idly by while Europe moved headlong down the path of destruction. Wilson thought in terms of an international organization with broad authority to draw upon military might to compel obedience and defend the territorial integrity of every member state.

[Senator] Borah argued that Wilson’s proposal to commit American armed forces to the protection of every little country would plunge this nation into the storm center of European politics.

Wilson outlined his plan for the League [of Nations] in his “peace without victory” speech before Congress on January 22, 1917. Though it was approved by the Allies and even by Austrian and German liberals, Henry Cabot Lodge . . . warned that such an organization might compel America to accept Oriental immigration and plunge us into another war.

After hearing the President’s speech, Borah [stated that] “internationalism absolutely destroys the national spirit and patriotic fervor,” [and] it would mean the subordination of the Constitution to a pact with foreign powers. It would mean the betrayal of the American Republic. He thanks God that the United States had such a rocklike national spirit and that its people would never submit questions affecting the country’s honor to arbitration.

[Borah said] “The President is in favor of a League of Nations. If the Savior of mankind would revisit the earth and declare for a League . . . I would be opposed to it . . . “ [He told] packed galleries [in Congress] the League was not only a departure from Washington’s policies but a negation of the Monroe Doctrine as well [and that] every League member would be obligated to preserve the territorial integrity of the British colonies.

{Borah] posed the question, “How are the armies of the League to be raised?” The answer, “ by conscription in peace time,” . . . Such a plan would require the largest navy in the world, at the expense of the American taxpayer, and would inevitably lead to war.

Borah denounced Wilson’s “league of diplomats” with its executive council in which Asiatic and European members could outvote Americans on purely American issues. He assailed his own party for its pusillanimous attitude on the League: “I am getting tired of this creeping, crawling, smelling attitude of the Republican party upon an issue which involves the independence of this Republic . . . The white-livered cowards who are standing around while the diplomats of Europe are undermining our whole system . . .”

(Borah, Marian C. McKenna, University of Michigan Pres, 1961, pp. 151-155)

Saving the British Empire

 

Though American political leaders claimed high moral purpose in our entry into war in 1917, American banks did not want their deeply in debt clients to lose and without ability to repay the  principal and interest. Within five years of the 1934 Johnson Act mentioned below, a bankrupt Britain was engaged in yet another war, more deeply in debt and in need of saving once again.

What should have been an armistice between exhausted European combatants in 1917, American intervention at the urging of the media, moral crusaders, banks and munitions dealers bailed out the British and French.  This ensured the rise of a German nationalist who would seek retribution, and more American men buried on European soil.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Saving the British Empire

“The First World War marked the death of many human values, and if Christianity was not numbered among the fatalities it certainly suffered injuries from which it has not recovered. Another faith shattered on the battlefield was the faith that the [British] Empire had in the Motherland.

[General Alexander] Haig had ordered too many Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians to certain death for their countrymen ever again to trust their regiments to the direct command of Whitehall.

The Australian Official History quotes one officer saying his friends were “murdered” through “the incompetence, callousness and personal vanity of those in high authority.” Of the [Battle of the] Somme, another Australian officer is quoted as saying “a raving lunatic could never imagine the horror of the last thirteen days.”

Mammon too was among the wounded. In July 1917 Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer had admitted to the Americans that Britain’s financial resources were virtually at an end. The United States began lending the British $180 million per month. By war’s end Britain’s national debt had risen from 650 million [pounds] in 1914 to 7,435 millions [pounds] of which 1,365 millions was owed to the USA.

This provided an unbearable postwar burden for the taxpayer, and in 1931 Britain defaulted on its debt. Congress responded with the Johnson Act of 1934; Britain’s purchases would now have to be paid for in cash.”

(Blood, Tears and Folly, Len Deighton, HarperCollins, 1993, pp. 129-130)

Utopian Regulation of Future Wars

The American media-provoked Cuban crisis of the late 1890’s provided an ambitious Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Teddy Roosevelt, with the opportunity to catapult the United States into imperialist status with war against Spain.

Roosevelt and the Navy League were preeminent in badgering Woodrow Wilson into entering the European war, with the full support of the steel and munitions industry.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Utopian Regulation of Future Wars:

“One of the unfortunate results of British propaganda efforts in America, and “management” of information at home, was the creation of the viewpoint that the German submarines were ineffective and that the Allies were winning the war. Upon arrival in London, [Admiral] Sims was given the full and unvarnished story. The U-boats were sinking Allied and neutral tonnage faster than it could be replaced. With six more weeks of sinkings, food imports into the British Isles would not be enough to meet demands, and shipments of munitions to the Allied armies would slow to a trickle.

It took the combined efforts of [Admiral William S.] Sims, Ambassador Walter Hines Page, and Prime Minister David Lloyd George to get the story to President Wilson and Secretary [of the Navy Josephus] Daniels without is impact being reduced by filtering through the Atlantic Fleet and the Office of Naval Operations.

[Both] . . . Admiral Benson and Mayo had been basically pessimistic about the outcome of the war before America had entered. From this outlook had developed a strategy of naval construction that anticipated the defeat of the Royal Navy. [The] capital ship construction program was laid down in 1916 that would give the United States a fighting chance of defeating the Germans at sea – provided they didn’t arrive before 1919 or 1920.

By October of 1918, Admiral Benson and the General Board were pressing hard to have a second major [naval] construction program approved. In 1918 the General Board proposed a seven-year construction program that would give the United States preeminence by 1925. Because of wartime construction in America, British merchant and naval losses, and practical cessation of naval building in England, while their ships deteriorated from hard use, the United States was in a position to seize maritime dominance with just a little effort. Once supreme, American need not be concerned about defending the Monroe Doctrine in the Western Hemisphere or the Open Door in Asia.

With her merchant marine, backed by a superior navy, the nation could compete with any power for the world’s markets. In short, as the General Board saw it, the time was at hand when the trident should pass from Britannia to Columbia – by seizure if necessary. Admirals Benson, [Henry T.] Mayo, and Charles J. Badger, Chairman of the General Board, had so testified before Congress. If it meant a period of strained relations or dangerous rivalry with Great Britain, the United States Navy was ready.

Before the war formally stopped on 11 November 1918, a small group of naval officers, plus Professor George Grafton Wilson of Harvard University and the Naval War College, had been set to work developing a Navy Department plan for a League of Nations Navy. Such a plan would be put forward whenever the subject of enforcing the League Covenant was discussed. The League Navy would be made up of vessels and personnel from existing national navies and it would be twice the size of any single nation’s navy. The beauty of the plan, as Pratt saw it, was that it would lead to an automatic regulation of international armaments and maximum freedom of the seas for all nations.

Unfortunately for the Navy, [President Woodrow Wilson] was using the new construction proposal as a form of blackmail to force Great Britain to join the League [of Nations] or face competition with a great new American fleet. Playing an even deeper game, the President was trying to face Congress and the public with a similar choice – join the League and have security from the pooling of interests, or build a new and expensive fleet to provide national security in a possibly hostile world.

During the spring of 1919 Secretary Daniels decided to divide the United States Fleet and create two fleets of equal strength – the Atlantic Fleet . . . and the Pacific Fleet . . . [as] Japanese gains in Asia during the war concerned the Wilson administration and thus the creation of a strong Pacific Fleet was designed to cause the Island Kingdom to think again before moving further.

There was the inevitable need to meet pork-barrel demands from the Pacific Coast politicians. A Pacific Fleet would require bases and the fleet payroll itself was worth attracting.”

(Admiral William V. Pratt, US Navy, A Sailor’s Life, Gerald F. Wheeler, Naval Historical Division, 1974, pp. 96-97, 127-131, 142)

Properly Observing Pearl Harbor Day

Properly Observing Pearl Harbor Day

The sacrifices of those who served in the American military in December, 1941 should be recounted often for us all to ponder and appreciate and the 3000 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor should not have perished in vain.

The sincerest memorial to those who fought and died in this tragedy (and others) is to analyze and discuss the multitude of reasons why it happened, and how do we ensure that American servicemen are not knowingly put in harm’s way for political purposes ever again. As there is far too much information available today for the surprise attack myth to survive scrutiny, and thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and declassification of hundreds of thousands of decoded Japanese messages, we can now get a more clear picture of how events unfolded in 1941.

The myth reported by court historians and the media is that the US was minding its own business until the Japanese launched an unprovoked attack at Pearl Harbor, thereby dragging a reluctant US into a world struggle. In reality, the US under FDR had been deeply involved in Far Eastern affairs for some time, and those policies actually provoked the Japanese attack.

As Oliver Lyttleton, British Minister of Production stated in 1944 . . . ”Japan was provoked into attacking America at Pearl Harbor. It is a travesty to say that America was forced into the war”.

After FDR’s numerous provocations toward Germany without retaliation (while the US was neutral) he switched his focus to Japan and had assistance with Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, who stated in October 1941 that “for a long time I have believed that our best entrance into the war would be by way of Japan.”

And as early as January 27th, 1941, US Ambassador to Japan in Tokyo, Joseph C. Grew noted in his diary that . . . ”there is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the US, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course, I informed our government.”

Even Adm. Ernest J. King wrote a prescient report on 31 March 1941 that predicted a surprise Japanese dawn air attack on Hawaii as the opening of hostilities. The United States military had prepared for a Japanese-American conflict since 1906 with “War Plan Orange” which predicted the Philippines as the target, attacked by surprise for which the Japanese were notorious.

Also, in early 1940 Claire Chennault, the American airman hired by the Chinese, was urging General Hap Arnold and Roosevelt to provide bombers with which to firebomb Japanese cities in retaliation for their attacks on China.

While we cannot excuse Japan’s aggressiveness in Asia in the 1930’s, our government continually provoked the Japanese by freezing assets in the United States, closing the Panama Canal to her shipping and progressively reducing exports to Japan until it became an all-out embargo along with Britain’s. The Philippines, by 1941 were reinforced to the point of being the strongest US overseas base with 120,000 troops and the Philippine Army had been called into service by FDR.

General MacArthur had 74 medium and heavy bombers along with 175 fighters that included the new B-17’s and P-40E’s with which to attack or defend with. The mobilization of troops and munitions has always been recognized as preparation for attack and we thus assumed this posture to the Japanese.

We then implied military threats to Tokyo if it did not alter its Asian policies and on 26 November 1941, FDR issued an ultimatum that Japan withdraw all military forces from China and Indochina as well as break its treaty with Germany and Italy. The day before the 26 November ultimatum was sent , Secretary of War Stimson wrote in his Diary that “the question was how we should manoevre them (the Japanese) into the position of firing the first shot.”

The bait offered was our Pacific fleet.

In 1940, Admiral J.O. Richardson, the commander of the Pacific Fleet flew to Washington to protest FDR’s decision to base the fleet in Hawaii instead of its normal berthing on the US west coast. His concern was that Pearl Harbor was vulnerable to attack, was difficult to defend against torpedo planes, lacked fuel supplies and dry docks. Richardson came away from his meeting with FDR “with the impression that, despite his spoken word, the President was fully determined to put the US into the war if Great Britain could hold out until he was reelected.”

Richardson was quickly relieved of command and he was replaced with Admiral Kimmel, who was still concerned about Pearl Harbor’s vulnerability, but did not challenge FDR.

Also to be considered was the April, 1941 ABD Agreement FDR concluded with the British and Dutch in Indochina that committed US troops to war if the Dutch East Indies were invaded by the Japanese. Add to this the 1940 $25 million loan and Lend-Lease aid provided to China.

The Dutch and British were of course eager for US forces to protect their Far Eastern colonial empires from the Japanese while their military was busy in a European war, and it has been said that this was the primary reason for war with the Japanese. FDR’s dilemma was his 1940 election pledge of non-intervention (unless attacked first) to the American people, and the US Constitution, which provided only Congress with authority to declare war.

One of the most revealing elements in FDR’s beforehand knowledge of Japan’s intentions was our breaking of the Japanese diplomatic and naval operations codes as early as mid-1939. Copies of all deciphered Japanese messages were delivered to Roosevelt and the Secretaries of War, State and Navy, as well as Army Chief of Staff Marshall and Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold Stark.

With no deciphering machines in Pearl Harbor, though three machines went to Britain, the commanders in Pearl Harbor were left completely dependent upon Washington for information. It should be understood that with this deciphered information, our government officials could not have been better informed had they seats at the Japanese war council.

It is in this bare political light that Pearl Harbor should be examined and judged for historical perspective. Our military should not be a pawn used by presidents to initiate war and this is the basic reason the Founders deliberated extensively on the establishment of a standing army which might be used as such and for political benefit.

As nothing happens in a vacuum and the post-World War One US Neutrality Acts were in place to avoid the political machinations that dragged us into that conflict, FDR’s relentless erosion of US neutrality and his secret agreements with foreign governments led to that unnecessary loss of brave American servicemen.  We hopefully have learned from this.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Sources and Suggested Reading:

Betrayal at Pearl Harbor, James Rusbridger & Eric Nave, 1991, Summit Books

On the Treadmill to Pearl Harbor, Memoirs of Adm. Richardson, 1973, Naval History Division Press

Pearl Harbor Countdown, Adm. James O. Richardson, Skipper Steely, 2008, Pelican Publishing

The Years of MacArthur, Volume 1, D. Clayton James, 1970, Houghton Mifflin Company

Blankets of Fire, Kenneth P. Werrell, 1996, Smithsonian Institution Press

Desperate Deception, Thomas E. Mahl, 1998, Brassey’s Books

Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War, George Morgenstern, 1947, Devin-Adair Company

Ten Year’s in Japan, Joseph C. Grew, 1944, Simon & Schuster

Crusades to Transplant American Civilization

Americans in 1898 followed what Reverend Alexander Blackburn called “the imperialism of righteousness, and Samuel Flagg Bemis “an imperialism against imperialism,” crusading to free an oppressed people while imposing an alien culture upon them. At home, Americans received large doses of what Ernest May referred to as “cascades of imperialist and moralistic oratory,” and New Republic founder Herbert Croly believed that the Spanish War launched the whole Progressive Era by delivering “a tremendous impulse to the work of reform.”

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Crusades to Transplant American Civilization

“So what was new about 1898? Why even call it imperialism, another abused word (like isolationism) with a host of nasty connotations? And above all, why include it among the traditions of US foreign policy? For the decidedly new, problematic feature of the era was not the colonialism that everyone now condemns, but the moral progressivism that most now applaud!

The United States went off the rails, in terms of its honored traditions, when it went to war with Spain in the first place. Imagine: the American people and government allowed themselves to be swept by a hurricane of militant righteousness into a revolutionary foreign war, determined to slay a dragon and free a damsel in distress.

It was precisely the sort of temptation that Washington and Hamilton scorned, Jefferson and Madison felt but resisted, and John Quincy Adams damned with eloquence. Exceptionalism meant Liberty at home, not crusades to change the world. In terms of US traditions, the only thing wrong with the imperialist era was what everyone took for granted was right: the war to end war in Cuba.

Having then vanquished the Spaniards, Americans found themselves in possession of several small colonies. The problem of what to do with them raised a second temptation: not retention of foreign bases – that was sound strategy – but rather the “All-Philippine Movement,” which landed the nation’s moral elites in the muddle Polk had avoided at the time of the All-Mexico Movement.

For not only did Americans charge off on a crusade, they remained in the lands they seized in the belief that they had a mission to transplant American civilization, even though they had no intention of allowing the islanders to graduate to statehood. As one historian shrewdly observed: “The imperialist compromise was to allow the flag to advance but to deny that the Constitution followed the flag.”

What did follow the flag was the same do-gooder impulse that inspired the reforms of the Progressive Era . . . Colonial administrators, economists, teachers, doctors, missionaries, investors, and the Army Corps of engineers descended on Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Panama to whip yellow fever and malaria, build the Panama Canal (which TR dubbed a gift to humanity), develop the economies, and free the people from their Spanish Catholic legacy.

For at bottom, the belief that American power, guided by a secular and religious spirit of service, could remake foreign societies came as easily to the Progressives as trust-busting, prohibition of child labor, and regulation of interstate commerce, meat-packing and drugs. Teddy Roosevelt’s “rhetoric of militant decency” was the voice and spirit of the age. “Our chief usefulness to humanity,” he preached, “rests on our combining power with high purpose.”

(Promised Land, Crusader State, the American Encounter with the World Since 1776, Walter A. McDougall, Houghton-Mifflin, 1997, pp. 118-120)

Funding the French in Indochina

It is said that the United States fought the Japanese in World War II to protect English and French colonial interests in the Far East, and the United Nations was viewed as a safeguard to future wars. Few Americans in 1950 knew how much of their money was going to prop up the French colonial regime in Indochina saved from the Japanese, never imagining that over 55,000 Americans would later die in Vietnam for a still-elusive object.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Funding the French in Indochina:

“Whatever the formula for peace, the French Government recognized that it was no longer entirely a free agent in Viet Nam. Even in 1953, at the time of the Viet Minh invasion of Laos which occasioned so much alarm abroad, when certain members of the French Cabinet were reported to favor a request to the United Nations for help, they were overruled – partly to avoid foreign discussion and intervention in the affairs, not only of Indochina, but of the French Union generally; and partly out of fear that the United Nations intervention would precipitate Chinese intervention on the side of the Viet Minh, creating a situation similar to that which had prevailed in Korea.

At the same time, however, the French Government sought and received aid from its allies (from the signatories to the North Atlantic Treaty in 1952 and from the British and American Governments on various occasions and at Bermuda in 1953) an endorsement of its war effort as vital to the defense of the free world. And it also sought and received substantial military and economic aid, mostly from the United States.

Certain highly-placed French officials were once reported as fearful of allowing American aid to reach fifty percent of the total French military effort in Indochina, on the theory that the United States would then be in “the zone of political demands.”

By 1954, the American Government was paying about eighty percent of the total French military expenditures in the Associated States. American aid, which began in 1950, had averaged $500 million annually and included ammunition, vehicles, aircraft, naval vessels, small arms and automatic weapons, hospital supplies and technical equipment, which were delivered directly to the French Union forces under the supervision of an American Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG).

In 1953, on the basis of military plans drawn up by General Navarre and a French pledge “to intensify prosecution of the war” and make “every effort to break up and destroy regular enemy forces in Indochina,” the United States promised France an extra $385 million.”

(The Struggle For Indochina, Ellen J. Hammer, Stanford University Press, 1954, pp. 313-314)

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