Monday, December 14, 2009

Marc Gallicchio's "The Scramble for Asia"

Marc Gallicchio is a Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History at Villanova University. He is the author of The African American Encounter with Japan and China: Black Internationalism in East Asia, 1895-1945, which won the Robert H. Ferrell Senior Book Award from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. He also edited and contributed to The Unpredictability of the Past: Memories of the Asia-Pacific War in U.S.-East Asian Relations.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Scramble for Asia: U.S. Military Power in the Aftermath of the Pacific War, and reported the following:
Page 99 of the The Scramble for Asia assesses the American position in Asia in the weeks following Japan’s surrender. It brings readers up to date and foreshadows the problems that would vex American officials in the next two years. Page 99 reminds readers that the sudden collapse of Japanese resistance in August 1945 created an unexpected opportunity to influence events on the mainland and possibly check Soviet power in the region. American troops were sent ashore in Korea and China and an advisory group accompanied Chinese forces into French Indochina (Vietnam).

American forces entered the vacuum created by Japan’s collapse uncertain of how they should deal with revolutionary turmoil emerging in the wake of the war. In large part, this was because “the arrival of American forces owed more to reflex and spasm than long term planning.” Page 99 ends by noting how developments in Europe further complicated efforts to achieve American aims in Asia. “[T]he turmoil in Asia shared the spotlight with a host of other foreign and domestic problems confronting a harassed President Truman. Following V-E Day, the United States faced the enormous task of reconstructing a flattened Europe. Complicating this herculean task was the fraying relationship with the Soviet Union.”

The Scramble for Asia passes the page 99 test with a very respectable B+. It touches on many of the major themes addressed throughout the book. But readers would have to continue onto the next two pages for a glimpse of what Truman was up against in the realm of domestic problems. The growing demands for demobilization of the economy and the discharge of soldiers and sailors from the armed forces played havoc with Truman’s efforts to project American power overseas. “Peace is hell” declared an exasperated Truman.

In the remaining three chapters I describe the democratic outburst to “bring the boys home,” the use of Japanese troops by the U.S. and its allies to maintain order, and the deleterious impact of young recruits and draftees, “ambassadors of ill will” on American efforts in the region.

Two years after Japan’s surrender the United States abandoned its more ambitious goals on the mainland in recognition of the limits of its power. But the consequences of America’s earlier intervention lingered and complete disengagement proved unattainable. By 1950 America had become France’s chief source of aid in a colonial war against the Vietnamese, and the United States was thrust once more into the middle of the Chinese civil war while GIs battled to a deadly stalemate on the Korean peninsula.
Read more about The Scramble for Asia at the publisher's website, and visit Marc Gallicchio's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue