Controlling the Waves: Dean Acheson and U.S. Foreign Policy in Asia

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Controlling the Waves: Dean Acheson and U.S. Foreign Policy in Asia

By Ronald L. McGlothlen
Norton, 1993
352 pp. $27.95
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This volume, a detailed, narrative history of Dean Acheson's policy toward East Asia in the early postwar period, won an award from the American Historical Association in 1990. The author concludes that Acheson's primary concern in East Asia was the reconstruction of Japan, which he viewed as "the real prize in Asia" and the only nation with any "real strategic importance." Acheson therefore worked to secure Japan's economic and political future by developing a U.S.-sponsored recovery program, revising Japan's reparations obligations, negotiating a peace treaty and rebuilding Japan's Asian trade. The last was by far the most important. The author also points out that if others had been in charge at the time, U.S. policy might have been quite different. George Kennan, for example, wanted to neutralize Japan, accept Soviet domination of Korea, seize Taiwan, allow the People's Republic of China into the United Nations and abandon all of Indochina.

Acheson's Japan-centered strategy involved risks--witness the Korean and Vietnam wars and a long feud with the People's Republic of China. But the author concludes that on the whole Acheson and his group were remarkably successful.

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