The Currents of War

The Currents of War: A New History of American-Japanese Relations, 1899-1941

Sidney Pash
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 372
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  • Book Info
    The Currents of War
    Book Description:

    From 1899 until the American entry into World War II, U.S. presidents sought to preserve China's territorial integrity in order to guarantee American businesses access to Chinese markets -- a policy famously known as the "open door." Before the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, Americans saw Japan as the open door's champion; but by the end of 1905, Tokyo had replaced St. Petersburg as its greatest threat. For the next thirty-six years, successive U.S. administrations worked to safeguard China and contain Japanese expansion on the mainland.

    The Currents of War reexamines the relationship between the United States and Japan and the casus belli in the Pacific through a fresh analysis of America's central foreign policy strategy in Asia. In this ambitious and compelling work, Sidney Pash offers a cautionary tale of oft-repeated mistakes and miscalculations. He demonstrates how continuous economic competition in the Asia-Pacific region heightened tensions between Japan and the United States for decades, eventually leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

    Pash's study is the first full reassessment of pre--World War II American-Japanese diplomatic relations in nearly three decades. It examines not only the ways in which U.S. policies led to war in the Pacific but also how this conflict gave rise to later confrontations, particularly in Korea and Vietnam. Wide-ranging and meticulously researched, this book offers a new perspective on a significant international relationship and its enduring consequences.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4425-2
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. x-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Commodore Matthew Perry was not a superstitious man. If he were, he would not have decided to follow the course to Edo Bay charted by earlier, failed US expeditions to Japan. Since 1790, some two dozen American vessels and countless others from Europe had visited the secluded islands. The Japanese, however, had turned away all expeditions because they threatened the shogun’s self-imposed policy of isolation. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the islands’ great feudal landed families, the daimyo, had waged a brutal and protracted civil war for control of the nation before Nobunaga Oda all but unified the country...

  6. Chapter 1 The Foundations of Containment
    (pp. 13-48)

    George Bronson Rea made a living off the Open Door. First, in 1905, as the founder of theFar Eastern Review,he championed American access to the China market. Later, as an adviser to the government of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, he championed Tokyo’s dominance in Northeast Asia. While Rea clearly abandoned his allegiance to the Open Door, America never did.

    During the Progressive Era, long before Rea turned apologist for the Japanese, his career and America’s defense of the Open Door paralleled one another. Rea launched hisFar Eastern Reviewin 1905, the same year that Theodore...

  7. Chapter 2 The Rise and Fall of the Washington Conference System
    (pp. 49-84)

    Warren G. Harding is not remembered as a particularly brave or daring man. But, at the outset of his presidency, the United States embarked on a bold plan to contain Japanese expansion and protect the Open Door. The 1921–1922 Washington Conference brought representatives of the major powers to the nation’s capital for four months of talks designed to end the ongoing Anglo-American-Japanese naval building program and resolve differences over the future of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the Open Door, and Shantung Province. The Washington Conference inaugurated the most successful period in America’s long containment of Japan, and, in its aftermath,...

  8. Chapter 3 Into the Abyss
    (pp. 85-110)

    For the better part of a decade, the Washington Conference order governed Japanese-American relations, but by 1933 the system lay in ruins. The death of the order signaled far more than the triumph of Japanese militarism over Shidehara diplomacy or the intensification of the now institutionalized Japanese-American estrangement. It meant the end of a spirit that, whatever its limitations, was predicated on the belief that diplomatic engagement and cooperative diplomacy could contain Japan more effectively than economic sanctions and military deterrence. After 1933, Washington had no such illusions, and for eight years the Roosevelt administration consistently shunned Tokyo’s efforts at...

  9. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  10. Chapter 4 Containment at High Tide
    (pp. 111-142)

    From the conclusion of the Brussels Conference in the autumn of 1937 to the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Japan challenged American containment as never before. Fighting in China and the spread of war to Europe, however, also provided the architects of American containment with the necessary tools to halt Japanese expansion. Continued Chinese resistance permitted that country’s many champions in the administration, foremost among them Morgenthau and White, to successfully push for increased aid, while the joining of the Pacific and European Wars helped clear the way for the massive American rearmament that the president,...

  11. Chapter 5 Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Department
    (pp. 143-170)

    For three decades, diplomatic engagement remained an integral part of America’s containment of Japan. With the exception of Calvin Coolidge, every president from Theodore Roosevelt to Herbert Hoover achieved at least one major agreement with Tokyo designed to protect the Open Door and limit Japanese expansion. These agreements did not safeguard the Open Door, but they did help shelter it, and, in the process, diplomatic engagement kept in check the suspicion, fear, and rivalry that competition in China, American immigration restrictions, and a sustained Japanese-American naval arms race had created. Neither Taft-Katsura nor Lansing-Ishii nor even the Washington and London...

  12. Chapter 6 The Revolutionary Summer
    (pp. 171-192)

    In late July 1941, Japanese forces began their occupation of southern French Indochina. The previous September, when Tokyo sent troops into the northern half of the colony and joined the Axis, Washington responded with increased aid to China and embargoes on scrap iron and steel shipments. In September 1940, with the nation ill prepared for war and England’s survival in doubt, America could not afford armed conflict in the Pacific. By July 1941, however, the world had changed a great deal, and, consequently, the Roosevelt administration’s response was altogether different. Before the first Japanese soldier set foot in the south,...

  13. Chapter 7 Rollback
    (pp. 193-216)

    During the summer of 1941, American containment succeeded beyond its creators’ grandest hopes. Japan, still mired in China after four grueling years of war, faced a formidable and growing Western military buildup in Southeast Asia. Stiffening Soviet resistance in Europe, meanwhile, increased the Konoe cabinet’s concerns over both Germany’s future and the value of the Tripartite Pact. Worse still, the American-led trade embargo and worldwide preclusive-purchasing program cut Japan off from nearly all vital raw materials. Unbreakable Chinese resistance, growing Allied strength, grave concerns over the alliance with Germany, and a looming, catastrophic petroleum shortage forced the Japanese government and...

  14. Chapter 8 All or Nothing
    (pp. 217-250)

    The final six weeks of peace offered the United States and Japan repeated chances to spare Asia and the Pacific a cataclysmic war. That these chances came through the ascension to power of a career military officer who years later swung from the gallows might come as something of a surprise. But, in November 1941, as Japan and America frantically prepared for the war that neither wanted, statesmen on both sides of the Pacific produced plans that could, just possibly, have averted war.

    In the last desperate months of peace, Japan’s most unyielding leaders considered compromise. The same, however, could...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 251-256)

    In the autumn of 1941, America’s carefully crafted containment strategy brought on the war its creators sought to avoid. In Washington, the dream of achieving long-term objectives and short-term imperatives, safeguarding the Open Door and breaking the Axis Alliance, led senior military and civilian leaders to reject an eleventh-hour compromise. In turn, this decision left the Japanese government with no choice but war.

    In explaining why negotiations failed, Foreign Minister Togo pointed to problems that had plagued Japanese-American relations for decades. “The United States Government,” he declared, “has persistently adhered to its traditional doctrines and principles . . . in...

  16. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 257-258)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 259-310)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 311-332)
  19. Index
    (pp. 333-346)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 347-348)