The Man Who Planned The Victory

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Were you proposing that the United States take sides in a civil war—and risk getting hogged down militarily?

There was risk only if we were stupid enough to commit ourselves unilaterally in unwise ways. I did not and would under no circumstances have proposed the use of U.S. troops on the mainland of Asia in this situation. We made a serious mistake in this respect later in Vietnam

Would you never favor intervention abroad with U.S. military forces?

I am not saying that at all. I do believe situations arise in which the United States should act militarily against aggressors and terrorists who disturb international peace. This should seldom, if ever, be undertaken, however, except in concert with other, like-minded peoples. And occasions for military intervention certainly can be reduced if our foreign policies are farsighted, consistent, and energetic.

Did official Washington like your 1947 report?

Apparently not. I expected to be called in for discussions of the crisis with the Secretary of State or the President. But nothing happened. The government adopted a passive “wait and see” or “let the dust settle” policy with respect to China. I was disappointed and disillusioned that the State Department failed to take any steps at the United Nations respecting my proposal for a trusteeship over Manchuria. My report was quietly buried. It was released to the public only after the passage of a couple of years—and in the wake of the furor that arose when the Communists took over the mainland.

The Communist takeover in China wasn’t inevitable. I would have given it the old college try.

Do you believe that your 1947 recommendations, if adopted, would have made a difference in the outcome in China?

Perhaps things already were too far gone in 1947, but I’m not so sure. Certainly if we had acted promptly in 1945, right after the war ended, our chances of affecting events there would have been far brighter. There was nothing “inevitable” about the Communist takeover in China. I certainly would have given it the old college try. The stakes were big , very big. Imagine—just imagine—what the course of world history since 1949 might have been like had China remained friendly to the West. No war in Korea? No war in Vietnam?

General, as you look back on the history of your time, what thoughts predominate?

I have a troubled sense of the futility that has marked so much of our international experience. Think of the wars and crises that have wracked the world in this century! We Americans tend to get involved quite blindly, with little real understanding of ends or thought of consequences. We plunge emotionally into conflicts, lose thousands of lives, spend billions of dollars, help wreak enormous damage on the world and its peoples. Then we go back and spend more billions trying to put things together again. What an inane cycle! And look at what happened after World War II: we destroyed one set of tyrants only to build up another! We “won” that war only in a limited military sense.

What can or should be done?

Americans simply must become more forehanded and consistent in the way we manage our public affairs. As populations grow and the struggle for space and resources becomes more intense, a lot of heat is generated. We can’t afford simply to sit back, let events take their course, and jump in with a military solution when a crisis gets out of hand. There are so many ways in which the course of events can be influenced without the use or threat of force. Economic, diplomatic, cultural, psychological, and other means are available in limitless variety. If all these “instruments of national policy” are employed in a timely, coordinated, and imaginative way, in accordance with a reasonably steady game plan, there is good reason to hope for progress toward a better world without the scourge of war.

I guess you are saying that we should all become strategists—in the broader sense of that term?

Precisely!