DOUGLAS MacARTHUR by Michael Schaller


The Far Eastern General
Email this review


Despite the literally dozens of scholarly and popular studies on MacArthur still available, Schaller (The American Occupation of Japan, 1985; etc.) provides a wealth of fresh and damning perspectives on MacArthur's reputation as a military statesman. The Univ. of Arizona history professor charges that the self-styled expert on oriental psychology "knew little about Asian realities and not much more about American politics." Nor does the author give much credence to his abilities as a strategist. Without the atomic bomb, he points out, the Philippines (to which the commander of WW II's South West Pacific theater had pledged to return) would have proved "the slow way to Tokyo"; liberating the island dependency, moreover, was a far longer and bloodier business than the five-star general had predicted. Concluding that MacArthur deserved at most partial credit for occupied Japan's remarkable recovery, Schaller notes how he frequently subverted key reform programs to suit his own presidentail ambitions. As commander of UN forces in Korea, the author argues convincingly, the American Caesar willfully risked war with mainland China and even the Soviet Union to achieve personal vindication. For over two decades after MacArthur's recall, Schaller observes, America's Far Eastern policy centered on containment--a course made inevitable by the general's self-serving actions. Only after Washington came to terms with the Chinese communist regime MacArthur had long sought to destroy, the author contends, did the US escape the most damaging aspects of his long-lived legacy. Of necessity, Schaller covers a lot of familiar ground. He does so, however, with interpretive insight and intelligence that, against the odds, make his harsh, revisionist judgments a genuine contribution to MacArthurian lore.

ISBN: 19-503886-X
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online: