DRAWING THE LINE: The Origins of the American Containment Policy in East Asia by Robert M. Blum

DRAWING THE LINE: The Origins of the American Containment Policy in East Asia

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In a minor but not inconsequential study, historian Blum, a one-time Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer, traces some unsuspected links between postwar US China policy and American involvement in Southeast Asia. In the State Department, he recounts, officials were caught between the vociferous anti-communism of the Pentagon and the China Lobby and, on the other hand, hopes of ""Titoizing"" the Chinese Communists--i.e., exacerbating their disagreements with the USSR, and thus fragmenting the communist bloc. Meanwhile, State's China experts--Davies, Vincent, Lattimore, et al.--were under attack as pro-communist. Secretary of State Acheson favored disengagement from the Chinese civil war and promotion of the Titoist strategy, but Assistant Secretary Dean Rusk took a pro-Formosa stance--and, on becoming Acheson's chief Asian advisor, helped to soften State's position toward Chiang on the eve of the Korean War. Even as the Truman administration vacillated on the Chinese front, however, it moved steadily toward a containment policy in Southeast Asia--in 1949, by issuing a series of ominous studies on the communist threat in the region; in 1950, by backing the French as a potential anti-communist bulwark. Blum has discovered--it's his key evidence--that in 1949 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee authorized the administration to spend a special fund of $75 million (the 303 fund) ""in the general area of China""; and that, in 1950, this money was given to the French to pursue their policies in Indochina. The initial aid arrived just before the Korean War accelerated American involvement in the area. So, while the China debates resulted in little direct action, they had the indirect effect of triggering American intervention in Southeast Asia. On the way to this understanding, the reader is treated to--or subjected to--much bureaucratic infighting. Specialists apart, then, chiefly for a behind-the-scenes readership.

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1982
Publisher: Norton