Friday, July 02, 2004

FDR: Pacific Warlord

FDR: Pacific Warlord Critical reappraisal of Roosevelt's policy in the far east, including his attitude towards Japanese-Americans and their internment.

From the site:

Well-nigh universal opinion holds that Franklin Roosevelt was the greatest president produced in twentieth century America, a perception grounded on his energetic battle against the Great Depression, his leadership in the last Good War, and his expert marketing of a genial personality. But proof of his actual achievements is more difficult to deliver because he was careful to leave little in the way of a paper trail.

He kept control of his administration by making decisions from day to day, sponsoring bickering and rivalry among the bureaucrats, and using unofficial agents. He discouraged note taking at cabinets, and left no memoirs to enlighten us. There are worse ways to control a government, but it left critics free to charge him with major-league chicanery, i.e. guilty foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor, on the one hand, or to foist on him an enthusiasm for their own favorite causes.

While his role in any particular policy or transaction is often hard to pin down, it is clear enough that FDRs grasp of the Pacific world was seriously flawed. Originally, he followed the prudent course of avoiding a Japanese war. for which the country was ill prepared, but eventually he had to face it, and suffer the Pearl Harbor disaster. Many of his ideas were out-of-date. The deep prejudice against Japanese of any stripe which allowed him to set up the Japanese Americans as scapegoats for Pearl Harbor was only one of his bizarre notions about races and peoples. As a self-appointed naval expert he was often a nuisance to his admirals, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff ran the Pacific war pretty much on their own. Because he seriously misjudged Chinese capabilities, FDR paved the way for the disillusionment of postwar years. He also misjudged Stalin. The country might have been better served had he been able to retire in 1943, when he had become seriously ill.

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