The Open Door in Paradise? United States Strategic Security and Economic Policy in the Pacific Islands, 1945-1947

Hal M. Friedman


Between 1945 and 1947, the United States set out on an imperial course to guarantee its future security in the Pacific Basis vis-a-vis potential aggressor nations in East Asia. Ensuring U.S. strategic control of the area meant wielding physical control over the economic resources of the Pacific islands conquered from Japan, especially the Mariana, Marshall, and Caroline groups composing Micronesia. By coupling these indigenous economies to that of the United States, American officials, particularly military officers, hoped to develop a local economy that could subsidize an American administration. Some even suggested creating a market economy in the islands that could buttress long-term U.S. control of the area by "Americanizing" the Pacific Islanders through the introduction of mainstream American consumer goods and social services. Historians have much to learn from this neglected episode of early Cold War history, since the economic administration of the Pacific islands conquered from Japan provided an exception to U.S. postwar protestations of "open doorism." Scholars of international relations will note the broad manner in which U.S. officials defined "strategic" security for the Pacific Basin. Finally, students of American "exceptionalism" will find interest in American officials' narrow, even legalistic, definitions of "imperialism," used to deflect international criticism that the United States was retreating from its wartime support for the decolonization of empires.


United States--Relations--Pacific Area; United States--Economic policy--1945-1960; Micronesia; Marshall Islands; Caroline Islands; Mariana Islands

Full Text: PDF