Europe Up, Asia Down
Lattimore had been a student of Asia all his life. His professional concerns were centered there, on China and its problems, on the Mongols whom he greatly admired, and on Japan as the major threat to both of them. The focus of his journalistic commentaries was always, What policies should the United States follow in Asia?
In 1948 this emphasis shifted. The struggle with Russia was important in Asia, but the most important pressure points were in Europe. It was there, rather than in Asia, that Western-style democracy had to be saved. Western Europe was the cradle of democratic practice; if that area could be strengthened and democracy there invigorated, the United States would not face alone a hostile world of totalitarians.
These beliefs were articulated in Lattimore's writing from the beginning of the cold war, and in 1948 they came to the fore. To Lattimore, the Marshall Plan represented an absolutely vital effort to strengthen our most important salient. A reading of his output during this period shows that the success of the European Recovery Program (ERP) was the measure against which he judged policy in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
And there were threats to the Marshall Plan. First and foremost was the danger that the lingering isolation of conservative Republicans would hamstring if not defeat Marshall Plan appropriations. Eastern internationalist Republicans were not the problem; rather, Lattimore feared the conservative, anti-New Deal, "fortress America" thinking of midwestern and western Republicans, who had much power in the Senate. They were dangerous, he thought, not just because they were reluctant to appropriate money for "decadent" Europe but because they insisted on squandering precious aid money on lost causes in Asia. This money would be
better spent on allies who could use it effectively. The Republican blend of isolationism toward Europe and interventionism in Asia was called "neo-isolationism" by Norman Graebner; a neo-isolationist was one who wanted to fight in China.
George Marshall proposed the ERP at the Harvard commencement June 5, 1947. Britain and France thereupon called a meeting in Paris; Molotov attended briefly, then stormed out. A second meeting was called, to be attended by representatives of all European nations west of Russia except Spain. The Soviet satellites did not attend, but sixteen nations did; between July and September they hammered out an integrated program for restoring the economies of Western Europe. Truman accordingly presented legislation to Congress in December 1947 calling for expenditure of $17 billion over four and a quarter years. Debate then began in Congress.
As Thomas A. Bailey describes the opposition, "Critics of the Marshall scheme charged that it was just another 'Operation Rathole.' 'Uncle Santa Claus' had already poured too much money into the pockets of ungrateful Europeans—bout $12 billion in various loans and handouts since mid-1945. America had better make herself strong at home, conserve her resources, and help her own needy people. Otherwise she would offend the Soviets (who were already offended), divide Europe (which was already divided), and lay herself open to the Russian charge (which had already been made) of 'dollar imperialism.' " Perhaps Congress would have passed the ERP without stimulus from Russia, but the Soviet coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948 strengthened Truman's hand. Finally, by early April a one-year appropriation of $6 billion passed, and Truman signed the bill April 3.
Lattimore commented on the congressional fight over ERP in an article on January 17. Congressional supporters of Chiang were pressing for aid to China; Truman appeared to be yielding to their demands. Lattimore thought Marshall and the congressional supporters of aid to Europe would bargain with the "fanatics who are for all-out intervention in China" in order to get the funds for Europe. He was correct.
Not only congressional Republicans were giving Marshall trouble; Asia-first generals were also causing problems. Lattimore's sympathies were all with Marshall, not Truman; the president, he thought, was not exercising appropriate leadership. Without Senator Arthur Vandenberg, Republican of Michigan, the Marshall Plan would have gone down the drain (March 13).
The second great threat to the Marshall Plan came from the colonial
powers. Both the Netherlands and France were waging full-scale war in their Asian colonies. The Dutch were spending a million dollars a day in an attempt to reclaim Indonesia, the French in Indochina probably even more. These expenditures would represent a drain on whatever would be appropriated for European recovery (March 19).
On April 9, Lattimore went back to the threat of siphoning off money to a moribund China. The administration had agreed to a substantial appropriation for China to assure the passage of ERP. Lattimore was aghast; he thought that Washington was in the grip of "such intense emotions that people are hitting out in all directions without stopping to make sure what they are hitting at. . .. The hysterical House vote on inviting Franco Spain into the Marshall Plan [later rescinded] shows what the emotion is about and the state it has reached. Congress has worked itself up to a point where the only standard of measurement for a foreign policy proposal is one question: How anti-Russian is it?"
Aid for Korea was akin to aid for China. Neither was cost-effective. In May, Lattimore compared Israel and Korea as prospective recipients of American aid. The Israelis were people like us, staunch individualists, solidly middle class, endorsing collectivism only through labor unions where it was necessary to get a living wage. Korea, by contrast, did not "have the even texture and the large measure of social equality" that Israel had. Korea, therefore, "is incompetent to use intelligently either economic or military forms of aid. . .. It will waste American aid even more incompetently and corruptly than the Kuomintang in China" (May 21).
By June the American presidential campaign was heating up. Unhappy as he was with Truman's rhetorical belligerence, Lattimore still supported the president. Dewey was handicapped by the power of the Republican neo-isolationists, who were interventionist toward Asia; they demanded a statement on increased support for China in the party platform. The Progressive party candidate was Henry Wallace, of whom Lattimore had seen enough in 1944. Wallace the politician was "a first class disaster." Wallace was against the Marshall Plan, holding that any foreign aid should be given through the United Nations. Lattimore supported the UN but knew that that cumbersome, strife-ridden organization could not save Western democracy. And, as Lattimore wrote for ONA on June 26, Wallace was an appeaser: "Appeasement of Russia will not do it. The Henry Wallace campaign has already shown that Mr. Wallace gets a large part of his support from the desire for peace with Russia; but the strength that he draws from this feeling is undermined by the fear that his only notion of peace may prove to be the appeasement of Russia."
Seven more times in 1948 Lattimore wrote in his weekly column of the dangers facing the Marshall Plan. In the months before the election, when Dewey appeared sure to win, Lattimore emphasized the hemorrhaging of foreign aid into Asia that a Republican victory would bring. After Truman's startling victory he worried still about the drain into French and Dutch colonial wars. In his wrap-up column at the end of the year he rejoiced that "the Marshall Plan really got rolling." But the plan did not solve all our problems: Americans seemed not to know whether the ERP was a preparation for war with Russia, which Lattimore opposed, or a mobilizing of human and other resources to strengthen democratic forces in Europe, which he supported (December 30).
And Israel still hung in the balance. Truman had not yet extended formal recognition, and Israel had not yet been admitted to the United Nations. Lattimore thought the United States should move more vigorously: "Israel is not merely a new state but the only democratic state in the Near and Middle East. If it survives, the effect will be revolutionary: growing political movements among the neighbors of Israel will demand that their governments yield to them some of the democratic rights that are the very essence of the society of Israel" (December 30). The prophecy was questionable, but the value judgment was not. Lattimore supported aid to democracies .
If the prospects for strengthening democracy in Western Europe went up in 1948, the prospects in Asia went down. China was the greatest disaster area.
Lattimore had a chance to argue his views of the Chinese situation on the prestigious "Town Meeting of the Air" on January 6. He and Richard Lauterbach, a journalist who covered Asia, paired off against two Republicans: former ambassador William Bullitt and Representative Walter Judd.
Bullitt led off with a call for defending the United States by underwriting the Chinese Nationalists. His speech was cast in apocalyptic terms: "we face today the possibility that the Soviet Government, using the Chinese Communists as tools, will conquer China. And everyone in the Far East from General MacArthur down, knows that a Communist China would eventually mean a Communist Japan and that the American people in the end would face attack by combined Communist forces of Russians, Chinese, and Japanese. . .. We must act instantly and effectively or we shall betray into the hands of Stalin not only China but also the greatest adventure in human freedom that this earth has known—our own America."
Lauterbach spoke next, politely but firmly denying that Chiang repre-
sented a viable or worthy force. Judd followed, claiming that the Nationalists were not too far gone either to use aid effectively or to reform themselves. The stage was now set for vintage Lattimorean sarcasm:
Mr. Bullitt, you seem to think that we ought to fight the Russians with cheap coolie labor because the average Chinese lives on less than $40 a year. Mr. Judd, you are trying to dodge the fact that the Chinese Government is a gangster with a gun on one hip by professing a childlike faith that it will turn into a Boy Scout if we give it a gun on each hip. I disagree. (Applause.)
I don't think you can stop communism on coolie wages, and I don't think you can reform gangsters by giving them more guns. (Applause.) I agree with you, Mr. Lauterbach, that for every Communist the Chinese Government is killing with American guns, it is creating four new ones by its cruelty and corruption. (Applause.) . . . I don't know how stupid the Russians can be, but I do know that if they are stupid enough to try to take over China, they will have a hundred times more trouble than they are having right now. The present government of China has definitely proved one thing: it is the most expensive instrument we could possibly use to try to stop Russia and the spread of communism.
Bullitt was wounded. In the discussion period he asked Lattimore a long and tendentious question. Lattimore began his answer "Mr. Bullitt, for a question, that's quite a speech." Things went downhill from there. Lattimore had acquired another enemy.
Lattimore's 1948 ONA articles presented his conviction that Chiang could not then reverse his fortunes and that the only hope for a non-Communist government was in a new coalition. This coalition would be composed of "men who, in crisis after crisis during the last 20 years, have proved that they are not dupes of the Communists, but who have also earned popular respect by their steady opposition to one-man dictatorships." Rapid advances toward the Yangtze River by the Communists were encouraging this "third force" movement (January 3). It took the form of a Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang, and its aims were to "clean out the corruption of the later years of the Kuomintang and to go back to the traditions that gave it vigor when Sun Yat-sen was still alive" (January 30).
Lattimore held some hope for the Revolutionary Committee. It was in vain. Chiang's armies were disintegrating so rapidly and the Communists were sweeping south so swiftly that the third force never had a chance.
As the American elections approached, Chiang and his supporters counted on a Republican victory to bail them out. This also was a vain hope. Even
had Dewey won, the momentum of Communist advances would have continued. As Lattimore saw it, China was effectively Mao's (August 13).
But if Lattimore's lingering hope for a coalition government in which non-Communist elements would have real power was unrealistic, his prediction in July that Mao would eventually be another Tito was right on the mark. This was not a popular doctrine. Diehard American supporters of Chiang resisted it well into the 1960s. To Lattimore, the parallels with Tito were abundantly clear. Mao, like Tito, was gaining power on his own and was not put in power by Soviet armies: "Similarly, the Chinese Communists are deeply rooted in nationalism. They have supported Russian policy, interests and moves everywhere outside of China, but within China they have consistently pursued policies of their own and have developed methods of their own which are based squarely on Chinese conditions" (July 3).
Lattimore was also right about the "ladder" theory (a forerunner of the domino theory). Some Americans believed that if the Russians, with Mao as their stooge, took over China, the Chinese Communists would "take over the revolutionary and nationalistic movements in Indo-China, Burma, and Indonesia. This is a ladder of absurdity, not of cause and effect. There are important Chinese minority communities in Indo-China, Siam [Thailand], Burma, Malaya, and Indonesia: but in every one of these countries there is a phobia against the Chinese" (December 3). He was right. In-dochina did go Communist, but Ho Chi Minh fell out with his Chinese sponsors. The others were saved for democracy. Communism proved no more monolithic than Christianity.
Lattimore was chair of a CFR session on Japan in January 1948. The discussion leader was James Lee Kauffman, who had taught and practiced law in Tokyo. CFR records do not reveal who selected Kauffman as the discussion leader; certainly it was not Lattimore. Kauffman supported a program to rehabilitate Japanese business leaders who had manned the war industries, precisely what Lattimore opposed. This view also put Kauffman at odds with General MacArthur, whose initial directives broke up the business combines (Zaibatsu) and taxed the profits of large enterprises heavily. Kauffman was explicit about MacArthur's economic policy: "this policy does not conform with our ideas of the rights of property, or with the organization of the American economy. It will lead to socialism in Japan, despite the fact that General MacArthur feels it will save Japan from socialism by promoting free competitive enterprise."
If this were not enough to agitate Lattimore, Kauffman defended the wartime record of Japanese business leaders: "United States investigation
since the war has failed to turn up any evidence connecting the Zaibatsu with responsibility for the war. None of their leading figures are being tried in the War Crimes Trials." It is difficult to imagine Lattimore remaining silent when confronted with such statements, but his only response was to ask Kauffman if General MacArthur had ever challenged the directive to break up the Zaibatsu; Kauffman said no. Perhaps Lattimore felt that as chair he should not engage in controversy with the guest. But he got back at Kauffman in his ONA columns and thereby attracted another dedicated interest group in opposition to him.
The American Council on Japan (ACJ) was a small, loosely knit group organized in 1948 to reverse American policy in the Japanese occupation. Its spearhead was Harry F. Kern, foreign editor of Newsweek ; James Lee Kauffman, Eugene Dooman, former Ambassador Joseph Grew, and former Undersecretary of State William R. Castle were the organizers. Until Howard Schonberger's incisive study of the occupation, little attention was paid to the ACJ. Unlike the China lobby, ACJ never attracted much attention, but many prominent officials worked quietly with it. And where the China lobby failed to secure all-out American aid to Chiang's armies on the mainland, ACJ succeeded brilliantly in reversing American policy in Japan. Along the way, Kern and others spread the Elizabeth Boody Schumpeter charges that Lattimore opposed the emperor and the Zaibatsu because he was a Communist.
Thus in the United States, the prewar alignment of forces, with Sinophiles opposing Japanophiles, had now completely collapsed; both of them now concentrated on undermining Lattimore, T. A. Bisson, Vincent, and the IPR.
In China, however, committed Nationalists still opposed the strengthening of Japan. Lattimore noted their protests. In an ONA article on April 3, 1948, he quoted Chang Hsin-hai, biographer of Chiang Kai-shek and Kuomintang spokesman, as saying that the Zaibatsu should be prosecuted as "war criminals of the first order" and that the new U.S. effort to build up Japan was detrimental to Chinese interests.
On July 2 Lattimore again endorsed the views of Wang Yun-sheng, editor-in-chief of the major Nationalist newspaper in Shanghai. Wang was also apoplectic about American policy in Japan; it was not really concerned with reconstruction, but with using Japan as an instrument against the Russians. And the United States was preparing for a new war. Wang thought this policy might force China to side with Russia since the Russians also opposed an "American bastion" in Japan. Lattimore agreed that it might.
Japan then disappeared from Lattimore's columns until November 19. Results of the first Japanese war crimes trials were available then, and while Lattimore was pleased that a number of civilians who had been close to the emperor were convicted, the Zaibatsu had largely escaped. Not only that, but the occupation policies Kauffman supported were now being adopted. The early MacArthur directives designed by liberal New Dealers were being replaced by regulations encouraging a rapid return of Japanese industrial power. William H. Draper, an investment banker serving as undersecretary of the army, led a mission to Japan in early 1948 that signaled and accelerated the shift in occupation policy. Japan was to replace China as the anchor of U.S. policy in Asia. Lattimore thought this policy to be not only wrong but counterproductive. He thought the Japanese would now feel we wanted them as a satellite: "The day they begin to feel that way, the combination of anti-Emperor and anti-American feeling will provide the two sides of the entering wedge of Communist infiltration and Russian influence" (November 24). Lattimore's judgments of the wisdom of our Japanese occupation grew steadily more negative.
Surprisingly, Lattimore had little to say about the Czech coup in February 1948. It was a great disappointment to him; he had assumed that the Czechs would be able to continue their mixed economy and coalition government, providing a continuing example of a state (like Finland) in the Soviet shadow but not under Communist control. The coup proved this assumption wrong. But he had also noted that the Czechs were disturbed by the American plan for the restoration of German heavy industry, which was as much a threat to them as was Soviet domination. On March 3 he speculated that the Czechs were disturbed at American "organizing" of Germany, which made them more willing to be "organized" by Russia.
Lattimore did not return to a discussion of Czechoslovakia until September 9. In that article he wrestled with the puzzle of the recently deceased Eduard Benes, who had cooperated with, but not endorsed, Czechoslovakia's Communists. Why had Benes not "openly denounced" the Communists? Lattimore thought it was because Benes either wanted to avoid a civil war or could not agree "with the ruthlessness of the Communist way of doing things."
Since "Communist ruthlessness" had now triumphed, Lattimore was left with only gloom. Western Europe might still be saved. The Marshall Plan was lifting democratic spirits significantly. But Eastern Europe, except for Yugoslavia, was now firmly under Russian control.
One moral emerged from all this turmoil: the "great powers," the United
States and Russia, were not omnipotent. Each suffered limitations on the reach of its power. This limitation was nowhere clearer than in the crisis brought on by the Soviet blockade of Berlin in June. The United States mounted a massive airlift to supply Berlin, testing whether the Russians would risk war by interfering with our planes. We won that test, and Berlin was saved. But at what cost? The bottom line, for Lattimore, was still gains versus costs. He used the Berlin airlift to illustrate the limits of power in a column of July 15.
The changeability of power haunts those who hold it. The Soviet kind of power has clearly run into diminishing returns, at least for the time being in Yugoslavia. The American kind of power is putting on a demonstration in Berlin that is awe-inspiring but at the same time has overtones of absurdity. The quick mobilization of planes to shuttle supplies to a city of two million was a show of a kind of strength that no other nation could muster. . . .
Yet this great operation has overtones of absurdity because we have gone so far that we are actually air-lifting coal into Berlin. What is the economic sense of a policy which depends partly on the ability to carry coal around in the air? It is like the mountain giving birth to a mouse: technologically a good stunt, if you want to use so prodigious an effort for so small a result.
There were suggestions from some Russia-haters that we should go beyond the Berlin airlift to close the Suez and Panama canals to Russian ships and to blockade the Dardanelles. This strategy Lattimore did not approve. He agreed with James Reston that Russian setbacks were substantial: heavy losses in the French trade unions, defeat in Italian and Finnish elections, Marshall Plan successes strengthening non-Communist governments throughout Western Europe, the startling independence of Tito. To initiate anti-Soviet moves in Suez, Panama, and the Dardanelles might "set up a terrific backfire of sympathy for Russia throughout the world and even in this country—and that would be the end of the American way of life" (July 24). Apocalyptic, this; it was one of the few times Lattimore gave way to thorough pessimism.
Kohlberg, Lattimore's sworn enemy, stirred no great fuss in 1948. Having been beaten down in his crusade to reform the IPR he withdrew from it and concentrated on the open letters he sent to a mailing list of eight hundred persons: journalists, politicians, businessmen, clergy, anyone who attracted his attention. The message was still the same: we were losing the war against communism in Asia because of traitors in our midst. One major Kohlberg effort failed; he and like-minded Chiang supporters forced
an audience with Thomas Dewey, hoping to persuade Dewey to hit China policy hard in his campaign. Dewey brushed them off.
But Kohlberg did score in one arena. On a trip to Japan he was received cordially by General Willoughby, who put him up in the Tokyo headquarters of Army Intelligence. One evening Kohlberg found a large document marked "Confidential" on his bedside table. It was Willoughby's manuscript on the Sorge spy ring, which had supplied information to the Russians before the war. Kohlberg read it until 2 A.M. While he was out to breakfast the next morning, the manuscript mysteriously disappeared.
The Willoughby manuscript provided Kohlberg with new ammunition. Two of Sorge's associates were connected with Lattimore: Guenther Stein and Agnes Smedley. Lattimore had published Stein in Pacific Affairs , and Smedley had been in Yenan when Lattimore was there in 1937. Kohlberg went home and wrote an article on the Sorge ring for the May 1948 issue of his magazine Plain Talk . It attracted little attention except from the army, which denied that Smedley had been a Soviet spy.
HUAC attracted the most attention in 1948. Walter Goodman called it a "Vintage Year" and began his chapter this way: "Nineteen forty-eight stands as the most celebrated year of the Committee on Un-American Activities, a year of threat and counterthreat to which the Committee responded with enormous gusto. . . . It was an election year, filled with decisions that would define the limits of the cold war in Europe and the extent of our reaction to it at home. . . . It tended the spy fears of the day, producing a record number of sensational headlines as its contribution to the Republican Presidential campaign. And with its presentation of the Hiss-Chambers drama, it touched a generation of liberals to their very souls."
Americans who lived through the 1950s, and many who came of age later, appreciate the significance of the Alger Hiss case. Every witness or scholar, right or left, who deals with the inquisition attests to its salience. (Ronald Reagan revived it in 1984 by giving the Medal of Freedom post-. humously to Whittaker Chambers.) On August 3, 1948, Chambers publicly accused Hiss of serving the Russians; Hiss denied it and was indicted for perjury December 15. Richard Nixon, then a member of HUAC, rose to the vice presidency and ultimately the presidency largely on the basis of his prominence as the chief pursuer of Alger Hiss. Two years after the Hiss indictment Joseph McCarthy, flailing about for spectacular charges to advance his own anti-Communist crusade, chose the single most damning indictment he could find: he claimed Lattimore was the boss of the whole ring of which Hiss was a part.
But it was not just the discovery of an alleged Communist at one time high in the government that made 1948 a vintage year. Republican outrage at losing yet another presidential election to the Democrats was a powerful incentive to find a set of issues that would turn the voters around.
Why did the myths about the loss of China obtain their stranglehold on the American psyche at midcentury? When one identifies the first act in the selling of these China myths, one is forced to conclude that China became an obsession because the Republican party, prior to Franklin Roosevelt the majority party, had by 1948 been shut out of the White House for sixteen long years. It was then robbed of its certainty of recapturing power by a Missouri haberdasher, whose major error while in office was the loss of China to the Communists. The Republican party, having lost with a moderate, bipartisan, me-too campaign in 1948, was desperate to find an issue—any issue with which to return to power. After the 1948 election, China was that issue.
It is hard to imagine an issue that could have served the party better. Republicans had been unable to overcome Democratic candidates running against the Hoover depression. With the cold war going strong, with spies and traitors everywhere, with our friends in Asia going under, it was time to concentrate on foreign policy.
One wing of the Republican party had always put Asia first. World War II in Asia was the Republican's war, commanded by a great Republican general with presidential ambitions. Democrats had emphasized a war against Hitler that many Republican leaders felt we had no business prosecuting, since the Axis was the only bulwark against the true menace to America—the Soviet Union. Now the Asia-firsters came into their own. In 1948 Dewey was a shoo-in; he could not lose. When he did lose, the sober, statesmanlike approach of his campaign lost with him. From then on, with exceptions such as Vandenberg, Republicans concluded that bipartisanship in foreign policy and rational discussion of campaign issues—in short, Marquis of Queensberry rules—were out. Nice guys finished last. If Truman could win by raising hell about Republican domestic policies, perhaps a Republican could win by raising hell about Democratic foreign policies. Especially China policy.
The "loss" of China was the best thing that ever happened for the Republican party. It answered a politician's prayer for a rebuttal to what they saw as twenty years of socialism, New Dealism, and treason. The bitter, unexpected, and undeserved blow of Truman's victory enraged the Asia-firsters, emasculated the moderates, and led American politics into an orgy of scapegoating and witch-hunting.