My historian friend Steve Douglas has written the following account of General Douglas MacArthur’s transformation from brilliant military commander to advocate for an end to warfare as a means of resolving conflicts among nations. It has important lessons for today’s global dilemma.
A Bold Proposal for Durable Peace
by Steve Douglas
Outlined below is a Bold Proposal for Durable Peace, which, insofar as it emanates from the minds of the greatest military leaders and statesmen in American history, is a Proposal which President Biden could embrace as a show of his own strength against the many small-minded people that are, at this very moment, trying to stampede him into global war. This Bold Proposal is a restatement and amplification of the historic speech which General Douglas MacArthur made on Jan 26, 1955 to a civic banquet sponsored by the Los Angeles County Council of the American Legion, wherein he declared, “War (due to scientific advances in nuclear and related weaponry. ed.) has become a Frankenstein to destroy both sides. No longer is it the weapon of adventure whereby a short cut to international power and wealth – a place in the sun –can be gained. If you lose, you are annihilated. If you win, you stand only to lose. No longer does it possess the chance of the winner of a duel — it rather contains the germs of a double suicide. Science has clearly outmoded it as a feasible arbiter. This very triumph of scientific annihilation — this very success of invention — has destroyed the possibility of war being a medium of practical settlement of international differences. The enormous destruction to both sides of closely matched opponents makes it impossible for the winner to translate it into anything but his own disaster. The great question is — does this mean that war can be outlawed from the world? If so, it would mark the greatest advance in civilization since the Sermon on the Mount. (pp 314-315 — A Soldier Speaks – Public papers and Speeches of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur). Prescient, far-sighted perspectives that were shared by the greatest of American Generals and Presidents, including Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, along with Douglas MacArthur, comprise the foundation and substance for the Bold Proposal for Durable Peace that appears at the conclusion of this paper. The essay which follows will elaborate the political, military, economic, spiritual, philosophical and historical foundations of the Proposal. It will focus in detail on two aspects of General MacArthur’s storied career: (1) his leadership as a statesman , in rebuilding Japan after World War II; and (2) his genius in conceptualizing and implementing the famous Inchon landing/flanking maneuver that could have ended the Korean War in 1951, were it not for the State Department’s foot dragging and sabotage of the landing’s diplomatic, war-ending promise. In both of these cases, General MacArthur had to overcome massive resistance within his “own ranks”– —the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Dulles brothers-dominated intelligence establishment, Wall Street interests, and what President Eisenhower later termed the “military-industrial complex”—to secure the victories that he won.
The fact that he succeeded to the extent that he did then, is proof that those leaders who dare to act with a knowledge and appreciation of MacArthur’s genius today, can win not simply bigger battles, but the war against war itself! In so doing, it will hopefully open the eyes of the minds of U.S. and world policymakers to the recognition that, precisely because so many more people are coming to recognize how perilously close we are to the outbreak of an all-annihilating nuclear war, we are potentially closer to the realization of General MacArthur’s seemingly utopian vision that “war can be outlawed from the world,” than anyone might have ever dared to imagine.
Interesting topic because with this last Politico article, I now think we are going to get into a shooting war w/Russia somewhere.
Summary, ‘U.S. officials suspect Russian spy agency is behind directed energy weapons attack’, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/05/10/russia-gru-directed-energy-486640
Add this to the short list of there other evil deeds.
1. Sabotaging our pipelines. Experts say that the Darkside ransomware gang can only operate w/the blessing of the Kremlin
2. The Taliban bounty story that most Americans still believe.
3. The constant refrain that Russia is undermining our democracy w/social media.
Are these and other allegations true?
I doubt it because these things have no strategic value other than to piss us off.
How does giving 20 govt officials disability inducing headaches help them especially since there is no way they can hide their culpability?
These statements not only get us to hate Russia but also convince us they are weak. The Russians can’t face us head on, they have to sneak around in the dart and spray paint graffiti on our house.
So if the Russians are an evil menace, and they are weak then it’s about time we punch those bullies in the nose somewhere. [Not my view, I am channeling Borg/Neocon/every man]
Regarding this article, it sounded like MacArthur was assuming rational actor but perhaps I missed something.
That was a spellbinding account of the vision of a great man. I have found nothing like it this side of the Atlantic and don’t expect to. The conclusion is at variance with current Western thinking and the more valuable for that. Westphalia rules! – for if it does not we are condemned to purposeless and increasingly risky strife.
Might I be permitted to enter a dissenting view on just one question arising from that vision? The question of the approach we should adopt to non-Western countries.
A result of the American occupation of Japan – I don’t know if it was down to McArthur personally but it was in accordance with his vision – was the adoption by the Japanese of sophisticated American methods of industrial production.
These were unequalled anywhere else in the world, including Germany. It was these methods that enabled the production of vast amounts of materiel without which the Russians could not have sustained their own colossal war effort and which was essential to the Allies on the Western Front.
I came across an anecdotal sidelight on this not long back. Major-General Sir Percy Hobart devised much of the equipment needed to cope with the defences in Normandy. The equipment – I think known as “Hobart’s funnies” – was often improvised on the spot according to the problems they came across in the field. It was found that it was faster to send the drawings to the States to get the equipment made quickly rather than to England. That’ll be partly due to the fact that British industry was at full stretch, but it was acknowledged at the time to be due to the greater speed and efficiency of production methods in the States. Those advanced techniques were transplanted in Japan – they were to do with quality control of mass production processes as well as to a no nonsense “get up and go” in the American approach – and I believe account for the fact that Japanese products, in many fields, are now often more advanced and of better quality than either current European products or their current equivalents in the States.
Straying further into the anecdotal, some English observers have found an echo of those times in Operation Warp Speed and have compared that operation with just that dramatic mobilisation of resources that we saw in the States seventy and more years ago. A less agreeable echo, for me over in England, I saw in a small engineering company near me. The company develops bits and pieces of advanced machinery. They have found it faster to email the designs of the prototypes to China and get them made there rather to source locally or in house. That wasn’t a bit of history one liked to see repeating itself. Maybe it’s time for us to do a reverse McArthur there, if his was the impetus behind the technology transfer that was seen just after the war in Japan.
But part of his grand vision has failed utterly. Take this aspect – “… It was Truman’s abandonment of President Roosevelt’s perspective and intent to rid the world of the British, Dutch, Portuguese, and French colonial empires, by building nation-states around the world, through the application of American System economic principles and methods, which was the ultimate source of MacArthur’s problems as Supreme Commander of Allied Powers (SCAP).”
Great idea, building nation-states around the world, through the application of American System economic principles and methods. We find an echo of it in Kennedy’s inauguration speech. What happened?
Well, we now know just how that noble vision was perverted.
It is not the function of the old colonial powers, nor of the country that superseded them, to determine the political development of other countries according to our own notions of what constitutes an ideal polity. That way lie the horrors of R2P and the sheer devastation that has accompanied the attempts, either covertly or by direct military action, to impose our own political structures on countries to which those political structures are alien. It is time to lay aside the “White man’s Burden” and to recognise that, for all the idealism that has so often motivated R2P, it is in truth a greater burden on those we seek to protect. As some African economists point out, even our humanitarian help is tainted. Apart from urgent natural disasters those we seek to help and direct would do better, and fewer lose their lives or see their societies half-wrecked, if we kept our dubious charity at home.
It would be good to see that dissenting opinion integrated into the vision you outline above. And I’d hope that vision you outline might get purchase. The heady days of 2016, when it looked as if things might just be going that way, are long past and we return to the Day of the Neocon ; but pendulums can swing back!
Douglas Macarthur was a genius, a polymath genius but a strange man. His father was an enlisted volunteer in the Civil War who won the Medal of Honor and a commission. He was eventually commanding General of the whole US Army long after the war. He married a Virginia girl who went to West Point to live for four four years in the little hotel on post while her boy was a cadet. He fought like a lion in WW1 and was himself eventually CofS of the Army. While in that office he personally presided over the suppression of the encampment of veteran bonus marchers in Washington. To be rid of his presence, FDR appointed him Field Marshal of the new Phillipine Army being created in anticipation of Filipino independence. After his departure from the Phillipines by submarine, he advocated the court-martial of LTG “Skinny” Wainright for having surrendered to the Japanese. This after he had left Wainright holding the bag in PI. “The corps, and the corps, and the corps,” a great orator. He long lived in palatial splendor in the Waldorf Towers in New York as the guest of wealthy donors.
Colonel, I must confess that Steve Douglas’ informative summary gave me an entirely different perspective on a number of central characters mentioned in that summary.
I have never warmed to Roosevelt nor indeed, further back, Lincoln. Not so much for what they were or did but for the historical processes they represent. As for MacArthur well, there had to be people around in charge of the great mass of men and treasure that was poured into the Pacific theatre and he was one of them. A gifted professional, it appears, and no need to look further than that.
On the remaking of Japan after the war, Steve Douglas’ article gives one a notion of the depth of vision MacArthur displayed but his clear intention of changing the culture of an entire nation in order to render it less of threat isn’t attractive; there were efforts made in Germany that way after the war and I believe the effects of those efforts there are still apparent and still distort German politics. By analogy it’s fair to assume they were not entirely beneficial in Japan.
It was MacArthur’s dramatic Damascene conversion to a different way of utilising the virtual monopoly of military and economic power in American hands after the war that was for me the central point of Mr Douglas’ thesis.
There has never been that amount of power lying around before. Comparison with the British or other European empires is here facile, I believe. I think it was Stalin who remarked that quantity has a quality all its own and that quantity of military and economic clout, combined with the technological progress made during that war, made the American supremacy after 1945 unique. This is one hell of a long way from the Little House on the Prairie.
I wanted a counterweight to MacArthur’s grand visions so naturally looked to Curtis LeMay, also active at the same time. I could find little about any interaction between the two men but came across a conversation of his later.
I believe that conversation shows no pampered Prince of the American military elite. LeMay it seems had few influential contacts. This was a different sort of professional, the ultimate tradesman of war. No grand vision here, more a focus on getting whatever job he was entrusted with done and done with maximum effectiveness.
And the job was devastating. MacArthur, when later reflecting on how devastating, must have come to the conclusion that there had to be a different way of utilising that unique power. No more nation breaking and nation making. More a sober attempt to limit the reach of that power when interacting with other countries, in particular the more vulnerable or unstable countries, because that power was now so great it could only backfire on the country wielding it.
Is this a correct reading Colonel? If so, can this lesson be transferred to the very different circumstances of today?
I do not think that such a re-birth of innocence is possible. the general assumption over here is that it is established fact that we Americans define the future of the world. Left and right share that assumption. IMO that answers your question. Only a disaster that devastates the US would shake that assumption. We are speaking here of something on the scale of an eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano.
(Note) As said below, this is a better and more informative link to the conversation mentioned. It covers the period Mr Douglas discusses.
Colonel – I hope that additional “note” has not thrown the sequence of your comment section out of order. If the Americans are indeed caught up in a machine that is no longer controllable, then the recent vote in the European Parliament, which is all that a Neocon could desire, does show that we in Europe are caught up with them.
This narrative of the Japanese reconstruction is a bit too rose-tinted. The current epidemic of the Hikikomori https://infogalactic.com/info/Hikikomori
and the phenomenon of the Herbivore Men https://infogalactic.com/info/Herbivore_men ,
shows the significant social problems from Japanese modernity.
Granted, that the West is seeing its own versions of the Hikikomori, the so-called Incels. But the American Incels are infinitely more sociable and aggressive than the Japanese Hikikomori, which is an interesting note on the heredity of culture.
The selective evolution against all the Herbivores and the feminist women, in Japan as elsewhere, is producing a more aggressive and traditional people.
In any event, MacArthur made great progress in opening up Japan, but he might not have realized the anomalous outcome and the transience of his reforms.
I would like to hear Prof. Willett’s view on whether or not MacArthur’s “reforms” in respect of Japan’s culture are likely to proof transient or not. When one day another Mishima arises, will he be any more successful in resurrecting the Japanese kokutai? Once the fire of a culture has gone out rekindling it seems to me to be a devilishly difficult job – even when someone hasn’t poured water on the ashes.
Harper, many thanks for publishing your friend’s essay. I have a few comments:-
From a historical point of view, the chronicling of MacArthur’s achievements is very interesting. From a practical standpoint, I fear that the Bold Proposal is no more likely to gain traction than Jonathan’s Swift’s more Modest one.
“What MacArthur failed to understand, was that the Anglophile Washington, D.C. policy-making establishment did not want to ‘grasp the glittering possibilities of enduring peace in the Pacific.’ They wanted a protracted, no-win war..”
The author acknowledges MacArthur’s weak intellectual flank himself in the above excerpt and then proceeds to leave his own flank open in exactly the same way. The newly ensconced Neocons now again running American FP have zero interest in the Benefit of the Other.
I would strongly contest the author’s positions on the following:
– That the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan was militarily unnecessary.
– That Lincoln “saved the United States”. Whist that is true in one sense, it ignores what was lost in the WBS; these United States. And whilst Lincoln’s celebration of the Transcontinental Railroad as a mighty achievement is quite right, it ignores what Sherman was doing to railroads in the Confederacy at the same time.
– Most seriously; the Plato/Sparta model of labeling the other “evil” so as to re-engineer a society in one’s own image. MacArthur’s reconstruction of Japan was certainly successful in comparison with the catastrophic policies applied to the defeated Germany in WWI. But the author’s support of MacArthur’s suppression of an endemic religion and proselytizing Christian missionaries smacks of colonial exceptionalism. The victor will always define what benefits the defeated other and I will only trust a nation advocating for a pacifist constitution the moment it adopts one itself.
Warfare is one of mankind’s defining characteristics. It is an evolutionary desirable trait and to think one may suppress it forever is profoundly naïve. We have gone and invented the means to destroy ourselves and MAD is not going away. Our only hope seems to be to try and keep the lunatics/dangerously uninformed out of positions of power. Given were we are today it seems we are failing in this effort.
This all said I with your friend luck with his Bold Proposal.
Barbara Ann –
On the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan a fuller version of the conversation referred to above is most informative.
In the full conversation Curtis LeMay and others talk about developments well before 1948, going back to the pre-war period. Not only a fascinating account, but also covers in some detail the events surrounding the dropping of the bomb and the Japanese surrender.
Later on the Berlin airlift and the Cuban missile crisis are discussed. A very different account from the generally accepted account!
I hope the link works – the one given initially is difficult to get to. One has to register and even then it’s only excerpts. If this link does work I believe you’ll find it does confirm your view. Though one wonders why the Japanese weren’t approached directly, given that they themselves had already approached the Russians.
When did Steven Douglas write this? It comes across as dated. It seems to me that China’s biological warfare, coupled with economic coercion, is achieving their goals quite handily and they show no sign of settling ‘international differences” that aren’t in their favor. There are also a few holes in MacArthur’s bio, such as his leadership in the creation of the Phillipines Army and his leadership in their defeat at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy. Nor the rather important part regarding Korea wherein the South Koreans, after the breakout from Pusan, didn’t stop at the 38th parellel. They apparently wanted to retake the entire penisula from the communists. Imagine that.
I don’t claim to be a Korean War scholar, but I am not that impressed by MacArthur’s generalship. Yes, the Incheon landing was an excellent operation, but MacArthur insisted on keeping Almond’s X Corps independent of Walker’s 8USA. (It seems that Almond was something of a “fair-haired boy”). He insisted on trying a repeat of Incheon by having X Corps land at Wonsan. That meant the Incheon port facility was tied up backloading X Corps when it could have been building up supplies for 8USA. Then as it turns out Wonsan landing wasn’t needed. Then of course there is the denial by his G2 that reports from battlefield intel of Chinese troops were real.
It probably came too late, but with Walker’s death and arrival of Ridgway the war could have been fought differently.
I don’t know his responsibility, but the condition of US troops garrisoned in Japan during the occupation was deplorable.
Another nugget, is that during the Bonus Army operation MacArthur refused to accept orders from his Commander in Chief.
Yes, he was not perfect. Are you?