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In the face of vocal opposition from a bloc of Republicans led by Senators William F. Knowland and Robert A. Taft, President Truman declared Thursday that the Untied States would send neither naval forces nor troops to Formosa to protect it against invasion by the Chinese Communists.
Truman had little choice in making his decision to continue the U.S. hands-off policy in the Chinese civil war. This policy in the case of Formosa rests on three important factors, aside from the danger of war:
1.) U.S. military intervention in the Chinese civil war would jeopardize this country's shaky position in the Far East. Fledgling Asiatic nations such as India, Pakistan, and the Indonesian Republic look upon the U.S. as symbolizing western imperialism and would consider the landing of U.S. military forces on Formosa as an attempt to revive the white man's supremacy in the Far East. Advocates of a military "wall against Communism" in the Pacific area, like the one in Western Europe, fail to realize that Far Easterners, unlike Europeans, do not look to the U.S. for leadership and support, but distrust it. Confidence in the U.S. is increasing in the Far East and its development should continue.
2.) Critics of the Administration's stand on Formosa have emphasized the island's importance. This importance has been greatly exaggerrated. Formosa is 160 miles from the Chinese mainland. As a jumping-off place for Communist forces against American basis on Okinawa (300 miles north) and the Phillipines (230 miles south) it provides only a negligible advantage to the mainland in terms of airplane ranges. Similarly American forces could attack China almost as easily from Okinawa or the Phillipines as from Formosa.
Clearly the military value of Formosa does not warrant the risk involved which would be at least fodder for Soviet propagandists who insist the U.S. is an imperialist aggressor; at the worst, the risk is war.
3.) Formosa is not a U.S. possession. It belongs to a government which we are not bound to uphold and which we have found is undeserving of material aid. Hence the U.S. has no excuse to interfere on Formosa. We are, rather, compelled by the moral pressure of the Open Door policy, and the Cairo and Potsdam agreements to stay out.
Nearly all the Republicans, even if they were inclined to sympathize with the Administration policy on Formosa, assailed the President for not consulting Congress before announcing his decision. Such a step, they said, sabotaged efforts to maintain a bi-partisan foreign policy. Secretary of State Acheson explained that Truman's haste was necessary to clarify this country's position on Formosa before the eyes of the world. Sound as the President's stand is, however, he would have been politically wise to discuss it with Congressional foreign relation leaders before making it public.
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