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Alliance in Doubt
American Reaction to the 1960
US-Japanese Security Treaty Crisis
(Part IV)

by Nicholas Evan Sarantakes
 Elsewhere in this issue:


Focus on

Ralph D. Sawyer on Chinese Warfare: The Paradox of the Unlearned Lesson. "From any reasonable perspective China’s continuity has been cultural rather than political, its heritage throughout one of incessant conflict as different peoples, states, and popular movements fought to control its populace and resources."

Minxin Pei asks, Is China Unstable? "China... will face rising instability if the regime fails to undertake significant political reform in the next decade."

Carl Fritz on China in 1945: One Man's Experience. "My unit was an air service group, and when the war ended members of the unit were widely scattered all over China."

Thomas D. Grant on Taiwan Trouble. "Taiwan had almost all the traits of a separate state, except that it never claimed to be a separate state."

Joseph J. Borich on US-China Relations: Springtime Ice Beginning to Melt. "Since mid-June, there have been several signs that bilateral relations may be gradually improving."

Other articles in this issue:   

David Brown on policy implicataions for the US one year after the outbreak of the financial crisis in Southeast Asia:
"The Treasury Department has played too prominent a role . . . . The Secretary of State should be [more] visibly involved in defining and implementing U.S. policy."

Other recent articles in American Diplomacy:

Walter A. McDougall, in Religion in Diplomatic History, took a different look at the Westphalian system of nation-states and the role played by religion: "Americans have been prone to justify their behavior abroad in Protestant Christian terms, however much they may disagree about what constitutes right and wrong." [Summer 1999]

Elsewhere in this issue:

Such dire predictions of doom were overdone as the events of the next few weeks would show, but in the middle of June 1960 these ideas were a natural development from the understanding Americans had at the time of prewar Japan. The dominant historical interpretation of the 1920s argued that the archipelago had enjoyed a brief period of representative government known as “Taisho democracy.” During this time political parties came to dominate the Diet and gained control of the cabinet. The Japanese people seemed to be adopting western ideologies, fashions and culture, only to have all these progressive gains destroyed in the 1930s when right-wing militarists seized control of the government and attempted to purge the nation of what it saw as western decadence.32

A few scattered voices challenged the exaggerated views of the setback in Japan. The editorial board of the Atlanta Constitution asserted that the cancellation of the Eisenhower’s visit was not about to propel Japan into a Marxist revolution. “To assume as a result of it that the Communists are about to take over that country equally is unrealistic.” While conceding that a red Japan would be a huge blow to the U.S. crusade in the Cold War, “the situation is by no means hopeless and there’s no reason for panic.” The editors of the New York Herald Tribune agreed. “The reservoirs of good will for America have by no means been emptied in the critical areas of the world.” The official position of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was that all was not lost. “A real defeat for the United States would lie in any inclination to mark Japan off as lost.”33

Many other journalists, in assessments of the President’s Far Eastern trip, argued that, taken as a whole, the cheering crowds that welcomed Eisenhower in the Philippines, Korea and Taiwan indicated that the United States still had strong support in the region regardless of the developments in Japan. “On balance Mr. Eisenhower did well,” an editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times contended. Such voices were few and far between and rarely had much more knowledge about Japanese affairs than those voicing notes of impending disaster. In fact, in many cases they shared similar assumptions about the nature of politics in Japan and conceded disaster in Tokyo.34

Doubts about treaty grow in Washington
The dominant, sensationalist view of events in Japan that held center stage in the middle of June might be easy to dismiss were it not shaping the opinions of U.S. senators who were beginning to question the merit of approving the new treaty. Richard Russell, the senior senator from Georgia and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wanted to delay ratification. Events in Japan, he told the press, “border on anarchy.” Later, while debating the treaty on the floor of the Senate, he admitted that he got his information on Japan from the media. He also suspected that the press might be misrepresenting the events in Japan. The riots against a new treaty in which America made a number of concessions without receiving any return made no sense to him; the accord clearly favored Japan and that was why he had to oppose the new pact. In the new treaty the United States would relinquish its right to intervene in Japan during moments of domestic unrest, a concession that he thought looked unwise in light of recent events. He also wondered about Japan's reliability as an ally. Minnesota Democrat Hubert Humphrey said that while he supported the treaty, he believed it would be best if the Senate waited. Johnston of South Carolina was more direct, “What advantage is there in retaining an alleged alliance or friendship with a nation which cannot guarantee the peaceful visit of our Chief Executive to that country?” On June 16, Lyndon Johnson warned Herter that Russell might be a problem. He also said Humphrey and some liberals might object to prompt ratification.35

The day after that conversation, Carl Marcy, chief of staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a memo to Fulbright, Johnson, and Mansfield recommending that the Senate delay ratification until 1961. If the Kishi government fell after Senate ratification, Marcy predicted headlines that read “Japanese People Repudiate United States Treaty.” This would be yet another “diplomatic disaster.” Of greater importance, the future of Japanese democracy was uncertain. “Should the Japanese situation deteriorate to the point of requiring outside intervention, there is authority for that intervention under the existing treaty, but not the new treaty.” He believed the Senate should wait until order returned to Japan. “As soon as the Japanese people have a government with a fresh mandate from the people, the Senate will act on the treaty.” Even if he were wrong, he doubted waiting would damage relations between the two countries. “There is no evidence that Senate delay until next January would hurt the United States interests in Japan.” Herter had admitted as much in front of the committee. In a postscript, Marcy added that he had presented one side and that the Senators might want to consult with the administration before settling on a course of action.36

Lyndon Johnson quickly rejected Marcy’s advice. Both political and diplomatic factors demanded rapid action. Since the U-2 incident and the breakup of the Paris Summit he had been the only Democratic presidential candidate to offer the administration his unqualified support. His actions appeared non-partisan and bolstered his image as a statesman. His emphasis on his experience as he discussed foreign policy at weekend gatherings of Democrats strengthened his declared candidacy and badly wounded the front runner for the nomination, Senator John F. Kennedy. Many began to wonder that June if the Massachusetts Democrat really had the qualifications to be the President of the United States.37

If Johnson delayed ratification, it would be a vote of no confidence in both the administration and the Japanese. Such an event would bring about a break with Eisenhower, undoing all his hard work at building a statesman-like image. He also wanted to help the Japanese recover from their psychological war wounds and develop a stronger sense of self respect. “I am one person who is not disturbed about the actions of a small minority in Japan,” he told the Mainichi Shimbun."Poor Butterfly" by Burris Jenkins for the NY Journal-American “It is my conviction that the great majority of the Japanese people desire good relations with our country and this, I believe, we should reciprocate.” He expressed the hope that the Japanese people would “acquit themselves of their obligations nobly and that the future will bring our two nations ever closer together.” He had to win over Fulbright before the pact reached the floor of the Senate. The Arkansas Senator’s opinion would carry a good deal of wait with his colleagues. Delaying ratification would do little to advance such interests and could very well do a good deal of damage to U.S.-Japanese relations. The People’s Council might just win—in Washington rather than Tokyo. A New York Times reporter covering the ratification effort on Capitol Hill wrote in his lead paragraph, “Limited but significant pressure has developed here for a reassessment of United States relations with Japan.” According to this report, talk in the Senate about delaying a vote was beginning to worry administration officials; they feared such an action would play into the hands of the communists in Tokyo.38

Lyndon Johnson mounts Senate ratification bid
Johnson had several advantages as the Senate prepared to address the treaty. The Texan controlled the initiative of when the debate would start in the Senate. He kept the exact date the treaty would reach the floor of the upper chamber undecided, making it difficult for opponents to organize and prepare. Fulbright was in the hospital for the treatment of his foot, which diverted his attention from legislative issues and gave Johnson time to get administration help in his efforts to secure the support of his colleague from Arkansas. Johnson told Herter through Senator Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts to expect ratification on June 20 or 21. Still worried about Russell and Humphrey, he told the two Republicans to keep the news to themselves. Confused by this indirect communication, Herter called Johnson for clarification. Johnson told him about Marcy’s suggestions and said many senators had doubts about the treaty. He asked Herter for his “considered judgment” on postponement, and then, without giving him a chance to respond, explained how he would secure Fulbright’s support and get the treaty ratified. He wanted to have control over the introduction of the administration’s response to the Marcy memo. “You just give me your views in a letter and then I’ll put it in my inside coat pocket and start telling the boys I want to bring it up pretty soon and when I run into any obstinacy I can show them what you say.”39

Herter agreed, and composed a letter that undoubtedly delighted Johnson. The flexibility the Secretary had displayed at the Foreign Relations Committee hearings on timing was gone. The Senate had to ratify the treaty, he wrote; the future of Japan was at stake:

If we are not in a position to exchange ratifications fairly shortly, the pressures building up in Japan for a dissolution of the Diet to regularize the present abnormal political situation may force Prime Minister Kishi to resign and dissolve the Diet before the exchange takes place. In this event, the position of those in Japan who favor close ties with the United States, whom we believe to be at the present time a substantial majority of the Japanese people, would be considerably weakened during the election campaign and thereafter. If the Japanese conservatives are able to enter the election campaign without the treaty an accomplished fact, this should create conservative unity behind a policy of close cooperation with the United States and help maintain the dominance in Japan of conservative, pro-Western elements whose position has been shaken by recent events.

On the other hand, if the United States does not act promptly this could be interpreted in Japan as a lack of confidence in the future of the U.S.-Japanese partnership. It could also lead to pressures in Japan for reviewing the treaty with the goal of altering the provisions of the treaty in a manner which will satisfy certain Communist-inspired demands.

The letter served Johnson’s needs. When the treaty went before the Senate as a whole on June 21, Fulbright acted as the floor manager, introducing the committee’s unanimous report recommending approval. He answered numerous questions about the meaning of prior consultations and the impact it would have on the deployment of U.S. troops abroad.41 He exchanged views with Aiken and Russell about the role of Japan in the international balance of power of East Asia. Russell also stated that Article IX of the American-imposed constitution, which renounced war as an instrument of state, was a mistake and he hoped the Japanese would void that section in the near future.42

After these replies, various senators began offering statements in support of the agreement. A close reading of these remarks shows that support for the treaty remained uncertain. Seven of the twelve senators that bothered to make public comments either came out against the agreement or expressed some uneasiness about recent events in Japan and said they were going forward with misgivings and reservations. This process was going along at decent pace until Bourke Hickenlooper and Wayne Morse made long speeches before an empty chamber. These speeches were mainly for the record but delayed ratification for another day, adding a little last minute suspense to the proceedings. Johnson used this delay to refine his image. It had been good politics to present himself as a bipartisan supporter of U.S. foreign policy, but he had to make sure that he did not become Eisenhower’s token Democrat. The next day he made some quick remarks complaining about “a depressing lack of vital new ideas in our foreign policy.” The gambit worked. The sub-headline of the article in the New York Herald Tribune read “JOHNSON ATTACKS FOREIGN POLICY.” His comments dominated the account found in the Washington Evening Star. When the Senate final voted, the treaty passed 90-2, but the outcome was closer than the final tally indicates. Both Fulbright and Everett Dirksen of Illinois, the minority leader, told the press before that they expected between ten and twenty negative votes.43

The two senators who cast negative ballots were blunt in explaining why. “In the light of recent circumstances, I do not feel that the stability of the government of Japan justifies our surrendering the advantages that the old treaty afforded to the United States,” Russell stated. Long offered objections he had voiced before: “This treaty is entirely a one-way street. We give much and gain practically nothing that we do not already have.” He, however, had a new objection in light of the protests in Tokyo. “The Communists around the world will seize upon the ratification of this treaty to claim that we have imposed upon a vanquished nation terms and conditions to which the people of that nation were unwilling to agree.”44

The formal exchange of the instruments of ratification was a quick process. Just seven hours after the Senate vote a ceremony took place in the personal residence of Foreign Minister Fujiyama. The event took all of three minutes. Guards kept protesters at bay, but Fujiyama had an escape route planned for himself and MacArthur in case a mob broke through.45

Observers in the media were quick to praise the Senate for ratifying the new pact but warned that the crisis was still far from over. Editorials in the New York Herald Tribune, Washington Evening Star and Washington Post stated that America needed a new foreign policy for Japan. What that policy should be was a matter that went unaddressed.46 Writing from Tokyo, Herald Tribune correspondent Marguerite Higgins predicted, “America is going to have quite enough trouble in its relations with Japan in the turbulent months ahead without continuing to pay the penalty of the kind of self-deception that so greatly contributed to the fiasco of the canceled Eisenhower trip.” The problems in the relationship were of Japanese making. In late June the Hearst chain ran a series of articles entitled “ARE WE LOSING JAPAN?” But when Kishi resigned, order returned to Tokyo. The prophets of doom were soon in an embarrassing situation as Japan returned to normal without a fundamental reconsideration of U.S. foreign policy. In July, an article in U.S. News and World Report appeared under the headline “DID U.S. WIN IN JAPAN AFTER ALL?47

In concluding this study, one would do well to remember that Otto von Bismarck, the German Chancellor, said those who like sausage and the law should never watch them being made. We might add the conduct of foreign policy in a decentralized democracy to that list. A popular idea in the United States holds that partisan politics should stop at the water’s edge; foreign affairs should not be made a political issue, but in this particular episode, partisanship made treaty ratification work the way the founding fathers intended. There was a debate—it was ugly at times—but each side had a case to make on certain issues. The Democrats in the Senate had the better position on Eisenhower’s trip to Japan. The Republican administration had a stronger case on the treaty. It took the work of Lyndon Johnson, however, to help advance the administration’s argument. (He was, of course, interested in advancing his own career and fortunes.) In both instances, the side with the stronger case prevailed. Foreign policy is made by politicians and it would be wrong to expect politics to be taken out of the process. Politics, even partisan politics, has an important role to play in the making of U.S. foreign policy.

Continue Sarantakes: 1234 • Bibliography


End Notes (Part IV)

32. Edwin O. Reischauer, Japan Past and Present (Second edition, New York, 1958), 142-185; Edwin O. Reischauer, “What Went Wrong?” in James Morley, ed., Dilemmas of Growth in Prewar Japan (Princeton, NJ, 1971), 489-510. For a different interpretation that comes to similar broad conclusions see Robert Scalapino, Democracy and Party Movement in Prewar Japan: The Failure of the First Attempt (Los Angeles and Berkeley, 1953). In the 1960s and 1970s scholars of Japan challenged this view, arguing that the Japanese actually had very little attachment to democracy. See the essays in Robert E. Ward, ed., Political Development in Modern Japan (Princeton, NJ, 1968); Bernard S. Silberman and H.D. Harootunian, Japan in Crisis: Essays on Taish Democracy (Princeton, NJ, 1974) and the others in Morley, Dilemmas of Growth.

33. The Atlanta Constitution, June 17, 1960; New York Herald Tribune, June 20, 1960; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 22, 1960.

34. This view was the official position of the Hearst chain. An editorial to that effect was printed in all Hearst papers on June 23, 1960. This citation is to the issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for that day. Other papers offering similar assessments include The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 21, 1960; The Washington Daily News, June 21, 1960; Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, June 21, 1960; Chicago Sun-Times, June 22, 1960.

35. New York Herald Tribune, June 12, 1960; The Washington Post, June 17, 1960; The New York Times, June 18, 1960; Herter-Johnson Telephone Conversation, June 16, 1960, Box 1, Notes and Transcripts of LBJ Conversations, LBJ Archive, Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, Austin, Texas (Hereafter referred to as LBJL).; Congressional Record, 86th Congress, 2d. session, 13551-53.

36. Marcy to Fulbright, June 17, 1960, Foreign Relations-Japan Folder, Box 770, Senate File, LBJ Archive, LBJL.

37. Nicholas Evan Sarantakes, “Lyndon Johnson, Foreign Policy, and the Election of 1960,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Forthcoming.

38. Johnson to Uchida Genzo, June 27, 1960, 1960, Foreign Relations-Japan Folder, Box 770, Senate File, LBJ Archive, LBJL; The New York Times, June 18, 1960.

39. The New York Times, June 18, 1960; Telephone Conversations, June 20, 1960; Christian A. Herter Telephone Calls from March 28, 1960 to June 30, 1960 Folder, Box 12, Papers of Christian Herter, DDEL; Herter-Johnson Telephone Conversation, June 20, 1960, Box 1, Notes and Transcripts of LBJ Conversations, LBJ Archive, LBJL.

40. Herter to Johnson, June 20, 1960, Foreign Relations-Japan Folder, Box 770, Senate File, LBJ Archive, LBJL

41. Congressional Record, 86th Congress, 2d. session, 13544-13550.

42. Ibid, 13550-13553.

43. Ibid, 13553-13572; 13574-13582; 13585-13589; 13594-13597; 13708; 13737-13740; The New York Times, June 22, 1960; Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1960; New York Herald Tribune, June 23, 1960; Washington Evening Star, June 22, 1960.

44. The Atlanta Constitution, June 23, 1960; Los Angeles Times, June 23, 1960.

45. New York Herald Tribune, June 23, 1960; Schaller, Altered States, 158.

46. New York Herald Tribune, June 23, 1960; The Washington Post, June 23, 1960; Washington Evening Star, June 23, 1960.

47. New York Herald Tribune, June 20, 1960; the citation for this five part series that appeared in all Hearst newspapers is New York Journal-American, June 26-30, 1960; U.S. News and World Report, July 18, 1960, 98.

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Prof. Kris SarantakesProfessor Sarantakes earned his Ph.D. at the University of Southern California. His monograph, "Keystone: The American Occupation of Okinawa and U.S.-Japanese Relations, 1945-1972," is forthcoming. He also runs the "U.S. Diplomatic History Resources Index" website, located at www.tamu-commerce.edu/coas/history/sarantakes/stuff.html/
Email: Nick_Sarantakes@tamu-commerce.edu
More at www.tamu-commerce.edu/coas/history/sarantakes/.

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