In 1943, Congress passed a measure to repeal the discriminatory exclusion laws against Chinese immigrants and to establish an immigration quota for China of around 105 visas per year. As such, the Chinese were both the first to be excluded in the beginning of the era of immigration restriction and the first Asians to gain entry to the United States in the era of liberalization. The repeal of this act was a decision almost wholly grounded in the exigencies of World War II, as Japanese propaganda made repeated reference to Chinese exclusion from the United States in order to weaken the ties between the United States and its ally, the Republic of China. The fact that in addition to general measures preventing Asian immigration, the Chinese were subject to their own, unique prohibition had long been a source of contention in Sino‑American relations. There was little opposition to the repeal, because the United States already had in place a number of measures to ensure that, even without the Chinese Exclusion Laws explicitly forbidding Chinese immigration, Chinese still could not enter. The Immigration Act of 1924 stated that…
by Niruban Balachandran and Vikram Janardhan
When Donald Trump won a number of key swing states in the 2016 election — Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and others — his success underscored that in politics, some states are more crucial to win than others. In foreign policy, as well, some states play a more decisive geopolitical role than others. This is more true than ever today, when a number of America’s potential country allies and partners seem to be up for grabs.
In 2012, the political scientists Daniel Kliman and Richard Fontaine first introduced the concept of “global swing states[i],” nations whose power on the international stage is increasing, each of whom “possess a large and growing economy, a strategic location in their region, and a commitment to democratic institutions.” They originally identified four countries as global swing states — Brazil, India, Turkey, and Indonesia.
However, a lot has changed in six years with a reconfiguration of global power, and today, nearly midway into the Trump era, we’d like to draw attention to four key global swing states that are currently experiencing political transitions in 2018: Mexico, India, Poland, and Indonesia. Each of these nations is home to a large, pivotal economy, and each is a diverse democracy with both outsized and geostrategic influence. However, the Trump Administration’s new U.S. National Security Strategy scarcely mentions either nation.
If the United States improves its bilateral outreach to these four emerging powers, we believe over the long term they will swing towards stronger partnerships with us, deepen their democratization, and reinforce the components of the rules-based international order: the interlinked global system defined by economic and political openness, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. In addition, they will swing further away from our adversaries, authoritarianism, and illiberalism, and will resist the temptation to participate in a counter-American coalition.
Given Moscow’s and Beijing’s threats to Washington’s web of alliances, as well as the backsliding of democratic and human rights around the world, the need to preserve the liberal international order is greater than ever. The best chance for strengthening the health and components of the order is to take the long view and secure the collaboration and partnership of these global swing states.
Mexico has been recognized as a democratic middle-income global power, an OECD member state, and trillion-dollar GDP economy. Keeping a large, relatively prosperous democracy like Mexico as a friendly next-door neighbor is critical, especially in a surrounding neighborhood of accelerating democratic decay (think Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and other rapidly-backsliding democracies).
However, the Trump Administration has put the U.S.-Mexico relationship at severe risk, both at the government and the people levels. For example, Trump’s false accusation that Mexico actively “promotes” illegal immigration, his administration’s policy of caging and separating children from their asylum-seeking parents at the border (described by Mexico as “inhumane”), threats of astronomically high tariffs on Mexican products, and the futile quest to force Mexico to pay for a border wall have all needlessly jeopardized Washington’s relationships with Mexico’s key government ministries.
Furthermore, a shocking recent Pew survey found that a 61 percent majority of the Mexican people now see the U.S. as more threatening than either China or Russia, perceiving “U.S. power as a major threat.” Even worse, “Trump registers the lowest confidence rating of any U.S. leader in Mexico since Pew Research Center began surveying there,” as well as the lowest confidence rating out of all 37 nations surveyed last year.
In response to domestic and international change, the people of Mexico recently elected the left-leaning populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, nicknamed “AMLO” as their new president, who will be inaugurated later this December 1. Contrary to some assumptions, president-elect AMLO has pledged to maintain the U.S.-Mexico relationship, despite the U.S. president’s caustic anti-Mexico rhetoric.
“Everything is ready to start a new stage in our societies’ relationship based on cooperation and prosperity,” wrote AMLO in a warm, optimistic, seven-page letter to President Trump this July, proposing mutually-respectful collaborations on issues of joint concern — especially trade, migration, development, and security. (The U.S. president, seeing a kindred spirit in AMLO’s populist anti-establishment leanings, reportedly likes AMLO so much that he has reportedly nicknamed him “Juan Trump”.)
But the initial warmth between the two leaders shouldn’t mask at least two future flashpoints in the U.S.-Mexico relationship: For one thing, even though the AMLO letter’s proposed joint infrastructure projects (such as regional high-speed rail links and advanced industrial corridors) will ostensibly trigger economic activity to reduce Central American migrants’ incentives to cross the border into the U.S., it is nevertheless unlikely that the Trump Administration will agree to cooperate much on these proposals. Instead, as a meticulous Congressional Research Service study reports, the Trump Administration prefers deep cuts in technical assistance to Mexico and Latin American states.
Another crucial flashpoint is trade and investment — especially the yet-to-be-concluded NAFTA revision talks: If the tentatively updated NAFTA isn’t ratified by all three countries’ legislators, then Mexico will most likely look for stronger partnerships elsewhere, and the medium-term risk of a North American trade war looms large. We are also by far Mexico’s largest trading partner, but that could change: As Shannon O’Nell of the Council on Foreign Relations pithily summed it up, “China wins if NAFTA dies.”
Acknowledging that Mexico already leads with the world’s highest number of active free-trade agreements (FTAs) and has options, individual American business people and other citizen diplomats can still help bolster bilateral trade relations: For example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently visited Mexico’s Senate to celebrate 13 years of business cooperation.
In terms of Mexico’s relatively nascent democracy, some worry that AMLO may remove institutional checks on executive power in order to achieve his policy objectives. For example, the historian and longtime AMLO-watcher Enrique Krauze believes that AMLO could “move toward annulling the division of powers and subordinating the Supreme Court and other autonomous institutions after restricting the freedom of the media and silencing any dissenting voices.” It’s therefore crucial for both Mexican and North American civil society stakeholders to advocate for continued democratic norms and practices. As Krauze puts it, “We’ve had a democratic experiment for the past eighteen years…I’m worried that with AMLO this experiment might end.”
Since the U.S.’s Good Neighbor Policy, by which President FDR famously remarked that “Hidalgo and Juarez were men of the same stamp as Washington and Jefferson,” the U.S. neighborly relationship with Mexico has usually enjoyed high bipartisan presidential support.
Mexico has had its fair share of 21st-century challenges in governance, inequality, criminal justice, and other issues. However, it is by and large a democratic, inclusive, a responsible global power, and a mature G20 economy. With every potential reckless tweet, the president would take us farther away from a 21st century “Good Neighbor” policy. Meanwhile, other Latin American nations are taking note, doubtlessly reworking the cost-benefit calculus of their own relationships with Washington.
It’s hard to overstate India’s importance to American interests on almost any measure. As the world’s fastest growing major economy, and soon to have the world’s largest population, it holds tremendous value to the U.S. in terms of cultural, business, military, and democratic ties. It is positioned to project power in the vital shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean, and across the Indo-Pacific regional order more broadly as an example of democracy in a neighborhood with a number of troubling non-democratic states.
Since the Civil Nuclear Agreement over 12 years ago, New Delhi has steadily deepened its partnership with the Washington. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit last June to Washington also reinforced an abiding commitment to strengthening both economies’ trade and investment ties. Both the U.S. and India are members of the Indo-Pacific regional architecture’s political pillar, the East Asia Summit, but the former should redouble its efforts to enable the latter to join the region’s economic pillar — the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).
The recently-revived Quadrilateral — comprising the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia — was formed as a means for counterbalancing China’s threatening behavior in the region, but analysts from RAND and other institutions correctly conclude that India is the Quadrilateral’s most uncommitted member. For example, Modi’s speech at June’s annual Shangri-La Forum disappointed many, by neglecting to call out the military risks posed by Beijing to its Asian neighbors, and by not even mentioning the Quadrilateral.
By dedicating foreign policy assets and commitment to the Quadrilateral at this coming November’s East Asia Summit, New Delhi would certainly augment all four states’ influence in the region, but it would also be good for the world, demonstrating what large democracies are willing to do to protect the global commons.
Groupings like these may well make Beijing think twice about its activities in the region, which is why the U.S. should continue to support closer but rightsized military ties with India. It’s worth noting that India already conducts more naval exercises with the U.S. than with any other country. This September’s official U.S.-India Two-Plus-Two Dialogue was a positive step in this direction — in which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis and their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman — agreed to increase the long-delayed communications interoperability of both nations’ militaries, as well as naval personnel exchanges and military innovation.
However, despite the seemingly positive trajectory of U.S.-India relations in defense and diplomacy, the Trump Administration has taken several actions in its first year in power that have thrown a wet blanket on our growing friendship.
Threats to curtail the H1B visa program, video leaks of President Trump mimicking Modi’s English accent, deafening silence on the murder of several Indian Americans, and protectionist trade policies all have New Delhi justifiably upset. As in the financial sector, the one thing investors and governments abhor most is uncertainty, and the Trump Administration has managed to inject the U.S.-Indian partnership with a strong dose of it.
What the president should realize is that India possesses far more potential as a long-term ally with shared democratic values. This is particularly true with respect to Beijing, clearly the greatest risk to cohesion in the Indo-Pacific region. Beijing is playing the long game, steadily increasing the quantity of its foreign aid, cultural, exchange, and elite-to-elite diplomacy in its desired geographic spheres of influence, and is making calculations about what Washington is likely to do. A strong U.S.-India alliance is perhaps the most potent counterweight to such ambitions.
Poland is important to the U.S.: it is the European Union’s fifth largest country, a NATO member state, the only EU economy to avoid a recession during the 2008–09 global economic crisis, and its military one of the Pentagon’s staunchest security allies in Europe.
“You are the people who know the true value of what you defend,” said President Trump in a speech last July in Warsaw. Trump also complimented Poland for achieving its NATO spending target, and to everyone’s relief, reiterated the importance of the North Atlantic Treaty’s Article 5, which states that an attack on one ally is an attack on all.
However, Poland’s democracy, long a beacon of successful post-Soviet reforms in Central Europe, is now gravely at risk. The newly-incumbent far right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party, ruled by chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski and inspired by increasingly authoritarian head of state Victor Orban of neighboring Hungary, has sent Poland’s democracy rapidly backsliding toward illiberalism in a stunningly few number of years.
Unfortunately, Freedom House’s most recent global report ranked Poland as experiencing one of the world’s largest measurable one-year declines in political rights and civil liberties: “The government passed legislation that has politicized public media, neutered the constitutional court, handed the security services sweeping powers of surveillance, and restricted the right of public protest.” Pro-PiS extremist right-wing youth groups have also filled the vacuum opened by the lack of civic education and support for pluralism in schools. As a result of these declines, the European Union has officially warned Poland about potential sanctions, parallel to Hungary’s: A shocking reversal from the high esteem in which Poland’s democracy has long been held.
Understandably, PiS’ disturbing antidemocratic governance has been met with mass pro-democratic streets protests by indignant Poles, evoking Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement whose workers and intellectuals dislodged the Soviet Union’s occupation not long ago. In a recent Journal of Democracy essay aptly titled “Can Poland’s Backsliding Be Stopped?”, scholar Wojciech Przybylski explains, “Ideas have consequences…Trust in the liberal institutional framework has suffered due to several broader trends, among them securitization and confusion about the state of democracy in countries once viewed by Poland as democratic exemplars (including the United States, the United Kingdom, and other EU member states).”
Although on paper Warsaw still wants to “stand with the West,” re-establishing America’s and related allies’ moral leadership in the rule of law and human rights is essential. Kaczynski has been relentless in taking a sledgehammer to these liberal democratic values. In this vein, the backsliding of post-Soviet Central European democracies like Poland and Hungary are evidence that the durability of even successful democratic transitions is by no means guaranteed.
Unfortunately, there is a related concern for Poland and its neighbors: the returning geostrategic ambitions of Moscow in its former sphere of influence, Central Europe. For one thing, Poland is concerned about its reliance on Russian energy, natural gas in particular. Russian projects such as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would increase the flow of Russian gas to EU member states. In response, imports of U.S. liquefied natural gas to Poland are on the rise, as Warsaw seeks to diversify its supply.
Finally, there are also legitimate concerns that Moscow will likely interfere with “sharp power” operations in Poland’s parliamentary elections next year. For example, last July, a mysterious automated Twitter bot-net “suddenly began trending on Twitter, all attacking the thousands of Polish street demonstrators,” and firing missives from fake Twitter accounts at a max of 200 tweets per minute. The risks to Poland’s digital democratic pillars are still clear and present.
Although President Trump has rightly applauded Poland for both achieving NATO’s spending target and moving toward fuel independence, his administration should now go one step further and articulate strong support for Polish democratic institutions, as well as deeper people-to-people relations with Americans through educational, business, journalism, and military exchanges. Doing this will ensure that Polish-American relations remain ironclad through mid-century, and that Warsaw remains a moderating, democratic influence in the wider Central European region.
The U.S. and Indonesia are the world’s second- and third-largest democracies, and the latter, with 260 million souls, has emerged on the world stage as an economic success story. Indonesia also draws strength from its cultural diversity: Although it is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country by population, its people represent 360 diverse ethnic groups, dozens of religions, and speak 707 languages across 13,000 islands. Given its size, geopolitical power, and de-facto leadership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it can also be a regional counterweight to Beijing and pillar of the postwar liberal international order.
As a G20 economy, Indonesia has kept impressive pace with the other developing economic powerhouses, and stands today as the world’s seventh largest economy. Part of this can be attributed to geography: the Strait of Malacca provides passage for more than one third of global trade, and Indonesia is the only major power that straddles both the Pacific and Indian Oceans — the equivalent distance from London to Afghanistan.
However, economic nationalism and protectionism in both the U.S. and Indonesia prevents commercial ties from reaching their full potential. “Simply preventing the economic relationship from getting worse is a worthy goal,” recommends Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council of Foreign Relations.
Neglecting U.S.-led trade and investment institutions in the Indo-Pacific region will inevitably result in the completion of an alternative “China-led” economic order, that is already marked by an alarming level of predatory lending to smaller states — the existing components of which are the Belt and Road Initiative, the BRICS’ New Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, its Silk Road Fund, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Beijing’s preferred alternative to the (formerly U.S.-led) Trans-Pacific Partnership.
As the annual host of the acclaimed Bali Democracy Forum, Indonesia is the only country in Southeast Asia consistently ranked “Politically Free” by Freedom House, defined as possessing open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, an independent civic life, and an independent media. However, although Indonesia is a democracy that is liberal and tolerant, it is also becoming more conservative and religious. With a watershed general election scheduled for 2019, the key long-range question is whether the country will swing toward illiberalism domestically, as well as toward Beijing’s proposed “China-led” economic order internationally.
There is clearly tremendous potential in future U.S.-Indonesia relations, but because of its postcolonial history and current search for its place in the world, like India, Indonesia will require some confidence building. As U.S. Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert has recently noted, “Indian and Indonesian domestic strategies of autonomy and nonalignment hamper deeper integration with the U.S. The national power possessed by India and Indonesia is more potential than actual, but nonetheless very real and worthy of attention.” Both the president and Congressional leaders would also be well advised to pursue deeper relations by making an official visit to Jakarta.
Renewing the International Order
President Trump’s “America First” rhetoric is hardly original, and his populist nationalism, fueled by fears about demographics and globalization, improbably produced an Electoral College victory. However, it remains to be seen if the president can convert this into policy success in office. In terms of foreign policy, he has largely impeded his own progress.
As witnessed in the UN General Assembly last week, much of global public opinion is almost universally repelled by him — for example, just 11% of German citizens express confidence in him according to the Pew Research Center poll. His proposed policies are likewise highly unpopular around the world– not much has changed since his inauguration. Meanwhile, adversary states that seek to reshape the order are increasing cooperation — for example, last month Beijing and Moscow cooperated on their largest joint wargames since the Cold War.
The U.S. may still have the world’s most powerful economy and military, but there are a number of very real — and frightening — crises in which the U.S. would have no choice but to work with nontraditional partners, such as a potential South China Sea armed naval conflict, a cyberattack on U.S. infrastructure, or Kremlin grayzone aggression in Eastern Europe. As Anne-Marie Slaughter has pointed out, Washington should pay as much attention to the international “web” (interdependent linkages) as it does to the international “chessboard” (competition and rivalry).
The four nations we have focused on here are especially vital. Although retrenchment and withdrawal from global affairs is attractive to Trump, if America fails to enlarge its constellation of allies to more definitively include the global swing states of Mexico, India, Poland and Indonesia, then these emerging global powers are likely to drift toward national values and policies that will weaken the U.S.-led international order, and hurt people in their surrounding regions over the long run. As Kliman and Fontaine wisely explained, global swing states might even swing toward an alternative, Moscow- or Beijing-led international order if they are persuaded by substitute benefits.
Indeed, the health of the components of the stable international order that we currently enjoy is by no means self-sustaining. As the scholar Robert Kaganwrites, a democratic, pluralistic international order “will last only as long as those who imposed it retain the capacity to defend it…The better idea doesn’t have to win just because it is a better idea[ii].”
Today, a handful of nations hold the potential for reshaping the map of the international order. They will collectively either strengthen America’s capacity to lead on the world stage, or trigger its possible decline. To ensure the former, President Trump needs to demonstrate an ability to grasp these evolving complexities and craft a cohesive foreign policy doctrine that goes beyond a defense of “Western civilization”, and instead embrace an expanded web of mutually-beneficial geostrategic alliances.
Within these challenges lies an extraordinary opportunity to shape and lead the international order. Will he choose to seize it?
Niruban Balachandran and Vikram Janardhan are recent Mid-career MPA graduates of the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government.
[i] “International Order and Global Swing States”, Richard Fontaine, December 18, 2012, Center for Strategic & International Studies, https://www.csis.org/analysis/twq-international-order-and-global-swing-states-winter-2013
[ii] “Why the World needs America”, Robert Kagan, February 11, 2012, The Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052970203646004577213262856669448
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, after fourteen months evaluating the Intelligence Community’s work on Kremlin interference in the American election, announced on May 16 that the foreign effort was “extensive” and “unprecedented.” Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), the Committee’s Vice Chairman concluded that “one thing is already abundantly clear – we have to do a better job in the future if we want to protect our elections from foreign interference.”
How does one go about doing that? In an effort to find out, we interviewed officials and academics from eleven countries, asking them how they go about defending their elections, what the U.S. should learn from them, and what keeps them up at night. Country by country, we’re going to share their advice here at FDRfoundation.org. Up first: Denmark!
It turns out the Danes were already paying attention to us. “The real wake-up call for Denmark was in 2016, when we saw the coordinated Russian influence campaign that targeted the US election, Jesper Møller Sørensen, Political Director at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained. “This was an example of the whole Russian toolbox of active measures which we need to counter with democratic means.”
The Danes, like many others, suggested a focus on education and coordination. Helping the general public understand that sometimes “fake news” is actually fake news is key. “In the end,” said Sørensen, “psychological resilience comes down to education.” “In our view an important part of education is also making public the ways influence campaigns are conducted and engage openly in these debates.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. (for now) lacks the Dane’s superpower: trust in institutions. “We have a well-educated and informed population, Sørensen noted, “but the greatest strength the Danes possess is the high amount of trust toward our government and institutions in general. This makes it harder to sow distrust and polarize debates.” Distrustful and polarized nations, like America, are easier to manipulate with disinformation.
Another Danish superpower is their ability to coordinate with friendly neighbors. “Close cooperation with like-minded countries is crucial to exchange experiences about the threat, said Sørensen, “we are engaged in a well-established and extensive cooperation with the Nordic and Baltic countries on this issue.” Can America do this?
Awareness, education, coordination: advice from Denmark for defending our 2018 elections.
Franklin Roosevelt is remembered for “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” the ringing words by which he inspired courage and hope in a nation devastated by the Great Depression. Eight years later, in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, this same president signed Executive Order 9066, which removed over 110,000 Japanese Americans from their homes on the West Coast and confined them to internment camps during World War II.
If Franklin Roosevelt, champion of the Four Freedoms, fell prey to xenophobia in 1942, with lasting injury to our democracy, what damage is being done today by the Trump presidency, which targets Muslims, Mexicans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Africans.
Greg Robinson’s historical paper was originally presented at our conference When Presidents Fear on March 4, 2017. We post it now in remembrance of the 76th anniversary of Executive Order 9066.
FDR’s Decision to sign Executive Order 9066: Lessons From History
Greg Robinson, Professor of History at l’Université du Québec À Montréal.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D Roosevelt singed Executive Order 9066. As a result of the President’s order, over 110,000 Japanese Americans were ordered from their homes without trial and sent to camps under military guard. Some 70,000 of these people were U.S. citizens of an average age of approximately 18, and the rest were long-resident aliens who were predominantly middle-aged. They were allowed to take only what they could carry, and were thus forced to sell or dispose of homes, businesses, cars and all other personal property. The Japanese Americans were first herded into a network of “Assembly Centers,” which were generally disused fairgrounds and race tracks. There the inmates were housed in stables and animal pens. After several weeks or months, the Japanese Americans were sent on under guard to a network of “relocation centers,” camps operated by a new government agency, the War Relocation Authority. These American-style concentration camps were located in remote desert and swamp areas and were surrounded by barbed wire and armed sentries. The inmates were housed in hastily-built tar paper shacks, with one room per family. Health and sanitary facilities were primitive, especially at the outset, and food was limited and poor quality. Although all adults were expected to work, their maximum salary was set at $19 per month. The stark conditions of the camps and the stigma of arbitrary imprisonment led to trauma and conflict among the inmates, and sparked several strikes and riots in the camps. In the end, most Japanese Americans remained in the camps throughout the war years.
How could this have happened in a nation fighting a war to preserve freedom against fascism? In particular how could it have happened during the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, a President justly renowned for his humanitarianism and support for democracy? This is the question with which I began my inquiry. Still, it is possible to identify several important factors that shaped the President’s actions. As Milton Eisenhower, who became the first director of the WRA, the civilian government agency that ran the camps, later stated, “The President’s final decision was influenced by a variety of factors, by events over which he had little control, by inaccurate or incomplete information, by bad counsel, by strong political pressures, and by his own training, background and personality.”
In my book By Order of the President (Harvard University Press, 2001), I discuss at length how all these factors influenced the actions of President Roosevelt, first in his decision to approve the mass removal of West Coast Japanese Americans, and subsequently in his actions in support of the policy. Although sporadic, these decisions were essential in determining the duration of the incarceration and the consequences to its victims. What I would like to explore is to look at the role played in the President’s decision by the last of the factors cited by Eisenhower, namely the President’s training, background, and personality. From this point of view, the President’s past attitudes towards Japanese Americans must be considered as a significant factor in his decision to approve Executive Order 9066. Franklin Roosevelt had a long history of viewing Japanese Americans in undifferentiated racial terms as essentially Japanese, and of expressing hostility to them on that basis.
In order to understand this history, it is necessary to look back at the turn of the century American society in which the young Franklin Roosevelt grew up and came of age, and how he was shaped by dominant ideas. At the time, the nation’s intellectual climate was dominated by Darwinian or biological thinking. According to the ideas of Charles Darwin on animal evolution, which were adapted to human society by such thinkers as Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner, humanity was divided into different groups, or races. Just as the various species of animals adapted in order to survive more easily in a given environment, each race developed particular characteristics that gave them an advantage. Thus, the various races developed not only different physical characteristics—height, skin color, body shape, skull shape, and so forth—in response to their particular surroundings, but also particular personality traits.
How did these ideas affect the young FDR? He deplored visceral prejudice, and he expressed interest in Japanese culture and became friendly with a number of Japanese. Nevertheless, he regarded the Japanese as a danger. In 1913, shortly after Roosevelt was named Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the government of Woodrow Wilson, the protests of California whites against Japanese immigrant farmers led to the Alien Land Act, as I mentioned, which forbade these immigrants property rights. The passage of the law set off vigorous protests within Japan, and when an extreme nationalist called for a blockade of America in return, Roosevelt had drawn up a plan for naval war between Japan and the United States and recommended the massing of the Pacific fleet in preparation for such a war. Although the immediate crisis abated following some careful diplomacy, in the years that followed, even as the United States moved closer to involvement in World War I, he continued to call for the arming of the Pacific fleet for war against Japan, which he considered the most dangerous foreign threat. The greatest lesson he took from the incident was that Japanese Americans were a source of trouble—friction with their neighbors and aggression by Japan.
Even when FDR’s attitude towards Japan began to change, following the end of the First World War, his opinions about Japanese Americans remained constant. In 1922-1923 FDR was invited by his old friend George Marvin to write an article for Asia magazine about Japanese-American relations. It was a time of international tension, following the Washington Naval Conference. Roosevelt feared that a resurgence of militarism would set off a futile and costly war between Japan and the United State, and he decided to write in opposition. By March 1923 he had produced the first draft of a text called “The Japs – A Habit of Mind.” After Marvin made some minor stylistic changes and inserted some additional factual material, the piece appeared under the title “Shall We Trust Japan?” in the July 1923 issue of Asia.
“Shall We Trust Japan?” was designed as a plea for a “pacific attitude” in the Pacific and for an end to the instinctive hostility most Americans felt for Japan. Roosevelt’s principal argument was that, even assuming that it had been “natural” in the past for Japan and the United States to consider each other as “the most probable enemy” and to plan for war against the other, the new era crystallized by the Washington Naval Conference made such thought obsolete. FDR expressed confidence that, once the “yellow peril” fears of Japan were eliminated, the two countries could resolve peacefully the underlying causes of Japanese American friction.
Roosevelt confessed that the principal cause of such friction, which had to be eliminated, was the presence of Japanese immigrants and their children in the United States. FDR brought up this vital question with reluctance, because, as he said, it was so difficult to discuss without sparking “unreasoning passions on one side or both.” Nevertheless, while he conceded that the Japanese, as well as other groups such as the Chinese, Filipinos, and Indians, were “ a race…of acknowledged dignity and integrity,” they nonetheless had to be excluded on racial grounds from the United States
So far as Americans are concerned, it must be admitted that, as a whole, they honestly believe—and in this belief they are at one with the people of Canada and Australasia—that the mingling of white with oriental blood on an extensive scale is harmful to our future citizenship…As a corollary of this conviction, Americans object to the holding of large amounts of real property, of land, by aliens or those descended from mixed marriages. Frankly, they do not want non-assimilable immigrants as citizens, nor do they desire any extensive proprietorship of land without citizenship.
The assertion that Americans (whom Roosevelt clearly assumed were white) “honestly” believed that they had to combat mixed marriages through discriminatory legislation and that people of “oriental blood” were inherently and ipso facto unassimilable, constituted an undeniable rationalization of white prejudice both towards Japanese immigrants and towards their native-born children in the United States. Roosevelt continued that immigration restriction, whether by laws or by the Gentleman’s Agreement, was morally justified because it was reciprocal :
The reverse of the position thus taken holds equally true. In other words, I do not believe that the Americans people now or in the future will insist on the right or privilege of entry into an oriental country to such an extent as to threaten racial purity or to jeopardize the land-owning privileges of citizenship. I think I may sincerely claim for American public opinion an adherence to the Golden Rule.
Even ignoring the fact that white Americans never in fact obeyed the “golden rule”—the United States held colonies in Asia and American investors enjoyed extensive property rights and extraterritoriality in Asia—Japan was not a nation of immigrants, and there never were any large groups of Americans who wished to emigrate there. Although Japan limited immigration, it never singled out Americans or whites for exclusion on a racial basis.
In any case, Roosevelt’s assertion that discriminatory laws had been passed in order to preserve “racial purity” was illogical. White-Asian intermarriage was statistically insignificant on the West Coast, where such laws existed, and in any case laws banning the practice had existed long before passage of the Alien Land Act, so it could not have been passed to prevent the threat of mass intermarriage. Instead, as Roosevelt well knew, such laws were passed to reduce economic competition Japanese immigrant farmers and landowners and to stigmatize them as undesirable.
Roosevelt nevertheless continued to believe that the Japanese would not object to race-based exclusion. In 1925, while on his first visit to the Georgia resort of Warm Springs, to take treatments for his wasted legs, he began a short-lived substitute newspaper column in the nearby Macon Telegraph. One of his columns, dated April 30, 1925, explored the “Japanese question.” It was written during a minor diplomatic crisis between the United States and Japan prompted by the announcement that the US Navy would be undertaking naval maneuvers in Hawaii designed to guard against an eventual Japanese attack. Roosevelt agreed that the Americans had a perfect right to defend their coasts, in which the Hawaiian bases played a vital role, but he deplored the announcement as needlessly provocative. FDR declared that the announcement paralleled the campaign by “troublemakers” on both sides of the Pacific that had led to the Japanese exclusion law. He contended that the United States, instead of using economic arguments, should instead justify its policy on racial grounds. He saw no contradiction between American-Japanese friendship, on the one hand, and the exclusion of Japanese immigrants as a racial danger:
It is undoubtedly true that in the past many thousands of Japanese have legally or otherwise got into the United States, settled here and raised children who become American citizens. Californians have properly objected on the sound basic ground that Japanese immigrants are not capable of assimilation into the American population. If this had throughout the discussion been made the sole ground for the American attitude all would have been well, and the people of Japan would today understand and accept our decision.
Roosevelt was sure that if the United States defended exclusion on a purely racial basis, the Japanese would not protest and relations between the two countries would remain harmonious. After all, he said, the Japanese were known to have strong taboos against interracial marriage, and would not want to have their national culture polluted by such inter-mixtures:
Anyone who has traveled in the Far East knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results…The argument works both ways. I know a great many cultivated, highly educated, and delightful Japanese. They have all told me that they would feel the same repugnance and objection to have thousands of Americans settle in Japan and intermarry with the Japanese as I would feel in having large numbers of Japanese come over here and intermarry with the American population. In this question then of Japanese exclusion from the United States, it is necessary only to advance the true reason—the undesirability of mixing the blood of the two peoples.
These words and action point to Roosevelt’s continued acceptance, in the months after Pearl Harbor, of the idea that Japanese Americans, whether citizens or longtime residents, were essentially Japanese and unable to transform themselves into true Americans. Therefore, in a time of conflict between the United States and Japan, they could be presumed to be supportive of their Japanese brethren. This presumption was not absolute—Roosevelt could well imagine that there existed loyal Japanese Americans. But in the absence (and sometimes in the presence) of significant evidence testifying to their loyalty, the presumption remained and controlled Roosevelt’s actions in regard to the Japanese American community generally. Roosevelt’s ideas about the Japanese left him prepared—even overprepared—to believe the worst of Japanese, and to accept without challenge in the wake of Pearl Harbor the military’s false accusations regarding the disloyal activities of a Japanese American fifth column, even if he had solid proof to the contrary. He therefore gave the Army much too free a hand in dealing with West Coast Japanese Americans.
Roosevelt’s basic attitude towards Japanese Americans may have also shaped his response to the moral and constitutional questions involved in mass evacuation. FDR’s refusal to admit the discriminatory purpose behind race-based exclusion of Japanese immigrants during the 1920s and his contention that Californians rightly objected to the Japanese presence in their midst also serves as a model for his voluntary blindness to the essential role of racial hostility and economic jealousy in motivating calls for mass removal of Japanese Americans by Californians with a long history of nativist bias. Moreover, during his 1920s articles, Roosevelt defended the denial of property rights to Japanese immigrants as a way to ensure racial purity. This attitude could well have contributed to Roosevelt’s unwillingness to stake steps to protect the property of the evacuees such the appointment of a strong Alien Property Custodian, with the result that the interned Japanese Americans were forced to sell off their property at ridiculously low prices or were stripped of it by the white “friends” to whom they entrusted it, or were forced to place it in unguarded warehouses which were looted and vandalized.
Perhaps the most important part that Roosevelt’s anti-Japanese prejudices played in shaping his decision to approve mass removal and his subsequent actions in support of the policy was in nourishing an indifference to the condition of the Japanese Americans involved. As extraordinary as it may seem, Roosevelt was ready to approve mass removal without hesitation precisely because the matter was unimportant to him. In the end, it is this indifference, which marks not only Roosevelt’s decision to sign Executive Order 9066, but his involvement in the policy that followed. In that sense, the sin that pervaded the President’s actions, if we can use such a loaded term, was not hostility but indifference.
GREG ROBINSON is Professor of History at l’Université du Québec À Montréal. A specialist in North American Ethnic Studies and U.S. Political History, he has written several notable books, including By Order of the President: (Harvard UP, 2001) which uncovers President Franklin Roosevelt’s central involvement in the wartime confinement of 120,000 Japanese Americans, and A Tragedy of Democracy: (Columbia UP, 2009), winner of the 2009 AAAS History book prize, which studies Japanese American and Japanese Canadian confinement in transnational context. His book After Camp: (UC Press, 2012), winner of the Caroline Bancroft History Prize, centers on post war resettlement. His most recent book is The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches (UP Colorado 2016) an alternative history of Japanese Americans through portraits of unusual figures.
Asking the Right Questions About U.S. International Broadcasting
By Matthew Wallin & Jed Willard
Published on-line in The Diplomat on June 03, 2014
[An excerpt is reprinted here, see the original source at thediplomat.com for a complete reading.]
Congress is currently examining the government’s role in international news broadcasting, but are they asking the right questions?
The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently passed a bill to reform the U.S. Government’s international broadcasting apparatus. There have been issues with America’s international broadcasting for years, and the legislation makes long needed management adjustments that will streamline processes and generally enhance the official American voice around the world. But while there are many good things in the bill, it brings to mind the open question as to why America has international broadcasters in the first place.
On one hand, public diplomacy, which includes international broadcasting, is intended to build relationships and advertise our nation’s purpose, ideals, culture, and exceptionalism. On the other hand, public diplomacy also supports, explains, and defends foreign policy in an effort to achieve specific goals.
These are both perfectly rational objectives for public diplomacy and for the nation. But do they conflict? Does the U.S. want its state broadcasters to serve as independent journalists providing objective news coverage for populations otherwise subjected to nothing but propaganda and conspiracy theories? Or does it expect its state-funded broadcasters to strictly advocate U.S policy? Are these choices mutually exclusive?
Can Voice of America be assigned, for instance, to produce – as worded in the pending legislation – “accurate, objective, and comprehensive news and related programming that is consistent with and promotes the broad foreign policies of the United States?” Or is that asking the impossible – assigning an entity to perform two potentially opposing tasks? To examine the potential complications, let us consider VOA’s assignment in depth.
Read more at thediplomat.com
Matthew Wallin is a fellow specializing in public diplomacy at the American Security Project [external link]. Jed Willard is the Director of the FDR Center for Global Engagement at Harvard College.