(2) the Pacific War


How do we propose to defeat Japan? The argument runs that the quickest way to defeat Japan is to concentrate entirely on Hitler. This is our Pacific strategy. Yet the desperate situation in Eastern Asia demands offensive action.

The Navy’s counter-attack on Japan’s outposts in the Aleutians and the Solomon Islands marked the upsurge of an offensive spirit for which the country had been waiting, but such offensives are not part of a large-scale plan for the early defeat of Japan: they are necessary merely to hold what we have. The disposal of materials we are sending across the Pacific is still largely determined by the conflicting claims of the various countries to be “defended.” Shall the convoy go to Hawaii, to Alaska, to New Zealand, Australia, India, or, last of all, China? The decision is made according to the direction of the latest Japanese foray and the political influence of ministers and ambassadors in Washington.

If offensive action in the Pacific is necessary to hold Japan, then it is a condition of a western front in Europe. What use is there in pouring troops into Europe to divert the Germans from the Soviet Union if a million Japanese pour into the Soviet Union from the other end? How effective would a western front be if it released Japanese energies for the conquest of India and brought to the Middle East the equivalent number of Japanese for the Germans diverted to other parts? Is our hold on Asia firm enough to warrant adventures in Europe?


If the position of the Soviet Union is shaky, that of China is critical. It is true that the Chinese are putting up a tremendous fight against the Japanese offensive, which began soon after the Tokyo bombing of April 18. They retake lost cities, lose them again, and again come back to the attack. But they are using up their reserves, and not until the monsoons lift in October can more help be flown in. The courage and skill of the American Army Air Forces is helping to raise Chinese morale in this crisis. There is no question, however, of the crisis.

China will survive the next few months only by using up her reserves and by sacrificing more and more men. The shortage of gasoline is practically bringing automotive traffic to an end and is seriously limiting the activities of our air force. The self-sufficiency in small arms of which China could boast some months ago has disappeared because it depended upon imports from the United States, particularly of lead and copper. These imports have had to stop. Internal communications are steadily getting worse. Military movements cannot depend on motor transport much longer.

By October, China will be so short of everything from war materials to consumers’ goods that nothing but large-scale imports will save her. Just to keep China in the fight, the growing Japanese army in Burma, designed for an attack on Yunnan province, the receiving base for supplies from India, must be driven out. American air commanders in China have said that with planes the Chinese could drive the Japanese into the sea. Without them only disaster can befall. In Japanese hands Burma is a springboard for both China and India. If Yunnan and Calcutta were to fall, — and both would require only a limited offensive, our position in the East would be tenuous indeed.


Japan’s intentions are clear. The main objective since the Western empires were driven out of the South Pacific has been China — to cut her off from the democracies and to separate her from the Soviet Union. The next objectives must be the Calcutta area and Siberia, and she is probably strong enough to assail both. While attacking China she has been hitting all around the circle, her favorite tactic. The defeat at Midway was compensated for by the occupation of the Aleutian Islands, which give her bases from which to block the air lines to the Soviet Union and advance knowledge of the weather for the United States and even Britain. Such information is useful to her Axis partners. She is massing troops in Burma and Manchuria, conducting a vicious air offensive against American bases in China, pushing forward in Inner Mongolia, and driving down toward Australia. At the same time she puts pressure on IndoChina to coöperate more effectively in her war, and continues a propaganda campaign in India.


The military crisis in China pales beside the political crisis in India. The deterioration in British-Indian relations came first from the failure of the Cripps mission and second from the growing crisis in the military position of the United Nations. It was this change in the fortunes of the war which swung the balance of power, in the view of India’s leaders, strongly in their favor. Gandhi’s famous Wardha Resolution, drawn up on July 15 and presented to the All India Congress at Bombay on August 7, led directly to his arrest and the beginning of civil disobedience. The British acted quickly in order to give Gandhi and his followers no time to complete their arrangements. By the irony of history, Congress appealed for civil disobedience at the very moment when its public statements — the promise to join the United Nations against the Axis and concern over the fate of China brought it near to the position taken by the Cripps mission.

Gandhi’s role in the war seems on the surface both treacherous and dangerous. As late as November, 1941, he said that a mass movement was unthinkable during the war. It would be taking advantage of British difficulties, it would degenerate into violence and lead to civil war. After the modification of the May 2 resolution by Nehru, Gandhi still talked of representing a free India in Japan and of dissolving the Indian Army, while permitting British and American troops, as such, to defend India. Why then did he take the responsibility of starting a mass movement which might easily end in chaos and ruin the war effort in India?


Gandhi’s position, from his own point of view, is logical enough. He is not pro-Axis, he is against war. He thinks the Axis no worse than the British were two hundred years ago and that he can handle the possible oppressors of the future with the tactics which have proved their success against the oppressors of the past. He sees no reason to share our hopes for victory. The high-handed methods which the British used to secure Congress documents should not lead us to underestimate their importance. According to the minutes of the Working Committee meeting of May 1, published in India but not abroad, “three factors influence our decision in the present emergency: (1) India’s freedom; (2) sympathy for certain larger causes; (3) the probable outcome of the war. It is Gandhi’s feeling that Japan and Germany will win.” If the chances of an Axis victory are as much as 50 per cent, there is every reason why Gandhi should take that into account.

If the Axis wins, Congress leaders can say that they have not helped the British and may hope to come to terms with the Axis; if the British win, they can fight for independence any time they want to after the war. Why should Congress, like the Labor Party in England, take responsibility for the mistakes of others? Why should a movement which has sacrificed so many men in the fight against Britain assume responsibility for British tribulations?

Gandhi persuaded Congress that the civil disobedience movement was foolproof. Success would give liberty of action to control India’s foreign policy and to take sides according to the progress of the war.

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The arrest of Indian leaders does not mean the end of negotiations. In the past it has often been the beginning, but the problem is not only one of the relation between Congress and Britain: it concerns also the relation between Congress and the rest of India. The British, maneuvered into a position where they had to sidetrack Gandhi, proceeded to do so by splitting India rather than by placating the Congress faction. The actions of Congress find no support with the Moslem League, with C. Rajagopalachariar, the former Madras leader, with youth organizations and peasant unions, or with the recently released communists who are influential among the students. M. N. Roy shrewdly pointed out that the British surrendered every power over Indian defense except the right to make a separate peace. It does not help if Moslem papers refer to Congress as a Fascist Council, but the Moslems have a strong case. This faction would prefer to patch up a coalition government to rule for the duration of the war. They want a radical settlement with Britain as much as Congress, but that settlement must include a place for them. What they do not want is for Congress to use the present opportunity to reinstate itself through public martyrdom. They look with scorn on the recent Congress statements, designed for American consumption, about a free India having concern for China and the cause of the United Nations.

Now that the British have shed blood, the whole issue of the race war is upon us again. The future role of India in the war depends in the main upon the reaction of the Indian people to the civil disobedience movement and Gandhi’s ability to control it. No movement in Indian politics has ever been charged with more dire possibilities for India and the world.

The British Government cannot afford to give India freedom to secede from the war and they cannot get her into the war. The Chinese are not powerful enough to force the issue; they watch in fear and dread that India will fall. They plead with Britain, on the one hand, to grant real political power to India, and implore Indian leaders, on the other hand, to refrain from the anti-British mass movement. The United States stands in a delicate position between India and Britain. She alone can guarantee that if the British must give up their empire, which means the economic basis of their strength, then the new freedom will not be used for economic revenge, that the economic order of the war and the peace will include a place for Britain’s top-heavy economy.

Meanwhile the general feeling that India cannot be defended is causing untold havoc. India feels helpless in the face of possible invasion.


Blood was1 shed in India at a time when the first encouraging signs appeared among the populations overrun by Japan that confidence in the United Nations was on the upswing. The Japanese were unable to secure the Indian labor they counted on in Burma. Half a million Indians fled from Rangoon to India, and the Moslems of Arakan province turned against the pro-Japanese Burmese. This threatens Japan’s hold on the port of Akyab. The movement for Korean independence, for long in exile in China, flared up into open revolt, if reports can be believed, in Korea itself. Resistance continues in the Netherlands Indies, where 80,000 troops of the Dutch armies are active. In the Philippines the Japanese themselves report considerable resistance and accuse the Filipinos and Chinese of “espionage, spreading anti-Japanese propaganda, listening to enemy broadcasts, and committing arson, murder, and robbery.”

There are signs that policy towards China is beginning to take shape — witness the India-China air ferry, the flow of Russian supplies over the land route, the extensive British and American bombing of Burma, the visit to China of Lauchlin Currie on a personal mission for President Roosevelt. There may be grounds for limited optimism in the appointment of Admiral Leahy as Chief of Staff to President Roosevelt. As Chief of Naval Operations in 1937, Leahy tried to set up an Anglo-American naval blockade of Japan in order to choke her aggression in its infancy. Leahy does not underestimate Japan, which in this case is the beginning of wisdom.