Commentary: The arrival of the Americans: Atlantic and Pacific paradigms
By Tiberiu Dianu
1. “When Are the Americans Coming?”
This has been an interrogation on a societal level, shaped as an outcry for freedom in the post-1945 period. It encompasses a horizon of high, albeit immaterialized, expectations, turned subsequently into a depository of unfulfilled sentiments, passed from generation to generation in the form of some actions motivated by hope and/or frustration.
|Tiberiu Dianu has published several books and over 100 articles in law, politics, and post-communist societies. He currently lives and works in Washington, DC, and can be followed on Medium. https://medium.com/@tdianu|
I have identified two regional dimensions:
(1) In the (north) Atlantic area, present in some countries, allied militarily with the United States, in Europe (particularly in the eastern part); and
(2) In the (south) Pacific area, detected by anthropologists at some populations in Oceania.
Each of these cultural paradigms presents strategic implications.
2. The Atlantic Paradigm
In Eastern Europe, the expectations for an American arrival were taking shapes since the Allied invasion of Normandy, on June 6, 1944. But in spring 1945, when the American and Russian armies were advancing toward Berlin from opposite directions, several Eastern European nations got caught in between the games of interests of these two main actors. This was due to a previous US-Soviet Union agreement establishing a certain demarcation line in the front zone.
In the Czech Republic, the anti-German resistance members of the Prague Uprising (May 5 to May 8, 1945) could not persuade the US Army to intervene, although their units were just 12 miles away and able to capture the city in several hours. American politicians (in the Harry S. Truman administration) and generals (like Omar Bradley) – fearing they would anger their Soviet ally – forced their military to play a passive role, and did not allow general George Patton to take over Prague, although he was wanted and expected there by the majority of the population (except for the pro-Soviet sympathizers).
In Romania (initially, an Axis member), after the country switched sides to the Allies on August 23, 1944, the population’s unfulfilled expectations — to be liberated by American troops from both Nazi Germany and Communist Russia — had a more dramatic turn of events. Anti-communist guerrilla fighters, led by former Royal army officers, were able to operate somewhat effectively in the Carpathian Mountains against the Soviet Red Army, who had occupied the country, throughout the entire late-1940s to early-1960s period.
But even after that, mixed feelings of hope and frustration continued to persist until after the fall of communism in 1989.
The “non-arrival of Americans” — both during the post-1945 and post-1989 periods – has been a theme generously exploited by the local movie industry, and rewarded with international film festival awards.
3. The Pacific Paradigm
The same phenomenon has taken place for the nations of Oceania (and especially in Melanesia).
These unfulfilled expectations have partly surfaced in the form of cargo cults.
Initially, cargo cults appeared as a synthesis of local and foreign elements, involving help from the ancestors and abundance of goods. Later on – especially during and post-World War 2 era – Pacific cults were associated with (mostly) the US military equipment and supplies airdropped to troops and islanders, which drastically changed the lifestyle of the latter.
After 1945, the American military abandoned the airbases and stopped dropping cargos, causing the local leaders to develop cults promising deliverance of goods as gifts from their ancestors or other sources. The sentiment of nostalgia has been extremely intense ever since, making the cult members to mimic some US soldiers’ routines, like military parades, drills, and landing signals.
Cargo cults originated in Fiji (the “Tuka Movement” in 1885).
Cargo cults (or some manifestations misidentified as “cargo cults”) are still active in countries like Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and elsewhere in Oceania. Among them, I mention:
(1) The “John Frum (America)” cult (in Vanuatu);
(2) The Johnson cult (in Papua New Guinea).
4. Strategic Implications
Obviously, all these manifestations of sympathy for American values and military personnel must be commended and appreciated for their loyalty and durability throughout time. Apparently, pro-American attitudes in Eastern Europe have been a constant in the area since the early 1920s.
Consequently, as I have emphasized in previous occasions, these (particularly Eastern) European front nations need to be encouraged and rewarded accordingly – before they do not turn again to bitter frustrations – by engaging them more actively against the current Russian expansionism toward West and the Atlantic.
On their part, the populations in Oceania have been exhibiting constant pro-American attitudes, basically since the 1898 Spanish-American War (expanded both in the Caribbean and the Pacific).
Therefore, the next American administration should envision them into a renewed construction (particularly the current US territories and the COFA nations).
As I have proposed already, this renewed construction should be geared to neutralize the increasing Chinese and Russian expansions toward East and the Pacific.