MAN OF THE YEAR: Challenge of the East

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The Old Soldier. Many thought Douglas MacArthur the logical choice for Man of the Year. The arguments were impressive : 1) he was winning the Korean war, in so far as he was permitted to win it, when he was fired; 2) his speech before Congress breathed a sense of high public duty long absent from U.S. affairs; 3) the Japanese Treaty was a monument to his bold and generous effort to find a new U.S. relationship with Asian peoples; 4) to millions of Americans, he remained the No. 1 U.S. hero, by no means faded away.

However, by year's end MacArthur had abdicated a position of national leadership to become spokesman for a particular group. Some passages in his later speeches were ambiguous and inconsistent with his own basic line of thought and action. These ambiguities, plus the distortion of MacArthur by his friends of the Hearst and McCormick press, led some to conclude that MacArthur was an isolationist; others, that he was an imperialist. Both tags were absurd, yet the figure of MacArthur in U.S. life was neither as clear nor as large in December as it had been in April.

Nevertheless, his Congress speech still sang in the nation's conscience. It contained a brilliant passage applicable to 1951's biggest news — the turmoil in the Middle East. Asian peoples, MacArthur said, would continue to drive for independence from the West and for material progress, and this drive "may not be stopped." The U.S. must "orient its policies in consonance with this basic evolutionary condition, rather than pursue a course blind to the reality that the colonial era is now past and the Asian peoples covet the right to shape their own destiny. What they seek now is friendly guidance, understanding and support, not imperious direction; the dignity of equality, and not the shame of subjugation."

No George Washington. The U.S. vaguely agreed with MacArthur's plea: it wanted to feel sympathy toward the aspirations of Asian peoples. After all, material progress and national independence are both classic American doctrines, and the U.S. could envision itself as playing Lafayette to Asian George Washingtons. But in terms of Asian realities, the Lafayette-Washington picture was sheer sentimentality, and, like all sentimentality, led to bad morals. MacArthur knew the discouraging facts of Asian politics. He wanted the U.S. to face the facts and build a policy upon them. The U.S.—or at least its official leadership—was appalled by the facts. Just as it had recoiled from Nationalist China, crying "Corruption," so in 1951 the U.S. recoiled from the corruption, hatred, fanaticism and disorganization of the Middle East.

Mossadegh, by Western standards an appalling caricature of a statesman, was a fair sample of what the West would have to work with in the Middle East. To sit back and deplore him was to run away from the issue. For a long time, relations with the Middle East would mean relations with men such as Mossadegh, some better, some much worse.

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