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The Domino Logic of the Darkest Moment

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The Fall of Singapore, the Atlantic Echo Chamber, and ‘Chinese Penetration’ in u.s. Cold War Policy toward Southeast Asia

image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

This essay argues that Anglo-American memories of Japan’s victory in Singapore in 1942, which British Prime Minister Winston Churchill labeled Britain’s “darkest moment” in World War II, soon would underpin the domino logic within u.s. Cold War strategy. For both American and British policymakers, Japan’s war machine had fused together in interconnected insecurity the bastions of Euro-American colonial power. In Southeast Asia, it had imposed the condition that one state’s vulnerabilities impinged upon the stability of its neighbor. This vision of Southeast Asia’s interconnected insecurity was central to the domino logic within u.s. Cold War policy. u.s. policymakers’ preoccupation with containing communism in Vietnam arose significantly from how Japan had torn into Southeast Asia from Indochina. After World War II, u.s. and British policymakers perceived Southeast Asian insecurity through both the prism of Japanese imperialism and their fears of an older “Yellow Peril"—China and Southeast Asia’s Chinese diaspora. Indeed, u.s. and British officials anticipated, as well as echoed and confirmed, each other’s suspicions that China and its diaspora would collaborate to reprise Japan’s campaign.

Affiliations: 1: Northwestern University,


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