Barbara Tuchman, Stilwell and the American Experience in China 1911-1945 (New York: the Macmillan Company,1970)

"Cynicism about the war and a lapse into increasing passivity was the result. An attitude of “Let the Allies do it” prevailed in the teahouses of Chungking after the fall of Burma. To use barbarians to fight other barbarians was a traditional principle of Chinese statecraft which now more than ever appeared not only advisable but justified. Chinese opinion, according to a foreign resident, held that not only was China justified in remaining passive after five years of resistance; “it was her right to get as much as possible out of her allies while they fought.” The exercise of this right became the Government’s chief war effort. The long endeavor to shake off the foreigners and emerge from dependence had not succeeded; China’s problems had been too great. With dwindling capacity to cope with its own circumstances, the Kuomintang applied all its energy to making dependence pay." [emphasis added] p. 303

"Here was the basis of the fundamental cultural clash between Chiang’s and Stilwell’s theories of war. Throughout Stilwell’s mission every action and decision of the Generalissimo had been molded by the principle of hoarding resources and waiting until one barbarian should defeat the other. From the Chinese point of view this was sensible and justified. From the point of view of the Americans, who were providing the resources and believed in taking action to command fate, it was unacceptable and unjustified. There could be no meeting across this divide." p. 490

"The making of foreign policy in World War II came out of the great allied conferences dominated by the military where the military staffs were the working members, and the civil arm, except for the two chiefs of state, was represented meagerly, if at all. Pomp and uniforms held the floor and everyone appeared twice as authoritative as he would have in the two-button business suit of ordinary life. Human fallibility was concealed by those beribboned chests and knife-edge tailoring. By the nature of the message they proposed to send to Chiang Kai-Shek, the military were conducting foreign policy and nobody questioned it.

"The message adopted the tone of a headmaster to a sullen and recalcitrant schoolboy. ... it is doubtful if the note would have been addressed to the head of any European government. …

"There was nothing in this that was not justified; the fault lay in failure to think through the implications. It made no sense to send a message of implied unfitness to rule to a chief of state unless it was backed by readiness to cease investing support in him. In the absence of such readiness the message was a crippled ultimatum from which the senders must inevitably retreat." pp. 492-493


"Would the fate of China have been different if Stilwell had been allowed to reform the Army and create an effective combat force of 90 divisions?" p. 530

"This assumption might have been true if Asia were clay in the hands of the West. But the "regenerative idea," Stilwell's or another's, could not be imposed from outside. The Kuomintang's military structure could not be reformed without reform of the system from which it sprang and, as Stilwell himself recognized, to reform such a system 'it must be torn to pieces.'" [emphasis added]

In great things, wrote Erasmus, it is enough to have tried. Stilwell's mission was America's supreme try in China. He made the maximum effort because his temperament permitted no less. Yet the mission failed in its ultimate purpose because the goal was unachievable. The impulse was not Chinese. Combat efficiency and the offensive spirit, like the Christianity and democracy offered by missionaries and foreign advisers, were not indigenous demands of the society and culture to which they were brought. Even the Yellow River Road that Stilwell had built in 1921 had disappeared twelve years later. China was a problem for which there was no American solution. The American effort to sustain the status quo could not supply an outworn government with strength and stability or popular support. It could not hold up a husk nor long delay the cyclical passing of the mandate of heaven. In the end China went her own way as if the Americans had never come." [emphasis added] p. 531