The Korean War: An International History

The Korean War: An International History

William Stueck

Language: English

Pages: 492

ISBN: 2:00301651

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This first truly international history of the Korean War argues that by its timing, its course, and its outcome it functioned as a substitute for World War III. Stueck draws on recently available materials from seven countries, plus the archives of the United Nations, presenting a detailed narrative of the diplomacy of the conflict and a broad assessment of its critical role in the Cold War. He emphasizes the contribution of the United Nations, which at several key points in the conflict provided an important institutional framework within which less powerful nations were able to restrain the aggressive tendencies of the United States.

In Stueck's view, contributors to the U.N. cause in Korea provided support not out of any abstract commitment to a universal system of collective security but because they saw an opportunity to influence U.S. policy. Chinese intervention in Korea in the fall of 1950 brought with it the threat of world war, but at that time and in other instances prior to the armistice in July 1953, America's NATO allies and Third World neutrals succeeded in curbing American adventurism. While conceding the tragic and brutal nature of the war, Stueck suggests that it helped to prevent the occurrence of an even more destructive conflict in Europe.

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Japan two or three months after Germany’s fall, Stalin probably calculated that his own forces would occupy most or all of Korea, which would put him in a position to bargain for a good deal more than a quarter share in a multipower trusteeship.24 In July, at Potsdam, neither side attempted to work out specific arrangements on Korea. Initially, Harry S. Truman, the new U.S. president, held back because of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s sensitivity about trusteeship, which might be

the U.S. monopoly over the most potent weapon in human history. Within a few years—1954 was projected to be the year of greatest danger—the Soviets would have a delivery capability and a stockpile of atomic bombs sufficient to render monumental damage to the U.S. homeland. This development would greatly reduce the value of America’s atomic arsenal in deterring Soviet conventional military action. It even might encourage a Soviet first strike in the United States to eliminate its industrial

secretaries Johnson and Matthews “as propagandists for a new war.” With the exception of Bradley, all of these officials recently had been reprimanded by the president for being out of step with the administration. Johnson had even been fired. In proceedings to adopt an agenda for the General Assembly, the Soviets did not display their usual vituperation. Jacob Malik referred frequently to his talks of the previous year with U.S. diplomat Philip C. Jessup—which had led to the lifting of the

Pentagon insistence, the United States linked an increased contribution of troops to Europe to its partners’ acceptance of German rearmament. The U.S. military was willing to send more soldiers to western Europe to reassure allies and to protect against internal subversion or minor probes from the east, but they believed that defense of the region against a major Soviet attack would require substantial German ground units. After an appeal to the Labor cabinet in London, British Foreign Minister

Were they willing to negotiate and on what terms? Would their action be followed by Communist moves elsewhere or would it remain isolated like their action in North Korean on 25 June? Could UN forces hold a line across the northern reaches of the • L I M I T I N G T H E W A R • 133 peninsula or would they be forced to retreat to the 38th parallel or even farther to the south? Indeed, did they have the capacity to hang on in Korea at all without great risk to their very survival as

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