6-28: Korean War a Police Action

[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.

]The war in Korea, 1950-53, is often referred to as the “forgotten war.” It was a “hot” war fought right smack dab in the middle of the “cold” war. This Day in History [http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/korean-war-begins?] reports:

Armed forces from communist North Korea smash into South Korea, setting off the Korean War. This was not necessarily unexpected as the Allies agreed to separate Korea after WWII just as they had divided Berlin and Germany.

The United States, acting under the auspices of the United Nations, quickly sprang to the defense of South Korea … “quickly sprang” –Where were American troops stationed in order to engage the North Koreans with such immediacy? WWII was long over.

Korea, a former Japanese possession, had been divided into zones of occupation following World War II. That word “possession” rattles me. No wonder they were such aggressive soldiers during WWII and then in the conflict on their own land–north and south.

U.S. forces accepted the surrender of Japanese forces in southern Korea, while Soviet forces did the same in northern Korea. To the victors go the spoils. Eventual war was inevitable. For any country forced to surrender, that very act is humiliating. The Americans and Russians rubbed Korea’s nose in the forced division of their country, while also dropping Japan to its knees. The war was not over for them.

Like in Germany, however, the “temporary” division soon became permanent. No surprise there. Power corrupts.

The Soviets assisted in the establishment of a communist regime in North Korea, while the United States became the main source of financial and military support for South Korea. What could go wrong?

On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces surprised the South Korean army (and the small U.S. force stationed in the country), and quickly headed toward the capital city of Seoul. “They” fired the first shots.

The United States responded by pushing a resolution through the U.N.’s Security Council calling for military assistance to South Korea. But the military assistance was nearly 100% American. Russia was boycotting the General Assembly at the time.

 … President Harry S. Truman rapidly dispatched U.S. land, air, and sea forces to Korea to engage in what he termed a “police action.” Just another euphemism for war. The demotion in words–war to police action–disrespects the men who fought and died in Korea. In fact, since the action was never declared as a war, the cease fire is only that, an agreement to stop shooting. The police action/war is still going on.

 … The war in Korea subsequently bogged down into a bloody stalemate. Why? Why? Why? “Blood,” Macbeth said, “Blood will have blood.”

In 1953, the United States and North Korea signed a cease-fire that ended the conflict. As simple as that. Yet a soldier from the north and one from the south, both armed, stare at each other across a table in a shack in Pan Mun Jom.

The cease-fire agreement also resulted in the continued division of North and South Korea at just about the same geographical point as before the conflict. Everything ventured, nothing gained.

Korea was the first “limited war,” one in which the U.S. aim was not the complete and total defeat of the enemy, but rather the “limited” goal of protecting South Korea. Oh, and we got to practice a lot with helicopters, the Pentagon’s newest toy.

For the U.S. government, such an approach was the only rational option in order to avoid a third world war and to keep from stretching finite American resources too thinly around the globe. I cannot and do not believe that war was the “only rational option in order to avoid a third world war.”

It proved to be a frustrating experience for the American people, who were used to the kind of total victory that had been achieved in World War II. This sentence suggests that nothing less than annihilation of North Korea was acceptable. And we carried that chauvinistic attitude into Vietnam with the same cataclysmic effects.

The public found the concept of limited war difficult to understand or support and the Korean War never really gained popular support. For the troop in the field, no matter where–Berlin, Moscow, Dien Bien Phu, Gettysburg, Lexington, wherever–war is war. Call it a police action or a limited war, people die. I am sorry but declaring that “the Korean War never really gained popular support” demeans the tens of thousand of men who were drafted to fight on the Korean peninsula. If it is popular support that determines whether we go to war or not, why are we still in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan? Why are we discussing Iran with bellicose terms?

War is war, no matter what one calls it.

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