Friday, June 25, 2010

At 60: The Still Forgotten Korean War

Today--June 25, 2010--is the sixtieth anniversary of the North Korean invasion of South Korea.

Important, unanswered questions remain about that war.

Did Stalin use North Korean Communist Kim Il-sung as a pawn to draw Mao Zedong into a war against the United States, thereby preventing a rapprochement between China and America?

Did Truman and Acheson, in order to arouse Congress and the American people from their post-World War II torpor, bait North Korea into attacking, by deliberately defining South Korea as outside the United States' defense perimeter and starving the South's military?

Did the Soviet Union contrive to be absent from the U.N. Security Council when it voted to send MacArthur's Eighth Army north of the 38th Parallel, headed for the Yalu River and on the other side Chinese Manchuria?

Was MacArthur both militarily correct and morally right when he sought to bomb Yalu River bridges and Manchurian hydroelectric plants?

Was MacArthur personally responsible for Chinese intervention, or was Mao's entry into the Korean War not a foregone conclusion and thus an institutional misfortune rather than any one individual's fault?

There are many other such questions, but rarely does anyone today ask, let alone answer, them.

Indeed, all day today I searched the Internet for essays by prominent American commentators at least mentioning the Korean War, and found virtually nothing. Today, our local paper had an editorial supporting the recent idea of making V-J Day a national holiday, commemorating the end of World War II. But not a word about the Korean War.

Yet, proportionally more Americans were killed during the three years of the Korean War than in all the years of the Vietnam War.

Journalist Clay Blair famously entitled his book about that conflict The Forgotten War.

Sadly, it's an apt title. And, in a way, also an apt epitaph--not just for the Americans who died there, but for our country's institutional memory of how, once, now long ago, we stood up to forces of darkness in an effort to destroy them.


No longer!