The Korean War has been labeled as one of the most significant occurrences after the end of the Second World War. In fact, some political analysts referred to it as a direct replacement of the Second World War. It had an indelible impact on the Cold War that followed immediately after. The Koreans however felt the full impact of the war as a tenth of the population lost their lives or disappeared completely. There was equally massive loss and destruction of property. By 1949, the Korean gross national product had significantly declined owing to the effects of the war. North Korea suffered even more. It lost a total of 8700 factory establishments while the south incurred almost twice this loss. People were left homeless and in a state of hopelessness. This research paper seeks to establish the reasons behind U.S involvement in the Korean War as well as the cause of the actual war.
Possible Reasons for U.S inclusion
This war that involved two opposing occupants of the Korean state was inevitable. A state once occupied by Japan was taken by the Soviet in the North and United states in the south, with two different political, social and economic approaches. This led to one part being communist and the other a capitalist thereby causing civil conflicts after the World War II. They had been split along the 38-parallel peninsula boundary according to their colonizer’s agreement. North Korea was backed by the soviet communist States while South Korea was aligned to the United States. Their leaders Sung (north) and Rhee (South) had made two different political parties with a rival state in South Korea. Conflict began along the 38-parallel line as both parties had hoped to manage the whole country. U.S was in denial of starting the war, while the two states kept on contradicting each other over the cause of the war. Most studies done on the war by scholars have not culminated into something similar; instead they have ended up with conflicting ideas and propaganda. Most of the writings from the Soviet sources accuse the Americans of causing the war. These Studies have gone for over three decades without any clear explanation for Americans involvement in the war. However, there have been various substantial reasons thought to have led to this incident. Among the reasons subject to debate is Goulden’s line of thought that brought to light the possible interest of the U.S in the war. He conveys how the United States had planned to oust the Korean (South) President Rhee because he did not approve of negotiations on armistice.
Another example could have lied on McArthur’s desperate inclination which might have contributed to their decision to get involved; he was too determined to win and this caused his dismissal with the loss of China to the communists. On the other hand, American President at the time, Mr. Truman was completely convinced that Stalin had ordered North Korean attack on the South. This differed with the South Korean counterpart Rhee who believed that it was the United States who had triggered North Korea into attacking them. His thoughts were derived from the fact that United States had declared his state out of their security periphery giving the North Koreans advantage to attack. Another opinion by Berger proposes that it was Russia’s effort to counteract Japan’s influence in the Korean states (Millet 5). These suggestions were many and varying, giving contradicting opinions. According to Stone, Based on the American and UN documents, the war was a plot between South Korea and the United States to defeat the communists and gives Russia’s miss from the UN meeting as a clear proof. Other writers like Hitchcock think that North Korean premier Sung decided without compulsion from Moscow to start the war. Another writer, Bohlen, contradicts Hitchcock by claiming, North Korea must have been instructed since their military had been trained in Russia; obviously this had the rarest of validity. Some writers also concluded that the war was civil and could not have been caused from outside. The Peninsula that was overtaken by the North Koreans had great importance to the security of the South and according to general McArthur, only the U.S troop could help the southern state to regain it, another possible reason for their involvement.
Most of these suggestions look more as speculations than clarity since the main reason for the war was unclear. However, there are underlying issues that must have triggered the war. These include the political and social war between the communist and the capitalist states which had influence on the Koreans and The cold war between the communist soviet powers and the capitalist American powers who wanted to stamp their authority in the country. On United States involvement, it was clear from the beginning that they never wanted the communist to win in any region and the fact that they declared South Korea out of their defense periphery indicates that they might have expected this war with the tensions that were developing. Other reasons were on Soviet’s acquiring of nuclear weapon which was tested in 1949; this threatened the U.S as they thought sitting back could lead to a direct war with the Soviet Union.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Japan and the Peoples Republic of China had very close ties with Korea and her counterpart Manchuria. This was way back in the 19th century. The cordial relationship made the Soviet Union to have the desire to conquer Korea owing to the fact that they had been traditional cronies for long. United States counteracted the soviet’s plan by occupying the southern part of the country. Some kind of effective occupation was gaining ground. This ended up with South Korea being run as a nationalist state while the north pursuing a communist ideology.
The Centre Stage of the War
As the Cold War was taking shape and gathering momentum, there were two major concerns which were destabilizing, the British-American warm relations namely prisoners who had been victims of war as well as the Indian declaration (Cotton 116). Nevertheless, the Korean War equally erupted with Britain supporting the United States. This was on 25th June 1950. In fact, the Korean War was a product of this economic, political and social struggle between the Soviets and United States of America. This is considerably true given the way United States dealt in this war. First the use of only their allies in the peace keeping effort was apprehensive; the UN resolution that condemned North Korea and allowed the US in the war without the attendance of the Russian state representatives was a clear indication of the war at hand. China was not given the chance in the meeting and this prompted Russia’s skip. This though is also supported by Paige who believes the U.S played an important role in their admission into the war. Further possible evidence on American’s hidden agenda on the Korean War was the fact that they modified their policies which had previously outlawed military engagement in Korean War. The war was fought from two fronts with U.S supplying its own army as a mediator in the peace keeping force courtesy of the United Nations. However, the Soviets did not directly engage in the war. Neither did they provide any weapons to North Korea to aid them in fighting. The United Nations peace keeping force constituted by U.S was in any case a disguise because it was made up of its own troops alongside a few allies in the pretext of maintaining peace as put forward by Truman (Reiter 86). At this point on the onset of the war, it was almost conspicuous that the United Nations was like a toothless dog and could be manipulated by U.S at will. Some years later, China grew into a communist state but U.S did not embroil itself much on it. Moreover, U.S did not react substantially even as Eastern Europe became a victim of the iron curtain policy. As a consequence, the United States changed its foreign Policy especially in regard to the Cold War.
South Korea was not necessarily a very pertinent territory to U.S. Her entry into the Korean War was merely a strategy to combat the economic ideology of communism which was spreading very fast. Besides, communism was viewed as a very serious threat and hence its spread to U.S would spell doom. As an impact to Korean War, the United States of America worked towards heightening its military power and arms ability. This was estimated to have grown up to four times the initial level (Park 98). It marked the relentless pursuit for military and weaponry supremacy that would culminate in the intriguing cold war. Truman leadership indeed perfected the art of arms race when his leadership argued that the intended attack on South Korea would be compared to the aggressions of the Second World War (Park 253). Eventually it was used as the pointer to joining the war. This was because the United States policies at the time could not allow a direct involvement of their military in the war, while at the same time there was a possible threat to U.S economic, political and social policies if the communist States won. This could have lead to either a direct war between the two giants, Russia and the United States. The communist ideas were fast spreading and this could have lead to deterioration of the U.S policy’s influence on the world rendering them of less powerful globally.
Truman had to use his powers to initiate military action against the wish of the Republicans and some democrats. He overlooked the policies plus the congress and went on with his plans which were accepted at the UN council although debatably with a hidden mission. He overstepped his earlier plans and passed the 38-parallel border to try and unify the country under capitalism. This failed as the communist neighbors, China came into scene and the US had no option but to pull out after the armistice. This was to later work negatively on the Democratic presidential bid in 1952 when they lost to the republicans.
Impacts of the War
The Korean War era also witnessed the inclusion of both black and white soldiers into the expansive U.S military troop. Black Americans had never been subjects of importance in regard to the United States military service. This was a pat on the back to U.S as far as civil rights were considered. US shift in policies targeting the inclusion of the blacks in the military is considered one of the positive impacts of the two wars, Korean and Vietnam. According to Dalfiume, these changes were made out of pressure from the civilians. Desegregation was one thing that raised issues in the U.S. The majority public resisted the participation of blacks in the federal military since there was conflict between the races. Previously no black had been allowed in the American military camp. This change brought great reforms that made several steps to involve blacks in many other sectors of the U.S economy.
As a result of the War, Britain sent troops to maintain peace as part of its peace keeping force required by the United Nations. This further cemented the relationship between U.S and Britain because the latter had agreed to support the former on its foreign policy. The U.S military troops worked hand in hand with European counterparts to gain military supremacy. The long term impact of this power arrangement was the emergence of China as an important global economy and political power.
Another remarkable impact of the Korean War was seen in the manner Vietnam War was fought (Paige xvi). This war provided a base for skill and competence gaining among the Asian communities. A lot could be shared out between the two Wars. For instance, the U.S drastically shifted its foreign policy from the one supporting a corrupt system to the eventual support of communism. Indeed, U.S eventually became allies to communist states both in Europe and Asia. This was a paradigm shift in terms of political views held by some of these countries purporting to uphold justice. In spite of the dramatic events and happenings of the Korean War, the key actors and policy makers did not change much in terms of their tactics. In other words, less was learnt from the Korean War even as the Vietnam atrocities broke out in the 1960s. The same mistakes were repeated.
The present day alliance between South Korea and United States of America is an impact that resulted from the war. For instance, U.S military bases are well established in Southern Korea today in addition to a mutual defense treaty. Moreover, the stamping of U.S authority and its total presence in South Korea led to the inevitable spread of American culture (Jenkins & Frederick 130). The military bases established radio stations which were used for the sole purpose of information and entertainment to its crew. In extension, the Koreans got hold of the opportunity to disseminate their news as well as entertainment value for its citizens. Moreover, the U.S system of nationalistic and democratic governance was well established in South Korea while North Korea remained largely under the influence of the soviets and communism.
The Korean War which lasted from1950 to 1953 has been considered to be the first proxy war in which the outstanding superpowers fought by extension and indirectly, intertwining a third party in their conflict. The United States of America mainly got involved in the War as a way of stamping its superpower authority overseas. This war had great impacts on the United States, and how they viewed the black race which since then, started improving.
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Jenkins, Charles, and Jim, Frederick. The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea. California; University of California Press, 2008. Print.
Millet, Allan. The Korean War: The Essential Bibliography. Potomac Books, Inc. Quicksilver Drive. Dulles. 2007. Print.
Paige, Glenn. 1950: Truman’s decision: The United States enters the Korean. England; Chelsea House Publishers, 1970. Print.
Park, Hong-Kyu. America Involvement in the Korean War. Society for History Education, 1983. 16(2); 96-103
Reiter, Dan. “How Wars End.” New Jersey; Princeton University Press, 2009.Print.