Hot Conflict in the Cold War: The Korean War
The world was still in shambles after the war to end all wars, so when smaller countries began falling to the dreaded red error, the United Nations had to start taking a stance. In a terrifying turn of events, the United States, representing the Capitalist West, would have to stand up to the spread of Communism in Asia by taking part in what is known today as the Korean War. The Korean War started as a conflict between the democratic south and the communist north and escalated into the first hot conflict of the Cold War.
United Nations military aid consisting mostly of United States but also including combat forces from over ten other countries forces were brought in after North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel not South Korea in 1 950(Carter, 201 0, peg 165). Chinese forces would eventually aid the North Korean regime with troop and the Soviets would give North Korea and China material aid during this conflict. After an indecisive “police action” that lasted for three years, an armistice was agreed upon at the 38th Parallel and a tenuous peace has been between North and South ever since.
It is the findings of this report that the Korean War started as a civil war that then escalated out of control into an international proxy war and eventually became an unsettled conflict thanks to a combination of a lack of rights by the Allied Powers, hegemonic intervention, the scare of nuclear weapons. Although there is an armistice, no true end to the war has come about, and it will not happen until North and South Korea are united under one sovereign domestic government.
Like all major conflicts, the causes of the Korean War started much earlier than the war itself. Korea had been fairly weak throughout the entire modern era. Before and during World War II, the small peninsula in southeastern Asia was under the control of Imperial Japan for about thirty five years (Such, 2010, peg. 505). Korea was ravaged by the island nation until Japan was defeated by American forces in 1945 using the world’s first atomic weapons (Stemson, 2009). Russia began an invasion from the north while the American troops came in from the south.
When the Japanese had pulled out of Korea, the United States and their ally at the time Soviet Russia decided to divide the country into a Communist north and a Capitalist south, similar to what happened with Berlin after the war. This division was made along the 38th parallel (Hammy, 2010). During the entire process of division, the Korean people were never consulted or allowed to mom to the conferences that dealt with their nation (Carter, 2010, peg. 161 In 1948, South Korea was under fire by guerilla forces that seem to grow more numerous as time went on.
These attacks were not carried out by North Korean or Chinese insurgents, but rather by a movement that started in the south (He-Gung, 201 0, peg. 556). The leader of South Korea at the time, Sandman Rhea was very unpopular with the people because of his refusal to start any economic or social reforms and the overall autocracy he had control over (Choppy, 2008, peg. 370). He was kept in this position because he was favored by the United States. He ultimately was able to crush the rebellion in the spring of 1 950, but this was merely foreshadowing the conflict that would soon engulf the nation.
The Korean War began to shape when the leader Of North Korea, Kim II-sung, went to Moscow to gain Soviet support for taking the entire country. Stalin didn’t want to become directly involved in the fighting, but he agreed with Kim II-sung plan and offered material support and the suggestion that he seek military aid from the newly Communist China. With Mao backing them, North Korean forces made the first move and crossed the 38th parallel in June of 1950(choppy, 2008, peg. 72).
The official statement from the North Korean army stated that forces led by Sandman Rhea had already crossed the border in a provocation raid and this was a counter attack for said raid. Both sides had been vying for war since the early days and now it was upon them. Within three days, the North Korean forces were able to take the capital Of Seoul thanks in part to Soviet aid in the form of airplanes and tanks (Carter, 2010, peg. 165). The united States then swiftly began to support Rhea and landed at Inch’s, a city near Seoul.
The operation involved 4,963 LINE troops, 63,220 ROOK troops, and 64,200 civilians Chisholm, 201 2, peg. 107). The United Nations backed American forces were able to push the North Korean army back over the 38th parallel. At this time, UN forces decided to change their goal from containing the Communist threat to liberating the entirety of North Korea. Once the United Nation’s armies had made it over the 38th parallel, The people’s Republic of China immediately sent a large number of ground troops to aid the North Koreans.
This timely aid would prove effective, and the combined Communist forces were able to push the United Nation’s army south of the 38th parallel once more January of 1951(Choppy, 2008, peg. 78). The rest of the war from that point is largely considered to be a stalemate, although Chinese and North Korean text books call it a victory for the communists (Line, 2009, peg. 228). Peace talks had started by 1950, but many issues, such as repatriating Poss., delayed the talks. Learning from the disasters of the POP exchange from WI, they wanted to ensure the safety of the Korean and Chinese (Toby, 201 1, peg. 05). Finally on July 27, 1 953 an armistice was reached. During talks at Panjandrum, each side agreed to the 38th parallel as a tenuous border once again and the armistice was signed with hopes that there would be a ace treaty later. No such treaty was ever signed and now the border between north and south is patrolled by the Korea People’s Army and Republic of Korea Army, United States, and Joint United Nations Commands. Attacks are still happening today as shown in 2010 when North Korean forces sank the ROOKS Achaean and later an artillery strike on the island of Honeymoon(Carter, 2010, peg. 36). The Korean War had many causes which led to its outbreak, the involvement of foreign powers, and its indecisive conclusion of its limited scale warfare. Regarding the outbreak of the Korean War, the arbitrary drawing of the border along the 38th parallel by the Allied forces was what created the initial conflict. The border was made not to benefit the Koreans who had just been “liberated” from Japanese rule, but rather it was made to appease the Soviets in the north while giving the United States a strong base of operations within the region.
The Soviets were given the north which had been previously industrialized by the former occupying force, the Japanese. Thanks to the two ports, the best farmland, and the Seoul being located in the south, The United States may have gotten the better end f the deal. In a region that had been occupied by other, stronger countries for a great deal of its history (first China and then Japan), being controlled by the United States and Soviet Russia was just a continuation of Koreans colonial history. Right away, each country set up a leader who they though would be the most helpful to their own agendas.
The Soviets picked a man who not only was an officer in the Soviet military, but specifically a man who was tasked with leading the guerilla forces in Manchuria against the Japanese that the Koreans came to loathe. This was, of course, Kim II-sing. Kim, like other unionism leaders, would eventually be made into a god by his people. The cult of Kim would reach levels of love and loyalty unheard of by the west. Cigarette butts he smoke and benches he sat on became national treasures. When he died in 1994, there were thirty four thousands monuments in his honor littered around North Korea (Choppy, 2008, peg. 380).
The Americans, however, were not so fortunate in whom they picked as their leader of choice. Sandman Rhea was educated in America and the powers that be thought he was the right kind of educated and forceful that was needed to strengthen the fledgling country against the spread of Communism. Rhea was very unpopular in Korea because of his absence during such a painful time in Korean history, but America gave him its support because he was starkly against a communist regime (Carter, 2010, peg. 162). Rhea and his partners had little interest in creating a peaceful democracy. Rather, he wanted to maintain control of the country at any cost.
The police state that Rhea set up would kill thousands of civilians and opponents of the new government. With two leaders in two halves of one country, tensions quickly rose between the two sides as the question of reunification came up. The United States said hat they would defer to the united Nations for handling the election of a single leader for both sides, a proposition that Rhea would gladly comply with (Carter, 2010, peg. 163). The north, however, had a different idea. Russia and al- sing rejected the proposal, and as a result, the leader elected would only control the southern part of the nation.
While Rhea won, the democracy that the US hoped would take place in Korea instead became an autocracy run by Rhea. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was declared to be the law in the north and soon communist propaganda was sent over the border, raring of an inevitable invasion into the south. The decision to divide the country along the 38th parallel created a rift between the Koreans that made no sense. No Koreans were consulted when drafting this boundary and because of that, many found the foreign powers that continually controlled their country to be more of terrorists than liberators.
The Americans would be infamous for their treatment of Koreans, often killing refugees without knowing which side the victims belonged to (Conway-Lana, 2005, peg. 57). The continued foreign intervention would lead both sides to war in an effort to again their independence. While the foreign powers drawing the border at the 38th parallel were much to blame for the outbreak of the war, the United States and United nations are largely responsible for turning the war from intrastate conflict to international proxy war.
As mentioned earlier, the United States backed Rhea as the president of the southern half of Korea. However, the United States firmly believed that the peninsula should pull its up by its own boot straps and left the newly formed “democracy’ to its own devices. This attitude of “let the Koreans figure it out’ didn’t last long on the American side. While the United States lobbied for the UN to handle the reunification issue, Russia was for letting the two halves fight it out and run things themselves. The US knew this would ultimately lead to a communist takeover of the entire country.
While the Russians had equipped the North Korean army with a multitude of weapons and fire power including but not limited to tanks, aircraft, and assault rifles, the United States were quite conservative with the fire power granted to the south. The bare minimum was supplied and as a result, South Korea only had defensive capabilities and an under- equipped, under-trained fighting force. These weaknesses would be quickly exposed as the North Korean army reached the capital of Seoul within three days.
Initially, the United States’ and Nun’s committal to helping South Korea did little to turn the contained civil war into a global battleground. The recapture of the south by the combined UN and US forces at first did not cause China to come to the direct aid Of North Korea. During the initial outbreak of the war and the highly successful invasion into the south, the Chinese government decided to start a nerviest America Aid Korea” campaign that hailed the North Koreans as liberators of the people and their lies (Cataract, 2010, peg. 203).
It was the decision to try to eradicate the communist presence with the nation completely that would lead China to support the North Koreans fully. Aside from the obvious ideological similarities, China’s reasons for supporting the North Korean government were two fold. The first was that China desired a buffer state between themselves, the invading American forces and their old enemy of Japan (Dong Chon, 2004, peg. 527). Before the People’s Republic of China came into existence, the Japanese committed many atrocities while occupying the cradle f Asian civilization.
The Chinese Communist Party feared that the United States would rearm the island nation in order to set the stage for an invasion into the mainland. In the words of a Beijing student’s song, “The world of today has changed, America helps our Japanese enemy. Building battleships, training troops, rearing the tiger to devour men 2010, peg. 206). The second reason would be the ethnic ties in the border region of Yawing. Because Yawing was located on the border between China and Korea, many people there Were ethnically tied to both regions (Cataract, 201 0, peg. 25).
These Chinese-Koreans would become some of the most zealous communist in the north. The movement to aid North Korea was especially strong there and great deals of troops were recruited to the Chinese Volunteer Army to fight the Americans. Once the United States crossed the 38th parallel, Chinese committed fully to helping their communist brothers to the south. In an astonishing show of military force, the new communist nation which had only existed for about months sent a huge amount of troops, totaling around seven hundred thousand in November of 1950 (Choppy, 2008, peg. 28). A song from a propaganda booklet issued ring the same time as the Chinese commitment to the North Korean cause describes the earnestness of the Chinese to fight: “l take my gun on the battlefield, Sino-Korean People’s Armies hearts as one” (Cataract, 2010, peg. 210). The Chinese would start a very successful campaign that would leave the United Nation forces south of the 38th parallel once more. Now with a multitude of UN forces combined with the arrival of the Chinese, what started as a civil war now teetered dangerously close to becoming World War Ill.
While each nation involved with the conflict had put a great deal of their litany capabilities into the war effort, the Korean War is often looked at as a limited war. This means that the militaries involved did not necessarily look for the complete destruction of their enemies. Each side had parties that wanted a limited war mostly because World War II had just ended. Because of the new style of war that was being waged, the fighting stopped prematurely and little would be resolved once the smoke cleared.
When the war was still between just the north and south, the limited aspect had not come into play. In the novo sides’ minds, it was a zero-sum game. However, things changed once the UN forces led by the Americans entered the fray. The leader of the Nun’s forces at the time, American war hero General Douglas MacArthur, was not a man who believed in something like limited warfare. With his victories in the pacific theater of World War II still fresh on his mind, his plan for Korea was nothing less than a full scale assault.
When he first entered Korea, he made a daring plan which involved a huge amphibious assault behind enemy lines (Carter, 2010, peg. 297). Much to his delight, his gamble would go off without a hitch and he soon drove the North Korean army behind the 38th parallel. As noted earlier, the UN decided that occupation of North Korea would be a viable goal and their forces would drive into North Korea. MacArthur would not stop there. He told his troops to head straight for the Yale River which bordered China.
Chinese troops would attack MacArthur with the same ferocity that he exhibited during his initial invasion into Korea. Unlike the United States who was still weakened from World War II, the Chinese had embroiled the manpower that was necessary to win a war from the get go. America on the other hand had to divert troops from occupied Japan in order to react quickly enough to the conflict. After the initial attacks, UN forces had to retreat. The strength of the People’s Liberation Army forced MacArthur to ask the heads in Washington for reinforcements to escalate the war effort.
Much to his dismay, his request were either denied or partially fulfilled. Washington and MacArthur would butt heads continuously throughout the war because of their avoidance of an all-out war. In addition to the United States’ unwillingness to commit more resources to the war, many in Washington didn’t consider Korea to be all that important as far as their Cold War policy of containment was concerned. Secretary of State, Dean Achaeans, left out Korea unintentionally of a speech about the most vital points for the US in the Far East in January of 1 950(Carter, 2010, peg. 166).
Russia, while never committing any troops to the effort, was a prime example of the opposition’s desire for a limited war as well. During World War II, Russia had lost a staggering amount of troops while fighting the Germans. Being as weakened as the other Allied powers were, they would not commit any forces to fight. In fact, they had withdrawn from North Korea completely before the initial invasion had even started (Carter, 2010, peg. 164). Most of what the Russians ended up contributing aside from their weapons, was their blessing and their threatening presence to the western powers.
The question of whether or not nuclear weapons would be used in the conflict came up several times. MacArthur, of course, thought the super weapons would be necessary in not only dealing with North Korea, but also instrumental in taking out several key points with China. In his atomic bombing strategy submitted December 24 1950, his attack would have required at least twenty six bombs(Carter, 201 0, peg. 303). Even president Truman would not rule out the idea completely. The threat of nuclear attack went as far as threatening China with their new atomic weaponry.
Fortunately, limited warfare sentiments had prevailed and no nuclear weapons were used. Macarthur dismissal in 1951 and Dwight Eisenhower policy of “Carbonization” would be the final nails in the coffin for a definitive ending to the war (Carter, 2010, peg. 431). The major powers in the proxy war had lost their interest As it stands today, the Korean War is still unresolved. Several possible scenarios from when the war was still hot bring some interesting ideas to light on how the war may have been resolved. Macarthur plan of increased involvement would have surely changed the course of history.
Doing that would have most likely brought all of Korea under the control of the UN for at least a little while. Where MacArthur went wrong is when he decided to try to invade China as well. Had he heeded the advice of the British to create a buffer zone just south of the Yale River, the Chinese may have lessened their commitment to the war effort(Charter, 2010, peg. 301 The British may even be considered more daring than other countries during that time. Danish Prime Minister Erik Erikson advised the Americans to stay south of the 38th parallel (Mitigated, 201 1 , peg. 54). Even So, the Chinese Were firmly anti- American.
The Chinese involvement may have been inevitable when they saw that MacArthur was tying to rearm Japan (Hajjis, 201 2, peg. 554). If the Japanese would have been introduced into the war, the conflict would surely have been much bigger than it already was. The same could be said for the proposed use of nuclear weaponry. If another atomic bombing would have occurred, it would have created a huge backlash against the Americans from all over the world. The Use’s own allies, the British, were against the bombing and going through with the plan would have hindered the cause further Carter, 201 0, peg. 03). The best course of action would have been to forgo any nuclear attack and instead commit to a greater ground force backed by the Nun’s naval superiority while respecting the borders of China (Moral, 2010). Negotiations were all but impossible thanks to the anti-communist feelings of the west at the time. The stubbornness of both sides during the armistice talks that took two years to complete is indicative of the two sides’ inability to successfully conduct peace talks (Marty, 201 2, peg. 221).
In addition, the US staying in South Korea longer after World War II would have t least deterred war for a while, although whether or not it would have prevented it is unknown. A modern day reunification of Korea would be more peaceful and utilize the modern political environment. Now that the Soviet union is no more and China has become an important trade partner with the US, war with Russia and China appears to be impractical, if not impossible. The last remnants of the old Cold War feelings of isolation from the west lie within North Korea.
With their economy ever worsening and their political power ever shrinking The People’s Republic of Korea is only really able to remain relevant thanks to heir threat of nuclear capabilities. South Korea, however, is growing quite fast in the modern world as indicated by the amount of Korean made cars and electronics found in homes all over the world (Gelgaze, 2010, peg. 2). South Koreans growth will ultimately be what allows it to outlast the north. If and when North Korea goes the way of the Soviet Union, the transition of power would surely be relatively smooth so long as South Korea can maintain strong key diplomatic ties.
If South Korea wished to retake the country by force, it would have to be in retaliation for another attack from the north in order to maintain their international standing. Securing cooperation from the United Nations, most importantly China would be necessary as North Korea most likely wouldn’t be able to deal with an attack on two fronts. Before any formal declaration of war could be safely made, surgical strikes against North Koreans nuclear capabilities would be necessary in order to prevent any retaliation in the form of an atomic bomb.
Air and naval support from the US would also be important to prevent a nuclear strike from taking place. Rather than risk the annihilation of the entire peninsula, waiting for the north to fall from the inside Soviet-style would be the most effective way of dealing with the issue of reunification. Increased interdependence economically has helped many other nations, such as the European Union, avoid war and bolster their economies. North Korea wouldn’t stand much of a chance if they decided to invade again mostly because they have alienated themselves to the point that no country would come to their aid.
To conclude, The Korean War as a civil war was started because of the haphazard boundary drawn at the 38th parallel made to benefit the Russians in the north and the Americans in the south. After fighting between the two rook out, it escalated into an international proxy war thanks to the intervention of the UN forces spearheaded by the United States on behalf of the south and the Chinese who came in aid to the north. The fighting has stopped, but the war is ongoing mostly because of the limited warfare that each hegemonic power had to take due to a lack of resources following World War II.
General Macarthur plan to push into China and use atomic weapons to assure victory would not have worked. His underestimation of the People’s Republic of China and his overall arrogance is what made him lose control of North Korea after a successful push past the 38th parallel. If reunification would be possible, it would most likely come in the form of waiting for the Communist north to implode and then let the economically sound south move in to take back the shattered nation.
The Korean War is often called the Forgotten War because of the lack of media attention it received compared to Vietnam and its small scale compared to World War II. However, there are many lessons that could have been taken away from the conflict on the peninsula nation. The need for open diplomatic relations with all nations despite ideological differences, the deed to work with the local population when rebuilding a country, and the need to either go all in or pull out to ensure a decisive conclusion to a conflict are all ideas that could have helped the Korean War, and future wars, go a lot smoother.