Truman's Blunder and the World Today
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur
In all of recorded history of the United States one instance stands out that still to this day has complicated international relations almost to the point of igniting another World War. Lessons learned in today's history books too many times omit the whole story behind actual events that have occurred. It is this Memorial Day that we remember the sacrifices that our military makes to keep our freedom alive. In that light there is no better time to bring to the world's attention that some 66 years ago President Truman made one of the most historical mistakes that continues to cause reverberations through-out the world.
In order to fully comprehend the danger that North Korea poses we have to go back to the end of World War II to understand that the mistakes made by the policy decisions of the Truman Administration have shaped what is playing out in South East Asia today. Much of what happened at the start of the Korean War is a testament to what history is supposed to teach us and what is actually happening in North Korea today. History is full of footnotes but one stands out as we remember this Memorial Day, the steadfast determination of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. The determination to bring the Korean conflict to a swift and decisive end. But, he was overruled by Truman who sought appeasement would save the United States from engaging in a broader war. The Truman Administration as well as the Joint Chiefs were too blind to history's clear lesson. For history teaches with unmistakable resolve that appeasement only begets new and bloodier wars. History also points out no single instance where the end justifies the means, where appeasement has always led to not peace but an eventual reawakening where conflict is inevitable. We can look at it like blackmail, it lays the basis for new and successively greater demands until as in blackmail violence becomes the only alternative.
MacArthur's own words sum up what we should have done to avoid the conflicts of today. "All men of good conscience earnestly seek peace. The method alone is an issue. Some, with me would achieve peace through a prompt and decisive victory at saving of human life, others through appeasement and compromise of moral principal with less regard for human life. The one course follows our great American tradition, the other but can lead to unending slaughter and our country's moral debasement." In summary we would not be experiencing the current danger and problems with North Korea, Russia and China today if General Douglas MacArthur had been listened to. It is interesting to note that many Presidents have sent the military on combat missions without Congressional approval. This of course is in direct violation of the Constitution. Yet, when Truman in June of 1950 sent combat troops to Korea he did so without a congressional mandate but authorized General MacArthur to use every means necessary under the full cooperation under the United Nations resolution in stopping the North Korean advances into South Korea. It was MacArthur who understood the logistics and the entire scope of what was going to be needed to stop the invasion of South Korea.
A lot of people didn't realize that Truman felt that the General had political aspirations and would be threatening Truman's legacy. But, when the North Koreans attacked South Korea it was Truman and the Joint Chiefs who supported the United Nations Resolution in waging a limited war with North Korea. MacArthur realized that this was a form of appeasement rather than completing a decisive victory over North Korea. President Truman also failed to understand the persona of General MacArthur the way that FDR did. Granted, the General had his faults, all men do but his understanding of current conditions surrounding South East Asia at the time was crucial to bring an end to what was to become one of histories most notorious blunders of foreign policy. In the end was a catastrophe for the United States Armed Forces and the United States.
When MacArthur exercised his authority in seeking what would have become a decisive victory only to be accused of insubordination by Truman, it was a turning point in America's foreign policy. We should emphasize the Constitution does not provide civilian control over the military. The General could have contested his relief but chose a more dignified manor in just stepping down to the delight of the spineless Joint Chiefs. It is also interesting that the Joint Chiefs who were supportive of MacArthur in the beginning turned against him and backed Truman's decision. But, what is missing from history is the fact that the General MacArthur never failed to carry out a direct order from the Joint Chiefs. It was Truman who really didn't understand the historical consequences that a limited war would do to the United States credibility and the rest of the world. At that time the U.S. military was far superior to any force including the Russians and the Chinese.
A Congressional inquiry triggered by MacArthur's relief ruled that Truman's actions violated constitutional and statutory requirements. General MacArthur's dismissal shocked Japan. As supreme commander he dealt with the Japanese not as a conqueror but as the great reformer. He was the great political missionary. What he gave to the people of Japan was not material aid and democratic reform alone but a new improved way of life. Life filled with freedom and dignity of the individual. To this day the Japanese continue to love and admire the one person who best understood what it takes to turn a defeated nation into a vibrant independent country filled with hope and attainable dreams. Had it not been for General MacArthur's guidance following World War II Japan could have never recovered the way it has.
Sad to say that today North Korea is not rewriting history but repeating it. The actions taken by the Trump Administration so far are only accelerating histories repeat. If we continue to ignore what lessons history is supposed to teach us we are doomed to make the same mistakes only this time the results will be far more catastrophic.