Archive for November, 2013

Kissinger on Korea: the dilemma of containment

Friday, November 22nd, 2013


So what was MASH about?  There was a movie that was good, with Elliot Gould, but then the TV show was simply great.  It was about Korea, nominally, but it was also very much about Vietnam and the futility of war.  Kissinger is doing something similar here.  He’s writing about Korea, but he’s saying a lot about Vietnam.

He brings up Saddam Hussein of course and this is a reference to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, wherein the US “kicked the Vietnam Syndrome” according to President GHW Bush, and Kissinger is comparing N. Korea and Iraq’s suprise at the US reaction. Neither believed the US would act if they invaded.

They shouldn’t have been suprised though.  In 1946 Truman wrote a letter we saw in the documents asserting we needed to make a strong government in Korea.  Though in 1950 American planners (like German and Russian planners we saw earlier) were only really planning on the possibility of a general war and a general war in Europe no less.   That they were able to keep Korea from going general was of course a great thing.  Despite claims that our line of defense did not include the Korean peninsula (look at a map) that was only in relation to a general war, but in this now limitited war, the US and the UN would and do respond.

The struggle between Truman and MacArthur, China and Taiwan, N Korea and Stalin and the USSR all bear some consideration.  Any reference to Indochina/Vietnam should also be noted.  You also know, that N Korea, like Cuba, remain isolated states today, perfect examples of the policy of containment and the continuing Cold War.

There never was a peace signed in Korea.  Its still a hostile border.  Looking back at my blog from two years ago year I was pointing to the then current event of N Korea shelling S Korea and killing four persons.  That the study of history is very much the study of today has rarely been clearer.

Containment tested

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Truman does win in 1948 (barely) but he has a hard road ahead.  So hard are the next four years that Truman will elect not to run in 1952 and his poll numbers will be at an all time low for any American president (even Nixon after his resignation).  So what happened?  How did things go so badly?  Part of that story is here, part of it is in the domestic arena, and part of it is in the next chapter, on Korea.

Here, the Soviets get the bomb, China “falls” and Americans are accused of giving away secrets to the communists.  Despite the great victory in the Berlin airlift of 1948, the above three events lead many Americans, to look at the enormous “Red” Army in Europe, and conclude we were losing the cold war.

So, NSC-68 rolls out, claims we can spend 20% of our GDP on defense, later Eisenhower warns of the “military industrial complex”, after we join NATO and G. Kennan is rolling in his proverbial grave (he lived until 05) because his idea of containment, had been diplomatic and economic, not military.

So here we roll into the 50s, fear of communism, Korea, the Civil Rights movement will take center stage on the domestic front, and on the lighter side, the Mickey Mouse Club and TV will come along, as will Elvis and Rock & Roll.

The 50s isn’t all “Leave it to Beaver” though.  What do you think of, when you think of the 50s?

Two Halves of the Same Walnut

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Czechoslovakia.  That little country, with the plaque of Woodrow Wilson.  That little country which had shown the world Hitler’s intentions.  That little country where my father fought in WWII and his buddy in the trenches next to him was killed.  “With invaluable assistance from Soviet actions in Czechoslovakia, the Administration…” got the Marshall Plan.

I love the way the political battles of the Dems v. the ‘Pubs echo today over, big government intervention, billions of dollars in aid, interventionism, isolationism, and the public and political will to put troops on the ground or enact a draft.

Here you have, as we just had in 2010 , a Republican take over of Congress in mid-term elections, blocking legislation, like the Marshall Plan (or in 2013 raising debt cielings) , fear of pulling “British chestnuts out of the fire” in Greece, and then you have the coup in CZ.

The militarization of the Truman Doctrine needs some examination as does the role of the CIA.  What does the CIA do in Italy?  Can you think of another country, maybe outside of the current discussion, where the CIA has done something similar?

So where does the fault lie for the emergence of the Cold War?  Is it Truman?  Is it Stalin?  Is it Fear?  What do you think?

Kissinger 18 – success & pain of containment

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Monday, November 26th, 2012

The man pictured above is George F. Kennan.  He is worth a google.  His influence, according to Kissinger, through the Long Telegram, and the “Sources of Soviet Conduct” published in “Foreign Affairs” under the pseudonym “X” not only were the foundation of the policy of containment but went so far as to predict what would happen under Gorbachev, namely, the dissolution of the USSR.

There is a lot here in this little chapter.  What if Lippman had been more influential?  What about Wallace?  Was Truman really returning to a style of Realpolitik (Is that why Kissinger likes him so much?) and merely couching the protection in moral codes, or did he really believe he was advancing collective security?  Did Acheson really believe NATO was not an alliance aimed at the Soviet Sphere?  The Matthews Memorandum is worth noting as is Clark Clifford.

Were the suggestions of Kennan really implemented?

Ambrose and the start of the Cold War

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013


For next class for extra credit come dressed as a cold war Soviet spy, or any kind of Spy.  It will be fun. One of my favorite days.

The question remains…  What caused the Cold War?  A&B say it right up front that there is no clear beginning of the Cold War.  So here’s another way to look at it.  When would you say the Cold War began?  How would things have been different if FDR had lived.  I think Kissinger will make a big deal of Molotov’s “truculence” in his meeting with Truman, but re-reading this chapter makes me wonder about Truman’s belligerence in the same meeting.

Another issue here is the bomb.  Why wasn’t it more useful?  Why couldn’t the US use it to push their agenda onto the USSR?

The Beginning of the Cold War – According to Kissinger

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

The Whistlestop campaign.  Much of the analysis of our recent 2012 presidential election and the victory of Obama suggested that the Dems had a better “ground game”.  The volunteers on the ground, knocking on doors, making phone calls etc.  were better organized than the volunteers for the Pubs.  In 1948 Harry Truman’s ground game (above) set the standard of the day.  He traveled by train from town to town to get some real face to face time with the American people.

Harry Truman.  One of the top presidents I would want to have met.  KIissinger of course did meet him, and Henry shows up in his book here, explicitly, for the first time.  What did they say and what did they take away?  What did either of them merit from their discussion?

The Truman, Churchill, Stalin and Molotov relationship, as well as Davies and Hopkins should be examined by you in some detail.  George Kennan’s “Long Telegram” is believed by many historians to be of huge importance in the emerging policy of containment and the Cold War.  General George Marshall, becomes Secretary of State, and plays a crucial role in the subsequent policy as well.  How and why?

Big question (and it will be on the test)  How did the Cold War Start?

the war in Asia acording to Ambrose

Friday, November 1st, 2013


So this our first treatment of the war in Asia but it won’t be our last.  In the unit on the Chinese Revolution (coming up after Truman, next) we will have an entire chapter in Spence’s book on WWII.

But what do we have here.  That last claim about American prestige never being higher is interesting.  What do you think?  Do you understand the lack of ground forces, the whole Indochina thing and the Army vs. the Navy?  General Douglas MacArthur was quite a character.  You should google  him.

What do you make of the various points of view on the use of the bomb?  What do A&B think?  What do you think?