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Chapter Fifteen The Korean War Ina closed system like the Soviet Union, where everything depends on the judgment of a dictator, it is likely to be only a matter of time before such an individual, in his relations with other countries, makes a massive miscalculation ; such we now can see is probably what happened with the Korean War. Stalin seems to have had no idea that when the North Koreans attacked the South Koreans the United States would intervene. With the opening of the Soviet archives after the collapse of the USSR, an American researcher has obtained a document that shows the communist head of North Korea, Kim II Sung, almost bombarding Stalin with pleas to allow an attack on South Korea -he sent Stalin no less than forty-eight telegrams. Kim wanted to unify Korea; he argued that all Koreans, north and south, desired a single country, and in this respect he was a nationalist representing the hope of his countrymen . According to the researcher, Stalin at last gave in, upon Kim's repeated assurances that the Americans would not intervene. The date was set for June 25-the invasion took place, and the Americans intervened. Fearful of the power of the United States, Stalin then drew back; prior to the Chinese intervention, he would have allowed the roll-up of Kim's government and troops, which very nearly took place. Chinese intervention naturally made a difference. The Soviets had signed a mutual defense pact with Communist China in February 1950, and Stalin could not treat relations with the Chinese lightly. He therefore was a bit more supportive , sending a few pilots and antiaircraft batteries to guard the Yalu bridges in November 1950, and more in the spring of 1951. The American researcher believes that Stalin's uneasy relations with Chairman Mao, his fear that the Chinese would dispute his leadership of the international communist movement , may have led him initially to approve Kim's plan to attack South Korea'! The Americans, on their part, may be forgiven for refusing to believe that an attack by a puppet state using Soviet equipment could have occurred without Stalin's consent. Nor did they believe that the unification of Korea by 313 314 / Harry S. Truman Kim would be the end of matters-that the war could be only a Korean, not a large international, affair. The Truman administration saw the war as a probe and Kim as a stalking-horse: the Soviets were trying to see how far they could go, and after Korea would come an attack on Iran or, if the Soviet Union were sufficiently emboldened, West Germany, and there might follow the communization of all Western Europe. Hence it was necessary to intervene with the full force of American power and prevent this naked aggression. 1 For the United States the background of the Korean catastrophe lay in several developments of preceding years, in most of which President Truman was only modestly involved. One was the success of the occupation of Japan. The occupation tended to make the Truman administration feel that everything in East Asia was under control, that whatever loose ends there were could be handled by MacArthur and his assistants, that it was possible to give attention in foreign affairs to the rivalry with the Soviet Union-the cold war-which focused on events in Europe. In Japan, MacArthur was the man on the scene and gave every evidence he was in charge. His public persona proved a remarkable substitute for the imperial authority of preceding years. Every day he carried out a routine in which he was driven in the mornings from his residence in the former American embassy to his headquarters in the Dai Ichi Building in Tokyo and in the evenings back to his residence; each day a respectful crowd of Japanese, and a few Americans and foreigners visiting Tokyo, gathered at the front of the building and watched the spectacle of arrival and departure. In policy he pursued a series of liberal measures. The new "MacArthur constitution" (its opening words were, "We the people of Japan ..."), nominally the work of the Diet, forbade military forces. The general sponsored such economic reforms as breakup of the zaibatsu, or family-owned industrial enterprises, and breakup of landed estates, dividing the latter into plots and selling them on favorable terms to the peasants who farmed them. He supported labor unions and even "the right to work," which was at issue in the United...


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