What’s the Point?

April 15, 1951 — The Detroit Free Press

The Mossadegh Project | July 23, 2022                    

The Detroit Free Press published this lengthy lead editorial on the Korean War days after Pres. Truman fired Gen. Douglas A. MacArthur.

See also:

Harry Truman media archive
Harry Truman letters, speeches, etc.
Korean War media archive
United States media archive

The Editor’s Notebook

Truman-MacArthur Feud Reveals Lack of Sound Foreign Policy

WHILE the Truman-MacArthur controversy rages on, with partisans of both men engaging in shallow thinking and irrational anger, we have waited hopefully for a leader of either political party to arise and clarify the situation for a confused Country.

As of now, the expectation that someone with a clean heart, a clear head and a valiant soul might put aside petty political considerations for the welfare of his Country has been rudely shattered.

The Republicans seem intent upon making MacArthur’s dismissal an issue for the 1952 election. Chairman Guy Gabrielson has called it a “sell-out to Great Britain.” Senator Jenner of Indiana charged that “the United States is in the hands of a secret inner coterie which, is directed by agents of the Soviet Union.” [William E. Jenner]

Senator Taft, who wants to go slow in Europe, denounced the firing of MacArthur as “appeasement” and urges the bombing of Communist China while “taking a chance” that Russia will not retaliate. [Robert Taft]

Of the Republican membership in the upper house, only Senators Duff of Pennsylvania and Saltonstall of Massachusetts conceded that the President was within his rights in taking summary action against MacArthur. [James H. Duff, Leverett Saltonstall]

While Truman has had almost unanimous support for the Democrats in Congress, many of his party leaders must have fidgeted uncomfortably as they listened to his radio and television address last Wednesday night. At a time when his countrymen needed decisive and inspirational leadership, President Truman merely brewed a cup of weak tea.

If, alas, there are no Lincolns, Theodore Roosevelts or Bill Borahs within the Republican Party today, can more be said for the pusillanimous pigmies now in power? [Sen. William Borah of Idaho] Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson are Harry Truman’s self-compared political idols, but could they say as much for him?

The Truman Program

IN HIS ADDRESS, the President offered three points as the means of achieving peace in the Far East:

1. The fighting must stop, he said. But how, we ask? By negotiation, or victory by force of arms?

It is generally recognized that under present diplomatic restrictions imposed by the United Nations, our forces in Korea can achieve nothing better than a stalemate on the battlefield. That would seem to discard the “victory” theory unless these restrictions are removed. When we turn to “negotiated peace” supposition, how can it be assumed that any such diplomatic move would intrigue the Soviet directed Communists? Is it not in their long range interest to keep us involved in Korea, drain off our strength and dictate “peace” on their own terms?

2. Concrete steps must be taken to insure that fighting will not break out again, says Truman. What concrete steps? If we do not win a military victory but do negotiate a “settlement” won’t Red China and the North Koreans have something to say as to how Korea will be occupied and governed? Do we return to the old arrangement dividing North and South Korea at the 38th Parallel? The “Republic of Korea” would be restored to the territory it held last June. But Korea would not be united, and each half would live in fear of a fresh attack from the other. Beyond that, what will have resulted from the Korean adventure except casualties, numbering upwards of 60,000 for the American forces alone?

Even now, the British are urging that Formosa [Taiwan] be turned over to Red China. Is that miserable recommendation to be one of the fruits of our wobbly diplomacy, that “peace” may be had at any price?

3. President Truman’s third point announces there must be an end to all aggression. Where? Everywhere? In Korea, Iran, Yugoslavia or any other part of the world where the Soviets might elect to strike? Have we, or the forces of the United Nations sufficient manpower, or the will, to resist aggression wherever it breaks out?

One would not think so in light of the puny help given by members of the United Nations to the Korean war effort. Even now, we are demobilizing more than 200,000 South Koreans for lack of arms and training. Who will take their places in the line? American boys? We share President Truman’s view that the American aim in Korea is to prevent a third World War, and not to start one. But will a continuing military stalemate in Korea accomplish that end? Or, will it rather wear us down to the point where our military assistance in Europe becomes less potent than it should be for the task to which we are committed? In his uninspired, almost pathetic way, President Truman gave no satisfying answers to any of these questions. His speech was composed largely of a drab recital of UN objectives, though every body but Truman now realizes there is no longer any solid UN backing for the cause which inspired our intervention in Korea.

Offers No Hope

IN MAKING up your own mind as to our future foreign policy in Asia, these factors should be taken into consideration.

1. Nationalist China, our ally, was treacherously “sold down the river” to Stalin by Roosevelt and Churchill at the Yalta conference. This “sell out”, was later further implemented by the Truman Administration’s open encouragement of the Chinese Communists and its indifference to the fate of Formosa and Korea, as became evident in various public utterances made by Secretary of State Dean Acheson.

2. China is now dominated by the Reds, once erroneously called “agrarian reformers” by the late Gen. Joe Stillwell. They have millions of well trained troops as against Chiang Kai-shek’s mythical army of “600,000” now garrisoned in Formosa, actually 350,000 or 400,000. If we become involved in all out war with Red China, Chiang’s army would be useful, but not determinative. Moreover, we would be committed to send arms, supplies and men to Chiang in any projected invasion of the continent.

The hopelessness of such a land invasion is best typified by this story. Back in the days when China was warring with Japan, an American remarked to a Chinese that he was surprised at the vast number of Chinese who were being killed by the enemy. The Chinese replied: “Japanese kill 10 Chinese, while Chinese kill only one Japanese. Pretty soon, no more Japanese”.

3. The United States went into Korea under the Good Morning flag of the United Nations to repel international banditry on the principle of maintaining collective security. We have won no decisive victory because as William R. Matthews, editor of the Arizona Sun says: “We should see by now that most governments, despite expressions of the noblest sentiments, simply will not assume sacrifices in remote disputes where their interests are not apparently involved.”

4. Korea is of no strategic military value to us. It is instead a distinct liability. Ultimate victory would find us with a devastated country and more than 25,000,000 helpless, homeless and hungry people on our hands.

Now It Is Up to Truman

IT WOULD appear, therefore, that having been the victims of bungling diplomacy in the first instance, thought should now be given to the advisability of withdrawing our forces from Korea while strengthening our air and naval power along the Japan - Okinawa - Ruyukus - Philippine defense perimeter.

To the diplomats, this would mean losing face. Such a move might tend also to weaken the determination of European nations to resist Russia on the continent, although in the past their irresolute policy in Korea has been matched only by their fear of MacArthur’s burning conviction that war is war and you can’t achieve victory without hitting the enemy where it hurts.

Since the United States and the United Nations won’t win the Korean war under present rules, one alternative is to negotiate a “peace” by some diplomatic gimmick; the other is to withdraw. With MacArthur gone, it is now up to Truman.

As we commented last Thursday, we and the United Nations had better get into high gear with some basic and enduring decisions on foreign policy in the Far East. Unhappily, nothing that President Truman said in his address of Wednesday night offers much encouragement that either he, or his vacillating Secretary of State could recognize a sound foreign policy if it was handed to them on a platter.

Impeach Truman | Chicago Tribune’s front page editorial (1951)
Impeach Truman | Chicago Tribune editorial (April 12, 1951)

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Related links:

Alibis From the Generalissimo | New York Daily News, June 26, 1951

Funny War | The Odessa American (Texas), August 3, 1952

Questions On Korea War | The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Nov. 2, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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