Perceptive perspectives on the Korean War from James (Military History/Virginia Military Institute), author of the three-volume The Years of MacArthur (1970-85). Eschewing a conventional format, James focuses on America's senior commanders and their most consequential decisions during the three-year conflict that, despite being confined to a remote Asian venue, bore the imprint of its global predecessor. He includes separate chapters on Truman, MacArthur, MacArthur's two successors (Matthew Ridgway and Mark Clark), and the often-overlooked Admiral C. Turner Joy (the top US naval officer in the Far East). James then assesses a half dozen critical events and their implications, covering, among other matters, the initial determination to send US troops to fight (under a UN flag); the risky Inchon landing; MacArthur's dismissal; and the resolve to limit the scope of the stalemated battle (which became a tacit objective of Communist capitals as well). While James's essaylike approach makes for a somewhat kaleidoscopic and modestly redundant narrative, it allows the author to examine key individuals and developments from diverse viewpoints. He shows, for example, how MacArthur's experiences in WW II's Pacific theater influenced US/UN strategy during the war's first year of combat. At the same time, he is able to convey the concurrent (and unwarranted) euphoria of civilian Washington, which briefly believed that decisive victory was at hand for coalition forces. As James makes clear, however, the entry of Chinese ""volunteers"" changed the rules of engagement--an outcome accepted with varying degrees of grace up and down the chain of command. A fine addition to the literature of what can no longer be deemed a forgotten war.