DRAWING THE LINE: The Korean War, 1950-1953 by Richard Whelan

DRAWING THE LINE: The Korean War, 1950-1953

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An impressive and informative briefing that delivers a wealth of geopolitical perspectives on the Korean War. Whereas most annalists have focused on combat operations and command decisions, Whelan (Robert Capa, 1985) probes the historic causes, consequences, and implications of a conflict he calls ""a world war in miniature."" Drawing on previously classified diplomatic papers, contemporary news reports, and standard references, the author addresses a broad spectrum of issues. Cases in point range from why the Truman administration opted for military intervention (and support of the repressive Rhee regime) in the wake of North Korea's invasion of the South after having merely protested Communist takeovers in Eastern Europe and mainland China through the question of whether the eventual cease-fire indeed represented, in the estimation of General Mark W. Clark, ""an armistice without victory."" As a practical matter, Whelan concludes, the so-called police action in a partitioned land yielded the US, if not a triumph, any number of favorable outcomes. To illustrate, it not only provided the impetus that transformed NATO into a powerful defensive alliance but also strengthened the special relationship between the US and UK. The war also gave the US undisputed leadership of the UN (whose utility as an international ombudsman was damaged, perhaps irreparably), fostered integration of black and white troops within the American forces, ended the Democrats' 20-year tenancy of the White House, precipitating a global arms race, and indirectly induced Peking to challenge Moscow, its onetime patron, during the mid-1950's. And while lacking access to archives in Communist capitals like Pyongyang, Whelan does not shy from speculating on the objectives pursued by Stalin and his coconspirators. Nor does he neglect to point out that the Korean War failed to teach Washington substantive distinctions between Asian nationalism and international Communism, the futility of waging high-tech warfare against an enemy largely independent of mechanized transport, and other vital lessons that might well have spared the country the tragic fiasco of Vietnam. A considerable contribution to the literature on a turning-point belligerency, which could appeal to a wide readership.

Pub Date: April 10th, 1990
Publisher: Little, Brown