Truman, Congress, and Korea

Truman, Congress, and Korea: The Politics of America's First Undeclared War

Copyright Date: 2016
Pages: 334
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    Truman, Congress, and Korea
    Book Description:

    Three days after North Korean premier Kim Il Sung launched a massive military invasion of South Korea on June 24, 1950, President Harry S. Truman responded, dispatching air and naval support to South Korea. Initially, Congress cheered his swift action; but, when China entered the war to aid North Korea, the president and many legislators became concerned that the conflict would escalate into another world war, and the United States agreed to a truce in 1953. The lack of a decisive victory caused the Korean War to quickly recede from public attention. However, its impact on subsequent American foreign policy was profound.

    InTruman, Congress, and Korea: The Politics of America's First Undeclared War, Larry Blomstedt provides the first in-depth domestic political history of the conflict, from the initial military mobilization, to Congress's failed attempts to broker a cease-fire, to the political fallout in the 1952 election. During the war, President Truman faced challenges from both Democratic and Republican legislators, whose initial support quickly collapsed into bitter and often public infighting. For his part, Truman dedicated inadequate attention to relationships on Capitol Hill early in his term and also declined to require a formal declaration of war from Congress, advancing the shift toward greater executive power in foreign policy.

    The Korean conflict ended the brief period of bipartisanship in foreign policy that began during World War II. It also introduced Americans to the concept of limited war, which contrasted sharply with the practice of requiring unconditional surrenders in previous conflicts. Blomstedt's study explores the changes wrought during this critical period and the ways in which the war influenced US international relations and military interventions during the Cold War and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6612-4
    Subjects: History, Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction: Truman versus Congress (pp. 1-22)

    President Truman had a couple of things in his favor in the years leading up to the outbreak of hostilities in Korea. The 1948 election returned him to the White House, and it gave control of both houses of Congress to the Democrats, who remained the majority party for the rest of his presidency. It was an era of bipartisanship in foreign policy, as both parties sought to present a unified front to the rest of the world. As the Cold War unfolded, an increasingly hostile Soviet Union, eager to use American political divisions to its advantage, provided a clear...

  5. 1 Into Korea (pp. 23-54)

    Harry Truman’s presidency was distinctive: he was the only American president to serve as commander in chief during two major wars, and the first of these significantly affected the way he approached the second. When World War II ended with the use of nuclear weapons, the United States was the only nation that possessed them. By the time of the Korean conflict, things had changed dramatically; the Soviet Union was now an open adversary with its own nuclear capability. Much as he wanted to stop the expansion of Soviet communism in the Far East, Truman was equally determined to avoid...

  6. 2 The First War, July–October 1950 (pp. 55-92)

    The Korean War was actually three wars. From July to October 1950, North Korea was pitted against UN forces led by the United States. Communist China’s entry into the fray, coinciding with midterm congressional elections in the United States, constituted a “new” war that raged from November 1950 until the beginning of the armistice talks in July 1951. The final two years of the conflict constituted the third war, a bloody stalemate in which the two sides simply tried to inflict maximum casualties to obtain a negotiating edge at the peace talks.

    This chapter delves into how Congress and the...

  7. 3 The Second War, November 1950–July 1951 (pp. 93-134)

    Communist China proved to be an unpredictable foe as the next phase of the fighting in Korea began. After their jolting entry into the war in late October, Mao’s forces abruptly broke off the fighting shortly after the November 7 elections and withdrew for nearly three weeks. This lull in the conflict gave the United States time to reassess its attempt to reunify the peninsula. General MacArthur prevailed on the Truman administration to allow him to continue his quest to destroy the enemy army, launching a UN offensive on November 24 and promising to have the troops home for Christmas....

  8. 4 The Forgotten Attempts to End the Forgotten War (pp. 135-160)

    “Korea has become a meat grinder of American manhood,” declared a congressman in the spring of 1951. As the war headed into its second year, several legislators began to openly express interest in ending the conflict, which was starting to look like a stalemate. From Congress’s perspective, two political issues came into play as some members tried to stop the shooting in Korea. One was power. Due to the constitutional constraints on the legislative branch, a lawmaker had a reasonable chance of affecting foreign policy only by being a political heavyweight on Capitol Hill or by wielding influence on a...

  9. Photographs (pp. None)
  10. 5 The Third War, July 1951–December 1952 (pp. 161-190)

    Stalemate marked the third and final phase of the Korean War during the Truman presidency. Both sides recognized that they could not conquer the entire peninsula without expanding the conflict beyond Korea, risking another world war. As a result, Korea became a war of attrition rather than strategy. The adversaries sought nothing more than to inflict as many casualties as possible on the opponent to create an advantage at the negotiating table. Against the backdrop of stalemate, the administration fought several difficult political battles. Particularly challenging was Truman’s effort to extend his mobilization program, which he considered vital for the...

  11. 6 The Fall of the Trumanites (pp. 191-220)

    The 1952 presidential election presented a host of issues for the Democratic Party. Would Harry Truman run for another term, given the beating the Korean War was inflicting on his approval rating? Despite the president’s upset victory in 1948, the party still smarted from the bolt of the Dixiecrats, and many Democrats were determined to prevent another fracturing. Unlike the 1948 contest, foreign policy was now fair game for debate in presidential politics, thanks to the end of any meaningful semblance of bipartisanship in international affairs. Since the last election, mainland China had fallen to Mao Zedong, fueling Senator Joseph...

  12. Conclusion (pp. 221-224)

    Harry Truman faced many challenges from both sides of the aisle in Congress as he led the nation through the fluctuations and frustrations of the Korean War. Truman’s party gave him poor advice concerning congressional involvement in the decision to take the nation to war. Moreover, a number of individuals allowed their personal dislike of Secretary of State Dean Acheson to poison their support for the administration whenever U.S. fortunes in the war soured. The partisan rancor over war policy therefore cannot be blamed solely on the Republicans. For his part, the president did not devote adequate attention to congressional...

  13. Acknowledgments (pp. 225-226)
  14. Appendix A: Excerpts from the United Nations Charter (pp. 227-228)
  15. Appendix B: United Nations Participation Act of 1945 (pp. 229-230)
  16. Notes (pp. 231-276)
  17. Bibliography (pp. 277-294)
  18. Index (pp. 295-306)
  19. Back Matter (pp. 307-310)


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