07 June 2005

Political Partisanship Past

It's comforting to believe that politics has degraded in our modern era. It's not particularly true, though. Here's an amazing example of ludicrous politics in action. Because of the direction of the ire, it's instructive to those who would like to believe the Bushies are somehow a new factor in American politics.

The situation in November 1950 was that the Truman adminstration, at the urging of General MacArthur, willfully escalated the United Nations "police action" in Korea by crossing the armistice line to invade North Korea. They intended to go up to, but not cross, the Yalu River forming Korea's border with China. During early November, there was significant contact with Red Chinese troops in central Korea. Chinese troops then disappeared for about two weeks. On November 24th, MacArthur announced that the unification of Korea was 'imminent'. On the 25th, 260,000 Chinese troops attacked the 100,000 UN troops in Korea, almost driving them completely out of the country.

Many rational observers had claimed that crossing into North Korea would provoke the Chinese into outright warfare, but Truman and his entire policy team came to consensus that they would not, and that attempting to occupy North Korea was a wise policy. When the counterattack and near disaster that followed came, this was proven to be a ludicrous assumption (the assumption is the case study in 'groupthink').

When this became evident on the 28th, did Truman -- a very smart and generally liberal man -- admit to a misconception? Did he look for better sources of intelligence, or wonder why his advisors hasn't looked into this? Did he god forbid consider that perhaps the policy was ill-advised? No. Instead, he blamed the Republicans:

Well the liars have accomplished their purpose. ... What has appeared in the press, along with the defeat of our leaders in the Senate, has made the world believe that the American people are not behind our foreign policy -- and I don't think the Communists would ever have dared to do this thing in Korea if it hasn't been for that belief. ... And the result is this news we got this morning.1

Sound like any thundering Bushies proclaiming that questioning the war in Iraq is "Un-American" to you? There are lot of other fascinating aspects to that policy error as well -- MacArthur disdaining the capacity of the Chinese army to fight, and the pre-Nixonian belief among all American policymakers that China and Russia formed one inseparable unit rather than two temporarily allied competitors -- chronicled in the book.

1 From an eyewitness account by author John Hersey, as quoted in "groupthink" by Irving L. Janis pg. 65.

1 comment:

Justin Ryan said...

Finally someone challenges the faction that left me homeless in dec 04 because i didn't vote for Kerry.

WHY? Because all he could say a couple months before election time was "Bush is fighting the war wrong."

Next thing you know, he's all: "Bush is fighting the war on terror wrong!"

"Bush is spying on the american citizens wrong!"

if he's so bad at this stuff, I'm glad he's still in charge of it. ;)