Truman and Korea: The Political Culture of the Early Cold War

By Paul G. Pierpaoli Jr. | Go to book overview

I

NSC-68 and the Outbreak of the Korean War Toward a Piecemeal Mobilization, April—November 1950

This first chapter will accomplish two principle tasks. First, it will sketch the background of NSC-68, the National Security Council's blueprint for waging the Cold War, within which the outbreak of the Korean War occurred. Covering the period between 1948 and the spring of 1950, when NSC-68 was first presented to President Truman, this background will provide an overview of the political and economic culture in which the Korean decision was reached. The Korean intervention and the concurrent military buildup begun in July 1950 raised dilemmas of national security and defense that had been simmering just beneath the surface since at least 1947. Korea forced policymakers to come to terms with these issues, ultimately prodding them to decide how much the nation could—and should—spend on defense. Thus, the Trojan horse of national security was unveiled, but the forces inside it were still tightly contained.

The second major task, which constitutes the majority of this chapter, is to analyze the first five months of the Korean War mobilization, from July to December 1950. During these months, which I view as the first phase of the three-year conflict, the United States struggled to implement a coherent military strategy for Korea as well as a broader military and industrial mobilization program designed to follow the prescriptions of NSC-68. During this time, however, these two efforts were often unrelated and uncoordinated. And after General Douglas MacArthur's successful landing at Inchon in September, the Korean mobilization program, which had barely gotten off the ground, lost much of its momentum. The likelihood of a short war with a quick and decisive victory held out the promise of a long-haul Cold War mobilization that could be approached in a relatively casual fashion—free of

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