Paths to Peace: Domestic Coalition Shifts, War Termination and the Korean War

Paths to Peace: Domestic Coalition Shifts, War Termination and the Korean War

Paths to Peace: Domestic Coalition Shifts, War Termination and the Korean War

Paths to Peace: Domestic Coalition Shifts, War Termination and the Korean War


Paths to Peace begins by developing a theory about the domestic obstacles to making peace and the role played by shifts in states' governing coalitions in overcoming these obstacles. In particular, it explains how the longer the war, the harder it is to end, because domestic obstacles to peace become institutionalized over time. Next, it tests this theory with a mixed methods approach- through historical case studies and quantitative statistical analysis. Finally, it applies the theory to an in-depth analysis of the ending of the Korean War. By analyzing the domestic politics of the war's major combatants- the Soviet Union, the United States, China, and North and South Korea- it explains why the final armistice terms accepted in July 1953 were little different from those proposed at the start of negotiations in July 1951, some 294,000 additional battle-deaths later.


My insides felt like a thousand butterflies were still jumping around
in there, and my legs felt like rubber. My mind was still seeing the
picture at the top of Old Baldy as the shells burst among us, and
hearing the sounds of Chinese bugles blowing as they came charging
into our lines…. We would bleed and die for an ugly old hill that to
the men in the trenches wasn't worth throwing lives away for, just so
we could see Chinese movement to the north….

—Corporal Rudolph W. Stephens, 23rd Regiment, 2nd Infantry
Division (1995:114–15)

Old Baldy is a mountain in central Korea, currently located within the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Old Baldy is no longer bald. Like many hills in Korea, it is covered with relatively young deciduous trees and evergreens, all grown in the last fifty years. Old Baldy earned its name during the Korean War, when intensive shelling obliterated all the trees and foliage on the hillside. At that time, Old Baldy's landscape looked like the surface of the moon, with many old craters from artillery and mortar rounds that had fallen there (see Figure 1.1). As Jerry Ciaravino, who fought there in 1951, remembers, “You knew why it was given that name. It was a big mountain of dirt with no greenery. There was just so much thrown at it that it was just dirt on the top. You were just glad to come back down after you were up there” (Nisbet and Moore 2002: 5). Similarly Corporal Stephens observes, “I believe the only things living on Old Baldy were men in the trenches” (1995:141).

Despite its hard-won name, Old Baldy had no strategic value. There were no natural resources buried inside it, no major communications lines it overlooked, no major industrial center anywhere nearby. In fact, Old Baldy's only real value—a dubious one, at that—was height. At 266 meters, it was the tallest hill in the immediate area, dominating the terrain to the north, west and south, and it provided a good look-out over another infamous Korean War mountain, Pork Chop Hill. As such, the belligerent that controlled the crest of Old Baldy controlled the tactical situation in the valley below (see Map 1.1).

Except for this view down, Old Baldy was not important—not to Korea, and not to the ultimate course of the Korean War. Yet, for this view down, from July . . .

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