To Acknowledge a War: The Korean War in American Memory

By Paul M. Edwards | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
Revising the Revisionists

Those who are inclined to blame their enemies may be the smaller heroes, whose words merely replace bullets to "replay"the old hostility.

Philip West

One historian has described the writing of history as riding in the back of a pickup being driven rapidly down a very busy street, trying to describe the situation and events in the previous block. The driver of the car is the leader, who, in theory, knows where the truck is headed. Ideally this person is a visionary, at least a politician. In the passenger seat is the journalist, trying to write down what he or she sees pass quickly by the truck window. Sitting in the back of the truck, facing the traveled road, is the historian, who is trying to describe where they have been without knowing where they are going. The problem is made more difficult because what they are currently leaving behind is much clearer in the historian's mind than what they left behind only moments before that. That is, memory, and thus narrative, is greatly affected by more current impressions.

To complicate the situation, historians are not satisfied with attempts to record and interpret the past; they must also trace the history of their historical efforts. Going back to the illustration, they not only record what they have seen but record the records of what they have recorded. This is not just preoccupation with themselves; rather, historians seek to know the truth as clearly as possible by understanding their own discipline. Historiography, the history of histories, is an odd but essential aspect of the historical endeavor. Written history, like most things, has its fashion and fads, visions and revisions.

History is written as an unfolding process. Researchers publish the results of their studies. These results are, in turn, studied and criticized by other researchers. Critics produce what they see as new and improved works, which are in turn criticized and expanded upon by other researchers. This process, as defined by George F. Hegel, is called the dialectic: a triad composed of a thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The thesis and antithesis are in conflict and push

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To Acknowledge a War: The Korean War in American Memory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Military Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Long Silence 15
  • Chapter 3 - Naming the War 27
  • Chapter 4 - Who Is to Blame 41
  • Chapter 5 - Some of the Controversies 53
  • Chapter 6 - Leaders and Scoundrels 75
  • Chapter 7 - Operations 89
  • Chapter 8 - The United Nations Force 103
  • Chapter 9 - Revising the Revisionists 121
  • Chapter 10 - The Fighting Just Stopped 135
  • Chapter 11 - The Wrong War 147
  • Bibliography 155
  • Subject Index 163
  • Military Unit Index 173
  • About the Author 177
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