To Acknowledge a War: The Korean War in American Memory

By Paul M. Edwards | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
The Fighting Just Stopped

Those who are able to start a war are sometimes to discover that they lack the power to stop it.

Darian Cobb

Sometimes, in order to understand how a war begins it is necessary to know something of how it ends. Fred Ikle, who served the United States both as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and as director of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, considered this in his book Every War Must End [ Ikle 1991]. He suggests that no one seems to have given a great deal of consideration to how the war might have been stopped. It was hard to determine, in fact, who had authority to negotiate peace.

The American people were hardly more aware of the disheartening charades played out at the negotiation table than they were of the miscalculations that first led to war. The American press moved back and forth between unwarranted optimism and unrestrained pronouncements of doom and destruction. The simple truth was that for the Communist's, their participation in the cease-fire talks was but one phase in the larger war. They negotiated with the same careful skill they used in their military campaigns. Both the ideological leaders, Lenin and Mao, were proponents of the doctrine of protracted conflict. In that process, historical inevitability must be tempered by the practical acknowledgment that a nation should never attempt a decisive action when victory was uncertain. The Communists knew, as the United Nations was slowly discovering, that vast military force was not necessary to establish favorable conditions for negotiation. The negotiated extension of the war was the obvious outcome of the Communists' understanding that neither a final decisive blow nor a forced end to the war would serve their long-term interests.

The road to the armistice was a difficult one. The negotiations were a counterbalance to the fighting, and on more than one occasion the dictates of military necessity fell victim to political considerations. The nations

-135-

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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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