The Korean War: Handbook of the Literature and Research

By Lester H. Brune; Robin Higham | Go to book overview

1 Introduction and General
References on the Korean War

Lester H. Brune

During the Second Gulf War of 1990-1991, President George Bush and many media commentators compared the conflict to Vietnam, World War II, and Hitler's blitzkrieg during the 1930s. Actually, however, the events during and after Desert Shield-Desert Storm resembled the war many Americans have preferred to forget: the Korean War. The United States' little-publicized involvement with Iraq before August 1990 matched the nation's even deeper and less recognized role in dividing Korea and protecting the South Korean regime before June 1950. Before August 1990, inadequate U.S. intelligence and diplomatic data on Iraq were much like the intelligence failure in Korea during early 1950. President Harry Truman's surprise about North Korea's June 25 attack duplicated President Bush's surprise about learning of Iraq's aggression on August 2, 1990, and just as Truman obtained control of an international force to expel North Korea from South Korea, the Bush administration quickly sought and gained United Nations resolutions condemning Iraq's aggression and approving a U.S.-led international UN force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. Finally, both the intensive U.S. air warfare against North Korea beginning in 1951 and the UN truce that left Kim Il-sung in power corresponded to the intensive aerial bombing of Iraq and the UN cease-fire, which left Saddam Hussein in power.

These startlingly similar elements contrast completely with the Vietnam War and World War II, despite some differences between Korea in 1950 and Iraq in 1990. The three-year war in Korea was not like the 100-day war against Iraq. But the most notable difference is that the Truman administration attempted to overthrow Kim Il-sung, an effort leading to the massive Chinese communist entry into the conflict. These events had no counterpart in Iraq, where Bush called for a cease-fire after liberating Kuwait, and Iraq had no powerful neighbor willing to help because its

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