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  • Seth Barrett Tillman: As A Legal Matter, MacArthur Was Right And Truman Was Wrong

    Posted by Jonathan on July 21st, 2016 (All posts by )

    An interesting post.

     

    26 Responses to “Seth Barrett Tillman: As A Legal Matter, MacArthur Was Right And Truman Was Wrong

    1. Grurray Says:

      Truman was a penny-ante, bush league jerk. He had to fire MacArthur in order to continue the implicit policy of allowing the communist takeover of China. Spies and criminals in the highest echelons of his administration had convinced him a united world communist alliance would retaliate in Europe if we lifted a finger north of the 38th Parallel. Meanwhile Stalin was dying and going crazy at the same time, possibly due to strokes, and he was more concerned with purging more imagined internal enemies than intervening in the Far East, a region in which the Russians have never displayed any competence in their entire history.

      By its end, every facet of the Truman administration, from economic programs to foreign policy, was working to the detriment of America.

      Having said that, the authority of commanding the United Nations force was still ultimately held by the United States and Truman according to UN Resolution 84:

      The Security Council,

      Having determined that the armed attack upon the Republic of Korea by forces from North Korea constitutes a breach of the peace,

      Having recommended that Members of the United Nations furnish such assistance to the Republic of Korea as may be necessary to repel the armed attack and to restore international peace and security in the area,

      1. Welcomes the prompt and vigorous support which Governments and peoples of the United Nations have given to its resolutions 82 (1950) and 83 (1950) of 25 and 27 June 1950 to assist the Republic of Korea in defending itself against armed attack and thus to restore international peace and security in the area;

      2. Notes that Members of the United Nations have transmitted to the United Nations offers of assistance for the Republic of Korea;

      3. Recommends that all Members providing military forces and other assistance pursuant to the aforesaid Security Council resolutions make such forces and other assistance available to a unified command under the United States of America;

      4. Requests the United States to designate the commander of such forces;

      5. Authorizes the unified command at its discretion to use the United Nations flag in the course of operations against North Korean forces concurrently with the flags of the various nations participating;

      6. Requests the United States to provide the Security Council with reports as appropriate on the course of action taken under the unified command.

    2. dearieme Says:

      “the Far East, a region in which the Russians have never displayed any competence in their entire history”.

      http://thediplomat.com/2012/08/the-forgotten-soviet-japanese-war-of-1939/

    3. Grurray Says:

      True, Zhukov was the master of envelopment maneuver tactics. Give him a million or so Mongols and some open terrain and he could make short work of any gullible enemy stretched too thin. It was thanks to Central Asian reinforcements like those Mongols and also Kazahks and Turkmen that allowed Zhukov to later counterattack the Wehrmacht and push them back to Germany. His strategy required hordes to complete the maneuver, and those Asians seemingly had it in their blood.

      In their blood to move from east to west, that is. I was thinking of the first Russo-Japanese war when I wrote that diatribe, but I was also
      thinking of this article by Peter Turchin
      . I’m not the biggest fan of Jared Diamond, but I do agree with this:

      Jared argues that crops and domestic animals spread more easily within the same “biomes” – macro-ecological zones characterized by similar climates and soil types. Because biomes tend to stretch along East-West axes, cultivars (and other cultural elements) diffuse more easily East and West, rather than North and South.

      When I read this chapter, I remember wondering, what about the territorial expansion of states? Shouldn’t they also find it easier to expand into a similar ecological zone? Teaming up with Jon Adams and Tom Hall we analyzed the shapes of historical mega-empires. We found that, indeed, there was a very strong statistical tendency to expand along the East-West axis.

      In the case of the Korean War it was ideological expansion we were dealing with. An ideological expansion we vastly overestimated.

      Different climates, ecological zones, demographics, and cultures ensured that Russian and Chinese strategic goals would never be aligned, and ultimately they usually end up pursuing separate courses.

      This is something we should keep in mind for the future.

    4. dearieme Says:

      In Eurasia, if you look at the shape of the continent(s), and the lines of the mountain ranges, expansion is overwhelmingly likely to be E-W, over the steppes and across the N European plain. Crossing the Himalayas, or the Hindu Kush, or the Alps, is just more difficult. It did happen, of course, but less often. I doubt whether it has much to do with “biomes”, though I imagine there’s no way of resolving such an argument. But I do add that the notion that the whole of Eurasia at the same latitude has a similar climate is a woefully foolish thing for a geographer to say.

      “Russian and Chinese strategic goals would never be aligned”: they are currently aligned only because obtuse American foreign policy has given them reason to fall into each others’ arms. People bang on about the wickedness of much American foreign policy, which may perhaps deflect them from recognising its profound stupidity on this matter.

      The Romans were wrong to say “divide and conquer”. There’s usually no need; people are naturally divided. But it is prudent to refrain from uniting your enemies, or potential enemies.

    5. dearieme Says:

      Come to think of it, a decent example of “biome” expansion would be that of the Incas: but it was was N-S.

    6. Grurray Says:

      Another thing about Korea, Congress not declaring war and letting Truman use the cover of the UN opened things up for his excessive meddling. Before Korea, theater commanders had been relatively independent and free to conduct operations at their own discretion. Truman was allowed to unilaterally start the Korean War with no public mandate, and he took that opportunity to seize even more control. Obviously, he had no idea what he was doing and was in no position to properly evaluate the enemy, and then he sacked the one person who did. He established a dangerous precedent of politically run wars and a legacy of military failure.

      “Come to think of it, a decent example of “biome” expansion would be that of the Incas: but it was was N-S”

      Diamond’s theory is that advanced civilizations originated in Eurasia because climate and geography were much more amenable to expansion, channeling movements over large distances, and the exchange of ideas, technology, and agriculture. But his big point is that expansion of domesticated of plants and animals and food production led to political and military expansion. Foods followed climate zones, which were more uniform over longer distances in Eurasia. I think he goes a bit overboard with it sometimes and ignores other inherent aspects of culture and genetics, but I don’t doubt it still had a big impact.

      In Africa and the America’s, geography isolated civilizations. The west coast of South America may be an exception in terms of the cardinal directions, but it still supports the central premise. Climates – and yes terrain – isolated them from outside influences, so they stayed relatively primitive enough for Pizarro to conquer them with only a handful of soldiers, some horses, and muskets.

    7. Eric Says:

      Grurray beat me to it, ie, Seth’s post is wrong on the law.

      Here’s the comment I left at Seth’s post, except with the links to the UNSCRs left out:

      Seth,

      I disagree.

      You misunderstand that the United Nations Command since 1950 has not been a “blue helmet” operation. Disclosure: I served in Korea as a US soldier and I didn’t wear a blue helmet there. The legal basis for UNC USFK on which I served in Korea in the late 20th century was carried forward from my honored Army predecessors’ initial deployment under President Truman.

      UNC has not been a UN force as such. It’s been a multinational coalition led by USFK enforcing UN mandates under sovereign authority as “executive agent”.

      From http://www.usfk.mil/About/United-Nations-Command/:
      __The predawn quiet of a rainy, peaceful Sunday morning, June 25, 1950, was abruptly shattered by the crash of cannons and the snarl of automatic weapons as soldiers of North Korea marched southward. … Two days later, the United Nations called on the countries of the world to unite and assist in driving the invader from the ROK. In its resolution, the UN Security Council named the United States as executive agent to implement the resolution and direct UN military operations in Korea.
      … By then, the UN had issued a further appeal to all member nations to provide what military and other aid they could to assist the ROK Government in repelling the invaders.__

      Your post erases the legal distinction between UN “blue helmet” forces that are directly under UN authority and UN authorization for member nations to enforce UN resolutions under sovereign authority.

      For contemporary comparison, the UN authorization for the Korea intervention is analogous to the UN authorization for the Iraq intervention. The Iraq intervention, in which various US-led military actions have enforced the UNSCR 660 series since their initiation in 1990, including the invasion and peace operations of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has been conducted with UN authorization for member states to enforce UN mandates. [Reference: Answer to “Was Operation Iraqi Freedom legal?”]

      Compare:

      UNSCR 84 (1950):
      __3. Recommends that all Members providing military forces and other assistance pursuant to the aforesaid Security Council resolutions make such forces and other assistance available to a unified command under the United States of America;
      4. Requests the United States to designate the commander of such forces;
      5. Authorizes the unified command at its discretion to use the United Nations flag in the course of operations against North Korean forces concurrently with the flags of the various nations participating;__

      UNSCR 678 (1990):
      __2. Authorizes Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before 15 January 1991 fully implements, as set forth in paragraph 1 above, the above-mentioned resolutions, to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area;
      3. Requests all States to provide appropriate support for the actions undertaken in pursuance of paragraph 2 of the present resolution;__

      Notice that at the dawn of the UN, the language of UNSCR 84 was more deferential to the various national character of the UNC coalition that enforced UN mandates with Korea than the language in UNSCR 678 that “Authorize[d] Member states” to enforce UN mandates with Iraq.

      Despite what GEN MacArthur may have believed, his authority in the Korea intervention remained entirely within the US military chain of command.

    8. Eric Says:

      Grurray:
      “He established a dangerous precedent of politically run wars and a legacy of military failure.”

      Without implicating “every facet of the Truman administration, from economic programs to foreign policy, was working to the detriment of America”, I’ll just point out that the post-MacArthur “politically run” parameters imposed on the Korean War informed the parameters imposed from the start on the Vietnam War.

    9. Eric Says:

      With nod to Grurray, I added this comment to my 1st comment at Seth’s post:

      Add: Regarding the basic analogy of your post, notice that UNSCR 84 “Recommends…all Members…make such forces and other assistance available to a unified command under the United States of America” and “Requests the United States to designate the commander of such forces”.

      The UN recommended/authorized the US as “executive agent” of UN mandates with Korea, not GEN MacArthur as such.

    10. Andrew X Says:

      Yeah, sometimes people write articles as if they have a whole bunch of words lying around and they just need to get rid of them.

      The article in question is mildly interesting though extremely convoluted, and the commenters there are very much correct in telling the author he is talking out of his hindquarters.

      It is not a complicated question. MacArthur was either serving in the United States Army, or he was not. If he was, then he is subject to the orders of the Commander in Chief of the United States, including any order to turn over his command and return stateside. Tout fini.

      Everything else he might be doing while wearing that uniform is subordinate to that ultimate truth. Any officer refusing such an order based on what this author writes should be at the barest minimum drummed out of the service immediately (said officer having already de facto resigned the instant they chose to ignore or belay such an order.) They are then welcome to join a UN Army, the Egyptian Army, the Geico Sales Army, or whomever, and wear whatever uniform they want (assuming they are legally free and clear). They just will not be in the US Army. Period.

      Pretty simple actually.

    11. Eric Says:

      Andrew X,

      I suspect Seth knows his readers will immediately recognize his post is in error and he’s testing his readers to explain why.

      UNSCR 84 is an obvious piece because the text of the resolution is plain. It also seems obvious that the US did not subordinate its sovereignty and its military to the UN, and in doing so, re-routing GEN MacArthur’s chain of command. The challenge is explaining why.

      The Korean War is interesting to study because it’s an early, formative application of UN-based international law enforcement on a scale that called forth war powers, the ultimate sovereign province, in service of UN mandates. It calls into examination the UN Charter and the relationship between UN authority, its practical enforcement, and national sovereignty, which in turn, calls into examination the US Constitution, Article VI, Section 2 (“Supremacy Clause”) relationship with treaties.

    12. Mike K Says:

      Coming late to this thread.

      “Truman was a penny-ante, bush league jerk. He had to fire MacArthur in order to continue the implicit policy of allowing the communist takeover of China.”

      I don’t think there was any chance of reversing the communist takeover of China.

      MacArthur had done a good job with Japan after 1945 and the Inchon invasion worked. He had blind spots, however. His “Bataan Gang” were not very sharp and were totally unprepared for the North Korean invasion. He made a huge and expensive mistake allowing the army, both US and ROK, to get near the Yalu border. They could have stopped at Pyongyang, the capital and the narrowest part of the Korean Peninsula.

      He allowed divided command with a mountain range between the X Corps and 8th Army. MacArthur’s reputation was saved by Marine General OP Smith, who set up air evacuation sites that were not ordered by MacArthur when he sent them too close to the Yalu.

      In October 1950, the 1st Marine Division landed at Wonsan on the eastern side of Korea under the command of the Army’s X Corps commanded by Edward Almond. Almond and Smith shared a mutual loathing dating back to a meeting between the two in Japan before the Inchon landing.[4] During the meeting Almond had spoken of how easy amphibious landings were although he had never planned, or taken part, in one, and then referred to Smith as son although he was only 10 months older than Smith. Smith and the Marine command also felt Almond was too aggressive and were sure about large numbers of Chinese Forces in North Korea when higher headquarters in Tokyo was telling them that was not the case. Although ordered to go north to the Yalu River as fast as he could, Smith continuously slowed the division’s march to the point of near insubordination.[6] Also along the way he established supply points and an airfield.

    13. Grurray Says:

      I agree it was probably better to stop at Pyongyang. It should be part of South Korea today. One look at the map shows why. MacArthur didn’t have enough forces to cover the extra ground. I don’t totally agree about him being unprepared for the initial Nork invasion. He was, but that was mainly due to severe cuts by Truman and a previously stated policy by Sec of State Acheson that Korea would be left outside the American defense umbrella, which only gave the Norks even more excuse to invade.

      Yes, MacArthur didn’t see the Chinese coming, but I’m not too judgmental about that. You can’t predict everything that will happen, and if you try you sometimes paralyze yourself (or worse) such as what happened with Truman and his crony cabinet. MacArthur did want to bomb the bridges across the Yalu to stop the Chinese. That was a sound plan, it would have worked, and any unity between the Soviets and Chinese would have subsequently crumbled.

    14. Grurray Says:

      “I suspect Seth knows his readers will immediately recognize his post is in error and he’s testing his readers to explain why.”

      If anything, the differences between the Iraq resolutions and Korean War resolution are greater mission creep and encroachment of our sovereignty and supremecy of our laws. We should stop being subordinate to the UN and artificial notions of the International Community.

    15. Joe Wooten Says:

      Trent Telenko,

      What’s your MacArthur research got on his performance in Korea? The official histories have too much anti-MacArthur bias in them.

    16. Mike K Says:

      “You can’t predict everything that will happen”

      Agreed but preparing for possibilities based on enemy capability and intentions is important for generals at his level.

      It may be that language problems might have limited his intelligence ability. I don’t know how many Chinese and Korean speakers he had on his staff.

      Acheson made a mistake but I think there was a mind set that denied the possibility of Russian aggression. The NKs would not have moved without Russian support.

    17. Trent Telenko Says:

      General Almond, commander of Xth Corps in Korea, is usually portrayed as a creature of MacArthur and a member of the Bataan gang.

      He was neither.

      MacArthur’s command in Korea was a dumping ground for also ran retreads at the edge of retirement before the North Korean invasion.

      General Almond was one of those.

      General Almond had been protege of General Marshall. Gen Almond was a great high level staff officer, but over his head in high command. Marshall did not know this and appointed him as commander of the “colored” 92nd Inf Division. This African American Division in Italy did poorly in it’s initial combat. Almond put the blame on its poor performance on the 92nd’s troops and not his leadership.

      Almond was reassigned, but not entrusted with another field command in WW2. He proved invaluable as a staff officer when the Inmun Gun went South and MacArthur had to create combat power from nothing.

      When MacArthur put together Inchon, his secret “X-force” to pull it off be came Tenth Corps, or “Xth Corp”. Almod was given the Corps command.

      When the Chinese came south, MacArthur was part of the D.C. group think that they were not coming and became its scapegoat.

      Almond survived MacArthur’s removal in Korea and was kept by Ridgeway in the same role.

      Commander of Xth Corps and (primarily in the role MacArthur used him) as a tool of influence on now Secretary of Defense General Marshall AUSA (Ret.)

    18. Eric Says:

      Grurray:
      “If anything, the differences between the Iraq resolutions and Korean War resolution are greater mission creep and encroachment of our sovereignty and supremecy of our laws.”

      Good point, and I agree.

      The subtly different language in UNSCRs 84 and 678, which served basically the same purpose separated by 40 years, shows the subtly creeping shift in conception of the UN from a multinational body to a transnational body.

      Grurray:
      “We should stop being subordinate to the UN and artificial notions of the International Community.”

      We can largely thank Bush41 for that post-Cold War trend for his course-setting choice of legal-operative structure for the Iraq intervention.

    19. dearieme Says:

      “the subtly creeping shift in conception of the UN from a multinational body to a transnational body”: slightly reminiscent of one of the trends in US history?

    20. Otto Maddox Says:

      My father served in the 2nd Infantry division in Korea, 1950-51. He always referred to Ned Almond as “Nasty” Ned Almond. Maybe it had something to do with Almond being caught with his pants down when the Chinese entered the war.

    21. dearieme Says:

      “Truman was a penny-ante, bush league jerk”: I take it that you’re referring to W rather than HW?

    22. Grurray Says:

      Here’s one good example of ‘Give ’em Hell’ Harry at his finest. Of course, he was so dumb he believed Stalin’s propaganda. The hagiographic revisionism surrounding Truman these days is amazing.

    23. Eric Says:

      Grurray,

      His phrasing stands out, but Truman’s opinion of Marines public affairs was – and is – not uncommon among soldiers. https://www.trumanlibrary.org/lifetimes/military.htm

    24. Grurray Says:

      Truman and his advisors really believed ships and beach landings were obsolete and
      the future was strategic bombing with nukes

      There’s no reason for having a Navy and Marine Corps. General Bradley tells me that amphibious operations are a thing of the past. We’ll never have any more amphibious operations. That does away with the Marine Corps. And the Air Force can do anything the Navy can do nowadays, so that does away with the Navy.

    25. Trent Telenko Says:

      Otto Maddox,

      Gen Almond was an interesting fellow in a lot of ways despite his failings in Italy and when the Chinese came south in Korea.

      One of those interesting things is that he insisted that his entire Corps and all the units under him replicate the USMC Close Air Support forward air control system rather than the preferred USAF of pre-planned missions with coordination teams at Corps and Division level.

      American ground units in Xth Corps had FAC’s down to battalion level for mopst of Korea.

      This rubbed the USAF in particular very raw when its jets were proved time and again not as capable as the Marines Corsairs orbiting along the Xth Corps front lines on the 38th Parallel, after Seoul was recaptured the second time.

    26. Otto Maddox Says:

      Trent Telenko: Yeah but Nasty Ned damn near got me killed before I got started.