U.S.'s Korea policy

1950 and now

By Sam Marcy (Jan. 6, 1994)
U.S. imperialism's brazen attempt to intervene militarily against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is not likely to go unnoticed in the rest of the world. Thus far the U.S. government has confined its moves to diplomatic pressure to make the government of the DPRK succumb to its demands.

Acceding to these demands would virtually assure a dominant role for U.S. imperialism in Korea's foreign policy--and probably in Korea's domestic policy, too.

The government of the DPRK is unlikely to succumb to such demands. Nor is the U.S. effort to gather diplomatic support from other governments throughout the world and especially in Asia likely to succeed. But as of now the Pentagon has decided to go ahead with this brazen adventure.

It should be remembered that it was only on Nov. 3 that the United Nations General Assembly voted 88 to four with 57 abstentions to condemn the U.S.'s blockade of Cuba. Even U.S. allies like France condemned the Torricelli law.

The UN vote was such a serious diplomatic blow to U.S. policy that it could not entirely escape comment in the capitalist press here. It was "humiliating," explained a Nov. 8 New York Times editorial that urged the Clinton administration to back away from further provocations for that purpose.

Can Clinton change course?

The question today is whether the Clinton administration can back away from the course of conduct it has set itself in the Pacific without causing a profound setback for its diplomacy. Can it change its policy and keep its stride--or will it pursue a rerun of Washington's adventurous policy in Korea begun almost a half-century ago with the 1950-1953 Korean war?

It should be remembered that at that time the U.S. was the only power with numerous nuclear arms and a delivery system. Although the Soviet Union was reported to have exploded a nuclear device in 1949, it was by no means capable in 1950 of projecting a nuclear threat comparable to that of the U.S.

But even with this predominant nuclear capability that it brandished often, the U.S. fell short of victory with its nuclear diplomacy. It was forced to change course from an attempt to conquer the Korean peninsula. Instead it had to content itself with establishing a puppet state in the southern part of Korea.

What changed U.S. policy was the Korean people's heroic defense of their country, under the leadership of President Kim Il Sung and the Korean Workers Party. This truly heroic effort should be regarded in the West and particularly in the United States as the fundamental factor that made the Pentagon retreat from its original plans. Washington was forced to content itself with holding the southern part of Korea hostage.

The comradely aid the People's Republic of China and the Chinese People's Army gave the Koreans was also vital to stopping the U.S. offensive. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops entered the war after U.S. forces threatened to invade Manchuria in the fall of 1950.

The Pentagon's grand strategy was temporarily altered, its advance into Asia stopped. And that is where the situation has remained until today.

It would be wrong to assume that because of the collapse of the USSR, the DPRK's international position and its ability to resist imperialism has diminished. Of course, the collapse of the USSR is a loss to all progressive and especially revolutionary movements throughout the whole world.

But that does not necessarily mean that this tragic event weakens the revolutionary resolve of the many peoples under the gun of U.S. imperialism. As the Somali people so recently showed, they are ready to defend themselves with the arms they can get their hands on and with all the revolutionary energy they can muster. And they will fight against the brigandage of the U.S. military-industrial complex as well as its stooges in all civilian areas of the capitalist government.

Role of an aroused opposition

What is lacking now in the U.S., as it was in 1950, is an aroused public opposition to U.S. imperialism in Asia. There is, however, a fundamental difference between the situation in 1950 and now.

In 1950, U.S. public opinion was fed the wildest rumors and lies about the diplomatic inclinations and political capabilities of the USSR and the People's Republic of China. These socialist countries were supposed to be uniting to overrun the "democracies" of the world. By "democracies," the capitalist propaganda machine meant countries like the U.S. and those in Western Europe that had kept billions of people in colonial slavery.

This lip service to democracy was a hollow mockery of the real situation in Western Europe at the time. The U.S. media did not call attention to the attitude of the workers there. Yet it was clear that the masses of workers, especially in France, Italy, Britain and elsewhere, were not at all in the mood--no matter how much pressure the U.S. imperialist colossus applied--to support imperialism's interests in Asia. This was true regardless of the inclinations of the capitalist governments of Europe.

When, for example, the Vietnamese defeated the French military at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the French bourgeoisie was unable to generate a patriotic surge at home. It had to give up its colonial rule. Even more so, the European working class wanted nothing to do with a U.S.-led adventure in Asia.

The more sober minds in the ruling circles of the U.S.--including in the military--could not disregard this fundamental factor. So matters remained substantially where they are today regarding the relation of forces in the Korean peninsula.

What stopped MacArthur

During the first year of the Korean War, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, commander of the U.S. forces, was hell-bent on a military adventure to overrun Korea as a stepping stone to advance into China. Truman's April 1951 decision to discharge MacArthur was truly a remarkable move by what appeared to be a timid president in relation to the military.

When Truman fired MacArthur, he had to have been considering the European arena and the sentiment of the masses. That was at the least one of the more significant factors that lay behind the policy of Secretary of State Dean Acheson and his advisers. They counselled caution in the Pacific and in Asia generally, and turned U.S. attention toward the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for military control of Europe.

True, this was no less belligerent than MacArthur's view, but it was in a different theater of the worldwide class struggle. So it is no exaggeration to say that the political awareness and resilience of the European progressive movement was a major factor in halting the war plans of MacArthur and his successors.

Today, as a result of historic necessity and new world conditions, the U.S. working class will have the fundamental task of halting Washington's adventurous moves in Korea, or elsewhere in Asia, Africa, Latin America and in Europe itself. At last, we are coming face to face with the historical prognosis that the center of revolutionary gravity is shifting to the Western Hemisphere and most particularly to the United States.

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