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Was the Korean War a success for containment or for collective security?

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WEEK TWO THE ORIGINS OF THE COLD WAR THE KOREAN WAR Georgina Dore Merton Was the Korean War a success for containment or for collective security? "My childrem, it is permitted you in time of grave anger to walk with the devil until you have crossed the bridge". The Americans stroll with Soviet Russia to defeat Hitler, sanctioned the rise of an even more powerful totalitarian state, that created an apparently perpetual condition of precarious uncertainty that long outlasted the uneasy alliance that it had brought about. The Americans pursued two post war doctrines in order to prevent conflict. The first was collective security, through the new United Nation's organisation. While the second aimed more particularly at the USSR and her allies was the policy of containment. Both these doctrines received their first major test, when in June 1950 the North Koreans launched a surprise attack on their southern neighbours on the other side of the 38th parallel. This pushed the boundaries of the Cold War towards 'Warm War' and challenged both the American doctrines, would one, collective security conceived to deal with a war in the image of World War II be capable of dealing with the post- war world, and would, containment the other a designed for the particular menace, survive its first major challenge with its fundamental principals intact. The Korean War raged for three years, 984,000 U.N. casualties were recorded, and most embaressingly for the superpowers involve in this proxy war- the stalemate of ceasefire prevails to this day. However, while the Korean war was not a military success for either power, for the Americans it provided a testing ground for both collective security and containment. ...read more.


The Korean War earned the United Nations respect by its ability to take prompt and direct action, a failing that bedevils many variants of collective security systems. It also succeeded in using a combined force to stop aggression, as a coalition of fifteen states were active in Korea, although the Americans provided both the command and a majority of the troops. However, this American preponderance within the UN action, led the UN to be perceived as an American puppet, who undermined the premises of its own charter, (namely the notion of security under the auspices of the Permanent Members of the Security Council), in order to fulfil the doctrine of Collective security. The Korean War was the first test of the U.N., although it provided evidence that on under less than ideal circumstances a form of collective security could work, the tensions evidenced in this conflict were to become more apparent. In the Cold War ideological cleavage their could be little agreement on what was a legitimate use of force, and great problems arose in defining aggression. Depending on your side in the Cold War, in conflicts such the Suez you took different views on who was the initial aggressor. For two decades U.N. Committees sought furtively to define aggression. A list of acts of aggression was followed but the proviso that the Security Council could determine that other acts also constituted aggression. Even when armed force had been used, they could could choose not declare there had been an act of aggression. So as far as the U.N. was concerned, aggression was committed when the Security Council said so. Everything depended on Security Council consensus, a rare occurrence during the Cold War. ...read more.


preventative diplomacy. Rather than identifying and punishing the aggressor, as the doctrine of collective security suggests, the United Nations would assemble independent forces and interpose them between the warring powers. The model developed by Dag Hammarskj´┐Żld and Lester Pearson in 1956. Even though the Cold War prevented the United Nations from using the revised doctrine of collective security, as indicated during the Korean War, the United Nations was forced to revert to preventative diplomacy to avoid becoming as irrelevant as its predecessor, however, although the UN played a significant role it was not collective security. Korea was a partial success for the League of Nations, but evidence of the origins of the deficiencies of collective security in the post war world. However, to deem Korea a victory for Containment is too simplistic. Containment, was an evolving doctrine- and Korea marked the victory of a particular form of containment, namely that espoused in NSC- 68 over the notions of containment, championed at the beginning of the Cold War by George Kennan. Truman's policy switch between Kennan's assymetrical containment and NSC-68's symmetrical scheme. This victory for NSC-68 was ultimately reinforced by NSC- 141, but the Korean War can be seen as a key turning point in the history of the doctrine of containment, it undermined the doctrine of collective security and provided the catalyst that saw the recommendations of NSC-68 overtake Kennan's interpretation of containment. Containment in its various forms, remained the doctrine in practice of the USA (unlike collective security which persisted only as the doctrine in theory of the UN) for the next thirty years and the origins of both these trends can be seen in America's reaction to events on the Korean Peninsula in 1950. John Lewis Gaddis 'Strategies of Containment' Adam Roberts & Benedict Kingsley 'United Nations, Divided World' ...read more.

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