The Americans had tacitly accepted war at secondhand with the Communist center of power

Friday, October 9th, 2020

The punishment the U.N. and its agent, the United States, proposed to visit upon the Communist world was greater than the Communist world was willing to accept, T. R. Fehrenbach explains (in This Kind of War):

Just as the United States had not been able to stand idly by in June as a friendly dependency was overwhelmed, in October the men of Peiping and the Kremlin felt they could not permit the forcible separation of North Korea from their own sphere.


If the U.S.S.R.’s stance were different from America’s, if it could not cease pushing, probing, and risking, it was because Soviet foreign policy was aggressive and expansionist. Communist ideology was far more than a tool to such expansion. It remained a taskmaster forcing the Soviets to it. Unless, with time, Communist ideology could be diluted, or diverted from the narrow precepts of Lenin, there could never be any true peace between Communists and the West. Westerners, tending to be pragmatic and liberal in viewpoint, often miscounted the driving reality of Communist dogmatism.

Russians, determined to oppose the American action in Korea, saw clearly that a confrontation of American troops with Russian, a direct clash, must inevitably escalate into general war, whether the governments wanted it or not. But the West had accepted Soviet arms in the hands of a satellite people; even though they had been drawn into the bloodletting themselves, the Americans had tacitly accepted war at secondhand with the Communist center of power. To substitute another Communist people, the Chinese, for the North Koreans, was not to change materially the tenuous…

The Communist leaders, desperate to save both their face and North Korea, felt that if new forces were hurled into the Korean cockpit, so long as the move did not seem to be a direct confrontation of the major powers, the conflict could still be limited to the peninsula.

And on the peninsula they felt they still might win.

Equally important, Red China was ready and spoiling for war.

The Chinese Communists, newly come to power, were driven by that dynamic puritanism that accompanies all great revolutions. Like the French in 1793, they not only desired conflict with the “evil” surrounding them; they needed it. Their hold on the millions of the sprawling Middle Kingdom was far from consolidated, and a controlled, limited war would consolidate it as nothing else could do.


Just as the northern states of the American Union have overlooked and forgotten their occupation and reconstruction of the southern states, the West has dismissed the painful humiliations repeatedly visited upon the ancient Sinic culture in the past hundred years.


  1. RLVC says:


    “The punishment that the U.N. and its agent, the United States…”

    This is one of the most interesting turns of phrase that I have ever witnessed.

  2. Isegoria says:

    The phrasing is Fehrenbach’s, and you’re right, it is interesting.

  3. Prism says:

    ‘that dynamic puritanism that accompanies all great revolutions’

    Funny how Yanks never seem to see that about their own spiralling series of revolutions. But, of course, despite never seeming to make it to either the Atlantic or Pacific shores, it is always others who are the aggressors.

  4. RLVC says:

    Perhaps I will read Fehrenbach after all. Have you read The Gnomes of Zurich, The Swiss Banks, or The United Nations in war and peace?

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