Politics and the Truman MacArthur Contoversy

July 7,2000

Politics and the Truman/MacArthur Controversy

The precarious “peace” following World War II was at times only seconds from degenerating into a world wide nuclear war. The intensity of the cold war allowed for minimal error in foreign policy. It was during this tense and volatile time that General Douglas MacArthur fought what some deem “his” war in Korea. While he had proven himself time and again a brilliant military leader, his behavior was not impeccable. He tended to rely too much on his own authority, a trait not dear to Congress or the President. It was this tendency towards insubordination and his flagrant vocal outbursts that resulted in his dismissal on April 11, 1951, by President Harry S. Truman.1
The outcome of World War II left the world in an unprecedented situation. The two primary Allied powers, the United States, a capitalist nation, and the Soviet Union, a communist nation, were political polar opposites. The differences between the two political ideologies lent the two nations to a natural rivalry.
The post World War II world was a prime playing field for this rivalry to unfold. Most of the world powers had been completely devastated, leaving formerly self-sufficient nations and their colonies in complete governmental and economic disarray. Subsequently they were susceptible to the influence of anyone offering assistance either governmentally of economically. Hence, the rivalry that had begun prior to the war was foregone out of the necessity to defeat a common foe once again began again in earnest.
It was against this backdrop of fear and the burgeoning Cold War that General MacArthur would wage his war in Korea. The Soviet Union felt that the spread of communism was imminent and set about to assist that trend. At the same time the Soviet Union wanted to ensure that they would not be invaded again. If control of Eastern Europe could be retained they would be n essence killing two birds with one stone, furthering their political ideology and creating a buffer zone between themselves and anyone wishing to invade the Soviet Union.
The United States was convinced that the soviets were intent upon the world domination of communism and that they would aggressively pursue that goal.2 This coupled with the blossoming of nuclear technology elevated the stakes. The United States had effectively ended World War II with the dropping of the atom bomb in Japan.Soviet nuclear technology was not far behind thanks to the infiltration of American government by soviet spies.
Until the onset of the Cold War Korea would have been a non issue. .A remote place in respect to the United States, a war on behalf of Korea would never have occurred prior to the cold war and its foreign policies. However, the intense competition between communism and capitalism worldwide was enough to make the political status of Korea an important issue in American politics.3 When China became a communist nation the United States became willing to go to great lengths to ensure that no other East Asian nations succumbed to Communism. Thus a civil war in Korea led by a communist regime resulted in American intervention. This situation evolved into the Korean War. True to its oath to go to all lengths to contain communism, the United States dispatched its most decorated general, Douglas MacArthur, to head the forces in Korea.
General Douglas MacArthur had been in the Far East for many years. Prior to the war general Macarthur had been commander in the Philippines and during the war he had led the Allied forces in the Far East. At the close of the war he had been appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in the Pacific. It was only natural that he would take control of the Koran situation. General MacArthur had proven himself a brilliant commander during the war and was very aware of his own successes. The fact that he had lived in the region for so long also led him to the conclusion that he understood the situation in the Far East more fully that any other American. These two beliefs played a large part in the culmination of events that led to the dismissal of General MacArthur by President Truman in April of 1951. General MacArthur had a tendency