Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism, Technology > Why was USA Unable to Win Korean War in the 1950s: Apr 22, 2017

Why was USA Unable to Win Korean War in the 1950s: Apr 22, 2017

Events in the previous few weeks have shown, with unusual clarity, that the conflict between N.Korea and USA which started in 1950 is still ongoing. While it is true that there has been no large-scale fighting between the N.Korea and USA (or its proxy S. Korea) since an armistice was signed in 1954, it is fair to say that things have never gone to back to normal in that part of the world. Between the annual military exercises by S. Korea and USA and counter mobilizations by N. Korea, the situation in that part of the world is still potentially volatile, and has been so for a long time. It certainly does not help that leaders of all countries involved have a habit of speaking past each other.

While it is highly unlikely that either N. Korea or S. Korea will ever resume that war on their own accord, persistent meddling by USA in that part of the world (as in many others) make it far more likely than otherwise. As many of you also know, such an event would be disastrous for both N. Korea, S. Korea and potentially Japan- basically all involved countries within the range of older and well-tested N. Korean nuclear tipped missiles. Even the USA would not be able to come out well, since any use of nukes by USA would ensure that every country capable of building nuclear weapons would do so immediately. To put it another way, such a war would be an epic disaster on multiple levels and for all parties involved.

But have you ever asked yourself- how did things in that part of the world get so crazy in the first place? Why did the Korean war start and why did countries such as USA, China, Russia and many others get involved in it? But perhaps most importantly.. why was USA unable to win the Korean war just a few years after it was able to win WW2 against Japan and to a lesser extent against Germany?

To better understand the many reasons USA was unable to win the Korean war in the 1950s, it is necessary to first appreciate that the Korean war was the beginning of the end for white-majority countries being able to dominate the rest of the world via military force. It is no exaggeration to say the “west” has never since been able to win against a determined and mobilized non-white adversary since that time. But why not? Was it because the “west” became softer and more humane.. or any other bullshit reasons peddled by CONservatives and other assorted jingoistic idiots in USA?

Let us look at facts about the Korean war as they have been acknowledged by official sources in USA. It is known, for example that USA dropped more tons of bombs on N. Korea during early stages of Korean war than they did on Japan during the entirety of WW2. It is also a fact that USA bombed and destroyed every building in almost every single N. Korean city. It is also a fact that bombing by USA killed somewhere between a third and fifth of the N. Korean population. Here is an article with a slightly longer explanation of what USA did in the Korean war.

In other words, the inability of USA to win the Korean war was not due to it being ‘soft’ or ‘humane’. In fact, USA did something lost the Vietnam war in spite of doing something similar in Vietnam and Cambodia during the war. Another more recent example of this phenomenon is the USA losing the Iraq war even after directly and indirectly killing over a million Iraqis between 1991 and today.

So, why was the USA unable to win the Korean war? There was certainly no shortage of bombs, aircraft, tanks, soldiers, guns or even large staging areas and bases close to the theater of conflict. Yet, for reasons I shall get into soon, the best they could achieve was an armistice where the new boundary between the two Koreas was almost identical to the pre-war one. Why didn’t bombing N.Korea heavily in the first few months of war and killing people at higher percentages than in Germany and Japan during WW2 translate into a decisive military victory? Why did the military strategy behind american success in WW2 fail so quickly after that war was over? And why has it subsequently failed and in every war since then?

Well.. here are the reasons, in no particular order, behind the inability of USA and other western countries to win a war against non-white countries since the end of WW2. Regular readers of my blog might realize that some of my older posts have briefly touched on a couple of them.

1] Wars in which the local population of a country or region have a personal stake are very different from wars pursued by elites in those countries. For example, Saddam Hussein’s habit of promoting his own ethnic group in Iraq and getting into unwinnable wars with huge human costs had greatly diminished his popularity among most Iraqis a few years before 1991. That is why the Iraqi armed forces gave up fighting and mass-deserted so readily in 1991 and 2003. Contrast this to the unremitting armed resistance by Iraqis (especially Sunni Arabs) to american occupation from 2003 onward which were only temporarily suppressed between 2007-2009 by bribing Iraqis on a massive scale to not kill american soldiers.

My point is that, the Korean war was largely seen by the local population (especially in N.Korea) as an attempt to reintegrate the country and expel foreigners who had humiliated and almost enslaved them for a couple of generations. In case you do not know what I am talking about.. read a bit about all the wonderful stuff that went on in Korea under Japanese rule between 1910 and 1945. Koreans had, and have, every right to be angry about their treatment under Japanese colonization. Perhaps more importantly, the post-1945 occupation by USA of southern regions of Korea and their multiple attempts to install puppet governments within a short period while making no attempt to help rebuild the country made them look just like the previous Japanese colonizers of that country.

It is therefore no surprise that Kim Il-Sung and his followers had far less trouble convincing his own people to fight foreign occupiers of their country than getting China and Russia to provide military and other assistance for doing so. In many ways, this situation is very similar to what occurred in Vietnam a decade or two later. While we can certainly argue about whether the elder Kim was a “good guy” or “bad guy” it is clear that he had extensive popular support within the northern half of Korea in the early 1950s. In other words, the Korean war was about USA fighting an entire people rather than a system of governance- like they had in Germany and Japan.

2] The american strategy of leveling N. Korean cities by massive aerial bombing was ineffective and supremely counterproductive. As mentioned previously in this post, the USAF was involved in bombing N. Korean cities on a massive scale in the first few months of the war. However, unlike in Germany and Japan during WW2, massive and indiscriminate bombing of cities was not effective in disrupting the N. Korean war effort- largely because all their supplies and weapons were coming in from adjacent countries such as China and Russia. These mass bombing raids did, however, make many more N. Koreans willing to fight to the bitter end. To put it another way, mass bombing of cities and heavy casualties made it impossible for N. Korea and USA to reach a negotiated end to that war.

You might recall that the USA did something similar in Vietnam and Cambodia a decade or so after the Korean war and the end results were rather similar. In other words, aerial bombardment by conventional weapons is incapable of winning wars against adversaries who are not centralized and have the ability to keep on importing weapons and other supplies. Aerial bombardment, if anything, creates more popular support for the cause for which they are being bombarded. This is borne out by the continued inability of USA to win against the Taliban in Afghanistan, various tribal groups in Yemen, Iraq.. the list goes on and on. Bombing non-white people in faraway places does however create millions of jobs in USA and massively enrich a very small number of people. But that is a topic for another post.

3] Thirdly, the level of weapon technology of countries and groups fighting USA is within the same bracket. Colonial wars in 18th and 19th century typically saw Africans with spears mass charging white men with rifles and machine guns or Asians with far inferior gunpowder weapons and tactics fighting against people with better technology and organisation. Somewhere between WW1 and WW2, this started changing as “western” weapon technology and tactics diffused through the rest of the world. Consequently, white soldiers of a western power now face non-whites who posses weapons in the same technology bracket and tactics to match them. Furthermore, their non-white opponents have a much better understanding of their environment and motivation to keep on fighting.

The overall point I am trying to make in this post is a number of large-scale and systemic changes have made it impossible for USA, or any other western country, to win a military confrontation that is not on their own soil. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the population of western countries, especially the USA, still harbor the delusional belief that they can win military victories in other countries. More regrettably, if predictably, the military-industrial complex in countries such as USA keep on fueling the popular delusional idea that their extra shiny toys can win wars against people with more of the less shinier toys. I just don’t see it ending well for USA as a country or other governments stupid enough to support them.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. Leeduva
    April 23, 2017 at 12:00 am

    Speaking of CONservative,you may want to take a look at this. http://www.businessinsider.com/lawyer-alex-jones-infowars-playing-character-acting-2017-4

  2. Chris
    April 23, 2017 at 12:28 am

    ‘Why was USA Unable to Win Korean War in the 1950s’

    It’s called Chinese intervention. If suddenly 300.000 Soviet troops entered Iraq and attacked the US led coalition what do you think would happen?

    So why didn’t USA attack China? Remember that in 1950 Russia has only just conducted their first nuke test. What prevented USA from attacking China? Here is a hint.. bullies have no appetite for a real fight.

    • Chris
      April 23, 2017 at 2:08 am

      ‘So why didn’t USA attack China?’

      They did. Within the Korean borders. Attacking Chinese space would lead to war between China and the West. Neither side wanted such an escalation.
      Attacking China with nukes would ‘win’ the Korean war but it would also lead to WW3 aka Fallout universe.

      ‘Remember that in 1950 Russia has only just conducted their first nuke test.’

      At the time US intelligence on Soviet strength and capabilities (especially nuclear) was limited. As I said before neither side wanted a nuclear escalation.

      that is what I meant by bullies not having the appetite for a real fight.

  3. webej
    April 23, 2017 at 4:55 am

    Your are giving the USA too much credit for the victories against Germany and Japan. The real war was the East Front, where 80% of the military casualties took place. Germans were stationed in the West as a “vacation” from the East. German power was waning already when the Normandy offensive started. Aerial bombardments have never proven a determining factor on the ground, even though you would rather be able to marshal them than not.
    Japan also fought a debilitating war with among others China. The Chinese celebrated the end of WW2 for the first time in 2015 after 7o years, because that is how long it took them to recover, so they say. There were around 20 million Chinese casualties, and a lot of Japanese casualties. This is the stage where Mao-Tse-Tung achieved ascendancy: rolling back the Japanese occupation.

    Yes, Russia did most of the heavy lifting as far as defeating Germany in WW2 and making Japan capitulate in the end.

    Even though American technology and industrial prowesse played a significant role in WW2, the role of American troops in wearing down the “enemy” has been exaggerated. I would say that even in WW2 aerial bombardment was not a decisive strategy. Americans are only fond of wars in which they have overwhelming advantages, and have little taste for a real fight. Not that I want them to develop as much: sane people are war averse, but when it comes to defending their own country and people …. they have nothing to lose.

    that is what I meant by bullies not wanting to get into a conflict where there is a real risk of them getting hurt or worse.

  4. April 23, 2017 at 9:13 am

    You’ve got it all wrong, the reason was the same as why we lost Vietnam. Our leadership did not want to win. You cannot win with just defense and that is what we were doing, Truman did not allow our ground forces to advance beyond the 38th parallel just like our ground forces in Vietnam were not allowed to invade the North.

    Trying to rewrite history, are we?

    Now as far as the wars in the middle east we did “win” the ground war but the difference between Asian countries (or European for that matter) and ME countries is Islam and tribalism. Most Asian cultures are pragmatic and homogeneous or non-tribal (as were European countries at the end of WWII) at their core and once they lost they adapted to the winners rules fairly quickly. In the ME the culture is totally counter to this, the people are loyal to the tribe first and Islam second and no way in hell are they going to bend to a foreign power unless they are brutalized into submission (and even then they will be just biding their time waiting to rebel). This is why these countries are usually ruled by brutal dictators like Saddam, it’s the only way they can maintain the peace. Just look what happens when the US takes out the dictator (like in Iraq, Libya, etc.) the tribes rise up and fight for dominance. Plus it is even worse as the US is a non-Muslim country so it takes on a religious jihad against the infidels as well.

    So.. USA did not win in Korea and lost in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    So going back to North Korea, we should have just rolled to the Chinese border as once we had defeated the initial Chinese waves they were pretty much done and we could have done so (as MacArthur wanted to do but Truman canned him). The situation now in North Korea is getting more and more unstable as internally the North Koreans are not as isolated as they were in years past thanks to cross border trade with China and cell phones. Thus the current little Kim is cracking down and rattling sabers to try and maintain control. I doubt that he’ll be able to stay in power much longer but I think that it is far more likely that the Chinese do something (like support an internal coup) than the US starting a war there again which the South Koreans definitely do not want as it would greatly disrupt their economy.

    You do realize that the land area of China is the same as continental USA.. right?

  5. April 23, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    I’m not rewriting history, I realize perfectly well that we pushed into N.K. after almost totally loosing during the initial invasion of N.K. into the south and then thanks to some gutsy moves by MacArthur we managed to almost eliminate the N.K. army and pushed almost to the Chinese/Russian border. Before almost getting wiped out by the Chinese. It was after Truman fired MacArthur that they changed strategy at the end, instead of trying to win the goal was to maintain the (roughly) the original 38th parallel. There was no strategy to win at that point but to fight to a stalemate and negotiate a “peace”. And yes MacArthur was trying to finish the job by invading the Chinese which is not as crazy as it might sound giving the history of the Chinese military failures against the Japanese, I just don’t think at that point the American people had the will and certainly the American pols did not.

    And more accurate would be the USA tied in Korea, lost in Vietnam trying to do what we did in Korea and although we won the “war” in Iraq and Afghanistan we lost the nation building attempt.

    • Jim
      April 23, 2017 at 8:26 pm

      Yep. Either fight to win or don’t fight at all.

      Also on point of so called Soviet heavy lifting during WW2. How we forget that they shot soldiers that retreated so either they died fighting the Nazi’s or by other Soviets. Without the D-Day invasion and the opening of a 2nd front, Stalin would’ve had to face the divisions that were kept in reserve in the west.

      • webej
        April 24, 2017 at 3:51 am

        You’re missing the point. The tide had already turned at D-Day. D-Day was needed for fear that the Soviets would overrun the west. The most important battles were all in the rear view mirror. Yes, Stalin is not my role model. But he had been begging for years for that second front. Perceptions on WW2 have been shifting continually since it happened, all in the direction of how it was an American war won by Americans. Historians do not back this up.

      • Jim
        April 24, 2017 at 6:56 pm

        It was a war won by American production. That is a fact.

        Perhaps you might want to read a bit about how many tanks, aircraft, artillery pieces and guns were produced by USSR during WW2.

        Here is a hint.. it exceeded what USA achieved during the same period.

  6. Yusef
    April 26, 2017 at 9:31 am

    The German high command never believed the German military could be victorious in a second world war and were basically dragged into the conflict against their will. (As were the German people.) This is a major reason why the German high command, including Rommel, attempted to assassinate Adolph Hitler in the middle of the war. (Hitler would have been satisfied to see Germany annihilated, every man and woman killed, than face defeat, once defeat was inevitable.(Maybe as early as Dunkirk.))

    Actually, Germany had a pretty decent chance of winning WW2 if they had restricted their territorial ambitions to western Europe.

    It’s not that WWII wasn’t a real war, just that its outcome, from the beginning, was about as certain as it can be in war. I hate to see all this history forgotten as people debate who deserves credit for the “victory.”

    Actually USA would not have been able to do much to change the results of WW2 if most German armed forces were not tied up on the eastern front.

    Maybe we need to debate the very concept “victory.” What exactly does it mean, what are its “rewards?” Another thing we forget is that most people, especially combat veterans, understood there were no victors in modern war. Also, something has to change in our very mode of existence if human beings are to survive, let alone thrive. This fat boy who thinks he’s tough and now President of the United States is the very antithesis of the kind of leader– leading in the wrong direction– we had to avoid.

    Face it, he has been far more successful than any middle-eastern leader who was stupid enough to even momentarily believe even a single word uttered by USA.

    • Yusef
      April 28, 2017 at 9:28 am

      Actually, Germany had a pretty decent chance of winning WW2 if they had restricted their territorial ambitions to western Europe.

      “If” Germany had restricted its ambitions….The problem with that is there never was any question Germany would not open an eastern front. (The war commenced with Germany’s attack on Poland, to Germany’s east.) You forget Hitler thought the eastern front would be easily conquered, and Indeed he had considerable success until he hit the Russian population centers.


      Well.. Hitler and his cronies (unlike the professional military types) believed in a lot of half-baked BS, and early success on eastern front + previous dismal performance of USSR in Finnish war made them believe that they would win against Russia within a year.

      Face it, he has been far more successful than any middle-eastern leader who was stupid enough to even momentarily believe even a single word uttered by USA.

      I am saying no one is “victorious” or “successful” in modern warfare.

      If Trump drums up a war with N.Korea, I think you are correct– the U.S. will not be victorious. But that’s in part because such wars allow for no victory, no success, for anyone, in any way.

      But that is the illusion sold by establishment in USA to the more gullible among its citizenry- which is what makes the N.Korea situation so problematic.

  1. September 12, 2017 at 2:14 pm

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