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Three score and eight years after North and South Korea found themselves in a deadly embrace to determine which would survive the Korean War/Police Action, they're now feeling their way toward a peaceful and even amicable settlement of their still outstanding differences.

Peace, it would be wonderful even if neither side may yet be ready to confess their peaceful intentions toward the other lest they be accused of growing soft on their traditional enemy. What a strange world we all live in--a world in which good news is denied and mutual threats played up.

In a speech on the 68th anniversary of the surprise attack on the South by the North's well armed and equipped legions, once again this country and its allies had been caught flat-footed by an aggressor. North Korea still has an estimated 1,000 pieces of artillery and a variety of rockets spread out all along the 155-mile border that still separates the two by now traditional enemies. They should serve as a reminder of just how combustible that part of the world can be, and why it's so necessary to keep watch on the 38th parallel that still divides these two very different nations and political, social and economic systems. The world ought to be sighing with relief as bellicose threats are replaced by signs of mutual understanding. Welcome, white doves of peace, in place of the dark ravens of war.

Like two scorpions trapped in the same bottle, the two Koreas now circle each other warily while an anxious world waits to see if we are watching the first sprouts of a long awaited peace between nations or the coming of a third world war that could end it all. For isn't this where we all came in back on June 26, 1950?

Back then this country was led by a president from the Show Me state who preferred to let his judicious actions speak louder than any raucous words. On that momentous day in that pre-Twitter era, Harry S. Truman went straight to Blair House, then serving as a temporary White House, which is where he conferred with the full roster of his military and political advisers. Then he decided to order the Seventh Fleet to neutralize Taiwan and directed General Douglas MacArthur to give the South Koreans arms, air and naval support and generally rally to their support.

The unafraid but also ill-informed American eagle, with its talons holding both arrows and an olive branch, would soon mobilize the whole of the free world against the present and ever clearer danger to the peace of the world, not to say its very existence. "Everything I have done for the last five years," Mr. Truman would declare, "has been to try to avoid making a decision such as I have had to make tonight."

Seldom has a nation been led into war by a less willing commander than Harry Truman, but he knew well the importance of collective security for a world that would be left fractured and divided without such a concept to keep it together and pulling in the same direction.

The president's decision to intervene in the struggle between the two Koreas, one free and the other slave, was, in the words of one writer, "like a gust of wind blowing away a fog of uncertainty and gloom ... Here at last was the courage to tackle the aggressor." The GOP's leaders in those days--like Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York and John Foster Dulles, the party's one-man brain trust--were effusive in their praise of Mr. Truman's decision to rally the forces of freedom against those of world-wide tyranny. Like so many wars, this one would begin with high hopes-- before those hopes ran aground on stony reality.

Recommended reading: American Epoch: A History of the United States Since 1900 by Arthur S. Link, whose detailed history of those years still stands as a tribute to his all-embracing scholarship.


Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Editorial on 07/04/2018

Print Headline: The rocky road to peace


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