The Korean War Makes No Sense
What are we trying to prove? Asked Robert Ruark

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| September 1, 2017      

The Korean War Makes No Sense | Robert C. Ruark (1951)

By the end of active hostilities in Korea in July 1953, America had suffered:

• 36,574 fatalities
• 103,284 wounded
• 7,800 missing
• $67 billion spent

Famed writer Robert C. Ruark (1915-1965) a Hemingwayesque author, syndicated Scripps-Howard newspaper columnist, outdoorsman and world traveller who served in the Navy during World War II, saw this coming.

His scathing 1951 indictment of the undeclared Korean War, “a fight we dare not try to win; in a valiant effort toward defeat”, foretold not only that particular debacle, but future U.S. wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Under the obstinate Truman administration, the United States fought, bled, and ultimately failed in their “police action”. Today, the Hermit Kingdom is more lethal and paranoid than ever, yet President Trump has said “talking is not the answer”. He declared Pyongyang faces “fire and fury like the world has never seen”, then subsequently doubled down, saying that his verbal threat of nuclear annihilation didn’t go far enough. This should end well.

December 1, 1951

Like Chess in a Madhouse
By Robert C. Ruark

Writer Robert C. Ruark (1915-1965) I cannot expert you on the Korean war, first because I wasn’t in it, and second because it isn’t a war in any true sense of war — except, of course, to the people who got killed in it. And even so it was more of a political traffic accident.

I was only mixed up in one war, which was considerably less governed by ground rules. I never heard of a war before where the commander gets fired for trying to win it, or a war which runs back and forth and back again, like a dog chasing its tail. I never heard of war which is fought part-time, or where atrocity killings of prisoners are debated in terms of timing of announcement. Or a war which goes on in a I-won’t-shoot-you-if-you-don’t-shoot-me-first basis.

To consider the silliness of humankind you have only to race backward over the conduct of this “police action” in Korea, and you will swear it never happened. It has been played from start to finish like a game of chess in a madhouse. The single tragedy is that the chessmen have been kids, and tired old retreats, and weary pros. But what it has proved I will defy any expert to tell me.

I expect that the good, and retired, Gen. Willoughby can call me a journalistic rag picker, like he called the other fellers, but I do not see how it is possible to look at the Korean mess without heavy criticism of its conduct. It has been a sour operation from its cocksure start. Apart from affording the Russians a few laughs and a chance to test their equipment, very little has been accomplished past the deaths of a great many nice young men who had a very slight interest in what South Koreans did to North Koreans.

It is here that I must confess my ignorance of global scheming, but I will bet my ignorance against that of the politicians who decided that this was it, this was the time to send somebody else to, do something vague in a futile fashion.

I think back a bit: you can’t bomb the bases or blockade the ports because the Chinese won’t like it, even while the Chinese are killing your people.

You can’t do this, you can’t do that. You take this hill and lose it, and take it again and lose it again. You cease fire here and observe a perimeter there. No war makes sense; this thing in Korea hasn’t even been a sensible guerrilla action.

Nobody yet has been able to tell me what we are trying to prove. I’ve read most of it, and all that comes out is that we are in a fight we dare not try to win; in a valiant effort toward defeat. We have marked time with lives, like a man playing solitaire and cheating himself.

This Gen. Willoughby, [Charles A. Willoughby] MacArthur’s intelligence boy, accuses a half-dozen writers and three magazines of giving “aid and comfort to the enemy,” when the greatest giver of aid and comfort to the enemy has been the political conduct of a war that isn’t a war except people get killed in it.

The most comforting aspect of the war, to the enemy, has been our participation in it. Willoughby hollers about the press accounts of the foul-ups in Korea, but Harry Truman canned the old man, MacArthur, for a soldierly effort to triumph over the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval under which this mock war is being fought. [Gen. Douglas MacArthur, fired on April 11, 1951]

When and if the armistice, or whatever you call it, is signed and sealed with the correct blood — I mean ink — the Korean conflict will certainly have to go down in the books as the All-Time Idiots’ Delight.

We have spent lives. We have spent money. We have managed to look pretty silly. What military effort we might have mustered seemed to have been squandered for purposes I know not of.

Like I said earlier, I can’t expert it for you. But I can sure be puzzled by it all, and may find some outside agreement in the old gag that if this is war, it is one hell of a way to run a railroad.

Alternate titles:

Idiots’ Delight
Unwarlike Gestures
Korean Mess Is Exactly That
Pawns In Korea Chess Game Were Many Nice Young Men

THE WRATH OF GOD | Bruce Barton's prayerful anti-war sermon (1951)
Is War “Christian”? — Bruce Barton on God & War (1951)

Related links:

In Stirring Speech, Rep. Thomas J. Lane Defends Korean War Veterans (1952)

George E. Sokolsky: Soldiers killed in Korean War denied full dignity on gravestones (1951)

Bogey Man Tactics | The Danville Bee, May 8, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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