The United States and Soviet Union


To understand why the United States came to the defense of South Korea in 1950 you

need some background information. According to the textbook, the United States was afraid that

the Soviet Union was going to expand communism to other nations which is why American

foreign policy focused on containment of communism at home and abroad. This concerned

Europe as well as Asia. The Korean War was the first major battle waged in the name of

containment. According to the lecture notes, in 1950 Korea was divided along the 38th parallel:

North Korea (backed by the Soviets) and South Korea (backed by the United States). In 1945,

the Soviet Union invaded Korea which was originally under Japanese control since 1910. The

United States was afraid that the Soviets were trying to seize the entire Korean peninsula from

their position in the north. Therefore, the United States moved its troops into South Korea. In the

video as well as in the primary source reading, Truman stated that it was right for the

government to help South Korea against communist aggressors. The Japanese surrendered to the

Soviets in the north and to the Americans in the south. To avoid confusion regarding Korea’s

future, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to temporarily dividing Korea into the

north and south. In 1946, Kim II Sung had a communist government in the north while Syngman

Rhee set up a rival government in the south. Each government’s aim was to reunify the country

under its own rule.

President Truman decided to fight a “limited war” in Korea. What he means by this is he

doesn’t want to widen the war to China. As explained in the lecture notes, Truman was unwilling

to attack mainland China directly to escalate the war. He feared that such an attack would lead to

another world war. This is why he decided to relieve General MacArthur from his duties because

he disagreed with this policy. Truman made it known in his speech that the cause of world peace

is greater than any individual. In Truman’s speech on April 11, 1951, he explains that the

communists want to stamp out freedom all over the world and if they succeeded the United

States would be the principal victim.

Truman argues by fighting a limited war in Korea “we have prevented aggression from

succeeding and bringing on a general war.” He argues that the ability of the whole free world to

resist communist aggression has been greatly improved and that the United States has taught the

enemy a lesson. Aggression is not cheap nor is it easy. He also argues that “a resolute stand in

Korea is helping the forces of freedom now fighting in Indochina and other countries in that part

of the world.” Starting a general war in China would bring about something the United States

was trying to prevent. The United States’ aim is to avoid the spread of the conflict. They wanted

to maintain international peace and security. Truman wanted to ensure that the precious lives of

his fighting men were not wasted.

I think that Truman was correct in his approach. I think by focusing all his energy into

accomplishing America’s mission of maintaining international peace and security by any means

is more important than anything else. I do not think that invading China would accomplish

anything. I think all it would do is lead to more American casualties and further conflict.

America was already dealing with the Soviet Union. They didn’t need to get involved in another

conflict with another nation. They would be going against everything they stand for. I think the

American people would not take Truman seriously if he decided to invade China. His speeches

never wavered in wanting peace. The Soviet Union would probably want the United States to get

involved and why give the enemy what they want? I believe Truman was thinking smart and

strategic and not on impulse.