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Primacy of results over intentions

Posted January. 18, 2022 07:54,   

Updated January. 18, 2022 07:54


On the New Year’s Eve in 1950, the communist Chinese troops made a third attempt to invade southern part of the Korean peninsula. Aptly dubbed as “ghost army”, they covertly prepared to attack inside trenches. Soldiers were not even allowed to pee outside their trench. Thanks to such carefulness, the frontline of the Imjin River collapsed, and the allied forces sent by the United Nations were pushed back towards the South of Seoul. And as a result, the Third Battle of Seoul has become part of the painful history of South Korea.  

On December 29, the UN allied forces had been pushed over towards the Imjin River by the Chinese army, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington concluded that the war was unwinnable. They figured the UN forces were not strong enough to fight the communist troops; no more allies were able to send forth more troops to the peninsular; the terrain of the Korean Peninsula was not favorable for battles; America was not able to deploy anymore ground forces; and America must not play gambles on the peninsula, a potential battleground for another world war.  

The Joint Chiefs of Staff first advised Gen. MacArthur to pull out the troops back to the defense line of the Geumgang River in a bid to stave off the attack, on the premise that when the Geumgang collapse, the allied forces should withdraw to Japan.

Gen. MacArthur was enraged. He made it clear that he refuses to give upon South Korea in a strongly worded letter and claimed that the communist troops can and must be fended off, even mentioning an extreme means.

Some scholars in the U.S. still lament the sacrifice of many young men and say it was a mistake for the general to take part in the Korean War. They deride the extreme means that Gen. MacArthur mentioned in his letter. They argue MacArthur made such a wild case not because he cared about Korea, but because his god complex made it impossible for him to eat crow. This sentiment was also shared by some of the officials at the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Things were touch and go, but the allied forces managed to survive the third attack and push back the fourth. A month later, no one said that the war was unwinnable anymore. Irrespective of the general’s intentions, South Korea benefited from his intervention. What matters is a result, not intentions. That is how international relations work.