The Hard Truth About Long Wars
Why the Conflict in Ukraine Won’t End Anytime Soon
AN ANCIENT Korean proverb states: "You can mend with a trowel today what it will take a spade to mend tomorrow." The Republic of Korea, believing in the importance of careful advance preparations for the future, is vitally interested in the current discussion of the proposed Pacific Pact. Even in the midst of her bitter struggle for survival as a nation, Korea regards with deep interest the possibility of a security framework in the Pacific area. Her present goal, of course, is the establishment of a unified, independent and democratic Korea. But she fully realizes that--even after having achieved this goal completely--she could not long exist as a free state if peace and security had not been established on a sound basis throughout the Pacific.
The most far-sighted and efficient method of achieving stability in the Far East would be the early initiation and conclusion of a comprehensive Pacific Pact patterned broadly along the lines of the Atlantic Pact, though not restricted to a particular number of signatories. Naked Communist aggression has already erupted in Asia, and there is an urgent need to weld the heterogeneous Far Eastern states into a solid, strong and coöperative bloc.
Special Ambassador John Foster Dulles told the United Nations Association of Japan on April 23, 1951, that the United States does not intend to abandon Asia and is taking concrete steps to build up a multi-power security arrangement. To prove continued American determination to stand firmly in Asia, he said that the United States is prepared to conclude a mutual defense arrangement with Australia and New Zealand. In discussions, this is being called a "Pacific Pact." At the same time, Mr. Dulles announced that the United States has offered Japan a bilateral security arrangement, and he reiterated the words of President Truman that an armed attack upon the Philippines would be regarded by the United States "as dangerous to its own peace and safety." Furthermore, in its decision to support the United Nations stand against Communist aggression in Korea, the United States also now has an active de facto working alliance with the Republic of Korea.
But, unfortunately, a clear-cut pattern for a strong and homogeneous regional organization does not appear to be emerging at this time from such a combination of assurances, bilateral arrangements, and a narrowly-limited pact. It may well be that the major purpose of the proposed Pacific Pact is to facilitate the rapid conclusion of a Japanese peace treaty by formally assuring Australia and New Zealand that the United States is prepared to defend them against any possible Japanese aggression in the future. If such is the case, then the proposed Pact is unfortunately being oriented toward past events and situations rather than toward the future. Could not a unilateral American declaration just as effectively (and much more simply) accomplish that purpose? If, on the other hand, the development and advancement of a real Pacific community is the goal, then would not the rigidly limited pact that is being currently proposed be dangerously inadequate?
Such an exclusive pact would not promote the mutual and free coöperation of the Asian nations. Indeed, it might very well arouse more enmity than good will among them. The tides of nationalism have risen so high and so rapidly throughout Asia, and the revulsion against the "white man's burden" concept of colonialism is so deep-seated, that such a pact may be construed in many quarters as a "white man's" arrangement for the mutual safety of "white" countries. If that sort of feeling developed throughout the whole East, many nations would adamantly refuse to enter the pact at a later date even if invited. And, of course, the Cominform will exploit to the fullest the natural resentments toward such a pact by connecting it to the familiar Communist charge that the United Nations action in Korea is after all "just another case of the effort of white imperialists to subjugate and colonialize Asia."
The real purpose of a truly regional organization should be to develop most effectively the mutual coöperation of the nations of that area for the common good. A restricted pact, combined with a loose conglomeration of bilateral agreements, might very well produce the exactly opposite result. The fundamental premise of the original North Atlantic Treaty may be construed as being that it is wiser to base a regional organization on a broad membership at its inception, even if this means the sacrifice temporarily of depth in functional powers. Even so, it may not have been broad enough to fulfil its purpose. An "open end" arrangement is more adaptable to changing circumstances; it provides a ready portal for the entrance of a nation which may temporarily wish to abstain. For example, while India may decide initially to remain aloof from an extensive Pacific pact because of her own notions of "neutrality," she could--and probably would--join the organization later when it became evident to her that the majority of the Pacific nations had constructed an effective security mechanism. Finally, such a nonrestricted and broad arrangement would be more in conformity with the general philosophy and principles expressed in the United Nations Charter.
As the pact proposed by Ambassador Dulles stands now--even with the possible formal inclusion of the Philippines and Japan--it consists only of the Pacific island nations and the United States. It contains no Asiatic mainland countries, and overlooks Canada as a Pacific Power. It has been asserted that this pact should logically include only "nations in the Pacific Ocean" and the United States, because if it went beyond that it would then become an "Asia Pact." If the Atlantic Pact had been organized upon a similar basis, it would now include only the United States, Great Britain and Iceland. Furthermore, Americans may well ask themselves how such an exclusive and inflexible Pacific islands pact could increase the security of the United States herself, since it would automatically preclude the possible later admission of the nations of the vast Asian continent.
A true Pacific Pact, to insure the broadest possible membership, should be open not only to all free Asian nations desirous of joining, but should also begin modestly by providing for economic, social and cultural coöperation. As President Syngman Rhee proposed in his Korean Independence Day speech of March 1, 1950, in Seoul: "As I see it, initially, such a pact in the Pacific would not be either directly or indirectly in the nature of a military alliance. It would be an agreement to develop the widest possible interchange between signatories, and the widest possible domestic development within signatory states, of social, cultural and economic intercourse. I propose that we begin at the economic, social and cultural level in developing our pact for the Pacific. How it grows thereafter, time alone can say." Such a beginning would tend to allay the fears of several of the highly "neutralist" countries. For example, Premier Thakin Nu of Burma, although refusing to join a purely military alliance, did express specific interest in participating in an "anti-aggression bloc."[i] Again, Indonesia and Pakistan, while having no apparent desire to join a purely military bloc, have expressed a certain willingness to enter into an organization based upon firm economic and cultural foundations.[ii] And, as the futility of neutrality in today's world becomes more and more patent to these nations, the gradual increase in the military powers of a functioning regional organization will be more readily approved. Indeed, it may be possible in the not too distant future to have a closely organized and potentially powerful high Asian command similar to General Eisenhower's command in Europe. As Dr. Rhee has pointed out: "We all must realize that our security rests basically in our association among the brotherhood of free nations. In today's world, there is no nation, however powerful, that dares to stand alone."
The problem as to which Chinese "government" should be permitted to enter this pact seems to me to be susceptible to plain answer. Since all regional arrangements lie within the jurisdiction of the United Nations Charter, it is reasonable to believe that the Chinese Government sitting legally in the United Nations at the time the Pact is organized would logically be the one eligible for membership in the Pact. I personally believe, of course, that since the Peking régime has deliberately defied the authority of the United Nations, it has forfeited all privileges of participating in collective security agreements. Furthermore, as Dean Rusk, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs, pointed out in his speech on May 18 before the China Institute of America, the Communist régime in China might be "a colonial Russian government" but it certainly isn't Chinese and is not "the government of China." The Nationalist Government more "authentically" represents the people of China, according to Mr. Rusk. It therefore should be considered for membership in the Pact.
Assuming that the peace treaty with Japan had been concluded, Japan might be associated in the broad Pacific Pact in somewhat the same way that plans have been made to associate Germany in the North Atlantic defense arrangements. In this manner, the natural fears of Australia, New Zealand and others of a resurgent Japan could be mitigated. Sir George Sansom, writing in an earlier issue of this magazine,[iii] pointed out that Japan became the "strongest power in eastern Asia largely because it had suited the United Kingdom and the United States to encourage her development." It is to be hoped that those two great nations will in the future desire to develop the several Asian states rather than once again permitting the situation of the early part of the twentieth century whereby all Western hopes for checking the further expansion of Russia rested upon a single country--Japan. A broad pact which would include as many Asian countries as possible, and which would also include both the United States and Canada, could effectively prevent the recurrence of such a situation.
A solidly-rebuilt Korea would also reassure many of the Asian nations subscribing to a Pacific Pact that they need not necessarily fear a possible emergent militarism from a rejuvenated Japan. Since Korea is in the strategic part of north Asia, since she has demonstrated a whole-souled allegiance to the democratic world, and since she has a 4,000-year-old history of nonaggression against her neighbors, she is not likely to be feared or suspected of aggressive designs by the Asians whose friendship the free world desires to keep. Within the limits of her strength, indeed, she would be a barrier to any Japanese dream of making another bid for oriental hegemony.
Indeed, the Republic of Korea not only has a deep and abiding desire to participate in a truly effective regional organization, but feels that she has much to contribute in various fields to such a broad arrangement for Pacific coöperation. Concretely, Korea has all the basic agricultural, mineral, hydroelectric and manpower resources necessary for her development as a dynamic industrial nation. She could thus aid in the development of a more diversified economy for the Pacific community. The Korean Army could also be built up to a point at which it would provide a helpful stabilizing factor for the northeast Asian area. Since the outbreak of hostilities last June, more than 500,000 men have been well trained, in the most adverse circumstances; these Korean soldiers would provide a strong military reserve in a broad policy of collective security in the Pacific. In addition, as Paul Hoffman has said, "Korea is a bastion of democracy," and as such she can help to provide a solid and constructive ideological basis for the new Pact. Korea would indeed be a living proof that it is both possible and feasible to defeat the aggressive designs of internationally irresponsible régimes by collective action.
Of course, Korea cannot contribute to the Pacific community if the Chinese Communist aggression is not clearly defeated; a corpse would make a poor neighbor. In her hours of bitter tragedy, Korea struggles for her survival and for a brighter future. The resiliency of the Republic of Korea has amazed even her closest friends. Despite the blood baths drawn for her by the puppet Pyongyang régime and Communist China, the Republic of Korea has neither drowned, nor sunk into the depths of despair and apathy.
Korea fights for the right to live as an independent, unified and democratic nation. President Truman has declared this to be the aim of United States policy as well. It is also the announced intention of the United Nations. Koreans will be eternally grateful for the friendship and assistance of the United States and the United Nations. My country is proud to be the front-line force of the armies of the free peoples struggling against imperial Communist aggression. Korea did not waver for a moment when the Communists attacked her in June of last year, and she has never hesitated or entertained any thoughts of surrender or appeasement. Longitude and latitude lines on a map are poor substitutes for natural boundaries, as the history of the Mason-Dixon Line, "Fifty-Four-Forty," and Spain's and Portugal's attempted division of the world on a meridian 370 leagues west of Portugal's Cape Verde Islands have proven. Similarly, any talk of the creation of a buffer strip in the northernmost part of Korea is unrealistic. Such proposals would not only neglect to punish the aggressor but would also have the effect of accepting the destruction of the age-old cultural, political, economic and social homogeneity of the Korean people. The natural boundary formed by the Yalu and Tumen Rivers and Mt. Paktusan is the only just and equitable safe line for the Korean nation; it had been the respected border from time immemorial. I venture to point out again that never in Korea's 4,000-year-long history has she committed an act of aggression over that boundary.
To achieve the goal of unified independence, the Republic of Korea has paid and will willingly continue to pay a frightful toll. At the time of this writing she has already sustained some million civilian and military casualties--more than 3 percent of the entire population--both North and South. The refugee problem has been particularly acute. Not only did millions in the South have to flee toward the Pusan area during the successive invasions, but also millions from the North fled southward when the United Nations forces were forced out of northern Korea last fall. J. Donald Kingsley, United Nations Agent-General, estimated in an address before the Women's National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on February 28 that there were more than 3,500,000 people in Korea who now have no homes whatsoever; he said that he had never seen anything "more completely destitute and pitiful." General MacArthur said that in his whole experience of war he had never seen such destruction. Korea has been terribly scathed by three successive martial fires sweeping across almost her entire peninsula. The scorched-earth policy necessary in modern warfare has destroyed homes, crops, schools, churches and industrial facilities.
Nevertheless, Korea does not resent the terrible havoc wreaked upon her. She is willing to pay the price to achieve her long-sought independence and to awaken the rest of the free world to the ever-present danger. The cost is worthwhile if the result is a unified, independent and democratic nation able to exist within a regional security framework insuring freedom from foreign imperialism.
To accomplish this purpose, it is apparent that additional measures must be taken by the United Nations. A step in the right direction was taken when the General Assembly voted 47-0 in May 1951 to apply an arms embargo against Communist China and North Korea. It may be necessary to institute a tight naval blockade and land blockade to prevent the violation of the embargo by the countries which did not support the action. Korea is pleased, naturally, to note a stiffening attitude in several quarters toward Communist China, and hopes that it will result in a speedier conclusion to the conflict. Korea prays that her often repeated requests for more arms for the trained Korean troops who number nearly 500,000 will be speedily honored. These soldiers are eager to fight for their homeland and ask only for the weapons with which to do so. If such a large and well-equipped force is added to the present United Nations contingents in the field, the scales of war could very well be suddenly and decisively tipped in favor of the free world. The New York Times on April 15 this year said editorially: "The proper persons to guard Korea are Koreans. But even the bravest Koreans cannot stand up to Russian-made tanks with nothing better than small arms or broomsticks. The forces of the Republic of Korea must be made formidable."
Even if the war were successfully concluded tomorrow, a tremendous task of rehabilitation would face Korea. It was estimated much earlier in the war that the cost of reconstruction would be roughly two billion dollars. The United Nations has subscribed part of this amount, and the United States has agreed to pay approximately 65 percent of the U.N. contribution. The West has been zealous in the military prosecution of this war. It is to be hoped that, when the war is over, there will be equal zeal in utilizing this fund (and additional appropriations as well) for the reconstruction of the battered peninsula. Korea's most immediate needs are fertilizers for this year's rice crop and the restoration of power plants. Lack of fuel causes some operable plants to lie idle, and the lack of transportation for anything except military matériel has created serious bottlenecks in civilian commercial channels. The United Nations has the responsibility for demonstrating to Asia that utter ruin and devastation are not the rewards of efforts to resist international lawlessness.
In the meantime, however, the ROK Government is not idly waiting for foreign assistance. In spite of the appalling problems created by the war, Korea is attempting to be self-reliant in all possible ways. She wishes to demonstrate to the entire world her determination to be a competent and stable member of the Pacific community. Not only is there a strong will to resist the enemy but a full capacity to manage her normal affairs exists as well.
We are doing everything possible to alleviate the immediate refugee problem. For example, Pusan, with an original population of 300,000, was swollen to five times its normal size by the refugees who crowded into the city. Most of these refugees, however, did not have to be put into camps or on public relief; all the civilian Koreans gladly kept their doors wide open for both Northern and Southern refugees and utilized every square foot of their homes for emergency housing. Many Korean welfare associations and Christian aid societies have combined their efforts to attack the problem. The country has fortunately been able to escape the horror of mass epidemics, due to the generous supplies of medicines provided by the United States and the Civil Assistance Command of the United Nations. We indeed appreciate the contributions made by member states of the United Nations and various relief societies throughout the world; they have made it possible to save millions of poor people who were near death.
In one of his very last reports to the Security Council, the United Nations Commander, General Douglas MacArthur, stated that the essential commodity prices in the domestic economic life have been stabilized. He added: "This steadiness in prices reflects the progress of the Republic of Korea Government's food collection program, which is increasing the flow of food supplies." By February 24 of this year the collection program was more than 50 percent completed. Its main purpose is to provide the average Korean citizen with as many of the absolute essentials of life as possible at uninflated prices and in steadily available quantities.
In order to prepare for the future, a complete system of agrarian reform has been instituted and is being vigorously pressed. Under the Land Reform Act of June 1950, 1,029,000 acres have to date been sold to farmers and are being paid for by an average of 30 percent of the crop for five years (including taxes, amortization, etc.). By this means, farm tenantry will be reduced to only 10 percent of all arable lands. The former landlord-owners are paid in government certificates which may (if they so desire) be redeemed through the purchase of factories formerly owned by Japanese and turned over by the American Military Government to the Korean Government. Thus a new industrial class is given a chance to rise and act as a model for other heavily-agrarian Asian nations. To aid the whole program, the Korea Times reports, the Ministry of Finance is loaning ten billion won as a special agricultural fund to farmers this year. Most of the fund will go directly to farmers in devastated areas. Since Korea is normally a rice-exporting nation, a more efficient and increased agriculture will be of direct benefit to the Pacific community.
The Government has increased taxes in order to strive for a balanced budget for the coming year. Also, special funds are thus to be provided for the rebuilding of certain of the industrial complexes in the Seoul-Inchon area and the Pyongyang and Wonsan areas. By following the policy of "pay-as-you-go" whenever possible, it is hoped to keep the future war debt as low as possible. This policy will permit Korea to assume her fair share of responsibilities of membership in a Pacific Pact.
Great strides have already been made in the educational system. Dr. George Paik, Minister of Education, has worked strenuously to overcome the handicaps imposed by the war. Despite the fact that most of the school buildings in the invaded districts (except South Kyung Sang Province) were destroyed, burnt or robbed of their equipment and facilities, nearly 3,000 elementary schools, more than 400 middle schools and 53 specialized schools are now open and operating. The new school term began on February 10 as ordered, even though it meant holding classes on the beaches, in open fields and under tents. Because of the large number of teachers and professors who were either taken away or killed by the invaders, and because of the retrenchment policy of the Government which made necessary a 30 percent reduction in the teaching staffs, the teaching load per instructor was doubled. Hence, the training of new teachers has become an integral part of the educational program, and 12 normal schools and 17 colleges and universities are now operating. The Education Ministry also established special schools and classes in the refugee camps to accommodate all the evacuated students. An expanded program of adult education is also under way; the objective is to banish illiteracy from the entire country. Because of the need for scientific and technical skills for postwar reconstruction, greater stress is being laid on vocational education. Korea is fully aware that her future growth and development rest upon the training given to her young generation today. She hopes to be able to provide the Pacific community with an example of a sound educational system and an important reserve of technical and scientific specialists.
In the planning stage is a vast expansion of Korea's fishing industry, one of her three largest income-producers. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has adopted the policy of building and buying at least 500 fishing boats each year for the next ten years in order to modernize the Korean fishing fleets and replace vessels expropriated by the Japanese. It is also planning an increase in the number of fishing schools, to provide more technicians in the industry. In 1937 the catch of fish was 2,115,985 tons; by modernizing the industry, Korea will increase this yield, provide Koreans with a more balanced diet, and perhaps make it possible for Korea to share her maritime riches with her neighbors.
A tremendous development of Korea's industrial potential is also planned. Like other nations, Korea will solve her over-all economic problem only as she develops her industrial capacities. Civilization makes its most notable advances as the machine becomes the servant of man; factories produce consumer goods and provide income from which workers can purchase them. Korea has varied mineral and coal deposits, and hydroelectric power--all the resources, except oil, for an extensive industrialization; among them may be listed coal, iron, gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, tungsten, lithium, mica, nickel, barytes, molybdenum, magnesite, alum, shale, graphite, fluorospar, kaolin and timber reserves. Korean industrial development could thus offer an example of an enlightened and more balanced economic system for the "backward areas" of Asia. Korea fervently hopes that she will be given the opportunity to contribute the fruits of these accomplishments and progressive projects, as soon as possible, to the Pacific community. She hopes that these ambitions will not be thwarted by a failure of Western and Asian aid to establish a comprehensive framework of coöperation and security in the East. The early formulation of an extensive and comprehensive Pacific Pact offers the best hope of the achievement of such goals as these.
The Korean people are more determined than ever to continue their fight for survival; and even in the midst of war they are striving for a better national life. They are more than willing to share in the collective action necessary for the collective security within a Pacific Pact. Korea's future rôle in the Pacific community will be that of a proud, modern and coöperative partner in a new and free Asia.
[i]Cf. The New York Times, March 5 and 6, 1950.
[ii]Cf. Far Eastern Survey, August 16, 1950.
[iii] Sir George Sansom, "Conflicting Purposes in Japan," Foreign Affairs, January 1948.