Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 3 No. 2 Summer 1981

fundamental issue of the response by Truman and Acheson. Clearly, when the Secretary acknowledged that Korea “saved us,” he did not mean in the sense of preventing the defeat or the destruction of the United States. He meant only that it allowed the Government to implement the apocalyptic imperial strategy of NSC-68. Primed and ready, armed (or driven) psychologically as well as with the heady rhetoric of that document, they simply went to war. They bypassed the Congress and the public and confronted both with an accomplished fact. A few phone calls, and it was done. Go to bed at peace and wake up at war. It was even more dramatic than the subsequent intervention in Vietnam as a demonstration of the centralization of power inherent in empire as a way of life. The State had literally been compressed or consolidated into the President and his like-minded appointees. In a marvelously revealing description, underscoring Truman’s earlier lecture to the Cabinet, the war without a declaration of war was called a “police action.” Ironically, the most succinct commentary applicable to Truman’s remark was provided by an early editor of The New York Times. “We are the most ambitious people the world has ever seen,” noted Henry J. Raymond on May 30, 1864, “—& I greatly fear we shall sacrifice our liberties to our imperial dreams.” Ike’s cover-up The military containment and subsequent rout of North Korean forces (by the end of September 1950) created a moment of imperial euphoria. American leaders were high on NSC-68. The United States undertook to liberate North Korea by conquest and integrate it into the American empire. It was assumed in Washington that such action would accelerate the process of disintegration within and between Russia and China and so finally create an open-door world. Then came the moment of truth, and the empire suddenly found itself at bay. The Chinese entered the war with massive force on October 26 and drove the Americans southward to the line that originally divided Korea. Once again one thinks of the way American leaders failed to comprehend the willingness of black citizens to settle for In a rare moment of candor, Secretary of State Dean Acheson admitted in 1953 that he and Truman might not have been able to sustain their grandiose imperial policy if the North Koreans had not “come along and saved us.’’ promises of future equality and freedom at home. They had first misread and misapplied that episode in their dealings with the Russians, then with the Chinese and, finally, with increasing frequency, in Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The mistaken assumption that other poor and demaned peoples would display similar forbearance almost seemed like the cosmic cost of such prejudice and racism. The Roosevelts, the Trumans and the Achesons, and most of their successors, fundamentally misconceived the deeply patriotic—even loving—commitment of American blacks to what Martin Luther King Jr. called The Dream of America. And because they could not acknowledge the existence of an American empire, they could not comprehend—let alone understand—that other so-called inferiors felt the same love for their cultures; and that, viewing America as an empire that threatened the integrity and existence of their cultures, they would ultimately fight rather than accept indirect destruction. The empire had been brought to bay. Dwight David Eisenhower understood that essential truth, and further realized that the future character of American society depended upon how the culture responded. His first objective after he became President in 1952 was to end the Korean police action before it spiraled into World War III. That accomplished, he set about to calm Americans, cool them off and refocus their attention and energies on domestic development. He was a far more perceptive and cagey leader than many people realized at the time—or later. The image of a rather absent-minded, sometimes bumbling if not incoherent Uncle Ike was largely his own shrewd cover for his serious efforts to get control of the military (and other militant cold warriors), to decrease tension with Russia and somehow begin to deal with the fundamental distortions of American society. He clearly understood that crusading imperial police actions were extremely dangerous, and he was determined to avoid World War III. When Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt in 1956 over the nationalization of the Suez Canal, the President called British Prime Minister Anthony Eden and scolded him sharply: “Anthony, you must have gone out of your mind.” When the moment came, Eisenhower could be just as blunt with Americans. A good many of them were probably shocked when, in his farewell address of 1961, he spoke candidly and forcefully about the military-industrial complex that since 1939 had become the axis of the American political economy. That was such a catchy phrase that not many of them noticed that he went on to assault the distortion of education involved in that consolidation of power. The historically free and critical university, he noted, “the The image of a rather absentminded, sometimes bumbling if not incoherent Uncle Ike was largely his own shrewd cover for his serious efforts to get control of the military (and other militant cold warriors) ... and somehow begin to deal with the fundamental distortions of American society. fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research.... 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