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Walk Softly


It now seems as though the Korean war, which was going so nicely only a few weeks ago, has lost its appeal for large chunks of the American public. Businessmen's groups, conservative newspapers, people whom you would never expect it of, have decided that negotiation is the answer in Korea, that the Chinese Communists deserve a seat in the United Nations, and that World War III might not be such a party, after all.

Whether the American government subscribes to this new position and whether it will be willing to abandon its dogmatic position on Far Eastern problems is not clear. But the turn of events in Korea made it tragically plain that this country has been supporting a big policy with a small army. General MacArthur's "end of the war" drive provided the denouement; it was, as Tokyo now admits, a dangerous gamble, and we lost.

This country has over-hasty in its Korean policy since MacArthur crossed the thirty-eighth parallel before receiving U.N. authorization. A final push to the Yalu River, which would have put American troops right on the border, was an ill-advised move at a time when Chinese Communists were on their way to the U.N. They would have been faced with a fait accompli had they held back their troops, and their bargaining position would have been badly weakened. Therefore they launched an offensive, which so far shows little sign of slowing down.

Negotiation with the Chinese Communists is probably the only way of preserving even a veneer of world peace. It would not be appeasement, in the sense that the surrender of Munich in 1938 was appeasement, but a recognition that our Asian policy no longer bears any relation to the realities of the situation. Stamping our collective foot at Communist China and calling it illegal has not worked, and now we must come to some sort of agreement. It is possible that the Communists do not want war, and are really concerned about the sanctity of their borders. And if they do want war, then Korea in 1950 is the worst conceivable place and time for us to fight them.

Even if the U.S. is quietly dickering with the Communists, its bellicose pronouncements in Washington, in Korea, and in Lake Success will do little to improve its bargaining position and have already caused considerable damage. President Truman's offhand comment on the atomic bomb put our European allies in a terrible fright, while MacArthur's communiques have compromised Western unity. It will take us a while yet to develop our "big stick"; the least we can do in the meantime is to walk more softly.

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