America's rollback to the 38 parallel during the Korean War has never settled well in US.
Rollback is a policy that failed. It has single aim: the destruction of an enemy state.
North Korea's offensive across the 38 parallel on 25 June 1950 caught the US off guard. Its invasion to topple the Syngman Rhee government in South Korea offered Washington the means to right a glaring error in its foreign policy in east Asia.
President Truman's secretary of state Dean Acheson saw America's defence in Asia in an arc of island countries in northeast Asia. Thus Korea remained outside US strategy. It was a clear signal to the North that it had a free hand to reunify a divided Korean peninsula.
By a stroke of luck, Mr. Truman turned Acheson's 'slip of the tongue' to his advantage. He managed to mask a US war to rescue South Korea by skilfully urging the UN to stop North Korea. He was able to pluck certain defeat from the jaws of a North Korean victory by the Soviet Union's absence from the Security Council. Moscow in a show of solidarity with 'Red China' walked out of the Council when it refused to seat Beijing as the rightful ruler of China, and thus it was unable to counter America's initiative.
For the first six months under US leadership the war in Korea went well for the UN troops. And then a seemingly defeated North Korean armed forces ably assisted by a massive infusion of Chinese volunteers, push them back to the 38 parallel, and there the war languished until an armistice was signed in 1953. It froze the war in time and space since then.
The US has never gotten over its being stopped in its tracks in rollbacking the advance of Communism. This souvenir like a chigger embedded in America's military and policy wonks, remains one of never ending political discomfort and intense policy pain.
[GuamDiary suggests reading its commentary on the dusting off the cobweb encrusted policy of 'rollback'. It is best exemplified by the publication of the Council on Foreign Relations on US policy towards Korea in April 2010.]
Now, two Associated Press journalist have written an interesting article 'US often weighed NKorea "nuke option"' on Yahoo on 9 October 2010. Charles Hanley and Rand Herschaft's general overview posits that 'from the 1950s' Pentagon to today's Obama administration, the United States repeatedly pondered, planned and threatened use of nuclear weapons against North Korea, according to declassified and other US documents released on the 60 anniversary of the Korean War'.
A sharp eye on US policy did not have to wait 60 years to discover America's itch to press the nuclear button to wipe North Korea off the face of the map. GuamDiary suggests reading of IF Stone's 'Hidden History of the Korean War' and Alan Whiting's 'China Crosses the Yalu'. Stone's account, in spite of his book's hostile reception, has weathered the test of time and shows the mulish strategy of General Macarthur which not only weakened UN troops in North Korea but led to their 'rollback' to the DMZ at the 38 parallel where they remain until today. In Whiting's Rand study documents the inflexability in US foreign policy in working out a modus vivendi with China of a reunited Korea if no US forces invaded the North.
President Truman's firing of General Douglas Macarthur had very much to do with the five star general's pronouncements on dropping atomic bombs on China. North Korea's capture of the 'Peublo' did not mask the threat of nuclear retaliation. Nor did the shooting down of a US reconnaissance aeroplane over the Sea of Japan [East Sea] in 1969.
During the 'tree cutting' incident at the DMZ in 1976 became another occasion for the 'laying of hands' on nuclear retaliation. Zoom towards the first years of the Clinton presidency, North Korea's nuclear programme brought US grumbling of exercising the nuclear option to stop North Korea. As GuamDiary noted, Mr. Clinton's threat sent former president Jimmy Carter on a mission of his own to defuse an explosive situation. He did, and thus began 8 years of relative detente and discussions with Pyongyang on ending its sailing into nuclear waters.
George Bush's foreign policy blunders as we have often discussed, turned North Korea into a nuclear power. Barack Obama has continued a hard line towards North Korea and the CFR's report sanctioned by leading US North Korean clerisy simply underscore the lingering nuclear death wish the US wishes to visit on North Korea.
Simply put it's a 'blast from the past' nostalgia for rollback. It reflects an inability to conquer decades old plans to destroy North Korea. There is a wilfulness to let the past go and engage in detente as it did with a Communist China.With all the US' huffing and puffing and never ending nuclear dreams and threats of obliterating North Korea, Pyongyang is not impressed.
Saying this, the class of America's new and veteran cold warriors fantasises at rewriting the past which is indelible facts which cannot be erased or wished away.