William Stueck presents a fresh analysis of the Korean War's major diplomatic and strategic issues. Drawing on a cache of newly available information from archives in the United States, China, and the former Soviet Union, he provides an interpretive synthesis for scholars and general readers alike. Beginning with the decision to divide Korea in 1945, he analyzes first the origins and then the course of the conflict. He takes into account the balance between the international and internal factors that led to the war and examines the difficulty in containing and eventually ending the fighting. This discussion covers the progression toward Chinese intervention as well as factors that both prolonged the war and prevented it from expanding beyond Korea. Stueck goes on to address the impact of the war on Korean-American relations and evaluates the performance and durability of an American political culture confronting a challenge from authoritarianism abroad.
Stueck's crisp yet in-depth analysis combines insightful treatment of past events with a suggestive appraisal of their significance for present and future.
In Stueck's view, contributors to the U.N. cause in Korea provided support not out of any abstract commitment to a universal system of collective security but because they saw an opportunity to influence U.S. policy. Chinese intervention in Korea in the fall of 1950 brought with it the threat of world war, but at that time and in other instances prior to the armistice in July 1953, America's NATO allies and Third World neutrals succeeded in curbing American adventurism. While conceding the tragic and brutal nature of the war, Stueck suggests that it helped to prevent the occurrence of an even more destructive conflict in Europe.