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The Statesman and Commander: Civil-Military Dialogue in the Korean War

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Technical Report,05 Jul 2015,26 May 2016

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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Carl von Clausewitz contemplates the civil-military relationship when he states, The first supreme, the most far reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish by that test the kind of war on which they are embarking neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature. This monograph explores civil-military relations and their relevance to theater strategy and operational art within the context of the Korean War. The purpose is to gain an understanding of how two extremely experienced and talented officers arrived at fundamentally different understandings of the Korean War. Specifically, the case studies examine Generals Douglas MacArthur and Matthew Ridgway in their service as the Commander in Chief of the United Nations Command. Ultimately, the examination of civil-military relations led to the conclusion that Ridgway was more successful because his proximity to President Truman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff enabled a better understanding of the wars limited nature. His comprehensive understanding of the strategic context and therefore, the purpose of armed intervention to include the logic behind Trumans thinking, made evident the restrictions placed on military force. Furthermore, Ridgway was able to marry his strategic and political understanding with his knowledge of the operational environment. Combined, this understanding manifested itself in an attritional, defensive-offensive strategy that served to erode the enemys will. The aim of which, was a negotiated peace from a position of advantage. On the other hand, the evidence suggests that MacArthur was simply unable to reconcile the difference between the final victories attained in the World Wars with the type of victory required to achieve political success in Korea.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Humanities and History

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