Precedents established in exhausted expediency always complicate future endeavors.
Fifty-six years ago today, the antagonists arrayed against each other in bloody stalemate on the Korean peninsula agreed to an armistice to halt active combat operations and bring an end to the three year war that had begun with a communist North Korean attack of South Korea. The communists’ goal was to reunite the Korean peninsula, divided by the Russians and the Americans at the end of the war against Japan in late summer of 1945. The June 1950 Northern aggression, at least tacitly approved of by the Russians and Chinese, quickly routed the over-matched Southerners and the few American forces diverted to the melee from their cushy occupation duties in Japan. In a matter of weeks, the remaining effective South Korean and American units had retreated to a small perimeter around the southern port city of Pusan--ceding virtually the entire peninsula to the communists.
The United States, who eight and a half years previous had answered Japan's aggression with a formal, unilateral declaration of war, went this time to the newly created United Nations for a mandate to conduct "police actions," as Harry Truman called it. There was no formal, unilateral American declaration of war (as mandated by OUR CONSTITUTION). Instead, we experimented with a world government (in violation and ignorance of OUR CONSTITUTION). The results were just as unsatisfactory at this first attempt to change human nature and subvert nationalism as they have been at every juncture since. Without a formal declaration of war, the United States attempted to win the Korean conflict “on the cheap.” No formal declaration of war meant that there was no basis for rallying the American people and marshaling American resources for the express goal of defeating an enemy. Whereas during the Second World War, in which a formal state of war existed between the United States and the Axis Powers, the American economy was virtually entirely devoted to the production of war material (there were NO private vehicles produced by American car companies; sugar, gas, and rubber were rationed), during the three years of the Korean conflict, the American population experienced virtually no sacrifices at all.
A “surge” of limited American military power reversed the North Korean gains in the fall of 1950. American forces not only liberated the South Korean capital, Seoul, but pushed the communists all the way to the Yalu River—the border with China. When the Chinese entered the war against American forces on their doorstep in December of 1950, destroying the better part of two US divisions, the United States should have formally and unilaterally declared war on the Communist Chinese. Instead, American politicians, caring more for their re-election prospects than for the good of the American nation, demurred of definitive action and sought to prevent another round of the public privation it took to achieve victory in the recent war with Germany and Japan. The result was stalemate and wastage of American blood and treasure.
After two and half more years of meat grinding along the trenched front stretching across the Korean peninsula, newly inaugurated President Eisenhower sacrificed the communist enslaved peoples of China and North Korea to the ease and comfort of the American people. The Armistice, not a Peace Treaty, signed by China, the United States, and the two Koreas in the late summer of 1953, did bring a Peace, of sorts, to the Region. The cost to the United States was high—a permanent American “trip-wire” presence in South Korea against the prospect of a resumption of hostilities. The cost to the Koreans was even higher—the two continued to squander a vast proportion of their respective GDPs on armies squared off against each other across what became, and is still, the most dangerous border in the world. Lucky for the South Koreans, their American allies developed an insatiable desire for cheap goods the production of which eventually spurred the development of their economy to the point that it vaulted from the primarily agrarian to the rapid standard-of-living-raising industrialized nation ranks. The personality cult-oppressed people of the northern half of the peninsula were not nearly so lucky—they just continued to starve. And China? Well, Mao’s subsequent “cultural revolution” had a death toll second only to the infanticide since Roe v. Wade. And, ultimately, Communist Chinese (and Soviet) support of the nationalist socialist designs of Ho Chi Minh resulted in the near destruction of American society in another undeclared war American political leaders (and I use that word loosely) attempted to fight on the cheap rather than sacrifice domestic goals (see Johnson’s “Great Society”).
Since the end of the Second World War, and following the horribly unconstitutional precedent of our Korean experience, the illegal war-making of the United States has continued with alarming regularity. Without formal declarations of war (required by OUR CONSTITUTION), the United States has dabbled in open-ended military adventurism the world over without much to show for it beyond frustration and embarrassment. The case can be made that every American president from Truman to Obama has committed the impeachable offense of extra-constitutional war-making. But, don’t take my word for it, break out a copy of your American Citizen Owner’s Manual (aka: United States Constitution) and see for yourself.
Short of that larger point, however, is these re-United States' currently quagmired quest to eliminate (or at least marginalize) radical Islamic terrorism—the so-called War on Terror. Because there was no formal, Constitutional, unilateral declaration of war against the nations employing terrorism as a political weapon, or aiding and abetting those who were, there was no basis for rallying the American people and marshaling American resources for the express purpose of defeating an enemy of America. As the Colonel’s kids can quote with eyes rolling, near term sacrifice is the only sure route to long term gratification. Attempting to fight a war on the cheap, without marshaling the nation for victory, may prevent public privation in the short term, but having never achieved victory it actually results in much longer delayed fulfillment of our ultimate gratification goals.
It's clearly a case of pay me now or pay me more later. We continue to pursue the latter course of action--to our nation's great detriment.