Browsing "Democracy"

Jackson's Centralized Popular Democracy

Andrew Jackson, the leveling-democrat, set in motion the elevation of the federal agent above its creators. His view that a common and even unfit man could ascend to the presidency predictably misled many others into believing the same. With the Founding generation in their graves, the democracy they feared would transform the republic they wrought.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Jackson’s Centralized Popular Democracy

“Last of the Revolutionary generation to hold the Presidency, the last chief to wear a queue and smallclothes, was the self-effacing Virginian, James Monroe. [Andrew] Jackson, duelist, frontiersman, romantic lover, had no illusions about his abilities. “Do they think I am such a damned fool as to consider myself fit for the Presidency?”

But like other military heroes, before and since, he was drafted into the job. He had been a hero in the old Creek War, living on scorns and holding off mutiny with oaths and an unloaded rifle. He had been a fourteen-year-old soldier of the Revolution, watching the slaughter of the Battle of Camden through the logs of a prison stockade.

He was the peoples’ president. It was under Jackson, not Lincoln, that our modern, centralized popular democracy was born. Jackson first gave the laboring man a voice and vote in the ranks of the Democratic party.

Jackson, in his war with the United States Bank, dramatically demonstrated that the power of Big Business could only be countered by big government in Washington.

Jackson called the bluff on the belief of the Southern Nullifiers that the power of a State was superior to that of the general government. Jackson himself was living proof of Jefferson’s doctrine of the natural aristocracy. Yet he perverted that doctrine. He failed to see the genius in himself. He felt that if he, a common man, could handle the Presidency, so could any other common man.

This was a belief highly-acceptable to the proponents of all-out majority rule. It marked the start of the lowering and leveling process which eventually tainted all national leadership, education and mass entertainment. Not since Jackson’s time has the goal of “Jeffersonian democracy” been to ferret out the natural leadership. Instead, the aim has been to prove literally that all men are equal, and to press all down into a single mold of conformity.”

(The Molders, Margaret L. Coit, This Is the South, Robert West Howard, editor. Rand McNally, 1959, pp. 92-93)

 

The Old and New Republican Party

The first disputed presidential election occurred in 1796 with John Adams elected only “by the whim of two Southern electors” — one from Virginia and one in North Carolina – and both voted for Jefferson as Vice President. This electoral result and victory for the monarchical Adams spurred Jefferson and Madison to formulate the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, whose spirit was that State governments were the foundation of the American political system, and their power unlimited except for strictly delegated and enumerated functions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

The Old and New Republican Party

“The Democratic-Republican Party . . . was the political party whose theory was aimed at the increase of direct popular control over the Government, the widening of the right of suffrage, the limitation of the powers of the Federal Government, and the conservation of the powers reserved to the State governments by the Constitution. It is therefore a strict construction party and has always operated as a check upon the nationalization of the United States.

It at first (1792-3) took the name of the Republican party, which more properly belongs to its present possessors, and was generally known by that name until about 1828-30. Upon its absorption of the French or Democratic faction, in 1793-6, it took the official title of the Democratic-Republican party.

About 1828-30 its nationalizing portion having broken off and taken the name of “National Republican,” the particularist residue assumed the name of “Democrats,” which had been accepted since about 1810 as equivalent to “Republicans,” and by which the have since been known. Some little confusion therefore, has always been occasioned by the similarity in name between the strict construction Republican party of 1793 and the broad construction Republican party of 1856.

[During the formative period, 1789-93 period, the forces] which have always tended to the complete nationalization of the American Union were in operation at the adoption of the Constitution, [and their] influence was as yet by no means general. The mass of the people was thoroughly particularist, interested mainly in the fortunes of their State governments, and disposed to look at the new Federal Government as a creature of convenience only, to be accepted under protest until the exercise of its functions should prove burdensome or unpleasant.

The planters of the South, and particularly of Virginia, had generally supported the change in government [from the Articles of Confederation] and the early measures of the Federal party, induced partly by the influence of Madison and partly by the compromises by which the Constitution had been made acceptable to them.

When Hamilton, early in 1790, finally, and almost from sheer necessity, fell back upon commercial interest as the stock upon which to graft his nationalizing measures, he necessarily alienated the whole South, which was not only particularist but exclusively agricultural, except in a few isolated spots on the seaboard. The difference between the two sections was as yet only in degree, not in kind.

Both were mainly agricultural; both were particularist; neither possessed manufactures; but the South, which had far less banking and commerce than the North, and therefore in Jefferson’s words, “owed the debt while the North owned it,” first felt repulsion to the Hamiltonian policy.

The opposition to his plan for settling the public debt was mainly to its commercial aspect; the opposition to his project of a national bank in the following year was of a distinct party nature, and was based upon that strict construction of the Constitution which was always afterward to be the party’s established theory.

In 1791-2, therefore, we may consider the Anti-Federal party, which had so warmly opposed the adoption of the Constitution, as rehabilitated into a party, as yet without a name, which was to maintain the binding force of the exact and literal language of the Constitution, and to oppose any enlargement of the Federal Government’s powers by interpretation.

The first authoritative claim of the party name occurs in Jefferson’s letter of May 13, 1792, to Washington, in which he says:

“The Republican party, who wish to preserve the government in its present form, are fewer in number [than the monarchical Federalists]. They are fewer even when joined by the two, three or half-dozen Anti-Federalists, who, though they dare not avow it, are still opposed to any general government; but being less so to a republican to a monarchical one, they naturally join those whom they think pursuing the lesser evil.”

Before the close of the year 1792 we must regard the Republican party as fairly formed. Its general basis was a dislike to the control exercised by any government not directly affected by the vote of the citizen on whom the laws operated; a disposition to regard the Federal Government . . . as possibly a second avatar of royalty; and an opposition to the Federalist, or Hamiltonian, measures of a national bank, a national excise [tax], a protective tariff, a funding system for the debt, and to all measures in general tending to benefit the commercial or creditor classes.”

(American Political History, 1763-1876, Alexander Johnston, Volume I, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1905, pp. 208-212)

 

Credit Mobilier's Gentlemen Thieves

With Southern conservatives absent from the United States Congress after the war, Whig/Republicans had free rein for legislation and schemes to benefit the corporate interests which kept them in power.  Thus the Northern marriage of government and corporations gave birth to public treasury-raiding schemes like the Credit Mobilier scandal, and all under the watchful eye of President U.S. Grant.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Credit Mobilier’s Gentlemen Thieves

“The looting of the Erie Railroad was accomplished with the help of the easily corruptible legislatures of only two States, New York and New Jersey. It was a fairly simple business. But to loot the immense federal project of the Union Pacific Railroad required far more sophisticated talents. This monumental piece of thievery involved United States representatives and senators. It involved cabinet officers, the Vice-President of the United States, and a future President. The loot ran to approximately forty-four million dollars. It was removed almost painlessly from the Union Pacific’s coffers by a trick outfit with a fancy French name, the Credit Mobilier.

The Union Pacific was sponsored and financed by the United States. The purpose of the Credit Mobilier was to take over the contract for building the road. Stockholders of both companies were identical. They proceeded to contract with themselves to build the road at a cost calculated to exhaust the resources of the Union Pacific. The so-called profits were to be divided among Credit Mobilier stockholders.

Prominent in Credit Mobilier were Oakes and Oliver Ames, brothers of Easton, Massachusetts, who had inherited a business . . . [and the] Hon. Oakes Ames was a representative of the old Bay State in Congress.

From the day it was whelped, the double-jointed money-making machine worked perfectly. As the tracks of the Union Pacific pushed across the Great Plains, the Credit Mobilier collected the enormous bounty granted to the line from the public purse and domain. Mile upon mile the railroad was systematically stripped of its cash, which reappeared almost simultaneously as dividends for the happy stockholders of Credit Mobilier. It was, as the Hon. Oakes Ames told his comrades in the House, “a diamond mine.”

Yet the gentlemen-thieves of Credit Mobilier had a falling out when two factions fought for control; and the warfare gave those senators and congressmen who were not involved the courage to demand an investigation of the Union Pacific-Credit Moblier situation.

In an effort to forestall just such a possibility, the Credit Mobilier officers had been distributing free stock in the House and Senate, and elsewhere. But Congress was at last forced to act, and the revelations of its investigating committee . . . were so appalling that “all decent men trembled for the honor of the nation.”

No one was more hopelessly involved in the scandal than Vice-President Schuyler Colfax . . . except of course, Representative Oakes Ames of Massachusetts . . . along with Representative Brooks, also of Massachusetts . . .

Although the Congressional investigation resulted in an almost complete official whitewash, it did leave strong doubt in many minds regarding the character of such eminent men as James A. Garfield, James G. Blaine, and almost a score more.”

(The Age of the Moguls, Stewart H. Holbrook, Doubleday & Company, 1953, pp. 49-50)

 

European Jacobin Views of a Massachusetts Whig

The visiting Frenchman, Ernst D. de Hauranne, travelled only in the North for his eight months in America and was a strong supporter of the Northern invasion of the American South. Ironically, when confronted by a Radical lieutenant enraged at Americans resisting subjugation, the Frenchman could reel off the specifics of Lincoln’s destruction of liberty, and compared the despotic Northern government to the worst aspects of the French Revolution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

European Jacobin Views of a Massachusetts Whig

[Diary Entry] June 28, 1864

“Here I found my first expert on American politics, Lieutenant C. He is not only a Republican, he is a Radical, and we have already crossed swords several times. Like all Americans, he pushes adulation of his country well beyond the limits of politeness and acceptability. Democracy is his oracle, his god, and he will never agree that it may not be the same thing as liberty.

If I reply that even the will of the people should have its limits, and that if it exercises in America the absolute reign that he talks about, it is more likely to pave the way to tyranny than to preserve liberty, he answers brusquely that I am French, that I don’t understand anything about freedom and that I have no right to judge his country. “Europeans,” he told me, “are born slaves. They always have been and they always will be. Only America knows what freedom is.”

“Oh,” I replied, “get off your high horse. There are many darks spots on your wonderful picture of American freedom.” Thereupon I ticked off for him the suspension of habeas corpus, the violation of the freedom of the press, the transfer of jurisdiction over many cases from civil to military courts, secret arrests, arbitrary imprisonments and all the other abuses of power that are the sad accompaniments of the Civil War. I asked him if that was what he called freedom.

“It is freedom if we have willed it. Mr. Seward boasts that he needs only ring his little bell to have absolutely anyone put in prison. That is true, but behind him are the American people who direct him. Let him strike down the rebels and traitors . . . We want martial law, do you understand? We want it, and that’s why we are still free.

“[I replied] Revolutionary power is a seed of dictatorship. Watch out that the seed doesn’t take root. You refuse to see the danger; the freedom of your neighbor means little to you! This is the way to lose your own freedom and to rush headlong into despotism one of these days. [Let’s] get to the bottom of it. I know your theories. We practiced them under the [French revolutionary] National Convention. You think you’ve discovered a new idea, but all you do is recite the sophistries of the Committee of Public Safety.”

Are these not strange opinions in the mouth of an American, notions that would fit better with the outlook of a European Jacobin or a Massachusetts Whig? We think the Americans are madly in love with their individual freedom, yet there is a school of thought which springs up to repudiate it in the name of public safety, which views freedom as submission to the multitude. Love of freedom, like all human passions, falls asleep when it is not contested.”

(A Frenchman in Lincoln’s America, Ernst D. de Hauranne, Donnelly & Sons, 1974, Volume I, pp. 67-70)

 

 

Apr 29, 2015 - Democracy    No Comments

Democracy and a Rarity of Lofty Ambition

Alexis de Tocqueville felt that the spread of egalitarian principles would make wars more rare, as democratic countries would more resemble each other and fear conflict. But the political regime of a democratic country can maintain the illusion of egalitarianism complete with beer and circus, while at the same time using mercenary forces to conquer distant resources and markets for the merchants. A people content with materialism are not militaristic, and willingly hand authority to the regime to conquer at will those who resist the mercantile state.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Democracy and a Rarity of Lofty Ambition

“To be comfortable, the traders and shopkeepers of the West need to make money. Indeed, according to [social scientist Werner] Sombart, they are “crazy for money.” English sports for example, unlike the German cultivation of martial arts and drill, are typical of a people who seek only physical well-being and spurious individual competition without higher aims. But it is the cowardly bourgeois habit of clinging to life, of not wishing to die for great ideals, of shying away from violent conflict and denying the tragic side of life, that seems so contemptible to Sombart.

Indeed, the merchant has no ideals. He is in every sense superficial. Merchants . . . are interested in nothing but the satisfaction of individual desires, which “undermine the very basis of a higher moral sense of the world and the belief in ideals.”

Liberal democracy is the political system most suited to merchant peoples. It is a competitive system in which different parties contend, and in which conflicts of interest can be solved only through negotiation and compromise. It is by definition unheroic, and thus, in the eyes of its detractors, despicably wishy-washy, mediocre, and corrupt. Even Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote so admiringly about American democracy, saw the system’s limitations. He wrote:

“If you think it profitable to turn man’s intellectual and mental activity toward the necessities of physical life and use them to produce well-being, if you think that reason is more use to men than genius, if your object is not to create heroic virtues but rather tranquil habits . . . if in your view the main object of government is not to achieve the greatest strength or glory for the nation as a whole but to provide for every individual therein the utmost well-being . . . then it is good to make conditions equal and to establish a democratic government.”

Tocqueville did not deplore these limitations. He was indeed a convinced liberal. But he did, nonetheless, miss the grandeur of aristocracy and felt the tug of higher ideals. He noted, on his visit to American in the mid-nineteenth century, “the rarity, in a land where all are actively ambitious, of any lofty ambition.”

(Occidentalism, The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies, Ian Buruma & Margalit, Penguin, 2004, pp. 54-55)

Democrat Party Absorbs Soviet Bill of Rights

Confronted with a Democratic party platform nearly identical to theirs, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) in early 1944 formally dissolved as a political party and perennial CPUSA presidential candidate Earl Browder announced his support of President Roosevelt for a fourth term. Browder’s vice-presidential running mate in 1936 and 1940 was James W. Ford, the first black man on a presidential ticket.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Democratic Party Absorbs Soviet Bill of Rights

“[The] historic Democratic party is no more, that it has been transformed into a labor party so completely that there is nothing left of it but the name. The process by which [the] transformation . . . was brought about had its beginnings during the period of “crisis government” established by Franklin D. Roosevelt and his “brain trust” in 1933. Measures having far-reaching application and effect were drafted by the President’s “advisors” and were jammed through Congress, frequently without most of the members having an opportunity to read them.

Mr. Roosevelt had been elected in 1932 by an electoral majority of eight to one . . . In such circumstances, Congress practically abdicated. It became literally a “rubber stamp” Congress. And Republican Senators and Representatives, with the majority of their constituents supporting President Roosevelt, were careful not to show too much opposition to measures which he favored. That’s why is was so easy to junk the Democratic platform of 1932 and to enact so many measures that violated the most fundamental principles of the historic Democratic party without protest from Southern Democrats, and even with their support.

One sequence [of the transformation] began during the period from 1935 to 1937, or at the very height of what Eugene Lyons has called “The Red Decade,” when it was fashionable in certain circles in New York, Los Angeles and Washington to glorify all things Russian and to affect a “revolutionary” attitude toward all existing institutions in the United States. It was a time when literally dozens of organizations with high-sounding names were set up in this country by the Communists to attract innocent “fellow travelers” and when The Daily Worker undertook to popularize the slogan “Communism is the Americanism of the Twentieth Century.”

In February, 1935, Joseph Stalin announced that the Russian Constitution would be democratized; in June, 1936, the first draft of the new Soviet Constitution was completed and published, [and adopted December 5, 1936]. It was promptly translated into English and by February, 1937, copies of it in the form of a five-cent pamphlet were available throughout this country. It immediately became the leading topic of discussion among the so-called “liberals” in the United States.

[The] Soviet Bill of Rights . . . guarantees every citizen a job . . . the right to material security in old age and also in case of illness and loss of capacity to toil . . . [and] “The equal rights of citizens of the USSR, independent of their nationality and race, in all fields of economic, state, cultural and public-political life is unalterable law. Any direct or indirect limitation of rights, or conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect preferences of citizens dependent on their racial and national membership, as well as all preaching of national exclusiveness, or hate and contempt, is punishable by law.”

[In late January, 1944] President Roosevelt revealed that the [New Deal] was being replaced by a streamlined post-war program. Here is what President Roosevelt said:

“As our nation had grown in size and stature, however – as our industrial economy expanded – [our previous life and liberty] political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness. We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident.

We have accepted, so to speak, a second bill of rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all – regardless of station, race or creed. Among these are: The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or mines of the nation; The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; The right of every business man, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; The right of every family to a decent home; The right of adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment; The right to a good education.”

The striking resemblance which this whole passage bears to the . . . Soviet Bill of Rights need not be dwelt upon.

In his message to Congress on September 6, 1945, President Truman said: “The objectives for our domestic economy which we seek in long-range plans were summarized by the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt over a year and a half ago in the form of an Economic Bill of rights. Let us make the attainment of those rights the essence of post-war American economic life.”

Notably, he issued a “salute to labor” on Labor Day, 1946, and more recently on June 28, 1947 . . . he discussed the subject in an address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at Lincoln Memorial in Washington. In his “salute to labor,” President Truman said:

“Labor, perhaps more than any other group, has consistently supported [FDR’s] “Economic Bill of Rights.” We must now move forward to full achievement of these objectives: useful and remunerative jobs for all; income high enough to provide adequate food, clothing and recreation; freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopoly; adequate health protection; more effective social security measures, and educational opportunities for all.”

In his more recent address to the [NAACP], by coupling these “economic” rights with other civil rights, he stated clearly . . . that it is the responsibility of the federal government to guarantee and to enforce these new rights. “The extension of civil rights today means not protection of the people AGAINST the government, but protection of the people BY the government.”

(The South’s Political Plight, Peter Molyneaux, Calhoun Clubs of the South, Inc., 1948, pp. 56-57, 67-70, 75-77, 81-84,)

Democracy Controlled with Machine Money

Republican party manager and future Senator Mark Hannah spent vast sums to ensure the election of William McKinley to the presidency in 1896, and was known as McKinley’s “political master.” It  was common in the postwar for the Republican president to have little or no say in selecting their own cabinet as these positions were already promised to party hacks and wealthy campaign contributors.  So desperate were the Republicans to maintain political hegemony after 1865 that only Democrat Grover Cleveland briefly served two terms before Woodrow Wilson in 1912.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Democracy Controlled with Machine Money

“[William Howard] Taft’s career would owe much to Mark Alonzo Hanna’s control of Ohio politics. Hanna, a former grocery clerk in Cleveland, had become a great merchant whose fleets transported tonnages of coal and iron ore along the Great Lakes. He was often portrayed in the press as a bully, smoking a big cigar, drinking whiskey, and stamping on the skeletons of working class women and children.

A big man, he was once described as looking like a “well-fed merchant prince from an old Dutch masterpiece.” Above all, he was the new man in party politics, the businessman who constructed a well-run machine that forced out the political adventurers who had come into Ohio after the Civil War and who were often personally corrupt and willing to prey on the rich as well as the poor.

Once Hanna became wealthy, he turned over his business to his brother and concentrated all his efforts on creating the “business state.” As he once remarked to a group of dinner companions, “All questions of government in a democracy [are] questions of money.” Eventually he became chairman of the Republican National Committee, and the most powerful boss in Republican politics. His signal triumph was putting Ohio’s governor William McKinley into the presidency in 1896, and a year later he himself served as a senator from Ohio until his death in 1904.

Will Taft was not particularly close to Hanna, but after Hanna became the dominant force in Ohio politics after 1888, Taft was responsive to the new order and backed McKinley. A telling factor that connected the Taft family to Hanna was the willingness of Taft’s brother Charles to join a “syndicate,” organized by Hanna to pay off McKinley’s debts when the governor found himself in serious trouble after endorsing large sums of notes owned by a ruined business associate. (Several future cabinet members and ambassadors were also in the “syndicate.”)

Under Hanna’s direction, political professionalism was allied to financial capitalism, whose mantra was high tariff protectionism for industry coupled with “sound money,” tying the dollar to gold. Under these conditions, foreign monies soon flowed into the United States, making the country independent of European capital markets and one of the great creditor nations of the world.”

(1912, Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs, The Election That Changed the Country, James Chace, Simon & Shuster, 2004, pp. 24-25)

Apr 25, 2015 - Democracy, Equality    No Comments

Democracy and Privileged Clases

A large democracy, in James Fenimore Cooper’s view, allow the people to “become the dupes of demagogues and political schemers” with “most of the crimes of democracies arising from the faults and designs of men of this character.”  Democracy’s ever-present manipulation of public opinion, inflamed by narrow and self-serving interests, is too often a substitute for the rule of law.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Democracy and Its Privileged Classes:

“The dogma of political equality produces the dogma of majority rule, and the old monarchical claim to arbitrary power is transferred to the popular majority. Hence the danger almost inevitably arises in a democracy that the state will be perverted to “a system of favoring a new privileged class of the many and the poor.”

On the other hand, there is the equally grave danger that the modern representative state will be captured by the capitalist class and transformed into a plutocracy. As the nineteenth century has progressed, democracy has found it more and more difficult to resist these twin tendencies, either of which would be fatal to the regime of economic liberty . . . [A] class conflict between capitalism and the proletariat will soon write and end to centuries of societal development.

Democracy has also led increasingly to a new and degraded form of political decision-making. Inevitably, “the consequence [of legislators at the mercy of clamorous factions] is the immense power of the lobby, and the legislation comes to be an affair of coalition between interests to make up a majority.”

(American Conservatism, In the Age of Enterprise, 1865-1910, Robert Green McCloskey, Harper, 1951, pp. 58-60)

Apr 19, 2015 - Democracy    No Comments

Democracy's Demagogic Plutocracy

It was Plato who observed that “Democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.” One of the greatest fears of American statesman John C. Calhoun was that democracy in the United States would evolve into a class warfare system whereby the taxpaying class would be perpetually looted by the tax-consuming class.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Democracy’s Demagogic Plutocracy

“The late Vilfredo Pareto – although recognizing that the democratic dogma, like other political myths, has important practical consequences in impelling men to act in certain ways – maintained that all the terms we use to distinguish forms of political rule are worthless “from the logico-experimental point of view.”

In other words, actual power is never where we imply that it is when we describe a given state as a monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy. Almost everywhere “there is a not very numerous governing class, which keeps itself in power partly by force and partly by consent of the much more numerous class of the governed.” The proportions of force and consent and the ways in which they are applied vary in different communities, but the variations do not follow the differences in the legal or theoretical forms of the state.

Behind the parliaments of so-called democracies, as well as behind all public despots, there is a minority that plays the major part in the real decisions of government. At times, it is true, the actual rulers have to do obeisance to the whims of princes and parliaments, but not for long; soon they resume their power and exercise it with a greater effectiveness than that of the occasional power wielded by the formal government.

In democracies the people are permitted to believe that the official government is actually controlled by their will. The ruling minority concedes to the populace a formal right to decide “general” questions, to which the proper officials may only give “concrete” application; but in the exercise of this latter function, the officers have all the freedom they need to make any sort of application which they, or the minority whom they serve, desire.

“A governmental system in which the “people” expresses its “will” (if we could suppose that the people has a will), without factions, intrigues and cliques, exists only in the state of the pious desires of theorists. Our democracies in France, Italy, England and the United States tend more and more to be demagogic plutocracies. [Pareto]”

(Recent Political Thought, Francis W. Coker, D. Appleton-Century Company, 1934, pp. 328-329)

 

Korea's Temporary American Intervention

Far from being a sterling example of democracy exported from the US, South Korea has been “an unrepresentative and unpopular dictatorship since the early days of American occupation.” Author Bruce Cumings (The Origins of the Korean War) suggests that the claimed North Korean surprise attack in June 1950 was in fact an armed response to frequent border incursions by the American-appointed puppet Syngman Rhee’s military. Not content with ruling only South Korea for his American friends, instigating war with the North could increase his realm.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org

 

Korea’s Temporary American Intervention

“America’s three-decade intervention in Korea has shattered an ancient East Asian society. Millions were killed and wounded; millions more became refugees separated from their families and birthplaces. Twenty-nine years after World War II and twenty-one years after the Korean War, the Korean people and peninsula are still divided into two hostile regimes.

The consequences for the United States have also been grave. America suffered casualties of 33,629 killed and 150,000 wounded in the Korean War and has spent tens of billions of dollars for the security and economic development of the Republic of Korea (ROK). The belief that US policies in Korea were a successful model for resisting communism in Asia led directly to the US intervention in Vietnam.

Ironically, although American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam . . . the US expeditionary force remains in South Korea to “ensure stability in Northeast Asia,” a hostage to strategies and ambitions of the cold war past.

American involvement in Korea occurred at a moment of singular renaissance for the Korean people. Japan’s crushing defeat in 1945 meant political and cultural liberation [and a chance] to re-establish the Korean nation after thirty-five years of harsh Japanese colonial rule . . . Korea was a unified country when it lost independence to Japan in 1910. A homogenous population speaking a common language lived on a distinct geographical unit, the Korean peninsula, where they had lived for over a thousand years.

The American forces that landed at Inch’on, Korea, in September 1945 . . . were a harbinger of America’s new role in postwar Asia. The US-USSR agreement in August 1945 on a temporary zonal division of the peninsula to accept the surrender of Japanese forces gave America a limited “temporary” responsibility for southern Korea. Since 1948 the United States has paid directly a large percentage of the ROK’s annual budget and has trained, armed and supplied its military forces.

The post-World War II involvement in Korea differs from areas where US power was traditionally paramount. No United Fruit Company dabbled in Korean politics. The Korean peninsula lacked natural resources and market potential . . . Congress might have limited the US involvement, but instead it passively and indifferently acquiesced to executive branch policies.

The most striking instance was allowing President Harry S. Truman to go to war in Korea in June 1950 without a declaration of war by the Congress, as required by the Constitution. This fateful lapse contributed to the plunge into Vietnam a decade later.

The US intervention in Korea to block the Soviet Union overlooked one factor: the Koreans. Whether the Korean demands for immediate self-government and reforms were communist-inspired or advocated by non-communist radicals and liberals, the US command would not risk a potential challenge to its control [and] Washington ruled that there could be no retreat.

The United States intervention [in June, 1950] prolonged the war [between Korean political factions] by more than three years, bringing an estimated 4.5 million Korean, Chinese and American casualties. The United States attained its objective of keeping the southern half of the peninsula non-communist, but the Koreas remain divided almost three decades later.”

(Without Parallel, The American-Korean Relationship Since 1945, Frank Baldwin, Pantheon Books, 1971, excerpts, pp. 3-16)

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