The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

H303: Duke Nuke’em

21168During the Korean War US forces were caught in a bloody stalemate because the US, as a matter of policy, choose to keep the war limited. Why did the US not escalate the war and unify the Korean peninsula? Were nuclear weapons a viable option for use in the war? What role do nuclear weapons play in the US strategy in Korea today?

March 9, 2016 - Posted by | H300, Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. The Korean War effectively demonstrated the critical linkages between American strategy and the preservation of critical national interests through military means. The United States strategy required coherent ties between American interests and military action; this dictated limited warfare in accordance with national policy direct from the President. President Truman clearly conveyed his intent; the marriage of ends, ways, and means directly resulted from Presidential policy and the limited impingement of American national interests and security on the Korean peninsula.
    The United States did not escalate the war because the President would not allow General MacArthur to wage total war. This ties back to the limited relationship by which America’s national interests and security were affected with commensurate military means to wage warfare. Fortunately, this prevented a nuclear option as President Truman refused to wage total war on North Korea as he understood the precedent he would set by this action as well as the upsetting of a nuclear deterrence and balance strategy employed by his administration.
    Today nuclear weapons in Korea have taken a much different context. For the United States, the nuclear deterrence and non-proliferation policies are strongly advertised. For North Korea, the regime sees an opportunity to achieve military parity therein achieving a form of nuclear deterrence of their own in order to further consolidate power on the continent and in the region. The challenge with North Korea is the instability of the regime coupled by a threat like a nuclear weapon. As such, the dangers posed by North Korea and North Korean nuclear weapons is highly disconcerting to American and other national interests worldwide.

    Comment by Maj Matt Wunderlich, 19A | March 10, 2016

  2. The US kept the Korean War limited because the use of nuclear weapons risked escalating the conflict into a third world war by drawing other players, such as the Chinese and the Russians into the war. While nuclear weapons play the role of deterrence in the US strategy in Korea today, the last major Nuclear Posture Review in 2010 by the US assumes the US would rely less and less on nuclear weapons to deter or defeat potential adversaries because it would be able to prevail with high-tech non-nuclear forces. However, the US might be compelled to use nuclear weapons in a conflict with North Korea because the size of US conventional forces is significantly smaller than that of the North Korean army and nuclear weapons would therefore give the US military an asymmetric advantage.

    Comment by Luke Goh, SG 19B | March 14, 2016

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