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 16, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. The U.S. failed to achieve a unified Korea during the Korean War because of its initial hesitation to declare Korea as a vital national interest. However, once Korea was declared to be a vital national interest, nuclear weapons were not considered as an option. I believe this is largely because of the proximity of the former Soviet Union. Even though nuclear weapons may have achieved the tactical and operational objectives in Korea, the strategic downfall by potentially involving the former USSR was not a risk the U.S. was willing to take. This by default kept the war limited and is why there still exists a divided Korean peninsula. Had we gone ahead with nuclear weapons during the Korean War, it is possible that we would have entered WW III and suffered mutually assured destruction.

    Comment by Justin Reddick | March 16, 2017

  2. War is politics by others means. If War is to be used as a weapon it must be used in total not limited. Wars stop when people get fed up with the death of its soldiers and force their politicians to the negotiating table. The limited war scenario makes war tolerable and neither side can achieve their desired end-state. America needs to be willing to use the ultimate weapon to keep wars from dragging on and adding meaningless death.

    Comment by Jeffery Hoover | March 16, 2017

  3. Korea never had the strategic priority, in the eyes of post-WWII US policy, to warrant a total war and risk nuclear weapons. Western Europe and building NATO was the top priority for the US after WW-II. Korea had a limited role shaping our relationships with China and Japan. Its limited strategic role called for limited warfare for its defense. All four of the “Far East Divisions” received dramatic cuts to their combat power – a move that indicates the peninsula’s limited value. This reality means that escalating the war to a “total war” scenario with nuclear weapons was never really a viable option

    Today, preventing North Korea from obtaining the means to reach the US with their nuclear weapons is the principle objective of nuclear strategy between the US – North Korea.

    Comment by Scott Harr | March 17, 2017

  4. U.S. policy during the Korean War concentrated on two promises: One, stopping the spread of communism and two, maintaining a limited war to avoid the direct involvement of other powers (Soviet Union) thus limiting the unification of the Korean peninsula. Although, congress had constrained General MacArthur from attacking Chinese and Soviet installation North of the 38th parallel to avoid expansion of the war in Korea; the general had grown impatience with the constrains to military operations and called for an escalation of force. In November 1950, President Truman in a press conference stated that he would take whatever steps were necessary to win in Korea, including the use of nuclear weapons. Putting the nuclear option in the table establish the precedence for nuclear deterrence as other nations were aware of its destructive power. In addition, China was years away from deploying a nuclear weapon. Although, Soviet Union had completed a nuclear test, the air drop capability was still not complete. Therefore, the U.S. was still the only power with nuclear weapons and air drop capacity. President Eisenhower, after he came to power in January 1953, ordered B-52s to the old continent to make the nuclear option a clear and present danger to the Soviet Union as they continue to support North Korea and the Chinese. Today we have a very robust presence in Korea to prevent any military action from North Korea into the southern peninsula.

    Comment by Diego Alvarado | March 25, 2017

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