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Power and Primacy

A History of Western Intervention in the Asia-Pacific

A.B. Abrams

Today the Asia-Pacific region stands on the verge of major change, with centuries of western dominated regional order being seriously challenged and quite possibly nearing its end. The emergence of a potential new order dominated by regional rather than extra-regional powers - an «Asia for the Asiatics» in the words of Japan’s pan-Asian scholars - means it is now more than ever essential to understand the history of the current western-dominated system, the full implications should it continue and the nature of the West’s intentions towards the region.

This book undertakes the task of elucidating the complex and little-known history of western intervention in the Asia-Pacific, providing information critical to understanding contemporary developments

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Chapter 8: The Korean War: Part I – Meeting a New Challenge to Western Regional Primacy

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Chapter 8

The Korean War: Part I – Meeting a New Challenge to Western Regional Primacy

The evils of tyranny are rarely seen but by him who resists it.1— John Hay

I had seen the war-battered cities of Europe; but I had not seen devastation until I had seen Korea.2

— American Chief Justice William O. Douglas

Sweeping South: The Early Stages of the War

Following the outbreak of the Korean War, ROK forces were soon pressed into a rapid retreat southwards by advancing North Korean divisions. U.S. personnel were rushed to their aid from neighboring Japan, and within days were engaging the KPA on the front. Initial American reinforcements proved wholly inadequate however, and these troops were almost immediately forced to retreat alongside the South Koreans. The U.S. forces appeared to have wholly underestimated the capabilities of the North Koreans, their advanced training and extensive prior combat experience in particular, which led to American forces initially deployed being overwhelmingly outmatched. As one British report stated regarding U.S. troops: ‘In their very first contact with the North Koreans they were outmaneuvered and soundly defeated. Retreat was the only option.’3

Pulitzer prize winning American journalist David Halberstam noted the attitude of the American military towards the North Koreans, expecting them to flee and surrender at the very sight of Western soldiers. He wrote: ‘almost everyone, from top to bottom, seemed to share the view that the moment the North...

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