The “containment” policy was created by the Truman’s administration; it had been formulated in 1947 by George Kennan. It meant blocking the expansion of the East but not attempting to roll back its borders, which was what the USA tried later on. Kennan believed therefore that containment would be sufficient because he argued that time was on the side of the West, and that the USSR would one dayself-destruct and collapse. Many examples of the policy of Containment can be observed during the 1940’s, for instance the Truman Doctrine or the Marshall Plan. This meant that the Americans were providing financial and military assistance to the countries: this promised an efficient defense against communist countries and its spread. The United States actually feared the domino theory whichconsists in: “If you knock over the first domino in a line the rest will fall down too”. The USA thought this would happen if one country was knocked over by the Communist threat. Soon all nearby countries would turn Communist as well. Therefore, USA wanted to contain communism and felt that South Asia was dangerously drifting towards this ideology. Was the policy of containment in Southeast Asiasuccessful between 1950 and 1975?
First of all, the Korean War is the first event to consider in order to assess the policy of containment in Southeast Asia. Truman realized that the USA was competing with the USSR for the role of world leader. Thus, the origins of this war lay in the fact that Korea had been under Japanese occupation since 1910. After the Second World War, Korea was divided into two along the 38th parallel. The north was communist and the south was non-communist and backed by the USA. However, for the latter the division was not going to be permanent and as the UN they wanted free elections for the whole country. The issue was not the one they expected and South Korea was set up with Syngman Rhee as president and the following month the USSR created North Korea underthe communist government of Kim Il Sung. In 1949, Russian and American troops withdrew, leaving the country in a bad state. Thus, most Koreans felt bitter about the artificial division forced on their country by others and both leaders from the North and the South claimed the right to rule the country. Surprisingly, North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950. Some might argue that they actedbecause South Korea was threatening them. Others might argue that Kim Il Sung had been encouraged by Stalin and Mao who were involved in the Far East by supplying them with tanks and other military equipment. The former had visited the latter and, in 1949, he persuaded them that he could conquer South Korea. Stalin agreed as he did not think the USA would get involved and thought that it would givehim the opportunity to have a psychological effect on the United States. Truman was worried about this attack, which he thought was Stalin’s decision, because China had become communist in 1949. The Domino Theory was likely to happen, therefore it was decided that it was essential for the West to support South Korea. By supporting South Korea, the USA was fighting communism without directlyattacking the USSR, it was a proxy war. The UN tried a pacifist method by asking the withdrawal of the North Korean troops but it was not successful. Thus, on the 27 June the USA persuaded the United Nations to pass a resolution supporting South Korea. Troops who were in Japan were sent to Korea, particularly to Pusan and these were under the command of General MacArthur. On 15 September, the latterled a landing at Inchon. Out of 300,000 UN troops, 260,000 were Americans; they drove back the NKPA troops, took 125,000 prisoners and recaptured South Korea. Finally, on 7 October 1950 MacArthur invaded North Korea and he reached the Chinese border: this created fear on the Chinese’s side since the Americans were not far from Manchuria. This is the reason why the Chinese launched a massive...
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