Skirmishes between South Korea and North Korea? Potential Russian intervention? Snow and ice? Must be a cold war, says Garreth Matthews.
The recent shelling of the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong by the DPRK made me think back to the beginnings of the Cold War, and the Long Telegram written by George Kennan in 1946. Kennan was the Deputy Chief of Mission to the USSR, working out of the US embassy in Moscow. In his 1946 telegram he responded to the State Departments query why the Soviets were not prepared to work with the World Bank and IMF, by detailing how the ‘Soviet Union did not see the possibility for long-term peaceful coexistence with the capitalist world’. Though his conclusions were stark he recommended a policy of containment, with an emphasis on a multifaceted diplomatic approach.
In 1949 Kennan’s Long Telegram would become the basis for the more ‘combatant’ NSC68. NSC68 was a National Security report headed by Paul Nitze, which used the evidence in the Long Telegram as justification for a complete reversal in US post-war policy. At the time Truman had been elected on a mandate of budget cuts, and reduced military spending, aimed at reducing the large deficit and encouraging business revival. Rather than reduce defence expenditure NSC68 recommended a much more aggressive and offensive fight against Communism in every part of the world, as well as the trebling of the defence budget at a time when the majority of Congress were fervently opposed to such measures.
Like most major foreign policy changes an international event would facilitate the introduction of what would become the Truman Doctrine; the 1950 Korean War. North Korean aggression supported by the Soviet Union was the perfect vehicle for Nitze to gain congressional support for NSC68. I recently met an academic who has spent many years surveying many members of the US government at that time. He proposed to me that what came out of many of those discussions was the possibility that the CIA had covertly encouraged sections of the DPRK regime to advance into the south, thereby creating the international conditions to further support for NSC68 at home.
Like most people I generally laugh off most conspiracy theories as the fodder that they are. However this meeting brought the current North Korea aggression back into my thoughts. Is it possible that like the 1950 war, the current North Korean encroachment over international boundaries, is being encouraged through back channels by the secret services of America in an effort to destabilise the whole South-East Asian region, thereby stalling the economic growth of the world’s next Superpower; China?
I am by no means advocating either theories regarding the 1950 Korean War or the current escalation in the area. However at the very least it poses food for thought.