Victorian liberal


June 26, 1950 0900


MacArthur believed that the postwar struggle lay between   Christian democracy and "imperialistic Communism." Most of the United States agreed   as Walter Lippmann pointed out, it is hard for Americans to feel secure in an environment not governed by Christian concepts though there was a subtle difference between the General's view and theirs. As the popularity of McCarthyism attested, they were more offended by Marxist zealots, particularly American Marxists, than by Sino-Soviet hunger for power. MacArthur, with his nineteenth century credo, believed that the greater enemy was Muscovite adventurism. He would have been just as antagonistic toward them had a czar ruled in Moscow and mandarins in Peking. As he had repeatedly demonstrated in Tokyo, he was capable of adopting radical solutions as long as they weren't called radical. He had always paid lip service to conservative shibboleths. In practice, he had ignored them. It was Truman, after all, who wanted to fight the Huks and Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh. It was MacArthur who had understood the motivation of both.

It is a massive irony that this Victorian liberal should have become the first commander of a United Nations army. Thanks to Warren Austin and to the Russian walkout out from the Security Council UN prestige was now committed to the South Korean cause, and thirteen countries had promised troops if the United States committed its own ground forces. In his first press conference since the rupture of the Parallel, Truman had agreed with a reporter who had asked:

"Would it be correct to call it a police action under the United Nations?"

 The phrase was unpopular in the United States; few Americans thought it an acceptable substitute for war, or felt allegiance to the world body. Many who did had doubts about the choice of a commander. James Reston wrote in the New York Times that

"General Douglas MacArthur, at 70," was being "asked to be not only a great soldier but a great statesman; not only to direct the battle, but to satisfy the Pentagon, the State Department, and the United Nations in the process."

Reston noted that unlike Eisenhower, with his "genius for international teamwork," MacArthur

"is a sovereign power in his own right, with stubborn confidence in his own judgment. Diplomacy and a vast concern for the opinions and sensitivities of others are the political qualities essential to this new assignment, and these are precisely the qualities General MacArthur has been accused of lacking in the past."