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Truman, Congress, and Korea: The Politics of America’s First Undeclared War

by Larry Blomstedt

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Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy, and Peace
334 pages  Pubdate: 01/08/2016  6 x 9  12 b&w photos, 1 map, 2 tables

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Three days after North Korean premier Kim Il Sung launched a massive military invasion of South Korea on June 24, 1950, President Harry S. Truman responded, dispatching air and naval support to South Korea. Initially, Congress cheered his swift action; but, when China entered the war to aid North Korea, the president and many legislators became concerned that the conflict would escalate into another world war, and the United States agreed to a truce in 1953. The lack of a decisive victory caused the Korean War to quickly recede from public attention. However, its impact on subsequent American foreign policy was profound.

In Truman, Congress, and Korea: The Politics of America’s First Undeclared War, Larry Blomstedt provides the first in-depth domestic political history of the conflict, from the initial military mobilization, to Congress’s failed attempts to broker a cease-fire, to the political fallout in the 1952 election. During the war, President Truman faced challenges from both Democratic and Republican legislators, whose initial support quickly collapsed into bitter and often public infighting. For his part, Truman dedicated inadequate attention to relationships on Capitol Hill early in his term and also declined to require a formal declaration of war from Congress, advancing the shift toward greater executive power in foreign policy.

The Korean conflict ended the brief period of bipartisanship in foreign policy that began during World War II. It also introduced Americans to the concept of limited war, which contrasted sharply with the practice of requiring unconditional surrenders in previous conflicts. Blomstedt’s study explores the changes wrought during this critical period and the ways in which the war influenced US international relations and military interventions during the Cold War and beyond.

Larry Blomstedt is associate professor of history at Galveston College.

This solid political history provides a compelling, detailed narrative of Congress and the Korean War, to a much greater extent than anything that has been published to date. Its primary strength is its ability to tap into two understudied areas: congressional history and legislative-executive relations regarding the Korean War. -- K. C. Johnson, author of All the Way with LBJ: The 1964 Presidential Election

This historical analysis sheds new light on the political happenings of the war and posits several new interpretations of work done by historians in the past. The work thus adds a new and critical component to the literature of the war and should appeal to Korean War scholars of all stripes as well as scholars and general readers interested in the Truman presidency, American politics during a divisive period of US history, and presidential decision making. -- Paul Pierpaoli, author of Truman and Korea: The Political Culture of the Early Cold War

[E]ngaging writing style, broad research, and in-depth analysis and comprehensive coverage of executive-legislative relations during the Korean War .

Blomstedt provides the most detailed analysis to date of Truman’s interaction with Congress from 1949 to early 1953.

Blomstedt has provided us with the most thorough examination to date of executive-legislative relations during a pivotal period of the Cold War. -- Missouri Historical Review

Clear and rich in detail, Blomstedt has written an excellent history of a key moment in US postwar national security. -- Choice

Truman, Congress, and Korea serves as a critical read not only for Korean War history, but also for U.S. Cold War history. -- Journal of American-East Asian Relations

[A] solidly researched and soundly argued book . . . . -- American Historical Review

Blomstedt has made a welcome contribution to the literature on the U.S. domestic side of the Korean conflict. -- Journal of Cold War Studies