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Post Truman Appraised: Cowardice, Bravado, Neither?
Created by John Eipper on 02/02/18 3:52 AM

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Truman Appraised: Cowardice, Bravado, Neither? (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 02/02/18 3:52 am)

John Eipper asked, "As for world leaders, what is preferable, cowardice or bravado?"

Both characteristics if shown by world leaders should be cause for dismissal. Both can become way too expensive to be tolerated by the nation, which will ultimately have to pay the cost. In other words, world leaders should be honest, sober, measured, courageous, and preferably good-looking.

The bravado by Douglas MacArthur was only human: After helping win WWII over the Japanese, he also won the peace in my estimation with an outstanding administration of post-war Japan. Then he implemented against Washington's advice/pressure the brilliant Inchon invasion in Korea. I believe most humans might indulge in some bravado in this context. Proud teenagers love any opportunity for bravado. Cowardice is what bad guys show when their goose gets cooked à la Saddam Hussein, the Shah of Iran, etc.

MacArthur was a proud human being, thus he indulged in what he probably thought was the coup de grace against the North Korean military by squeezing them against the Yalu river (Chinese border), totally neglecting to consider what he would have to do if the Chinese Army entered the fight. The result was a very embarrassing defeat for the USA and the worst military result for any MacArthur military campaign. He deserved to be canned by Truman for the extremely difficult conditions the American troops had to suffer.

Commenting on Eugenio Battaglia's post, JE wrote, "Regarding Truman, History's jury is still deliberating. Would HST have been a greater president had he not used the Bomb? Or was he 'great' precisely because he took that weighty decision?"

Eugenio is correct, the Japanese nation was already on its proverbial last leg. The overwhelming invasion of Manchuria by the Russians (which by then had run over the "invincible" German army all way to Berlin) was a huge shock to the Japanese. Once the US government limited the wording of the unconditional surrender demands to "armed forces," the major obstacle was removed. Japanese surrender was delayed only because they would not compromise their living God and because the military leadership alone preferred to commit suicide rather than surrender.

A better person (i.e. Eisenhower) would not have dropped the bomb. The aggressive and nasty Japanese military deserved to get burned, but not civilians who had no choice to surrender. Truman knew the A-bomb was justifiably popular at the time, because an invasion of Japan would kill many thousands of American soldiers. A million is likely a huge exaggeration, given the enormous military superiority the US then enjoyed over Japan. Generals MacArthur, Bombs-Away Le May, and other hawkish generals held the opinion that the A-bomb was not necessary for the surrender. That is conclusive enough for me.

JE comments:  Was Eisenhower a better person than Truman, or was he "better" because he didn't drop the Bomb?  If you use marital fidelity as a yardstick, Ike comes up lacking.

About once a year, WAIS raises the question of whether Japan would have surrendered anyway (i.e., without Hiroshima and Nagasaki), and at what cost to the US.  A million more casualties?  "Only" a few thousand?  We'll never know, but Truman in 1945 would have had a hard time justifying even a single additional US death to spare the lives of the despised Japanese.  On the other hand, there's also the conspiracy interpretation that the Bomb was primarily a warning signal to the Soviets.

Now, to Mao (Istvan Simon).

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