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"Capitol Report" No. 60, Featuring Senator Robert F. Taft
June 29, 1950



 

Background

Consider These Questions

 

Senator Robert F. Taft, also known as "Mr. Republican," spoke out against the foreign policy of the Truman administration. Along with criticizing the handling of Korea and the Far East, Taft opposed NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), viewing it as a militant antagonism towards the Soviet Union.



ANNOUNCER:  

This is Washington. Welcome to another transcribed edition of CAPITOL REPORT, your weekly informal news interview with Ohio's distinguished senior senator-Robert A. Taft. Senator Taft, there was no question about the single topic of conversation in Washington this week. It was the invasion of Southern Korea by the Communists of North Korea. After five years of peace, war talk again is filling the air here in the nation's capital. Would you review the events of this past week?


TAFT:  

Well, early on Sunday morning, June 25, the Communist-dominated Republic of North Korea launched an unprovoked military attack on the Republic of Korea, recognized as an independent nation by the United Nations and by the United States. On the same day the Security Council of the United Nations adopted a resolution noting with grave concern the armed attack upon the Republic of Korea from forces from North Korea and determining that this action constituted a breach of the peace under the United Nations Charter. They called upon all members to render every assistance to the United Nations in the execution of this resolution and to refrain from giving assistance to the North Korean authorities. They attack did not cease, and on Tuesday, June, 27, the President issued a statement announcing that he had "ordered United States air and sea forces to give the Korean government troops cover and support." That, of course, means a de factor war. He also announced that he had ordered the 7th fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa and that he had directed that United States forces in the Philippines be strengthened and that military assistance to the Philippine government and the forces of France and the associated states in Indo China be accelerated.


ANNOUNCER:  

Now, in your opinion, Senator Taft, just how serious is this situation?


TAFT:  

Well, no one can deny that a serious crisis exists. The attack was about as much a surprise to the public as Pearl Harbor, although, apparently, the possibility was foreseen by all the intelligence forces and should have been foreseen by the Administrator. Of course, we are actually engaged in a de facto war. That in itself is serious but nothing compared to the possibility that it might lead to war with Soviet Russia. It is entirely possible that they might move in to help the North Koreans and that the present limited field of conflict might cover the entire world. Of course, the attack of the North Koreans is an outrageous act of aggression against a friendly independent nation recognized by the United Nations, which we were instrumental in setting up. The attack in all probability was instigated by Soviet Russia. We can only hope that the leaders of that country have sufficient judgment to know that a world war would result in their own destruction and that therefore they will refrain from such acts as might bring about such a tragic conflict.


ANNOUNCER:  

Senator Taft, as leader of the minority party in the United States Senate, do you approve the action of the President in sending our armed forces to stop this Communist aggression?


TAFT:  

Well, broadly speaking, yes. Of course, from the past philosophy of the declaration of the Administration it wasn't unreasonable for the North Koreans to suppose that we would do nothing about their attack. The President's statement of policy represents a complete change in the programs and policies he has heretofore proclaimed. I myself have always urged a much more determined attitude against communism in the Far East and China and the President's new policy moves in that direction. Naturally, I don't object to the general policy. It seems to me the time had to come when we would give definite notice to the Communists that a move beyond a declared line would result in war. That has been our policy in Europe and the Atlantic Union. Whether the President in this case, however, has chosen the right time or the right lace to declare this policy certainly is open to question. He knows more about it then I do. I can't be certain. But certainly the new poicy seems to be adopted at an unfortunate time — and involves the attempt to defend Korea, which is a very difficult military operation indeed. I sincerely hope that the policy won't lead to war with Russia. I do believe the general principle of the policy is right, and I see no choice except to back up wholeheartedly and with every available resource the American men in our armed forces who have been moved into Korea.


ANNOUNCER:  

Well, we've heard so much about bi-partisan foreign policy in the past few years, I wonder what extent the President consulted with you and the other Republican leaders before making this very drastic decision?


TAFT:  

Well, the answer is — not at all. The answer is that there hasn't been any pretense of bi-partisan foreign policy in this move. The leaders of the Republican Party in Congress have never been consulted. Well, they never were consulted on the Chinese policy or Formosa or Korea or Indo China. It's true that Republican members of the Foreign Relations and Armed Forces committees were called to the White House at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 27, but they were simply handed the President's statement. They weren't consulted about it; and, of course, they had no opportunity to change it or to consult Republican Policy committees in either House or Senate.


ANNOUNCER:  

Well, Senator Taft, I believe you have charged that this present crisis has been brought about by the bungling and the inconsistent policies of the Administration, and I think you listed some 3 or 4 points in your indictment. Would you summarize these points, please, for our listeners?


TAFT:  

Well, in the first place, at Yalta and at Potsdam we agreed to the arbitrary division of Korea along the 38th parallel, a line that has no economic justification — leaves most of the power and industry in North Korea. The Southern half can hardly support its population except on a strictly agricultural basis. That was in line with a policy which paid for a Russian Assistance in the Japanese war by giving them the Kurilo Islands, half of Sakhalin, and the control of Manchuria and the control of Northern Korea, although we had defeated the Japanese before they had actually entered the war. Apparently, someone at Yalta saw this 38th parallel on the map — these lines are run across the map of course — and didn't take the trouble to suggest a more sensible line. The agreement was really part of the sympathetic acceptance of communism as a peace-loving philosophy which has resulted in making Russia a threat to the existence of the world.

Then there are three other policies which really have invited the North Koreans to attack. Certainly the cause of the attack which they made was the Chinese policy of the Administration giving basic encouragement to the North Korean aggression. If the United States was not prepared to use its troops and give military assistance to Nationalist China against Chinese Communists, Koreans thought why should it use its troops to defend Nationalist Korea against Korean Communists? The Communists undoubtedly considered that Korea was much less important to us than China to the United States and that they could get away with their grab. And they knew about the general policy of doing nothing in China that was reaffirmed by Secretary Acheson as recently as January 12. He said in definite language that the United States must and shall maintain armed forces in Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines, but that there were limits to effective United States assistance. He distinctly stated that beyond the line laid down we could not assure the rest of the Far East against attack. With such a reaffirmation of our Chinese policy is it any wonder that the Korean Communists took us at the word of Secretary Acheson?

Then third, our action in Korea itself invited attack. We withdrew our troops from Korea. We, in effect, said we're not going to engage in military operations in Korea. We thought it was impossible to do so on a military basis. We did declare that we would give armed assistance to Korea. They came up to Congress and asked for the money and they got the money. They had $10,000,000 expressly and a lot of other money they could have used to arm the Koreans. And they asked for it to arm the Koreans against the aggression of North Korea. The fact is that not more than $200 has ever been spent on military assistance to Korea. And, of course, the North Koreans knew that. Apparently, the President without the approval of Congress changed its policy, and his own statement last week says that our policy was only to arm the government forces "to prevent border raids and to preserve internal security." Certainly, the fact of our policy toward not arming South Korea was well known to the North Koreans and was certainly one which invited attack. And then, finally, of course, the attitude of the Administration with regard to Formosa emphasized very clearly the policy of nonintervention in Asia beyond the line laid down by Secretary Acheson. And Korea was outside f that line just as much as Formosa. On January 11 the Secretary told the Foreign Relations Committee that we would have in impregnable defense line without Formosa. He indicated, in fact, that America might recognize Communist China in the future. The Administration was contemplating the recognition of Communist China, the abandonment of Formosa. Why wasn't it reasonable for the Korean Communists to think that they would naturally carry out the policy they declared — not to defend South Korea.


ANNOUNCER:  

Well, Senator Taft, I'm sure everyone in Ohio remembers that back in December, when you were on your tour of Ohio, you urged strongly at that time that we make it plain to the Communists that we intended to defend Formosa. I believe you said the same thing right after the first of the year when you returned to Washington on this very program as well as on the floor of the Senate. However, the State Department and the Administration didn't think so much of your idea then, did they?


TAFT:  

No, they didn't. I have a clipping from the Cleveland Plain Dealer on January 12 which sums up their statements. It says "President Truman and his top cabinet officer late today derided Senator Robert A. Taft for his China policy views. They directed shafts of ridicule at the Senate Republican Policy Chairman for his declaration that the United States Navy should prevent Chinese Reds from taking the Island of Formosa." Now, of course, that's just what they've ordered the Navy to do. I think it's fairly obvious that it was far easier to defend Formosa without becoming involved in war than it is now to defend Korea or Indo China without becoming involved in war. Senator Connally, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, also violently attacked my suggestion that we defend Formosa. He accused me of war mongering and bringing the American boys into danger in Formosa, which, of course, is very much less than what he is not in the invasion of Korea. Surely, it was reasonable for the North Koreans to think that we would not undertake the far more difficult and dangerous task of defending South Korea, when these leaders of American opinions stated frankly that we weren't going to lift our hand even to help Formosa.


ANNOUNCER:  

Well, in view of all that, Senator Taft, the President's new policy seems completely to repudiate Secretary of State Acheson just as Chamberlain was repudiated after Munich. Would you agree on that?


TAFT:  

Well, yes. I mean it's direct overruling of Secretary Acheson's statements and to some extent to the President's statements. Now, the President says that the occupation of Formosa by Communist forces would be a direct threat to the security of the Pacific area with the United States' forces performing their lawful and necessary functions in that area. Secretary Acheson, last January, said that Formosa had no military value. The President says now that the determination of the future status of Formosa must wait the restoration of security in the Pacific in a peace settlement with Japan. Last January, Secretary Acheson said that this status of Formosa was settled at Cairo, Potsdam and that we weren't going to wait for any treaty with Japan. He was directly overruled there and, of course, furnishing military assistance to Indo China contradicts completely Secretary Acheson's statement that we could do nothing beyond the line which he indicated.


ANNOUNCER:  

Well, Senator Taft, as all of us know, the power to declare war rests solely in the hands of Congress, and in the debate on the floor of the Senate this week you raised the question whether the President had really usurped his power. What about that?


TAFT:  

Well, of course, that ought to be debated, I think. I would be willing to vote to approve the President's new policy, but I do think that it would to have been passed on by Congress. I do not think that under the statuses now existing he could use the armed forces of the United States to back up the United Nations without action by Congress under the United Nations without action by Congress under the United Nations implementation act which we passed in '45.


ANNOUNCER:  

Well, I know that we certainly are all hoping for the best and that this will not lead to the third world war in less than 30 years. Thank you, Senator Taft, for this informative discussion of the grave events confronting our people. Ladies and gentlemen, from the nation's capital, we have brought you another transcribed edition of your weekly news interview with Ohio's distinguished senator, Robert A. Taft. Listen in again next week at this same time for another authoritative account of news of world-wide importance as seen by one of the best-informed men in Washington — Senator Taft. This program was prepared by the State News Bureau and comes to you as a public service. I return you to your station announcer.



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Consider These Questions

Background

 

1. Senator Taft argues that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Korea was one part of "the bungling and the inconsistent policies of the Administration." In light of the success of the atomic bomb and the recent end to World War II, would the American public have favored leaving U.S. soldiers to guard the 38th Parallel indefinitely?

2. If Senator Taft's policies had been implemented in the Far East after World War II, would the Korean Conflict have occurred?

3. How much of Senator Taft's criticism speaks from hindsight?




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