[November 25, 2013] On January 12, 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson gave a speech in which he explained America’s Asian Policy, specifically saying that certain countries (e.g., Japan, Philippines) were inside the United States’ protective sphere. South Korea1 was not mentioned in his speech and five months later, North Korea2 invaded.
Acheson was severely criticized for giving the “green light” to the communist invasion. While the criticism was exaggerated, the speech certainly did not help the complex and dangerous situation on the Korean peninsula, in China or the USSR.
What senior leaders don’t say can leave open to our imaginations or our creativity to fill the void with what is feared or desired.
As we all know now, President Truman immediately committed U.S. troops, and with United Nations intervention, was able to help push the communist forces northward in a costly war. There was approximately 2.5 million3 killed, wounded, and missing, both military and civilians. The war was only halted by an Armistice signed in July 1953. Technically, both nations are still at war.
Senior leaders often underestimate the power of their words and can be sloppy in their use of facts, terminology, or analysis – leading to miscommunication that can have dramatic negative consequences.
Acheson was logically explaining the limits of America’s protective role; the United States now thrust into the role as leading nation in world affairs. His contribution to Truman and other administrations was invaluable. Yet, he will forever be disparaged for what he did not say.
 Republic of Korea (South Korea)
 Democratic People’s of Korea (North Korea)
 Total casualties from the Korean War vary significantly from the official count. For example, China estimates that 114,000 were killed but it is believed the actual number may have exceeded 400,000.