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Selling the Korean War: propaganda, politics, and public opinion in the United States, 1950-1953

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Steven Casey|
Oxford University Press (March 2008)

How presidents spark and sustain support for wars remains an enduring and significant problem. Korea was the first limited war the US experienced in the contemporary period - the first recent war fought for something less than total victory. This book explores how Truman and then Eisenhower tried to sell it to the American public.

Based on a massive array of primary sources, Casey subtly explores the government's selling activities from all angles. He looks at the halting and sometimes chaotic efforts of Harry Truman and Dean Acheson, Dwight Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles. He examines the relationships that they and their subordinates developed with a host of other institutions, from Congress and the press to Hollywood and labor. And he assesses the complex and fraught interactions between the military and war correspondents in the battlefield theater itself.

From high politics to bitter media spats, Casey guides the reader through the domestic debates of this messy, costly war - from the initial disasters in the summer of 1950 to the giddy prospects of victory in October 1950, from the massive defeats in the wake of China's massive intervention to the lengthy period of stalemate fighting in 1952 and 1953.

Dr Steve Casey is a senior lecturer in the International History Department, LSE.

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'This is, quite simply, a fantastically good book. Steven Casey's exhaustively researched account of the hesitant, ambivalent effort to sell America's first limited war to a reluctant public is a brilliant evocation and analysis of the domestic shape of the Korean War. Comparisons between the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan and Vietnam are commonplace; readers may be surprised to discover how much of the present dilemmas of US foreign policy were pre-figured over half a century ago.'
Marilyn B Young, professor of History at NYU, author of The Vietnam Wars, and co-editor of Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam: or how not to learn from the past

'An exhaustively researched, highly readable, and path-breaking study of the American political process experiencing the stresses of the nation's first large-scale limited war. It is required reading not only for students of the Korean era, but also for anyone wishing to understand the divisiveness and rancor that recurred in Vietnam and, most recently, in Iraq.'
Ralph B Levering, Vail professor of History at Davidson College and author of The Public and American Foreign Policy and The Cold War: a post-cold war history

'As a long-time claimant of expertise on the Korean War, I am humbled by how much I learned from this well-written book, both in information combed from the archives and in penetrating insight.'
William Stueck, Distinguished research professor in History at the University of Georgia and author of The Korean War: an international history and rethinking the Korean war