Text of a paper on the Korean War presented to the Council on Religion and International Affairs, November 1968. The Korean War was a worldwide surprise, since the general belief was that the next war would be a total one, characterized by strategic bombing with nuclear weapons. Both sides at the outset experienced shortages of men and materiel and uncertainty of enemy intentions that set the limits for the war, not the decisionmakers. However, later limitations by the Truman Administration were determined by the war's essential ineffectiveness in unifying Korea and the desire not to escalate to World War III. The frustrations of limited war led to the Dulles Massive Retaliation doctrine, which, however, did not keep the United States out of further wars. The nuclear stalemate has in fact made limited war the most likely form of international conflict.
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