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Selling the Korean War: Propaganda, Politics, and Public Opinion in the United States, 1950-1953 Paperback – 17 Mar 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 492 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, U.S.A. (17 Mar. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199738998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199738991
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 2.5 x 15.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,467,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

Steven Casey has drawn a masterly analysis of what is certain to become the standard work on its subject.... The whole study is, moreover, conveyed with real verve and at a cracking pace.... An exceptionally good book which does full justice to the complexity of the comestic politics of the Korean War and the rold of the media, official institutions, and politicians in shaping public opinion. (Matthew Jones, Journal of American Studies)

Casey provides the best account to date of the relationship between domestic politics and the war in Korea.... His book is a significant contribution to the literature on the Korean conflict and the relationship between politics and diplomacy during the early years of the Cold War. Most impressive is the author's ability to place the war in a broader context. (Thomas W. Devine, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews)

As a study on the complex relationship among the executive branch, congress, the media, and the public within a constitutional democracy, Dr. Casey's Selling the Korean War is unparalleled in both detail and insight. It is a major addition to the literature―in any language―on the Korean War, and merits a careful read by all who share an interest in the subject. (Sung-Yoon Lee, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews)

This careful study not only fills a notable gap in the literature on the Korean War, it also makes a valuable addition to the short list of books dealing with the conflict's impact on domestic affairs inside the United States. Although Casey's main purpose is to explain ' the government's efforts to sell the war at home,' he achieves much more in persuasively challenging the conventional wisdom about well-known key events and advancing perceptive new interpretations of old issues. (James I. Matray, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews)

This well-written and thoughtfully argued study...warrants reading not only by specialists on the Korean War but also by those interested in the crucial foreign policy debates which occurred during the final third of Truman's presidency. (Wilson D. Miscamble, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews)

About the Author

Steven Casey is Senior Lecturer in International History at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Cautious Crusade: Franklin D. Roosevelt, American Public Opinion, and the War against Nazi Germany, 1941-1945 (O.U.P.).

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Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating account of the US government’s efforts to manage public opinion about the Korean War. Korea in June 1950 was a divided country. Syngman Rhee’s fascist regime in the south, backed by the US government, started the war by attacking the DPRK. It was as if the South of the USA had seceded in 1861 and then attacked the North.

Overwhelmingly, the press accepted the Truman government’s lie that the DPRK had started the war by attacking the south, an act of international aggression by. Roy Howard of the Scripps-Howard press told the White House in July 1950, “We all want to help. No difference of opinion we may entertain about details or methods, and certainly no selfish interests of our own, will ever cause us, knowingly or intentionally, to become obstructionists or to give anything less than our all out support to the effort to win the war.”

The press did not reflect public opinion or represent it. Rather it expressed the ruling class’s interests in fighting a war of aggression against Korea. The US government even threatened a nuclear attack on Korea. Arthur Krock, the New York Times columnist, noted after meeting Louis Johnson, President Harry Truman’s defense secretary, “He said there is a surprising amount of sentiment within the services and from intelligent persons outside for the U.S. to ‘make’ an incident in Europe and start soon with our atomic bombs.”

Casey writes of the government’s fears of ‘popular hysteria’ but he cites as evidence only calls by Congressmen and other politicians for pre-emptive or preventive nuclear war on the Soviet Union. Francis Matthews, the secretary for the navy, publicly said that the USA had to be prepared to pay ‘any price, even the price of instituting a war, to compel cooperation for peace’.
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Format: Paperback
The invasion of South Korea by North Korean forces in June 1950 posed a multitude of challenges to the United States. Among these, one of the most difficult and persistent faced by the Truman administration was that of how to present the war to the American people. What might seem to be a fairly straightforward matter was in fact a far more complex problem, riven as it was by issues of domestic politics and overshadowed by the broader context of the Cold War. Steven Casey's book provides a detailed look at the problems the Truman administration faced, how they changed over the course of the war, and how they endeavored to navigate around or surmount the difficulties before them.

These problems emerged practically from the moment the president and the American people first learned of the invasion. From the start Truman sought a restrained rhetorical response to the conflict, out of a concern that intemperate language might exacerbate the Cold War. This decision, however, gave an opening to Truman's Republican opponents in Congress. Still smarting from Truman's victory in the 1948 presidential election, they took advantage of his failure to define the conflict early on by using it ti lambaste his administration's handling of foreign policy.

Their criticisms were sharpened in the short term by the course of events, as the poor showing of the first American troops thrown into combat served to underline Republican arguments about Truman's failings as president. Here Casey turns his attention to the other part of the story, the type and nature of the information flooding out from the Korean peninsula.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Public relations and the Korean War 4 Mar. 2012
By MarkK - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The invasion of South Korea by North Korean forces in June 1950 posed a multitude of challenges to the United States. Among these, one of the most difficult and persistent faced by the Truman administration was that of how to present the war to the American people. What might seem to be a fairly straightforward matter was in fact a far more complex problem, riven as it was by issues of domestic politics and overshadowed by the broader context of the Cold War. Steven Casey's book provides a detailed look at the problems the Truman administration faced, how they changed over the course of the war, and how they endeavored to navigate around or surmount the difficulties before them.

These problems emerged practically from the moment the president and the American people first learned of the invasion. From the start Truman sought a restrained rhetorical response to the conflict, out of a concern that intemperate language might exacerbate the Cold War. This decision, however, gave an opening to Truman's Republican opponents in Congress. Still smarting from Truman's victory in the 1948 presidential election, they took advantage of his failure to define the conflict early on by using it to lambaste his administration's handling of foreign policy.

Their criticisms were sharpened in the short term by the course of events, as the poor showing of the first American troops thrown into combat served to underline Republican arguments about Truman's failings as president. Here Casey turns his attention to the other part of the story, the type and nature of the information flooding out from the Korean peninsula. The reporters rushed to cover the war faced a chaotic situation off the battlefield as well as on it, thanks in no small measure to General Douglas MacArthur's refusal at first to impose any sort of censorship on the articles being sent out. This left the correspondents open to criticism for indiscretions in their reporting, and soon they were at the forefront of calls for such guidelines. Yet when censorship was finally imposed, its strictness proved to be more restrictive than they bargained for, fueling criticisms that MacArthur's public information officers were trying to withhold information that made their superior look bad.

MacArthur's dismissal as supreme commander in April 1951 had significant implications for both levels of public relations. His successor, Matthew Ridgway, proved far more diplomatic in his handling of the media, a task made simpler by the stabilization of the battlefront by the summer. For Truman, however, MacArthur's return to the United States heightened criticisms of his administration's handling of the war still further. Yet this proved in some respects to be a blessing in disguise, as it prompted his administration to provide a more forceful defense of their handling of the war. This plus the changing nature of the conflict finally pushed Truman into making the vigorous case for the war that had been absent for so long, only to find the static, drawn-out nature of the conflict limited the impact of his efforts. His successor as president, Dwight Eisenhower, faced similar public relations problems and repeated some of Truman's early mistakes, but the death of the Soviet leader Josef Stalin in March 1953 was quickly followed by concessions that made an armistice possible four months later.

Casey's book is a valuable study of an often overlooked aspect of war. With it he chronicles a government as it transitioned away from the assumptions involved in rallying public opinion in a "total war" and towards the challenges involved in doing so for the more limited conflicts that the U.S. has fought since World War II. Though it may not be as exciting as the subtitle implies, with only minimal coverage of the broader cultural propaganda tied to the war, it definitely rewards the time spent reading it. This is a book that should be read by anyone interested in the history of the Korean War or in the broader topic of how governments manage the media and rally public opinion to wage war in our world today.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars this book does a poor job of covering how the government got away with ... 17 Mar. 2016
By norsk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While this book addresses the political machinations to maintain public support and the rationale to downplay this most bloody foreign war in US history, this book does a poor job of covering how the government got away with keeping the most violent battle of the Korean War since 1951 -- the Battle of Kumsong, out of public awareness. As a result of this subterfuge by the government, there is virtually nothing written today of this sacrifice on the part of US and coalition forces in July 1953 in which thousands were wounded, killed, or lost in action. If Casey had included in this book, it would not only have added considerably to his argument, but it would have provided the first valuable discussion on this most forgotten battle of the forgotten war.
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