WASHINGTON -- Sixty years ago this month, the North Korean People's Army, enticed by the Truman administration's announcement that Korea was no longer within the "U.S. defensive perimeter," launched a surprise attack across the 38th parallel -- the arbitrary demarcation line drawn by the United Nations between the Republic of Korea and the communist north, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The onslaught was so successful that in a matter of just three days, Seoul was captured and the poorly trained and equipped ROK military was smashed. Hundreds of American advisers and hastily deployed reinforcements were killed, captured or listed as missing in action. By mid-July, the remnants of U.S. and ROK forces were driven into a tiny defensive perimeter around the port of Pusan.
Three years and more than 150,000 American casualties later, an armistice ended the fighting -- but not the war. Ever since, American national security policy has been based on the idea that attacks against the U.S. homeland, our national interests and our allies could be prevented by "containing communism" and maintaining sufficient nuclear and conventional forces to deter aggression. American intelligence capabilities were focused on knowing what our adversaries were up to and sharing that information with our allies. Until Jimmy Carter came along, it was a strategy that generally worked.
Carter decided -- and Congress agreed -- to gut U.S. defense and intelligence budgets, dramatically reduce the U.S. military presence in the Republic of Korea and replace deterrence with "diplomatic engagement." America's adversaries wasted no time in taking advantage of his perceived naivet<é>eé> and weakness. Though the U.S. withdrawal from South Korea was stopped thanks to a major political movement launched by World War II hero Maj. Gen. Jack Singlaub, other American allies weren't so fortunate.
While Americans here at home were distracted by economic woes that included double-digit inflation and interest rates, Panama, Nicaragua, Iran, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique and eventually Afghanistan all succumbed to "revolutionary" regimes or outright invasion during Carter's mercifully brief tenure as commander in chief. He used the threat of reduced arms sales and aid for Israel to initiate the novel concept of a "Palestinian homeland" during negotiations for a peace treaty with Egypt.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.