What does MacArthur mean when he says "appeasement but begets newer and bloodier wars?"

MacArthur said this in the context of the Korean War. He believed that the US military should have reacted more strongly to Korean and Chinese aggression, rather than being more conciliatory towards them. He likely had Chamberlain's reaction to the German militarization in mind when he said this. Any victory or space that the US gave their foes made them want to challenge the US more, rather than decreasing the fury of war.

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Towards the end of his farewell address to Congress, delivered on 19 April 1951, General Douglas MacArthur makes the point that the object of war is victory, "not prolonged indecision." He goes on:

There are some who for varying reasons would appease Red China. They are blind to history’s clear...

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Towards the end of his farewell address to Congress, delivered on 19 April 1951, General Douglas MacArthur makes the point that the object of war is victory, "not prolonged indecision." He goes on:

There are some who for varying reasons would appease Red China. They are blind to history’s clear lesson, for history teaches with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier wars. It points to no single instance where this end has justified that means, where appeasement has led to more than a sham peace. Like blackmail, it lays the basis for new and successively greater demands until, as in blackmail, violence becomes the only other alternative.

Throughout the address, MacArthur emphasizes that he is a soldier whose view of war is different from that of a politician. MacArthur and his President Harry S. Truman frequently disagreed with each other. In this passage, he makes his case clearly and forcefully. Victory ends wars. Appeasement merely postpones them, and the enemy grows stronger in the meantime.

The analogy with blackmail underlines the point. When you pay a blackmailer, you do not remove the threat of further blackmail. If anything, you increase the threat, since the blackmailer takes note of your weakness and becomes bolder. Eventually, you will have to resort to violence. The best option is to strike quickly and forcefully as soon as you can.

MacArthur's view of appeasement was well-subscribed among both politicians and soldiers who watched the Second World War unfold. MacArthur may well have been thinking of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler when he considered Truman's policy towards China. Both Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt made similar comments about the dangers of appeasement in that context.

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In this statement, General MacArthur is urging his audience to focus on the long-term. He wants them to keep in mind that appeasing aggression now, in whatever shape or form, will lead to bigger and bloodier conflicts further down the road.

MacArthur believed that by appeasing Communist China, the Truman Administration was creating trouble for later on. As far as he was concerned, appeasement would only make China stronger and allow the Communists to regroup and develop their armed forces. This would mean that any future confrontation between the United States and China would be much more difficult, with catastrophic consequences in terms of loss of life. Far better to confront China now, thought MacArthur, than at some distant point in the future. He feared that the US would wait until a time when China would be much stronger, better equipped, and better-organized.

President Truman strongly disagreed with MacArthur's suggestion. MacArthur's more aggressive approach to the conduct of the Korean War led Truman to relieve him of his command. Truman wanted the Korean War to remain a limited war, one of limited strategic objectives. He simply wanted to save South Korea from Communist North Korea in accordance with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 82. To that end, he was opposed to MacArthur's daring plan to push into North Korea and defeat the Communist forces. He thought that China would see this as a hostile act and use it as an excuse to intervene directly in the war.

MacArthur didn't think that this would happen, but when it did, he urged Truman to bomb mainland Communist China. Truman refused, leading MacArthur and his supporters in Washington to accuse the Administration of appeasing China. A few months after Chinese troops crossed into North Korea, an exasperated Truman finally relieved MacArthur of his command. His choice thus brought to an end one of the most fractious relationships between a President and a senior general in American history.

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There are some who for varying reasons would appease Red China. They are blind to history's clear lesson, for history teaches with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier wars. It points to no single instance where this end has justified that means, where appeasement has led to more than a sham peace.

The quote above is from Douglas MacArthur's "Farewell Address" to a joint session of Congress on April 19, 1951. He had just been dismissed by President Harry S. Truman as the commander of American forces in the Korean War . MacArthur was a war hawk, there can be little doubt about that. He was also a fierce cold warrior who wanted to stop communism in its tracks in all corners of the globe. The passage about appeasement suggests that giving into the enemy or making concessions to the enemy is a policy that will not meet the objective of peace. He believes that by granting the enemy their way at any point, the end result will be that they will demand more in the future. MacArthur likens conciliation with your adversary to becoming victims of blackmail. He believes the rival will keep asking for more until you have no choice but to fight a war that will be more violent. It will be more violent because you have given the enemy time to recover and your opposition will feel emboldened.

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