INT: There's a lot of concern these days about negative political campaigning. Was the Eisenhower campaign in 1952... how does that rate - was that a dirty campaign, using the Korean War as an issue?
LB: Well, the campaign of 1952 was not a pleasant campaign, but compared to what we've sunk [to] in recent years, it was relatively mild. It was rather unpleasant... Even with the force of McCarthy at work in the speeches and whatever, it was relatively mild compared to some of the words that emanated around the last campaign. Yes, it was unpleasant, and the Korean War was a big factor in it.
INT: Just going back to the beginning of the Korean War... not the beginning of the Korean War, the Chinese invasion - how much was it a surprise and a shock that China was involved? Had anybody predicted this?
LB: That China came into the war was not a total surprise. We had felt that any attack north of the Yalu or anything that even bordered on Chinese territory was a very dangerous act, and we had warned General MacArthur about that. And so the fact that he... as he moved out with his troops toward the Yalu, the fact that he saw this to be a threat was not totally surprising. I don't know that we expected them to come in in quite the way they did, but we were not totally without preparation mentally for it; but it was very hard to deal it with beyond that, and so it created a very new situation, and resulted in a very bad defeat for the US troops, that had to withdraw, move down, and settle and remain there for quite a little while. Still there, for that matter.
INT: Was there a fear that relations with China would get worse, or did no one care about that?
LB: Relations with China could have gone any way at that point. They were almost non-existent in terms of any dignified arranged relationships between us, and they'd been so criticised here in this country that I don't know that anyone anticipated exactly what could result therefrom. But whatever one thought of, it was certainly in an unpleasant direction. Whether it could have brought about... I don't think anybody anticipated another world war at that point on the subject, but that was something not to be ignored as a possibility. And so there were all sorts of dangerous directions that we could move in, and it was to avoid those that... to contain the Korean War in the narrow range in which its objectives were, which was to defeat the communist take-over, to go back to the status quo ante, that was what we wanted. We were not trying to bring about a world war on the subject at all, and certainly no one anticipated that happening.
INT: I know hindsight is a difficult thing, but do you think there could have been key decisions taken before the North Korean invasion which would have prevented the Korean War from ever happening?
LB: It's always possible to look back and say, "If only I had done so and so..." Possibly, possibly. I could apply the same logic to the Gulf War that so recently occurred, that might have been avoided if certain things had happened. But they weren't, they didn't happen, and so it's very hard to reconstruct what you might have done if anyone had felt that the North Korean (.?.) was as imminent as it was and had said, "We in effect are going to invade the South and we're going to be there." It would have been a very strong statement by anybody. That's the sort of thing that might have avoided the war, but that would have taken the clearance through to the Congress, and oddly enough it's easier to clear something when there's an imminent danger, to do it and act on it, than it is to clear it as a contingency, which begins to leak to the press and creates other and more difficult situations.
INT: Because this is a series about the Cold War, we like to ask a couple of general Cold War questions, the first of which I'll throw at you... Was the Cold War necessary, was it inevitable?
LB: Was the Cold War necessary and inevitable? I think so. I think it got exaggerated in a number of respects. I don't think there was a deliberate misleading on the part of the United States, but in order to establish the kind of credibility we wanted with the Congress, and to make the Marshall Plan possible, to make the military assistance to NATO and all the elements that became part of the Cold War US policy, to make those moves you had to have an enemy, and so the enemy, while we believed it was a real enemy, the enemy got built up in a public way, to the extent that everyone got a little too scared. I think it was perhaps overdone in that respect. But it's very hard to know and to tell now whether, if we had not had that imminent dangerous enemy, we could have ever gotten through the bills that we got through that brought about the aid to the Marshall Plan countries, all of ththings that we should have. It was in our interests as well as it was in their interests, but it wasn't seen with that clarity at that point. So I think it was probably inevitable, but I think got exaggerated a little bit, and it was... it's very difficult in a public debate like that to have a rational, calm, easy, balanced discussion. It gets out of hand.
INT: And did China's sort of entry into the Cold War on the side of the Soviet Union actually make thospolicies easier to pass?
LB: Well, the China issue became a big one. It was a very serious one, and the charge of loss of China, that was a big event in terms of the Far East at that time. And that became a natural as a political point, and that really drew and attracted debate and strong, vigorous opinion and vigorous discussion. So that became part of a governmental debate in this country, what was called "the Great Debate" with respect to the degree of our involvement in the whole Cold War, grew out of a whole series of things, including the loss of China. And I think that part was probably inevitable, but it played right into the hands of the politicians who wished to make the most political hay out of it that was possible.
INT: And what in the Cold War do you think was the most dangerous event, the most dangerous time?
LB: Probably the missile crisis. That was the one that... I think... that that one succeeded in taking care of itself, proved to some extent that maybe the Cold War was always staffed by people who were a little more sensible than they looked (Laughs) in general. I don't know. But I think that was the most dangerous point. I can't think of any other quite like it. There were other times when we... I think the Middle East situation for a moment looked as though it might, but it wasn't. And when we got right to the brink of war, everybody got a little more sensible than they sounded in the rhetoric, in the speeches that were made on both sides. The imminent danger made for probably wiser decisions than the general and prospective danger that had not yet emerged.
INT: ... What were the main effects of the Cold War, the consequences?
LB: The consequences of the Cold War have been many. In terms of America, I think it has made us more conscious of military power and its necessity. I think we are overdoing that now. I I think we're going to have to, because of our own economic needs, scale back even more than we have so far. It makes programmes like Star Wars, which seem to me to be utterly ridiculous and horribly expensive, crop up in a campaign after the Cold War is all over. I mean, Senator Dole brought this up, an extension of that particular programme, Star Wars, beyond anything that even had been contemplated. It had partially, and I think again due to the wisdom of the people, it did not become a big issue in the campaign. But it has, I think, enhanced our interest in the world, which is a good thing. And the fact that we've now become the last great power puts a bigger burden on us now that the Cold War is over, and I don't think we yet have coped with it; we don't yet know how to deal with it. We've got to go through a long way of sorting out our own role and the arrangements that we find possible, that really reflect our interests and also our ability to handle them economically and politically.
INT: Ambassador Battle, thank you very much.
LB: You're very welcome. I'm sorry for the interruptions.
INT: When the question came up of the United Nations' support for the action by South Korea against the North, what would have happened if the Russians had been at the United Nations?
LB: I think clearly, if the Russians had been present at the Security Council meetings at the time the Korean War was discussed, they would have vetoed it, without any question, and that would have… what the course of history we could have seen growing therefrom, I don't know, but... what... what would have happened as as result of that, I don't know. Whether the Western countries would have gone on with some action regardless of UN blessing, I find doubtful, but these are one of those great riddles of history that we will never have an answer to. But I think there's no doubt that they would have vetoed it.
INT: Were you fearful that the Russians would sort of show up at the last minute and scupper the plan?
LB: We discussed at great length whether it was possible for the Russians to try to intervene in the middle of it. I think after it got underway, it moved so quickly, that I suspect that their representative in New York was awaiting instructions (Laughs) on this point by the time we had already made the big decision, so it was almost too late then to try to intervene effectively, because the whole world initially was so unified in its opposition to the Ko... North Korean invasion.
INT: Do we know why the Russians weren't there, the Soviets weren't there?
LB: There was some reason... they walked out and they said they were not going to meet again - I've forgotten what the issue was; it had to do with a relatively minor problem, the status of the UN in some context. They walked out of it and said they would not come back until that was dealt with. It was a very flat statement. They put a limit on that "We will not return until something happens" - I've forgotten what the issue was. And that issue had not been dealt with, so based on what they had said, they would not be returning, and everyone assumed they meant what they said, and they did.
INT: Stalin must have been a bit livid after this, I should think.
LB: (Laughs) I'm sure he was.