In late 1950, the U.S.-led invasion of North Korea failed, and for the next three years, the United States relentlessly bombed the North’s cities, towns and villages while entering its first modern conflict with China—facts that established the pattern of American military interventions across the globe and continuing conflicts with Asia.
Pembroke makes a fairly compelling argument that its Korea debacle has defined U.S. engagement with the world since, also determining the length and depth of the Cold War and laying the foundations for the uncertainty that now besets North Asia and the rest of the world ... This is a timely, important and eminently readable book that points to the ongoing tragedy of the Korean peninsula. The reasons for the paranoia, intense hatred and distrust—both in Korea and the west—can be traced back over centuries ... None of this is acceptable, but Pembroke at least renders it, in some measure, understandable.
His book is timely, readable and deeply researched. It is also exasperating. Pembroke all but ignores the spectacularly prosperous and democratic state South Korea has become—with the steady help of the United States. He mostly sidesteps the cruelty and incompetence of North Korea’s founding dictator ... With a polemicist’s distaste for ambiguity, Pembroke cherry-picks events of the Korean War, emphasizing American outrages that support his argument while omitting successful U.S. efforts to confine the conflict’s savagery ... Yet Pembroke's book...does deliver crucial information that Americans need to understand the permanent crisis in northeastern Asia ... For readers capable of looking beyond an America First understanding of how the world works, Pembroke’s analysis is chillingly relevant.
Michael Pembroke’s Korea: Where the American Century Began is unremitting in detailing the politics at play in Korea’s recent history, as well as in previous centuries when the Korean people distinguished themselves as one of the great cultures of Asia, but this project will be remembered for showcasing how America’s militarism has its roots in the recent Korean conflicts.