“Within our military, I will find the General Patton, or I will find General MacArthur, I will find the right guy. I will find the guy that’s going to take that military and make it really work. Nobody, nobody will be pushing us around.”
We should perhaps gloss over MacArthur's use of the US Army against demonstrators during the Great Depression.
In 1941 McArthur was gifted nine hours notice to defend the Philippines after the attack on Pearl Harbour - he did nothing and the entire air US defence was destroyed on the ground by the Japanese.
"It has been difficult for historians to establish the reason for MacArthur's fatal inaction during the crucial nine hours that elapsed in Manila following news of the Pearl Harbor attack. There was no American government inquiry into MacArthur's behaviour of the kind that addressed alleged failures of command at Pearl Harbor. When informally questioned after the war, the chief actors in the Philippines disaster appeared to be concerned to protect their own reputations by shifting blame to others."
But in 1941 Republican friends in Congress and the American press protected him from criticism when the Philippines was overrun. These friends were even powerful enough to endorse MacArthur's "I WILL RETURN" pledge when he abandoned his army to the Japanese. While the main American attack to Japan was carried out across the Pacific by the US Navy and Marines MacArthur was able to justify a parallel, completely pointless campaign using US Army across the Southern Pacific to allow his ego to re-take the Philippines and the South West Pacific against isolated Japanese forces far way from the main action.
“The Philippines campaign was a mistake,” says the present-day Japanese historian Kazutoshi Hando, who lived through the war. “MacArthur did it for his own reasons. Japan had lost the war once the Marianas were gone.” The Filipino people whom MacArthur professed to love paid the price for his egomania in lost lives—perhaps half a million, including those who perished from famine and disease—and wrecked homes. It was as great a misfortune for them as for the Allied war effort that neither President Roosevelt nor the U.S. chiefs of staff could contain MacArthur’s ambitions within a smaller compass of folly. In 1944, America’s advance to victory over Japan was inexorable, but the misjudgements of the Southwest Pacific supreme commander disfigured its achievement.”
― Max Hastings, Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945
But it is Korea for which MacArthur will be remembered.
With reluctant Russian material support the North Korean army of Kim Il Sung invaded South Korea in 1950, initially with great success. The South Korean army had been given no artillery and tanks by the US, who were justifiably concerned that the brutal dictator of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, would invade North Korea. To his credit it was MacArthur who initially saved the day, masterminding a brilliant seaborne invasion behind the North Korean lines which saved the retreating forces and turned the tide of the war. That wouldn't be the last time the tide turned however.
As MacArthur's forces pressed into North Korea and neared the Chinese border he remained unconvinced of the threat of the 5 million strong Peoples Liberation Army over Yalu river to the North. We know now that the Chinese, still reeling from their a Civil War against a Nationalist army backed by the US, were deeply worried about the prospect of US troops on their border. Hard line US Republicans had been complaining about the lack of a hard stance against 'Red China' for years, continuing after the Chinese Civil war was lost to support the remains of the Nationalist Chinese government on the island of Taiwan. With American troops racing towards them Chinese intervention in the Korean war was an obvious possibility.
As US/UN* troops approached the tense northern border at the Yalu river British politicians suggested a buffer zone at the Yalu, jointly policed by UN and Chinese troops.
This was McArthur's response:
"The widely reported British desire to appease the Chinese Communists by giving them a strip of North Korea finds its historic precedent in the action taken at Munich on the 29th of September 1938. To give up any portion of North Korea to the aggression of the Chinese Communists would be the greatest defeat of the free world in recent times. Indeed to yield to so immoral a proposition would bankrupt our leadership and influence in Asia and render untenable out position both politically and morally"
(taken from Korean War by Max Hastings)
It was shortly after this that the Chinese crossed the Yalu river with a vast army motivated to defend its borders. US and UN* were forced back to the nightmarish border situation we have today in a war which dragged on for another 3 years with hundreds of thousands of casualties, especially among Korean civilians.
MacArthur's increasingly farcical role in the Korean war ended when his constant demands for the use of atomic weapons against the Chinese mainland grew too loud to ignore. US President Truman, who had been reluctant to even question MacArthur up to this point because of his continued strong Republican backing, was now forced into action and the increasingly rogue and out of touch general was effectively dismissed by the US president.
The leadership and influence in Asia policy was pretty much the main foreign policy concern of hard line US Republicans from the victory of the Communists, (aka ChiComs), start of the Civil War in China, through Korea and onto the disaster in Vietnam. After their success in bringing peace and capitalism to China, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos US Republicans turned their foreign leadership and influence to Israel, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan from the 1970 onwards.
*The United Nations fought in Korea! How, in the light of current Syria paralysis, did that happen?
The Russians were not present in the UN to veto the vote..
US Republicans had refused to allow the new Chinese communist government into the UN - preferring to support the Nationalist survivors in Taiwan instead. The Russians were absent from the UN in protest at this and so where unable to use their security council veto to block UN action in Korea. It was the last time the Russians made this mistake and they have used their veto liberally since (as have the Americans, 90% of the time to block resolutions against Israel).