In his article “A Critique of Pure Success: Inchon Revisited, Revised, and Contrasted” the author Russel H.S. Stolfi takes a different perspective on Inchon landing during the Korean War and the subsequent overtake of Seoul. He presents his two theses at the beginning of the article and then tries to support his arguments by using some historical comparisons and making generalizations about events and the reasons behind them. Overall, the article is an example of a strong and believable writing but there are still some questions the reader might have about the author’s arguments.
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The thesis of the article consists of two parts and is stated in the second paragraph. In the first paragraph – which is the introduction – Stolfi describes the Inchon situation as it is seen by the international community and agrees that in general it was a military success. However, towards the end of introduction he states that such view is not entirely correct. In this way the author pushes a reader to wonder about the coming argument. Immediately after that Stolfi states his thesis and suggests his support for the argument. The first part of his thesis is that while the Inchon landing itself was a “strategical masterpiece” the ground campaign that followed it was conducted on such a low level that it majorly negated the success of the landing. In the second part of his thesis the author argues that Inchon operation was an example of a typical U.S. warfare style in the twentieth century (that is success at sea landing and less effective ground operations afterwards) (Stolfi, 2004).
The suggested support for the first part of thesis is the use of historical analogy. In the paragraphs to follow the author explains very carefully his reasoning behind choosing his historical analogy. First, he sets out the criteria for selection of the similar episode and justifies them. He acknowledges that the two events have to be similar technologically, in terms of weapons, and transportation methods (Stolfi, 2004). After choosing an analogous historical event, which happens to be the German surprise attack on the Baltic front during the World War II, the author compares the two operations beginning with the strategic tasks that they had. He then compares the two operations day by day, using lots of minute details to describe the similarities and differences of the operations. Stolfi starts his argument by comparing operation Chromite (that includes Inchon landing) to German plan Barbarossa (the surprise attack on Baltic front). He draws several parallels between these two military actions to gain the readers’ attention. He is very careful in his argument as he knows that the majority of his readers believe that operation Chromite was a successful one.
To reason with his opponents, the author acknowledges their view first and then transitions to his own point of view. Therefore, before entering any arguments about differences in these two operations Stolfi discusses at least four major points at which they are similar. For example, he talks about the similarities in embarkation processes. Sea embarkation of the U.S. army and the rail embarkation of German troops had similar patterns of swift loading of supplies and people. Furthermore, the author points out the similarities in the need of a surprise attack in both cases and the great execution of the surprise part of the plan. Finally, the maneuver schemes were also similar with the plan to seize Seoul rapidly in case of Chromite and breach the boarder bridges and march swiftly to St. Petersburg in Barbarossa (Stolfi, 2004). The author makes sure that the reader is thoroughly persuaded in the similarities of two operations before presenting the counterargument.
Both of the theses are stated clearly in the article. The audience knows at the very beginning about the main message of the article. However, the support for the arguments is not very obvious. The suggested support for the first thesis is clear and stated immediately after the thesis itself. However, the support for the second thesis (that operation Chromite typifies American warfare style) cannot be found that easily. In fact, throughout the whole article the reader has to struggle to find evidence for the second thesis. The audience is left with the feeling that the second thesis will be supported after the first one. So, the readers keep reading only to find extensive evidence for the first thesis and just a hint here and there supporting the second one.
The second argument is somewhat shaky and has some loopholes in it. Comparing the overall length of the article to the space dedicated to each argument one can notice that only about five per cent of the article is directly related to the second thesis when in fact it needs far more attention. To support his second thesis Stolfi would benefit from using some psychological data about the mentality of German and American people. Another helpful evidence would be giving more examples of the similar patterns in actions of the U.S. army in other military conflicts. Instead the author uses generalizations and his personal conclusions based on historical events. He states that “vast dimensions [of Chromite and Barbarossa] allow one to generalize that they typify each the American and German way in war” (Stolfi, 2004, p. 524). He goes on to elaborate on this statement, but this is the only relatively direct attempt to support the second part of the argument. Therefore, the conclusion one can make about the article is that the first thesis is a strong one and the evidence presented is enough to support it. As for the second thesis, it is not proven to the believable degree.
The article has a very clear organization and is easy to read even for an average person who doesn’t know the specific field-related material. Every paragraph starts with a topic sentence and ends with a preview of the next paragraph. By repeating key words and frequently reinforcing the central idea the author keeps the reader involved and on track. It is easy to follow the argument of the paper. For the most part the article is chronologically organized, comparing two military episodes (Chromite and Barbarossa) day by day. In most cases the author starts by describing a particular day of one operation in one paragraph and then compares or contrasts it with the same day of another operation in the next paragraph. He sometimes switches the order of comparing Chromite and Barbarossa, so the reader has a chance to switch perspectives by examining those operations in different order. Together with that Stolfi sometimes uses thematic approach by comparing not the same days of operations but the similar events that took place. He then evaluates the time it took for each country to accomplish the given task.
The author of the article has done an extraordinary job in creating a strong piece of writing. He uses a mixture of different stylistic and psychological devices to engage his reader and keep the audience captivated. For example, he uses logos, pathos, and ethos to appeal to various aspects of personalities. In the first part of the article Stolfi relies heavily on logos, using logical connections and inviting the reader to make conclusions for themselves. Towards the middle of the article the author starts to employ pathos as part of his argument. He tries to build rapport with a reader by using witty remarks or appealing to their feelings. He even allows for some sarcasm when summarizing the Chromite operation by telling that preparing to take Seoul by surprise with Inchon landing and a quick march through 20 miles of distance the American ground troops found themselves in front of a river with no enough bridging material to cross it and with no clue that they can actually take the existing Korean bridges by force (Stolfi, 2004).
Russel Stolfi takes mostly a military perspective when discussing the subject matter. He thinks in terms of achieved tasks and not in terms of people being killed during the war. He admires German leaders who decided to stay on the task instead of turning and reinforcing another German unit which was hit by Russian soldiers. According to the article the German General Hoepner weighted all pros and cons for several hours and then “with impressive operational nerve” ordered to continue the drive for St. Petersburg (Stolfi, 2004). The implication is that the author would appreciate the same approach during the Chromite operation in Korea. In some parts of the article the biases of the author also become evident. He talks a lot about the slow motion of American troops and the agile attack of German forces. He also points out the bureaucracy of American command while praising the German generals and other leaders for giving orders effectively. There is a description of a decision-making process of the U.S. command in the article where the leaders are not portrayed in favorable light at all. Stolfi describes the late afternoon of D+3 when Corps and Division issued orders for crossing the river and General Smith asked for conference with General Almond that was to take place the next morning (Stolfi, 2004). The reader can see that this account is not a positive one. While it can be historically true, it is still somewhat prejudiced. It would be more objective to allow for the similar instances on German activities, but the author presents Germans as infinitely superior in giving and fulfilling orders.
Discussing the sources of the article it is possible to make a decision that the author uses respectable and relevant sources. Stolfi uses two of his own previous works as well as the works of other writers. His materials are mainly primary sources with relevant and important data. He also uses accounts of different experts and witnesses about the Chromite operation, discusses field journals, was diaries, and military personnel interviews. Together with that he extensively uses articles from scholarly journals. Overall, the sources of the article are well-chosen and add to the reliability and credibility of Stolfi’s work.
The article “A Critique of Pure Success: Inchon Revisited, Revised, and Contrasted” by Russel H.S. Stolfi is a valuable piece of writing. Despite some of the issues in its arguments and point of view it still gives an unusual perspective on a well-know historical episode. Stolfi challenges the traditional way of thinking and pushes his audience to think critically about various issues. The main objective of the author is improving the style of warfare of the U.S. forces in order to ensure the higher level of effectiveness in conducting military operations. The author doesn’t suggest to model German way of fighting in detail but rather help U.S. soldiers and command cope with uncertainty in war and preserve their capability to take reasonable decisions in spite of panic and high level of pressure (Stolfi, 2004). This is a worthy cause and therefore the author has to be respected for raising this question.
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