The Truman Doctrine Assignment

The Truman Doctrine Assignment Words: 1355

The Truman Doctrine and the Development of American Foreign Policy during the Cold War On March 12, 1947, President Harry S. Truman defined United States foreign policy in the context of its new role as a world superpower. Many historians consider his speech to Congress as the words that officially started the Cold War. The Truman Doctrine was a major break from U. S. historical trends of isolationist foreign policy. His speech led to the Cold War policy of containment. Moreover, it served as a precedent for future U. S. olicy of interventionism. According to Stephen Ambrose, an important quote from Truman’s speech, “I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures,” stands as “all encompassing” and would “define American policy for the next generation and beyond. “1 Faced with strong opposition, Truman was still able to achieve a consensus in Congress aimed at quelling the communist threat through active foreign policy and involvement.

The Truman Doctrine not only demonstrated the new foreign policy of the U. S. , but also helps to explain American foreign policy since the Doctrine’s inception. At the end of World War II, the military and foreign policies of the White House were moving in opposite directions. Militarily, the U. S. adopted a position of rapid demobilization after the war. Meanwhile, Truman had a strong desire to meet the communist ‘threat’ head on. Congress, however, did not share Truman’s view of needing “to meet the Communist challenge wherever it appeared. For example, Senator Robert Taft, a prominent Republican senator, “expressed the current mood when he objected to any attempt by the Administration to divide the world into communist and anti-communist zones, for “he did not want war with the Soviet Union. ” As for the sentiment of the American public, “there was no denying that the majority of the American people did not want to embark on a Crusade. ” With opposition from not only the American public but also from Congress, President Truman had to take action in order to convince Americans of the reality of the Soviet threat, in addition to the threat of communism in general.

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In fact, Truman was even told that he would need “to scare the hell out of the American people. ” He did just that with the Truman Doctrine. Truman showed the American people a legitimate threat to their way of life by creating the idea of us-versus-them, the communist way of life versus the American capitalist lifestyle. From that point on, everyone was classified as either a U. S. supporter or as a communist. The Truman Doctrine fulfilled the American desire for all wars to be epic battles between light and darkness, good versus evil, which in the end unified most dissenters to Truman’s cause.

Nevertheless, the stipulations outlined in the Truman Doctrine did not accurately depict the development of American society. In 1947, the U. S. was a place of free institutions, representative government, and freedom of religion, in which society’s direction was strongly influenced by the will of the majority. However, the U. S. was not a place that guaranteed individual liberties for everyone nor freedom from oppression. Yet even if Truman’s words were not an accurate depiction of the direction of American society, they undoubtedly affected its progress.

The Truman Doctrine facilitated future foreign entanglements such as the Korean War and the Vietnam War, which were justified by the need to defend inherent freedoms of foreigners, even though the freedoms of America’s own citizens were not guaranteed for all. Surely, when black soldiers were sent to these places of conflict to help fight for the freedoms of others, freedoms that they themselves did not possess at home, the irony did not go unnoticed. Another example of the Truman Doctrine’s inconsistencies with American society is found in the witch hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Once again, while Truman spoke of protecting other peoples of the world from political oppression, he did not protect U. S. citizens from those very oppressions. In the Tydings Committee Report, which criticized McCarthyism, it is written that: “The spectacle (McCarthyism) is one we would expect in a totalitarian nation where the rights of the individual are crushed beneath the juggernaut of statism and oppression; it has no place in America where government exists to serve people, not to destroy them. ? This statement demonstrates the extent of the problem in American society just a few years after Truman gave his speech concerning the superior freedoms present in the American way of life. Although developments in American society contradicted what Truman articulated in his 1947 doctrine, the ideals he highlighted are, and have always been, ones that Americans like to think are deeply rooted in what it means to be a U. S. citizen living in “the land of the free. “

At the time Truman gave his speech, the three most important factors influencing his policy formation were the American monopoly on the atomic bomb, the disastrous state of Western Europe due to World War II, and the domino effect. It is debatable whether or not the U. S. monopoly on the atomic bomb in the late 1940s really put Americans at an advantage when dealing with the Soviets, however, its effect on the formation of U. S. foreign policy is not. The creation of the atomic bomb, coupled with the idea that the Soviets could get their hands on this weapon, amplified the consequences of going to war with the Soviet Union.

In fact, it alluded to the possible mutual destruction of the U. S. and the U. S. S. R. , as well as the planet, in doomsday scenarios feared by many. The state of Europe at the time was also an important factor because if the U. S. did not take on the communist challenge there would be no one left to defend the free world. Since Western Europe played that same role earlier during both World Wars, it was time for the U. S. to take over, as Western Europe was devastated by WWII. None of the Western European countries could even imagine taking on the Red Army. Thus, the responsibility of defending the free world fell solely on the U.

S. Additionally, the domino effect was an important factor in the formation of American foreign policy since it brought nearly every region of the world, no matter how small or how insignificant it seemed, into the interest of American foreign policy. Moreover, American interventionism after 1947 can be explained by these three factors. The atomic bomb placed the responsibility of protector of the free world onto America’s shoulders. The U. S. intervened in Europe after World War II because Europe was not in a position to defend itself against Soviet advancement. The U. S. lso intervened in other parts of the world because if any nation fell under communist control, neighboring nations would soon follow. The Truman Doctrine serves as a lens through which to view all American foreign policy since 1947. Truman’s speech set the stage for the future United States policy of interventionism, changed how America saw itself in the context of world affairs, and influenced the way the world views America today. The Truman Doctrine made the world’s business America’s business. Throughout the Cold War, the Truman Doctrine could be seen in action all over the world and explained the position of the U.

S. in areas from Iran to Vietnam. U. S. policymakers put the doctrine into action, and American citizens continued to vote for and support this policy. In the end, President Truman’s speech marked America’s entrance into a new era of foreign policy, firmly establishing the U. S. as the protector of universal freedom. Ironically, there were many people in America who lacked such freedoms, and while Truman’s goal of bringing freedom to the peoples of the world was only marginally successful, his ideals indirectly highlighted the need to bring social change to America that was a long time coming.

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