- Origins of the Cold War
- The GI Bill
- African Americans, women, and the GI Bill
- The baby boom
- The growth of suburbia
- The dark side of suburbia
- Start of the Cold War - The Yalta Conference and containment
- Start of the Cold War - The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan
- Start of the Cold War - The Berlin airlift and the creation of NATO
- The postwar era, 1945-1950
Start of the Cold War - The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan
Read about the US's early attempts to contain communism through economic and military aid.
- In 1947, President Harry S. Truman pledged that the United States would help any nation resist communism in order to prevent its spread. His policy of containment is known as the Truman Doctrine.
- The Truman Doctrine demonstrated that the United States would not return to isolationism after World War II, but rather take an active role in world affairs.
- To help rebuild after the war, the United States pledged $13 billion of aid to Europe in the Marshall Plan.
The Truman Doctrine
The world was in flux in the aftermath of World War II, and political upheaval reigned in many countries. Already wary of communism thanks to George Kennan's Long Telegram, the US government was dismayed when a number of countries in Europe and Asia adopted communist governments in the late 1940s.
When the United Kingdom notified the United States that it could no longer afford to fight communist insurgencies in Greece and Turkey, US President Harry S. Truman issued what would become known as the Truman Doctrine: a promise that the United States would do whatever was necessary both economically and militarily to contain the spread of communism around the world.
Painting of Harry S. Truman during his time in office. Truman is seated on a chair in front of an outdoor landscape with the US Capitol Building in the background.
With this step, the United States signaled that its role on the world stage would not conclude after World War II, ending a century and a half of isolationist foreign policy in America.
During Truman's presidency, the Truman Doctrine would result in another conflict in Asia, this time in Korea, as the US government attempted to prevent the unification of Korea under a communist government. Truman's policy would continue to drive American interventions through the 1980s.
The Marshall Plan
One of the most pressing problems in the immediate aftermath of World War II was the reconstruction of Europe. The war left a swath of destruction that crippled infrastructure and led to massive food shortages in the winter of 1946-1947.
The US government feared that a hungry, devastated Europe might turn to communism (as China would do in 1949). To stabilize the European economy, US Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed a plan to provide Europe with $13 billion in economic aid.
The Marshall Plan proved enormously successful, helping to rehabilitate European nations that accepted the aid. It also provided a boost to the American economy, since Marshall Plan funds were used to purchase American goods.
What do you think?
Why did the United States end its long history of isolationism after World War II? Would it have been possible for the US to return to an isolationist foreign policy?
What were the benefits and potential pitfalls of Truman's offer to support any country trying to resist communism?
Which was more successful in combatting the spread of communism: economic aid or military force?
Want to join the conversation?
- So if Communism could help fix Europe's problems why was the U.S.A. against it? Doesn't make sense to me, can someone explain?(35 votes)
- Great question! I think there are two major reasons that the U.S. was afraid of the spread of communism: 1) The U.S. was committed to democracy and "self-determination," or the right of citizens to determine their own form of government. They believed that communism was too totalitarian and wouldn't let people choose government. 2) The U.S. is a capitalist country, and so its prosperity depends on having people buy its products all over the world. In communist countries, there is no private property, so it cuts people off from buying products. The more communism spreads, the fewer people there are to buy products, thus undermining capitalism.(68 votes)
- How come instead of the policy of "Containment", the U.S. didn't try an "Open Immigration" policy instead? Offering all the struggling peoples of the world the option to just immigrate to the U.S. instead of ending our "isolationist". but non-interventionist policy that had been both morally and economically superior to all the other nations foreign polices?
After all, this is the country of Emma Lazarus' great poem written upon the Statue of Liberty...
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these the homeless, tempest-tost to me..."(9 votes)
- Emma Lazarus' great poem is not the law of the land LOL
Just as the Declaration of Independence, including the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", is also not the law of the land either ;)
Seriously, the U.S. Constitution, and any federal laws, regulations, and U.S. Supreme Court cases stemming therefrom, are what determines our government and policies, and often they are in conflict with the noble aspirations (or the American myth) of the United States.
As to your question, Jeff, the United States has always been ambivalent regarding immigration. Although the U.S. was colonized, founded, and expanded by immigrants, once those immigrants and their progeny became "Americans", many wanted to protect their own economic turf, that is, jobs and wages.
Thus, both in the past and currently, many immigrants and their progeny wanted to "shut the door behind them", sometimes out of economic considerations, whether a rational approach to keep their own wages high and to reduce competition for jobs in the U.S., or an irrational approach to selfishly keep their wages and jobs to themselves and not allow "immigrants" to take "their" wages or jobs.
It's sad, but that's how people, including the progeny of immigrants, act and think.(20 votes)
- Was Russia an extreme communism , because at the first they were actual communism , which basically means that everyone was equal , but then Stalin took over, and so he basically broke the communism doctrine when he was above everyone else or what?(7 votes)
- OK, very good question. Communism is actually a long term goal. Communism, in some degrees, is impossible to realize. Many socialists have taken many many experiments in the history, like they built a society in a small island and see if this society could realize communism. But no, it is actually impossible. The communism, like you mentioned is the equality in a whole society. So how could that be possible? Only when there are enough resources, enough material resources, when people do not have any desire in possession, when they could simply get anything they want, could communism come true. So what Soviet Union was, precisely, Socialism, which is the previous stage of communism. Socialism refers to the society that there are not "enough" resources so that the equality could not be fully realized. Many, many countries have tried to develop socialism, but the result was really terrible. Most of them became capitalism at last, and either way they became really extreme like Nazi. So, as it turns out, communism is just a dream to human society.(8 votes)
- Why was the United States so concerned with the spread of communism, outside of the scope of the Soviet Union? How is the political model of communism any less sound than the model of capitalism and a democratic republic?(4 votes)
- This could compare to "Why were the British so concerned about the spread of the French empire?" So, the answer to your first question is one of imperial power vs imperial power, and has little to do with ideology.
As for the second, debates could go on for a long time about the relative merits of each of these two deeply flawed political systems, so maybe the answer is to look to the results of where they've been tried. Capitalism has failed in many, many places. Communism, likewise, has been widely tried, and apart from stunning successes like the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, has been bent in a capitalist direction or completely replaced in most others.(6 votes)
- So, I have a question- so there are many things that are good for the economy such as socialism being a part of communism. Equal pay for everyone sounds like an amazing thing to me. So, why haven't we converted to that system yet? Wouldn't it also decrease inflation?(1 vote)
- If you look at socialist and communist nations such as Russia, Venezuela, China, North Korea and others, you will find that their economies are mostly terrible.
When socialist and communist governments force things like equal pay on people, then the people usually start to wonder why they bother even going to work if all of their expertise in some field will only earn them the same as the taxi driver or the street sweeper. They suddenly have no incentive to work hard or advance in their fields because there will be little or no benefit.
Socialism and communism are great concepts but ONLY when they are done voluntarily by the people themselves. (sharing what you have with others - or receiving something from others because of your poverty) When socialist and communist governments demand that you share what you have by using force, it's no longer much fun, and those who receive will become lazy because they know they don't have to work to get what they want.
Socialism always leads to Communism, and there are plenty of examples of nations that have murdered their citizens by the tens of millions, and created much poverty and despair with these forms of government.
It would be important to remember that the government that can give you everything you want needs to be powerful enough to take from you everything you have.(7 votes)
- As the cold war was generally consisted of 'proxy wars', did this include the skirmish in Nicaragua, and if so, how?(2 votes)
- Yes, the US used money from illegal arms sales to Iran to fund Contra rebels fighting communists in Nicaragua (Iran-contra scandal).(3 votes)
- What are some other conflicts that the Truman Doctrine caused?(2 votes)
- The Korean War. Bear in mind, that later president's sort of built off of the Truman Doctrine causing even more conflicts.(2 votes)
- Why is Truman's Doctrine and the Marshall plan the most impactful in the Cold War?(2 votes)
- Because, Europe was so vulnerable after World War II, that communism had a good chance to expand. This is why the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan where so important at this time.(2 votes)
- Why didn't the eastern bloc accept the Marshall aid?(1 vote)
- The Marshall Plan wasn't purely charity. Its political purpose was to make sure communism wouldn't become an attractive option, and European countries receiving aid would be grateful to the US as well. The Eastern bloc, beyond the Iron Curtain, was communist and under the Soviet Union's influence. Only Yugoslavia, I think, accepted aid from the Marshall Plan.(4 votes)
- Are the Truman Doctrine and the containment policy the same thing?(1 vote)
- They were very similar.
The Truman Doctrine was designed to support any non-communist nation that was under siege by a communist nation.
Containment was designed to stop the enlargement of an enemy (in this case communism), but perhaps not necessarily because of an attack on a non-communist country.(3 votes)