President Harry S. Truman faced unprecedented turmoil dealing with international affairs during his nearly two terms in office. He was able to lead the United States through the last days of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. A time that later became known as the atomic age. Prior to the end of World War II, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were present. He hoped that the United States could remain amicable with the Soviet Union, but knew that a future conflict was almost eminent between the two super-powers. Truman’s foreign policy outlined some groundbreaking principles that paved the way for American foreign policy for the remainder of that time, and can still be felt today. For example, Beisner says:
“Where Truman focused on the containment of global communism, Bush focused on preempting terrorism; but the tactics used by both are nearly the same: eloquent statements of principle, maintenance of military preponderance, orchestration of alliances, military intervention, and nation building and regime change for America’s most reluctant enemies. Therefore, the Truman Doctrine’s place in history is not only as a turning point in the Cold War, bus as a watershed in modern American foreign policy” ( Beisner, 2006)
Presidential doctrine conveys the attitude of the United States as it deals with political goals, foreign, national, economic, and military policies. A great deal of presidential doctrines is related to the Cold War, yet others deal with emerging problems of the time. President Truman’s doctrine dealt with Expansive Communism. In essence, Truman’s doctrine was responsible for U.S. foreign policy shifting from relaxed to containment during the Soviet Union’s political and economic expansions into Greece and Turkey. In March of 1947, Truman addressed the Nation stating that America would send economic and military aid to stop the invasion of Greece and Turkey into the sphere of the Soviet Union if deemed necessary. The Cold War began on March 12, 1947 and did not end until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
The battles between the Soviet Union and the United States ensued. The rivalry between the two super powers occurred in various arenas. The Cold War eventually spread to every region outside of Europe. The two countries battled in the fields of psychology and ideology, space race, military coalitions, military advancements, and even included the beginning of nuclear arms. Neither country fully trusted their counterpart. The relationship between the Soviet Union and United States deteriorated further after the Cold War. For several years during the 1950s the United States had been flying photographic missions over the Soviet Union. This broke international law and fueled the arms race. The Soviets were never able to detect U.S. flyers, but made their beliefs known. In later years, the relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union has grown worse as result of peace conferences at Yalta and Potsdam. The wartime alliance between the two countries proved to be just that. These two countries banned together out of convenience. For example, “ Prior to the issuance of the Truman Doctrine there was no means of unifying the three major decisions that faced the Truman administration: cutting off Eastern Europe and the USSR from American Trade, restoring Western Europe productivity and commerce, and the reindustrialization of Germany” (Rostow, 1968). Nonetheless, the relationship would not last because each country had varying ideologies and concepts on important issues.
Truman’s development of foreign policy during the Cold War set trends that outlasted his tenure in office. His Cold War policy of containment served as a precedent for future U.S. policy of interventionism. The Truman Doctrine influenced future liaisons such as Korean War and the Vietnam War. Although Truman’s goal was to suppress the possibility of communists’ insurgency in Greece and Turkey, he also lobbied congress to provide military and economic aid to countries in need ( Merrill, 2006). This policy set precedent for the United States to support free people who were resisting attempted subjugation (Roberts, 2000).
Truman’s policies played a significant role in the outcome of the Cold War and future foreign liaisons. For example, “The Truman Doctrine was extremely influential within its period. It outlined the policy of containment, provided the principles for which numerous foreign policy actions would be take, an d laid the framework for major acts of foreign policy such as the Marshall Plan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organizations. However, Truman’s Doctrine stands out from amongst others because of its breathtaking modernism” (Merrill, 2006). Truman’s policy was effective in it gave aid to allies and helped to build an ambitious nation. The Truman Doctrine addressed the issue of containment so many years ago. Ironically, containment is still an issue today as it deals with the war on terrorism. When carefully examining the recent wars in American history, one will gather that the United States was using preventive measures in efforts to maintain the freedom of the American people and its allies. The Cold War has also been credited with many advances in technology when dealing with military strategy. Some of the technological advances during this time were the use of the internet, GPS, cell phones, and other strategies for military advancements. The “Space Race” introduced many technologies that were used for military benefit, but later was introduced to main stream American culture. When the term Cold War is mentioned, one should be able to think of a plethora of positive changes in military, foreign policy, and American culture.
Beisner, R. (2006) Dean Acheson: A Life in the Cold War. New York: Oxford University Press.
Merrill, D. (2006). The Truman Doctrine: Containing Communism and Modernity. Presidential Studies Quarterly, (36)1 178-195.
Roberts, G. (2000). Starting the Cold War. History Review, (9)3. 209-215
Rostow, E. (1968). Law, Power, and the Pursuit of Peace. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.