What Can Be Learned From the History of the Marshall Plan About the Importance of the United States, Research Paper Example
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After the ending of the Second World War in 1945 Europe was changed forever and began a transformation of re-construction of buildings, culture and government. The impact was particularly significant in France and Germany where the brunt of the transformational changes took place. It ultimately reshaped the landscape between East and West and resulted in a cold war between different political ideologies i.e. that of Communism in the East with Russia and its newly annexed countries and the Western democracies affiliated with the USA.
The main elements of the 2nd World War took place in Europe between 1939-1945. Adolf Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany on 30th January 1933. The Nazi (NSDAP) became the ruling party in the German Parliament (Reichstag). Under Hitler the German army was rebuilt and subsequently Germany was rearmed repudiating the Treaty of Versailles, after the defeat in World War 1. The world war began in earnest in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland and Britain declared war on Germany. Because of the UK Commonwealth this automatically brought in many other countries to the conflict e.g. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The USA entered the war after Japan (German axis alliance partner, attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941). The Germans continued on and eventually occupied a large part of Europe and North Africa. The ensuing liberation by the allies created huge waves of destruction by aerial bombardment and invading troops supported by tanks and artillery. The Soviet Union were particularly brutal in their attack on Germany infrastructure and committed an extreme act of revenge for the Nazi attack on Russia. Immediately after the surrender of Germany in 1945 Europe was transformed forever. The Cities of Berlin and Vienna were split into occupation zones by Britain, USA, France and Russia. Poland was re-annexed by Russia together with most of Eastern Europe including that of East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary; together with communist dictatorships in countries like Bulgaria, Romania and Yugoslavia.
The stage was set for the building of a new European Union and the emergence of two new super powers i.e. the USA and Russia. George Marshall would be the architect of this new plan that would be called the Marshall Plan.
The Marshall Plan
George C Marshall appears as a Soldier and Statesman in numerous books and periodicals and specifically in the American Journal of Military History. His most famous contribution being the organizing of the D-Day landings under the Commander in Chief President Roosevelt. Numerous works cover the ‘Marshall Plan’ the plan covering the restoration of Europe after the destruction of the Second World War.
Marshall viewed the Russians as the main barrier to peace in Europe and equally divisive in helping to bring about the reformation and rebuilding of Europe as part of the Marshall Plan. He reported to the United Nations clearly identifying Russia as a major stumbling block towards the road to reconciliation and peace in Europe “”In place of peace, liberty and economic security, we find menace, repression and dire want.” (Marshall, 1948). Marshall called for UN intervention in preventing Russia from repressing Europe.
1947 | In 1947 the Special Ad Hoc Committee of Washington DC requested an interim report – a survey of the world-wide situation post the ending of the Second World War in Europe in 1945. The paper examined US security considerations and the situation in Europe. The report pointed out that that the US was not dictating policy in Europe and the main issues resided in the Western European countries making up deficiencies that they had incurred during the war. They simply cannot make the transition alone and they need to accept that will require the help of the US. The Marshall program will need to be focused upon bring stability to Europe and meeting the basic needs of the people i.e. food, shelter and clothing. There will be a need for a considerable amount of integration and joint co-operation between the European nations. At the time of the report the crisis is already with the USA with France, Italy, Austria and the UK being in most urgent need of assistance. At this point the report has determined that the problem is deeper and more complex than originally envisaged. As such there is an urgent need for an interim program to Europe (Anon, Foreign Relations in the United States)
1948 | In 1948 the Senate passed a bill to support the European Market Program (ERP) to supply essential commodities to Europe; in order to prevent a regression into a financial slide that would cause starvation and other hardships. The ERP is one of the main strategic objectives in order to facilitate recovery in Europe. There is still a need however for strong cohesion between the nations in Europe. In economic terms this means the free flow of goods between nations and the lifting of any restrictive barriers. The report stated that the US needed to assign high calibre staff to positions in Europe in order for the European nations to take ERP seriously and equally provide high portfolio people to engage with the program. There is also a significant problem with the determination of how funds will be apportioned between member states. Britain is a particular issue in the determination of its position in Europe. As the head of a commonwealth of nations. In addition, Britain was not an occupied country in the Second World War and therefore needs greater freedom and flexibility in the determination of its own problems. (Anon)
1949 | With the Economic Co-operation Act of 1948 the US will support Europe by releasing trade and payment barriers within the OECC countries. Britain has stated because of their commitment to sterling, and those other nations that use same, they are reluctant to enter into any negotiations of reduction in trade barriers within the OECC. The US held talks with Bevin in the UK concerning their disappointment over the lack of progress in European integration and particularly the lack of co-operation between European nations. Bevin stated that the UK integration with Europe would be disastrous for the Commonwealth and bring about an immediate decline in Britain as a world power which in turn might create issues for the US and the entire Western World. It was Hoffman who in 1950 alluded to the creation of a single large European market where restrictions, tariffs and movement of goods will be removed. A reference to the future formation of the European Community (EEC). (Anon, Foreign Relations of the United States).
1950 | In 1950 Charles Bohlen in Paris stated that the US would look at the Continent of Europe with no distinction between Great Britain and the other European countries. He made the point that it was Britain who was instrumental in the formation of OECC. Speculation was being made elsewhere that Canada, Britain and the USA would forge an alliance that would preclude Europe. Bohlen stated that if Britain were to remove itself from Europe the concept of an integrated European community would collapse. The British are instrumental in helping to forge the European alliance. Harrison stated that Britain had violated their commitment under the Marshall plan via lack of co-operation with the other European nations. Many at the Paris meeting felt that Britain was nervous about the dissolution of its empire and their loss of sovereignty over their dominions. This hampered progress on the negotiations for European integration. (Anon, Foreign Relations of the United States)
Essence of the Marshall Plan
The basis of the Marshall Plan was on the American conviction that the recovery of Europe was vital to homeland security and the longer term interests of the USA. Europe was essential as a balance to the expanding interests of the Soviet Union in the East. American interests dictated that they maintain an active interest in the redevelopment of Europe. It was the difference between the US and the Soviets that Secretary of state George C Marshall met with British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin and proceeded with the plan for the reformation of Europe. The idea of European integration remained hugely popular as a concept with the politicians in Washington. (Hogan).
In the spring of 1948 Congress approved Marshalls Economic Recovery Act and by 1952 the US had transferred $13 billion in aid to Europe (today’s equivalence would be $100 billion). This was one of the largest aid packages in history, which the British described as a supreme act of generosity. The Marshall Plan saw the mandate of regional authorities in the distribution of aid. Marshall was acclaimed by Winston Churchill as the architect of peace and laid the foundation stones for a modern integrated European union.
The early resistance to the Marshall Plan was mainly based upon European nations not wishing to be dependent upon the USA. With France they emerged from being an occupied nation and they were desperately trying to re-establish their identity in a fragmented country. There was also the fear of communism spreading from Eastern Europe. The Marshall plan is a lesson from history based upon the identification of an impending doom scenario where immediate action is required. The ability to act in a quick and expedient manner with the power of money transfers. The plan worked because the war was over and the dawning of the atomic age prevented the immediate threat of any new wars. As such it was instrumental in success at a moment in time where the conditions were unique to facilitate the rebuilding of nations. (Sorrel).
Joseph Goebbels stated in 1945 that if Germany was to lose the war then the Soviet army would occupy Eastern Europe and a large part of Germany, this despite any treaties made between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. An ‘iron curtain’ would fall over Europe. This will create special conditions for those countries that border Russia like Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia. The Marshall plan was focused upon the restoration of Europe and took into consideration a potential cold war between the USSR and the USA that may be played out in a European theatre of operations. The USSR was annexing nations in Eastern Europe and essentially creating buffer states between Western Europe and the USSR. Austria became a pawn in the game having established strong trading relationships with Eastern Europe during the period of the third Reich. It continued these trading links whilst trying to forge new links with the west and found itself at the cross-roads of conflict between East and West Europe “the Marshall Plan and its counterpart, the embargo against Eastern Europe, contributed to the rise of the iron curtain. (Günter Bischof)
The Marshall plan is considered unique in its place in history and it is considered that it is unlikely that such a plan can be replicated on this scale again. It is unique in the sense that it occurred in a moment in history where unique conditions existed that enabled the rebuilding of nations to take place. Even this was a fragile peace and took many years for the solution to work. Despite the effort the cold war was virtually inevitable leading to the formation of Eastern and Western Europe and later resulted in further conflict in the Balkans. Germany became a divided nation for many years and reconstruction was slow owing to differences of opinions between nations. One of the big issues being for nations in Europe to see themselves under the banner of one flag as ‘ Europeans’ as opposed to the pure allegiance to their own countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, Dutch etc. Despite some of the setbacks with the Marshall plan it had achieved virtually all of its goals. It accomplished this saving some $4 billion against the $17 billion budget that was set aside. As such this is considered to be one of the most successful foreign aid packages of all time. A testimony to the vision, leadership and dedication of George C Marshall.
Anon. “Foreign Relations in the United States.” Foreign Relations in the United States (1947): Vol 3 204-251, 356-375, 397-405, 446-450.
—. “Foreign Relations of the United States.” Foreign Relations of the United States (1947): Vol 3 : 204-251, 356-375, 397-405, 446-450.
—. “Foreign Relations of the United States.” Foreign Relations of the United States (1949): Vol 4 419-429, 435-447, 448-450 , 456-458, 469-482.
—. “Foreign Relations of the United States.” Foreign Relations of the United States (1950): Vol 3 617-622, 629-630, 638-642, 646-652.
Günter Bischof, Anton Pelinka, Dieter Stiefel. The Marshall Plan in Austria. New Jersey: Rutgers, 2000.
Hogan, Michael J. The Marshall Plan: America, Britain, and the reconstruction of Western Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Marshall, George C. “George C. Marshall.” Time Magazine (1948).
Sorrel, Eliot. The Marshall Plan: lessons learned for the 21st century. Paris: OECD, 2008.
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