The Truman Doctrine

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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. policy 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...
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