According to Jones, the Truman Doctrine was "realistic in application and idealistic in purpose. His conclusions conform with Jones' short-term assessment, but Kuniholm believes that the lessons policymakers drew from their "pragmatic" approach in this instance had unfortunate consequences in later years. The Truman administration and its successors used the Doctrine incorrectly as a model for confronting the Soviet Union and its "apparent satellites" such as Korea and Vietnam, failing to place limits on American aid and to consider the appropriateness of the historical comparison.
Communist activity along the Northern Tier contributed to America's growing suspicion of Moscow's overall behavior and shaped the context in which policymakers viewed events elsewhere, particularly in Europe. It is worth emphasizing that policymakers did not fear direct Soviet military aggression.
Instead, as Melvyn Leffler explains in The Specter of Communism , they worried about "vacuums of power, financial hardship, exchange controls, and Communist parties" in war-torn regions "play[ing] into the hands" of the Soviet Union. They also "reversed course" in Japan, prioritizing economic strength over democratic reform in an effort to revitalize the international economy a practice also adopted in western Germany and to thwart Communism's appeal See VUS Gaddis' classic examination of U.
Cold War policy, Strategies of Containment , juxtaposes these two early cold war strategies—the Truman Doctrine's global strategy and a more targeted, "strong point" strategy that focused on the rehabilitation of Western Europe and Japan. Criticizing the Truman Doctrine's expansive goals in an era in which the United States military was still demobilizing after the war, Gaddis suggests the pronouncement made little effort to reconcile its ambitious ends with America's limited means.
In contrast, by focusing on the economic rehabilitation of Western Europe and Japan and by avoiding excessively ideological rhetoric, containment's practitioners wisely contracted their ends to match their means. In and early , anxiety in Washington rose as Mao Zedong's Communist forces gained control of mainland China, the Soviet Union conducted its first atomic test, and economic woes plagued the American economy. With events seeming to tip in Moscow's favor, containment underwent an important reevaluation.
Policymakers articulated a new, comprehensive security strategy in a national security memorandum entitled NSC This paper framed the conflict in stark terms, charging that the Soviet Union was "animated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own," and sought "to impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world. It called, in other words, for economic, military, and ideological containment on a global scale. The Korean War turned these recommendations into realities and represented a turning point in U.
Cold War strategy. The first military engagement of the conflict seemed to confirm America's worst fears about international Communism and eased the adoption of NSC When Kim Il Sung's forces crossed the 38th parallel into the southern half of Korea in June , the Truman administration acted quickly to obtain a United Nations Security Council Resolution denouncing the aggression and committing troops to defend the Korean peninsula from what it believed to be Moscow-directed Communist expansion.
Following three years of bloody stalemate, the division of North and South Korea was reestablished, although not before China had intervened and the regional conflict threatened to escalate into a wider war.
Start of the Cold War - The Yalta Conference and containment
This "global vision" prevented policymakers from viewing the conflict for what it was: a Korean civil struggle with a history that predated Neither the Soviet Union nor China controlled Kim's decision to invade the South; rather, North Korea acted with minimal external involvement. William Stueck sees the conflict differently. American and Soviet involvement in Korea after the Second World War fueled the political tension between north and south, and the war was inextricably linked to wider Cold War considerations.
The Korean War was a decisive step in the militarization and globalization of containment. Nowhere was its impact greater than on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO was created in as a "band aid" to help Europe cope with internal national problems by bolstering its economic recovery under the umbrella of American political and military involvement.
There was no military organization or alliance to speak of. After Korea, however, American policymakers believed that the next Soviet "test" of strength might come in central Europe; NATO was given military teeth and expanded to include Greece, Turkey, and, soon thereafter, the Federal Republic of Germany. The threat of Soviet military power dictated the integration of Western Europe's defense under American leadership.
When the Eisenhower administration took office, it bombastically declared it would "roll back" Communism but quickly accepted the tenets of its predecessor's containment strategy. Eisenhower did, however, worry about the financial and psychological cost that global commitment entailed for American society.
Aaron Friedberg's In the Shadow of the Garrison State: America's Anti-statism and its Cold War Grand Strategy traces the tensions between the economic, social, and political demands of a muscular and active foreign policy to combat Communism and the threats posed by such a policy to democracy at home. Containment entailed the expansion of the military's role in society and the increasing reliance on a military-industrial complex, both of which seemed to threaten longstanding American values.enter
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Seeking to reconcile domestic concerns with national security imperatives, the Eisenhower administration gave containment a "New Look. Campbell Craig explores the U.
Paradoxically, Craig explains, Eisenhower viewed a reliance on atomic power as the only feasible way to avoid war with the Soviets. The prospect of MAD—"mutually assured destruction"—negated any advantage either side could gain from a nuclear first strike, while the looming threat of nuclear war acted to deter the Soviet Union from taking lesser actions that could rapidly escalate to the point of an atomic standoff. The perils of "brinksmanship" became clear in the Taiwan Straits Crisis, as the prospect of nuclear war over a peripheral interest—the Chinese nationalist stronghold of Taiwan and nearby islands—became all too real.
Such nuclear saber rattling culminated in the Cuban Missile Crisis, as policymakers confronted the possibility of war with the Soviet Union over the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Policymakers' evident concern during those thirteen days in October and several more in November marked an important shift in American and Soviet efforts to lessen the danger of nuclear war.
In a lively international history of the crisis, "One Hell of a Gamble": Krushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, , Timothy Naftali and Alesandr Fursenko explain how close the superpowers came to a nuclear exchange and their efforts to pull back from the brink. The danger of an over-reliance on nuclear power to futher national interests confirmed America's need to seek a "flexible response" to the Communist challenge, particularly along the Cold War's periphery. The Third World presented the United States with intractable problems and became an increasingly important focus of the containment strategy.
Believing that if one friendly nation—or "domino"—fell to Communism an entire region could topple, the United States refused to accept the Communist domination of developing countries. Yet the situation was complicated.
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Though the revolutionary nationalism unleashed by Asian and African decolonization was indigenous in origin, it took on ominous signs of Communist sympathy as countries unwilling to align themselves with the "free world" became cause for suspicion. Touted as a path toward rapid economic modernization, Communism represented an appealing developmental model for Third World nations.
Eisenhower was intent on avoiding the frustration of limited war so clearly evinced in Korea, yet he was driven by the desire to prevent the expansion of Communism into the developing world. Nowhere was the fear more acute than in America's backyard—the Western Hemisphere. More broadly, Zachary Karabell's Architects of Intervention shows that the Eisenhower administration consistently erred in its misapplication of containment in the Third World, with the "architects" of American efforts often being indigenous actors exploiting anti-Communism and American fears for their own benefit.
Michael Latham's Modernization as Ideology: American Social Science and "Nation Building" in the Kennedy Era traces the administration's efforts to apply the academic theory of modernization to diagnose and alleviate the conditions that bred Communist revolution. As Latham shows, a key element of containment was the effort to create liberal, democratic, and capitalist societies around the world.
No episode better exemplified the perils of the containment strategy in the Third World than America's involvement in Vietnam. Fearful that the fall of South Vietnam to Communism would topple the rest of Southeast Asia like so many dominoes, and certain that the failure of the United States to stand firm in Vietnam would embolden Communists elsewhere, policymakers plunged the United States into "America's Longest War.
According to Schulzinger, from its support of the French colonialists, through its nation-building project in South Vietnam, to the decision to bomb North Vietnam and escalate the war, and finally through Nixon's attempt to find "peace with honor," the United States set out to demonstrate its toughness and determination in Vietnam to ensure that its power not be devalued elsewhere in the world. Even though officials were wedded to long-held Cold War assumptions about credibility, dominoes, and Communism, Fredrik Logevall's illuminating work, Choosing War: The Lost Chance for Peace and the Escalation of War in Vietnam , demonstrates that there was nothing inevitable in the Johnson administration's decision to escalate the war.
Viable political and diplomatic options existed to resolve the conflict short of massive American involvement, had government officials not been so rigid and the proponents of a political solution not so timid.
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Jeffrey Kimball carries American involvement in Vietnam to its ignominious conclusion in his study, Nixon's Vietnam War. Nixon shared the same Cold War outlook as many of his predecessors and was determined to preserve America's global credibility by finding "peace with honor. Finding the North Vietnamese unresponsive to his "madman" strategy, and the "Vietnamization" of the war undermined by South Vietnamese corruption, indifference, and low morale, Nixon settled for a "decent interval solution. Two years later, the government of South Vietnam collapsed.
While the Cold War would rage through three subsequent presidential administrations, after Vietnam policymakers could no longer count on the "Cold War consensus" to follow where the containment doctrine led. Not surprisingly, scholarly assessments of containment and America's Cold War strategy have been mixed. In Strategies of Containment , Gaddis concludes optimistically that despite its "contradictions, mutations, and irrationalities," containment was a "surprisingly successful strategy.
Brands questions whether mere stability should be the appropriate benchmark. In The Devil We Knew , he suggests that by consistently cutting "moral corners" in fighting the Cold War, the United States abdicated its role in the eyes of the world as a moral leader and a beacon of humanity. After forty-years devoted to containing Communism at all costs, the United States convinced most of the globe that America "could be counted on to act pretty much as great powers always have.
What is certain is that current and future historians will fight over the legacy of containment—its purposes, merits, and costs—with the same vigor that traditionalists, revisionists, and post-revisionists have displayed in contesting the origins of the Cold War. Brand, H.
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New York: Oxford University Press, Campbell, Craig. Destroying the Village: Eisenhower and Thermonuclear War. New York: Columbia University Press, Cullather, Nick. Cummings Bruce. Origins of the Korean War, Volume 2. The Roaring of the Cataract, Feis, Herbert. The great powers in the Middle East : the road to the Cold War. Request this item to view in the Library's reading rooms using your library card. To learn more about how to request items watch this short online video. You can view this on the NLA website.
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