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The First Cold Warrior

The First Cold Warrior: Harry Truman, Containment, and the Remaking of Liberal Internationalism

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 336
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    The First Cold Warrior
    Book Description:

    From the first days of his unexpected presidency in April 1945 through the landmark NSC 68 of 1950, Harry Truman was central to the formation of America's grand strategy during the Cold War and the subsequent remaking of U.S. foreign policy. Others are frequently associated with the terminology of and responses to the perceived global Communist threat after the Second World War: Walter Lippmann popularized the term "cold war," and George F. Kennan first used the word "containment" in a strategic sense. Although Kennan, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall have been seen as the most influential architects of American Cold War foreign policy, The First Cold Warrior draws on archives and other primary sources to demonstrate that Harry Truman was the key decision maker in the critical period between 1945 and 1950. In a significant reassessment of the thirty-third president and his political beliefs, Elizabeth Edwards Spalding contends that it was Truman himself who defined and articulated the theoretical underpinnings of containment. His practical leadership style was characterized by policies and institutions such as the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, NATO, the Berlin airlift, the Department of Defense, and the National Security Council. Part of Truman's unique approach -- shaped by his religious faith and dedication to anti-communism -- was to emphasize the importance of free peoples, democratic institutions, and sovereign nations. With these values, he fashioned a new liberal internationalism, distinct from both Woodrow Wilson's progressive internationalism and Franklin D. Roosevelt's liberal pragmatism, which still shapes our politics. Truman deserves greater credit for understanding the challenges of his time and for being America's first cold warrior. This reconsideration of Truman's overlooked statesmanship provides a model for interpreting the international crises facing the United States in this new era of ideological conflict.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7128-9
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    “I suppose that history will remember my term in office as the years when the ‘cold war’ began to overshadow our lives,” Harry S. Truman speculated in his presidential farewell address of January 1953. “I have had hardly a day in office that has not been dominated by this all-embracing struggle—this conflict between those who love freedom and those who would lead the world back into slavery and darkness. And always in the background there has been the atomic bomb.”

    From the moment he became president of the United States in April 1945, Truman made hard decisions under acutely...

  5. 1 “I’m tired babying the Soviets” The Beginnings of Truman’s Internationalism
    (pp. 9-36)

    When Harry Truman became president in April 1945, liberal internationalism was little more than an intellectual concept and by no means a common expression. For the first part of the twentieth century, politicians spoke in terms of being nationalists or internationalists, but they tended not to add modifiers such as liberal, conservative, or progressive. As World War II came to a close, the two great presidential expositors of internationalism—Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt—were gone, but their presence still dominated American politics. Facing a global conflict with the Soviet Union, an ally during the Second World War, Truman could...

  6. 2 “The two giant marauders, war and tyranny” Framing Containment
    (pp. 37-60)

    Harry Truman had much to learn about foreign policy when he became president of the United States, and he spent the second part of 1945 and early 1946 thinking about the new conditions of world politics. In 1946, with no appropriate institutional structure and some difficulties with top advisors—in particular, Secretary of State James Byrnes and Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace—Truman articulated the meaning of the Cold War and America’s role in the conflict. This was remarkably challenging, since Byrnes represented an opposing fusion of Wilson’s progressive internationalism and FDR’s liberal internationalism, which appealed to much of the...

  7. 3 "A growing feeling of certainty in the rightness of our step” The Truman Doctrine
    (pp. 61-80)

    Scholars have long debated to what extent communism animated Soviet behavior during the Cold War. While controversy continues, extensive materials have been released from former Eastern bloc archives supporting the conclusion that Communist ideology typically motivated the Kremlin.¹ Truman neither benefited from the academic debate nor was he privy to these materials. Instead, he drew on what he experienced and observed, and what information and analysis he received from his advisors. Some State Department officials interpreted the Soviet Union as a typical great power seeking hegemony, while others at State and within the armed service and intelligence sectors asserted the...

  8. 4 “A noble page in world annals” The Politics of the Marshall Plan
    (pp. 81-102)

    During World War II, Harry Truman had foreseen the need to rehabilitate a war-racked Europe, an opinion generally shared by the man who became his secretary of state, George Marshall. Attuned to domestic political difficulties, including the unprecedented commitment demanded by a large-scale program to rebuild Europe, the president delegated to Marshall—respected, nearly worshiped, by Congress and the American people—the announcement of the European Recovery Program (ERP) in June 1947. His use of Marshall, in this regard, reflected Truman’s understanding not only of the primacy of the president in foreign policymaking but also of political tactics about the...

  9. 5 “Bonds far greater than those of mere ideology” Kennan’s Sources of Soviet Conduct
    (pp. 103-128)

    It is no coincidence that scholars have written more about George F. Kennan—and his version of containment—than about any other advisor in the Truman administration. Adept in foreign languages, Kennan was respected for his intellect and prose throughout his career. A foreign service officer of the State Department who had postings in Geneva, Hamburg, Tallinin, Riga, Prague, Berlin, Lisbon, London, and Moscow, he worked his way up through the ranks from vice consul in 1927 (when he was twenty-three years old) to acting as charge d’affaires between two U.S. ambassadors to the Soviet Union in 1946. During those...

  10. 6 “The great principles of human freedom and justice” The Beginning of the Atlantic Alliance
    (pp. 129-152)

    Some would say that the United States in 1947 and 1948 had done as much as (or more than) it should have in the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, but Harry Truman did not think so. He believed that primarily political and economic aid were insufficient under the unprecedented circumstances of the Cold War; a strategic military component, he reasoned, was needed as part of containment. So Truman endorsed what he saw as an unprecedented yet proportionate response: the Atlantic Alliance, a collective defense arrangement that protected its member states from attack without the sacrifice of national sovereignty. This...

  11. 7 “Peace with freedom and justice cannot be bought cheaply” The Purpose and Structure of National Security
    (pp. 153-176)

    In the mid-1940s, the dominant method for gathering and interpreting data, as well as developing policy, was the age-old memorandum process, often based on months of research that culminated in one lengthy report. From a process angle, let alone that of national security, it was inadequate. Harry Truman knew that U.S. national security, a constant imperative, needed an institutional framework with built-in continuity and stability to address new Cold War circumstances. In 1947, Truman’s establishment of the National Security Council (NSC) marked the start of America’s national security arrangements after the Second World War. In subsequent years, the NSC corroborated...

  12. 8 “To assure the integrity and vitality of our free society” The Culmination of Truman’s Containment
    (pp. 177-198)

    On January 31, 1950, Harry Truman decided that the United States had to pursue the development of the hydrogen bomb. That same day, independent of the H-bomb decision, the president also requested a broad-based report on the continuing world crisis. Drafted in February and March 1950 by new director of the Policy Planning Staff Paul Nitze (who had replaced George Kennan) and a nine-member team of State and Defense Department officials, NSC 68 was submitted to the president in April. It cited and quoted NSC 20/4, not NSC 20/1, as its institutional touchstone. Long dismissed as a crude propaganda effort—...

  13. 9 “We must put on the armor of God” History, Faith, and Peace in Truman’s Thought
    (pp. 199-222)

    At the beginning of the last year of his presidency, during the height of the Korean War, Truman summarized his abhorrence of human rights violations and compared dealing with Communist governments to “an honest man trying to deal with a numbers racket king or the head of a dope ring.” He indicted the Soviets for breaking every agreement made at the three main wartime conferences; castigated them for raping Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the Baltic states; and chastised them for sending citizens who believed in self-government to slave labor camps. He also mourned the some three million prisoners of...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 223-232)

    Harry Truman’s Cold War was a conflict between good and evil, between freedom and tyranny, between liberal democracy and totalitarianism, between capitalism and communism. In his liberal internationalism—which both was informed by and undergirded the strategy of containment—he was generically American, not specifically Wilsonian, as he aimed to articulate and project America’s basic principles of freedom and equality, assist those who also lived under such principles to maintain and defend them, and aid those under totalitarianism to realize them in the future.

    Truman based his understanding of politics, and hence of liberal internationalism, on regime distinctions. In his...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 233-298)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 299-310)
  17. Index
    (pp. 311-323)