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The Truman Doctrine was a United States foreign policy designed to contain Communism by stopping its spread to Greece and Turkey. Gaining the support of the Republicans who controlled Congress, President Harry S. Truman proclaimed the Doctrine on March 12, 1947. It stated that the U.S. would support Greece and Turkey with economic and military aid to prevent their falling into the Soviet orbit. The Doctrine shifted American foreign policy towards the Soviet Union from détente to, as George F. Kennan phrased it, a policy of containment of Soviet expansion. It is often used by historians as the starting date of the Cold War.
Truman's decision, supported by Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg and the Republicans who controlled Congress, came after the British urgently informed Washington that it was no longer able to support the Greece government's efforts to fight its civil war against Communist insurgents. Aid was given to Turkey because of the historic tensions between Greece and Turkey. It was an early response to aggression by the Soviet Union in Europe and the Middle East, illustrated through the communist movements in Iran, Turkey and Greece. The Truman Doctrine was the first in a succession of containment moves by the United States, followed by economic restoration of Western Europe through the The Marshall Plan and military containment by the creation of NATO in 1949. In U.S. President Harry S. Truman's words, it became "the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." Truman reasoned, because these "totalitarian regimes" coerced "free peoples," they represented a threat to international peace and the national security of the United States.
President Truman made the proclamation in an address to the U.S. Congress on March 12, 1947, amid the crisis of the Greek Civil War (1946-1949). Truman insisted that if Greece and Turkey did not receive the aid that they needed, they would inevitably fall to communism with consequences throughout the region.
Truman signed the act into law on May 22, 1947, which granted $400 million ($350 million to Greece and $50 million to Turkey) in military and economic aid. The economic aid was to be used in repairing the infrastructure of these countries and military aid came in the form of military personnel supervising and helping with the reconstruction of these countries while training soldiers. This aid was to help Greece and Turkey get back on their feet so they could both support and defend themselves from coercive forces. It should be noted however that this American aid was in many ways a replacement for British aid which the British were no longer financially in a position to give. The policy of containment and opposition to communists in Greece for example was carried out by the British before 1947 in many of the same ways it was carried out afterward by the Americans.
The doctrine also had consequences elsewhere in Europe. Governments in Western Europe with powerful communist movements such as Italy and France were given a variety of assistance and encouraged to keep communist groups out of governments. In some respects, these moves were in response to moves made by the Soviet Union to purge opposition groups in Eastern Europe out of existence.
In 1950, Truman signed the top-secret policy plan NSC-68 which shifted foreign policy from passive to active containment. The document differed from George F. Kennan's original notion of containment outlined in his "X" article, containing much harsher anti-communist rhetoric. NSC-68 explicitly stated that the Communists planned for world domination.
The Truman Doctrine also contributed to and became rationale for America's first involvements in the Vietnam War. Starting shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War, Truman attempted to aid France's bid to hold onto its Vietnamese colonies. The United States supplied French forces with equipment and military advisors in order to combat Ho Chi Minh and anti-colonial communist revolutionaries.
The "Truman Doctrine" has become a metaphor for emergency aid to keep a nation from communist influence. Truman used disease imagery not only to communicate a sense of impending disaster in the spread of communism but also to create a "rhetorical vision" of containing it by extending a protective shield around noncommunist countries throughout the world. It echoed the "quarantine the aggressor" policy Franklin Roosevelt proposed in 1937. The medical metaphor extended beyond the immediate aims of the Truman Doctrine in that the imagery combined with fire and flood imagery evocative of disaster provided the United States with an easy transition to direct military confrontation in later years with communist forces in Korea and Vietnam. By presenting ideological differences in life or death terms, Truman was able to garner support for this communism-containing policy.
- Frazier, Robert. "Acheson and the Formulation of the Truman Doctrine" Journal of Modern Greek Studies 1999 17(2): 229-251. ISSN 0738-1727 Fulltext online in Project Muse
- Gaddis, John Lewis. "Reconsiderations: Was the Truman Doctrine a Real Turning Point?" Foreign Affairs 1974 52(2): 386-402. ISSN 0015-7120
- Ivie, Robert L. "Fire, Flood, and Red Fever: Motivating Metaphors of Global Emergency in the Truman Doctrine Speech." Presidential Studies Quarterly 1999 29(3): 570-591. ISSN 0360-4918
- Jeffrey, Judith S. Ambiguous Commitments and Uncertain Policies: The Truman Doctrine in Greece, 1947-1952 Lexington, 2000. 257 pp.
- Jones, Howard. "A New Kind of War": America's Global Strategy and the Truman Doctrine in Greece Oxford U. Press, 1989. 327 pp
- Leffler, Melvyn P. "Strategy, Diplomacy, and the Cold War: the United States, Turkey, and NATO, 1945-1952" Journal of American History 1985 71(4): 807-825. ISSN 0021-8723 Fulltext in JSTOR
- McGhee, George. The U.S.-Turkish-NATO Middle East Connection: How the Truman Doctrine and Turkey's NATO Entry Contained the Soviets in the Middle East. St. Martin's, 1990. 224 pp.
- Merrill, Dennis. "The Truman Doctrine: Containing Communism and Modernity" Presidential Studies Quarterly 2006 36(1): 27-37. ISSN 0360-4918
- Offner, Arnold A. "'Another Such Victory': President Truman, American Foreign Policy, and the Cold War." Diplomatic History 1999 23(2): 127-155. ISSN 0145-2096
- Spalding, Elizabeth Edwards. The First Cold Warrior: Harry Truman, Containment, And the Remaking of Liberal Internationalism (2006)
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| United States Foreign Policy
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| Presidential: Proclamation of Neutrality • Monroe Doctrine • Roosevelt Corollary • Truman Doctrine • Eisenhower Doctrine • Kennedy Doctrine • Johnson Doctrine • Nixon Doctrine • Carter Doctrine • Reagan Doctrine • Clinton Doctrine • Bush Doctrine
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