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The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan

Info: 1987 words (8 pages) Essay
Published: 19th Dec 2017 in History

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This research paper presents and overview for the change caused by the well-known Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan

The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan was the impetus for the change in United States foreign policy, from the isolationist to the internationalist; therefore, we were drawn into two wars of containment and into world affairs.

The Truman Doctrine led to major change in U.S. foreign policy from its inception- aid to Turkey and Greece- to its indirect influence in Korea and Vietnam. On March 12, 1947 President Truman gave his message to congress requesting 400 million in emergency aid for the unstable governments to Turkey and Greece. This marks the beginning of what we now know of as the Truman Doctrine. Within this message Truman said:

“I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”

“I believe we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.”

“I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.” (Jentleson)

The president’s address alternated the warnings of the dangers of communism in specific areas, which were the gateway to Europe and the Middle East. President Truman never pertained to the Soviet Union, but in speaking of violations of the Yalta agreement of “totalitarian regimes” he made it very obvious who his objective was. The Truman Doctrine imitated the directing assumption of the U.S. Cold War policy.

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The immediate need of this statement was critical because of the crisis in the country of Greece. This crisis was because Britain announced that they could no longer assume the economic and other burdens of continued participation in Greek affairs. Politically, the United States realized that the United Nations could not guarantee peace. Economically, the Truman Doctrine recognized that the plans that had been developed during the war were not adequate enough to rebuild and rehabilitate war-torn countries of the world. There needed to be something more to ensure that these countries would be stable enough to resist Communist pressure.

The Truman Doctrine implies that the responsibility that America had for the economic welfare for these war-torn countries did not end immediately after the war. The economic aid that President Truman proposed totaled about $400 million. President Truman knew the United States was the only country that could aid in this economic hardship of Greece and Turkey. Truman argued that the United States could no longer stand by and allow the forcible expansion of Soviet totalitarianism into free, independent nations, because American national security now depended upon more than just the physical security of American territory. Rather, in a sharp break with its traditional avoidance of extensive foreign commitments beyond the Western Hemisphere during peacetime, the Truman Doctrine committed the United States to actively offering assistance to preserve the political integrity of democratic nations when such an offer was deemed to be in the best interest of the United States.

Just a few months later, June 1947, at Harvard University, Secretary of State George Marshall announced a plan in his commencement speech. This plan is the Marshall Plan:

“In considering the requirements for the rehabilitation of Europe, the physical loss of life, the visible destruction of cities, factories, mines and railroads was correctly estimated, but it has become obvious during recent months that this visible destruction was probably less serious than the dislocation of the entire fabric of European economy.”

“The truth of the matter is that Europe’s requirements for the next three or four years of foreign food and other essential products-principally from American-are so much greater than her present ability to pay that she must have substantial additional help or face economic, social, and political deterioration of a very grave character. The remedy lies in breaking the vicious cycle and restoring the confidence of the European people in the economic future of their own countries and of Europe as a whole…”

“It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.”

The Marshall Plan was the primary plan after WWII of the United States for rebuilding in creating a stronger foundation for the countries of Western Europe, June 5, 1947, the reconstructive plan was established. The United States responded to the crisis in Europe for four reasons. First, Europe had been a great market for American goods; without a prosperous Europe, the United States might have suffered a severe economic depression. Second, Western Europe might have used socialist or Communist methods to rebuild their country without the help of American aid, in which the United States leader considered that undesirable. Another reason was due to the United States was beginning to understand that Western Europe appeared to open to influence by our principal rival, the U.S.S.R. Finally, European fears of the World War II foe would lessen only if the German’s were integrated into a larger Europe by rebuilding Western Germany as a buffer against further Soviet expansion. Then the U.S. congress gave $13.1 billion of the $29 billion Western Europe asked for. Seventy percent that was distributed by the Economic Cooperation Administration was spent for goods in the U.S. As cold war tensions heightened in 1949 the largest amounts went in order of Great Britain, France, Italy, and West Germany. The funds increasingly went into military expenditures rather than industrial rebuilding. In April 1948, the plan had now been in operation for four years. 7 billion in U.S. dollars were given to aid in economic and technical assistance to European countries that had joined in the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC). By 1952, West Germany was independent, rearmed, and economically booming, West European industrial production stood 35 percent above prewar levels. The economy of every participating state had grown well past pre-war levels by the time the plan had come to completion.

The Marshall Plan left a legacy of U.S.-European friendship, transatlantic cooperation, U.S. engagement in Europe, and bipartisan U.S. support for that engagement. That legacy has guided U.S.-European relations ever since, and it serves as a beacon for the Euro-Atlantic Community today.

The Marshall Plan was not only used to aid Europe in June 1947, again used on March 16, 1961, when the Cold War was at its greatest height and lastly used on March 14, 2002 at the request of President Bush with the events of September 11th “war on terrorism.

The third and final President to request aid from the Marshall Plan was President George Bush, March 14, 2002, due to the war on terrorism events of September 11th. Later, President Bush addressed the Inter-American Development Bank announced the largest increase in foreign aid assistance in 40 years of $5 billion dollars. To quote from the President’s speech, “The growing divide between wealth and poverty, between opportunity and misery, is both a challenge to our compassion and a source of instability. Even as we fight to defeat terror, we must also fight for the values that make life worth living; for education and health and economic opportunity.” The President was clear. However, that the new funds would be used for countries “that root out corruption, respect human rights and adhere to the rule of law, as well as encourage open markets and sustainable budget policies.”

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The most important question which development professionals must answer in order to make the aid system produce better and more sustainable results are this: what structures, what systemic pressures, and what incentives will overcome the inherent characteristic of human nature in all societies that opposes transformational change because it can be so threatening? One of the sad lessons we have learned through painful mistakes is that transformational change in a poor country cannot be imposed from the outside, not by the UN, not by the Banks, and not by donor governments. There must be national leadership and local support for transformational change to remove the impediments to microeconomic reform, to clean up corruption in the political system, and to make public management more accountable and transparent. What causes this leadership to form and act should be a question of considerable interest to us. Part of the answer lies in the nature of the incentive system in the international aid community.

When the stability of fellow Western democracies was at stake, the Marshall Plan applied also to American principles. Much of Europe was devastated by the end of WWII. Most of the 60 million casualties among WWII were residents of Europe. Devastation of Europe’s agriculture led to conditions of starvation in many parts of the continents. Damaged railways and bridges left them economically isolated. The U.S. was the only major power whose infrastructure had not been harmed in WWII because we had entered the war later than other powers. During this time, the U.S. saw the fastest period of economic growth in the history of our nation due to American factories supporting both our allies and our own war effort. The health of the economy was reliant on trade. Aid from the Marshall Plan was mostly used by Europeans to purchase manufactured goods and raw materials from the U.S. George Marshall determined that providing economic stability to Europe would also provide political stability. When aid was offered, the European countries refused due to having already organized the program themselves. Thus, the process of European integration was started, and the economic and political foundations were laid for the stable, prosperous, and democratic Europe we know today.

Different regions require different approaches. One great lesson of the Marshall Plan is that it was designed specifically to meet the critical needs of a particular place during a particular moment in history. It worked because Europeans were uniquely able to make it work. People need to find modern ways of solving current problems. We need to mention also that Americans and others tried to replant NATO in other types of soil during the fifties and sixties. I don’t think those approaches worked very well. This is another reason to be cautious today.


  1. “EUROPEAN RECOVERY PROGRAM.” 2009. History.com. 12 Dec 2009, 01:12
  2. B.W. Jentleson, American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century, 3rd edition (2007), W.W. Norton .
  3. Facts Sheet prepared by the Office of Policy and Public Affairs, Bureau for European and Canadian Affairs, . “The Marshall Plan.” 5/12/97 Fact Sheet: The Marshall Plan. 20 Jan 2001. The State Department, Web. 12 Dec 2009. .
  4. “U.S. Department of State Diplomacy in Action.” Truman Doctrine, 1947. The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, Web. 12 Dec 2009. .


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