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Later Years If Truman

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In the early years of the Cold War, both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations pursued a policy of containment to counter perceived Soviet aggression. Generally, the presidential administrations pursued this policy to maintain stability in the international arena, to maintain a balance of power, and also in a sense, to express disapproval of totalitarian, non-democratic regimes. Containment was expressed through a variety of policies and institutions: economic, political and, of course, military. The ways the early presidential administrations defined and implemented containment strategy inevitably changed in focus, importance, and emphasis over time. While both external and internal reasons accounted to an extent for the specifics of the containment policies of both administrations, the Truman administration was more concerned with maintaining a balance of power within the international community than necessarily appeasing internal pressures, especially fiscal pressures. The Eisenhower administration, on the other hand, assigned a greater importance to domestic politics in formulating its containment policies. First I will outline the differences of the two administrations, and then I will argue that the differences in the two administrations stem from their predominant influences: whereas external threats mainly shaped the Truman administration's containment policy, internal politics mainly shaped the Eisenhower administration's containment policy.

First of all, both administrations had different economic priorities. Although Truman was concerned about keeping taxes low and government spending capped, he also saw the need for military expenditures in Europe and Asia to keep an adequate balance of power. Truman implemented an assortment of aid packages to Europe and Asia, in effect, to help those countries help themselves. He saw economic stability as essential for peace and stability in the intentional arena. Moreover, he saw giving aid to these countries as a way to subtly influence the ideology of their constituents. Furthermore, Truman accepted ongoing government economic intervention as an appropriate way to direct resources within the economy. Eisenhower, on the other hand, was more interested in a conservative fiscal policy, and tight control on government spending. He was more intent on trading with the countries of Europe than sending over aid packages. Of course, Eisenhower inherited a different world climate that was potentially less economically volatile than Truman. Nonetheless, Eisenhower saw an emphasis on trade as advantageous to America, even in the short term. Also, Eisenhower did not accept government economic intervention on a more ideological level -- he considered government planned economies too much like socialism.

Secondly, the administrations pursued different military strategies. Truman made more of a distinction between nuclear and conventional warfare. He saw that conventional warfare as a more plausible answer to peripheral containment, and clearly valued a strong conventional military. Eisenhower, for economic reasons, was less inclined to spend an exorbitant amount of money on conventional armies across the globe. He succeeded in blurring line between nuclear and conventional warfare and encouraged the idea that he was ready to use nuclear weapons at any time.

The Truman administration was more influenced by balance of power considerations than any other considerations, including domestic politics. Because of the external threats to the United States between 1947-1953, it was inevitable that these policies would have been pursued. Most significantly, Stalin at this point was perceived by the Western powers as having expansionist tendencies. Truman saw the Soviets as highly motivated to dominate the world, and committed to aggressively exploiting all opportunities to enlarge their sphere of influence. Considering the context of Truman's post-W.W.II administration -- an era in the wake of a world war waged by totalitarian expansionist powers (Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan) Ð'- it is not difficult to see that the possibility of ideological expansionist tendencies from a totalitarian regime seemed to the populous and the politicians as extremely real and threatening. It is important to note, though, that the Truman administration was not threatened by communism per-say, (as subsequent administrations would be) but more with aggression. Or, to put more explicitly, he was more concerned with hostility coupled with capabilities. Such was the threat of the Soviet Union. Truman also argued that it was "arbitrary rule in and of itself, whether Left or Right, that contributes to instability in the world" and he was committed to containing this sort of expansion. Truman was not, however, committed to an ideological crusade against communism, even at the height of the paranoia brought on by McCarthyism. His containment strategy was instead founded on sound balance of power principles.

Furthermore, the Truman administration was alarmed at Soviet expansion into clearly strategic areas of the world -- even those countries arguably beyond America's "sphere of influence", namely Iran, Turkey and Greece. Before Truman, both FDR and Churchhill had seen Stalin as "interested in exploiting opportunities for an expansion of Soviet control in the direction of the Mediterranean and the Near East." These were areas of strategic importance that threatened US security and economic interests. As Truman outlined in his Memoirs, "he saw the Russian pressures on Iran and Turkey as an immediate threat to the global balance of power." If the Soviet had control over Iranian oil, clearly the balance in capabilities would be upset.

Truman was under the impression that nothing but brute force would stop the Soviets. Because of this, he began to pursue a military policy, along with his economic or political policies, to contain the Soviets. Indeed, after 1950, containment was, for the most part, militarily. Even if Truman had wanted to pursue a strategy of containment based on economic deterrence - say, influencing Western bloc countries through aid packages and favorable trade agreements to support democratic institutions and democratic parties, instead of the new communist parties - it is arguable whether this would have been successful. The Marshall Plan was one such way to influence these countries, but nonetheless (as we can see in France, Italy, Greece and Turkey) communist parties secured a foothold in their country's political arena and gained popularity. Also, if Truman had wanted to pursue a strategy of containment based on political persuasion - say, convincing Germany solely with rhetoric that America would support a united Germany (which, indeed, they did try to do) - it is arguable whether that would have worked in deterring the popular Soviet-influenced

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