Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy Essay


The first three postwar American presidents were responsible for modeling the United States’ scheme and tactics for the emerging and developing Cold War. Presidents Truman. Eisenhower. and Kennedy each had similar but alone attacks to the undertaking. Certain common togss were seen in each policy ; communism was seen by all work forces as an aggressive planetary threat that must be contained. if non rolled back.

They were besides all accepting. to somewhat changing grades. of the premiss that all Communist motions in the universe were orchestrated by Moscow and aimed at fostering the end of entire planetary Communist domination. Each adult male was presented with different challenges and exercised different options in covering with those challenges. This paper will measure which of the three immediate postwar American presidents carried out the most effectual containment of the Soviet Union.


In the immediate wake of World War II. the United States was the most powerful force the universe had of all time seen. To give merely one illustration. at the terminal of the war the United States produced an impossible 50 per centum of the full world’s goods and services. [ 1 ] It was into this ambiance of unprecedented economic might and military laterality that Harry Truman stepped upon the decease of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

After all of America’s old wars. the state had retreated to domestic chases. Truman would model a policy that was without case in point in American history ; this policy would name for big standing ground forcess in peacetime. a radically strengthened and centralized executive. and a willingness to project American force around the universe. at times without direct congressional blessing. The underlying logic to this revolution in American authorities was the demand to incorporate the expansionist designs of the Soviet Union.

Western Europe was really vulnerable to communist political orientation and influence amid the arrant devastation wrought by the war. The Truman disposal understood that it was in America’s opportunism to assist Western Europe back to its pess. A generous extract of American assistance would supply markets for America’s avalanche of goods and services. every bit good as doing communism a much less attractive option for the freshly flush Europeans.

The Marshall Plan was the name given the monolithic extract of economic assistance into Western Europe. Between 1948 and 1952. this assistance totaled $ 13 billion dollars. [ 2 ] Similar assistance was besides offered to the communist provinces of Eastern Europe. but it was rejected by the Communists as a thinly-veiled attempt at infiltration an influence. as an imperialist Trojan Equus caballus. In accepting western assistance. Western Europe averted a slide into communism. In bend. byrejectingwestern assistance. Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union showed themselves to be more concerned with ideological pureness than with the immediate physical well being of their citizens. This was a public dealingss putsch for the United States. and Truman is to be credited for his foresight.

While the Marshall Plan averted the possibility of the enlargement of Sovietpolitical orientation. Truman besides conceived of proactive stairss to incorporate thephysicalenlargement of Soviet power as good. In 1946. the Soviet Union had failed to stop its business of northern Iran. as required by anterior understanding. Truman sent Secretary of State James Byrnes to the United Nations to protest this misdemeanor. [ 3 ] Eventually. Stalin agreed to retreat. holding been held to account on the universe phase for his fraudulence.

Stalin’s true purpose in Iran can non finally be known. He may hold planned to drive South and prehend Iran’s monolithic oil Fieldss. or he may hold been merely dragging his pess in carry throughing his committednesss to retreat. The fact remains. nevertheless. that Truman took the proactive measure of naming out the Soviet Union and politically facing its actions on the universe phase. The case in point that this set should non be underestimated ; the United States made it clear to the Soviet Union that it would non softly accept evident efforts at farther territorial enlargement at the disbursal of weaker neighbours. That this signal came early and forcefully in the Cold War is once more a recognition to Truman’s leading and foresight.

A similar scenario played out in 1946 in Turkey. Stalin demanded from the Turkish authorities shared entree to the Straits associating the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. [ 4 ] Again. Truman lined up steadfastly behind the weaker state. and Stalin was forced to retreat his demand. Again. in 1949. Truman broke the Soviet encirclement of Berlin by telling a monolithic. around the clock airlift. [ 5 ] These shows of resolutenesss were priceless for America’s Alliess every bit good as its credibleness.

These episodes convinced Truman that the Soviet Union was bent on enlargement and that it must be American policy to assist endanger provinces resist this aggression. Here the policy of containment came into focal point. articulated most efficaciously in the Long Telegram of 1946. authored by Ambassador George Kennan. [ 6 ]

The sensed communist corruption in Greece and Turkey led Truman to joint the Truman Doctrine. which called on America to help any state subjected to communist infiltration. This new policy was accompanied by a extremist restructuring of the American authorities.

In 1947. the National Security Act created the CIA. the Department of Defense. and the National Security Council. This creative activity of a undercover agent bureau. a lasting standing ground forces. and a radically strengthened executive changed everlastingly the nature of American authorities. [ 7 ] Walter Lippmann was one respected establishment faculty members who warned that the effort to incorporate communism across the Earth “would bust up the fundamental law by needfully making an almighty president as commanding officer in head. ” [ 8 ]

The concluding revolutionist alteration that Truman instituted was the formation of NATO in 1949. NATO represented America’s first military confederation with Europe since 1778. clearly taging another extremist interruption with America’s yesteryear. This mutually-reinforcing confederation was intended to do it clear to the Soviet axis that an onslaught on any western state would be reacted to as an onslaught upon all. The Soviet Union reacted to each of Truman’s moves. notably by organizing the Warsaw Pact in response to NATO. [ 9 ] The reactive nature of Soviet behaviours is declarative that Truman was on the violative.

The 2nd half of Truman’s presidential term was characterized slightly by a loss of focal point. possibly inevitable after Truman’s forceful moves in his first term. The Marshall Plan. the National Security Act. and the NATO pact fundamentally laid the full model for America’s attack to the Cold War. Truman’s difficult line on Iran and Turkey and the Berlin encirclement were of import shows of American resoluteness. As the Cold War became more complicated. nevertheless. Truman lost focal point.

The Chinese Communist triumph in China’s civil war. consolidated by 1949. was read by Truman as farther grounds of a planetary confederacy directed from Moscow. [ 10 ] With this mentality. Truman saw the Korean War as an illustration of Soviet enlargement that needed to be resisted forcefully. It is clearer in retrospect that this was a really oversimplified reading of this struggle and that the committedness of American military might. which finally drew communist China straight into the war. really did nil to incorporate the Soviet Union ; it simply bled the United States.


Dwight Eisenhower’s attack to incorporating the Soviet Union is frequently dubbed the “New Look” policy. [ 11 ] This attack aimed to do the Cold War cheaper to pay by concentrating on a rapid atomic buildup and expansive covert operations instead than immense conventional ground forcess. Eisenhower recognized that trying to take on the Communists adult male for adult male meant. rather merely. “bankruptcy” . [ 12 ]

During Eisenhower’s two footings. America’s atomic reserve grew from 1. 000 arms to 18. 000. every bit good as greatly increasing the destructive power of each bomb via the debut of the H bomb. [ 13 ] Cutting border planes and missiles were besides developed to present these arms.

In footings of covert operations. the two most ill-famed such actions of the Eisenhower old ages were the CIA-orchestrated putschs against elected left-of-center leaders in Iran and Guatemala. Eisenhower. or at least his rhetoric. aimed to replace “containment” with “rollback” . [ 14 ]

These putschs were declarative of America’s black and white mentality at this phase of the cold war ; collectivists were Communists. and Communists were Soviets. No ambiguity. no internal contradictions. no sunglassess of grey. Eisenhower was given to really simplistic readings of universe personal businesss. “Freedom is pitted against bondage. elation against dark. ” [ 15 ] Therefore. Eisenhower might qualify subverting the left-of-center authoritiess of Guatemala and Iran as “containing the Soviet Union” . but this is a hard position to back in retrospect.

When Mohammad Mosaddeq demanded a greater portion of net income from the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. the British authorities was able to assist convert the Eisenhower disposal that this could merely be a Communist secret plan. As Iran bordered the Soviet Union and contained immense militias of oil. the danger of Iran traveling Communist was clear. Eisenhower ordered the CIA to orchestrate a putsch that would authorise the Shah. or emperor. at the disbursal of the elective authorities. Overthrowing an elective authorities. even a leftist 1. would merely be imaginable if the putsch organisers had managed to convert themselves that the Soviet Union was truly at work behind the scenes.

Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was elected to power in Guatemala in 1951. His wickedness was to suggest land reform in a state where the poorest 50 per centum of the people owned merely three per centum of the land. [ 16 ] Although merely four Communists sat in the 56 member national Congress. the United States overthrew this authorities in the name of anti-communism. [ 17 ]

Throughout all the specific tactical actions taken in the 1940’s and 50’s. the overarching scheme of constructing 1000s of atomic arms. spread outing intelligence capablenesss and covert operations. and keeping a immense military machine was all based on the predicate of a Soviet menace.

The dominant force in international personal businesss during the early Cold War was non communism or democracy. but anti-colonialism. This is something that the United States could non objectively accept. As tonss upon tonss of new states emerged from the leftovers of European colonialism. both the United States and the Soviet Union sought to enroll them as Alliess and clients.

The American authorities proved unable to appreciate that many of the new states of the universe were wary of American power and influence but that this did non intend they were Communists. Many states. such as India. Egypt. and Indonesia. joined a non-aligned motion. oriented towards neither the Soviet Union nor the United States. To many American policymakers. including many of Eisenhower’s top advisers. “neutral” was a thin codification word for “communist” .

Eisenhower articulated his ain philosophy in 1957. Fueled by fright of left-of-center influence in the Middle East. particularly from Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt. Eisenhower stated his purpose to utilize American force to supportanystate from “armed onslaught from any state controlled by international communism” . [ 18 ]

The Eisenhower philosophy rivals the National Security Act of 1947 in footings of its impact on American authorities. A democracy which. merely twenty old ages before. had been isolationist to the point where it did non step in even after the autumn of Continental Europe in 1940 was now plighting to utilize force anyplace in the universe if it perceived Communists to be at work. This was an open-ended committedness. to last until “the President shall find that the peace and security of the states in the general area…are assured. ” [ 19 ] It is now 2007. and this philosophy must still be in consequence. since the Middle East is still short on “peace and security” .

Eisenhower’s ability to constructively prosecute the Soviets was fatally undermined when an American undercover agent plane was shot down over the Soviet Union towards the terminal of his term. The ensuing cold ambiance with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushev. every bit good as the recent rise of Fidel Castro in Cuba. would rule the policy of Eisenhower’s replacement.


One of John F. Kennedy’s first precedences was to anneal Eisenhower’s New Look policy ; covert forces and atomic armories would go on to be built up. but Kennedy would change by reversal Eisenhower’s disregard of conventional military forces. In 1961. Khrushev predicted that the world-wide socialist revolution would prevail via national wars of release. Kennedy understood that land military personnels would be far more utile in such wars than atomic arms. a entire arm unfit for limited wars.

By the clip Kennedy took office. the Cold War had lost some of the unambiguous. black and white nature that had seemed so clear at first. It was get downing to go clear that the Soviet Union and China were far from the best of friends. and that many states of the free universe were non precisely free. [ 20 ] This new indistinctness proved hard to use every bit practical American policy. nevertheless.

The Soviet Union. of class. picked Kennedy’s term to try two of its biggest gambles of the full Cold War. In 1961. the Soviets attempted to drive the Allies from West Berlin by constructing the Berlin Wall. [ 21 ] Kennedy efficaciously and forcefully made it cognize that America would non retreat from West Berlin. An of import line had been drawn by the immature president.

In 1962. the Soviet Union placed atomic arms and the missiles to present them in Cuba. 90 stat mis from Florida. Kennedy is to be commended for his handling of this really existent crisis. A diplomatic colony was reached whereby the Soviet Union would take its missiles from Cuba and the United States would take its missiles from Turky. and Kennedy can be said to hold rolled back the Soviet Union in the 1 instance where they really threatened the physical security of the United States from really close scope.

The Cuban Missile Crisis besides led to a melt of US-Soviet dealingss. as both states were given a reminder of how unsafe their armories were to each other and to themselves. This new soberness led to the first arms-control treaty between the two powers in August 1963. [ 22 ] Kennedy’s address at American University in June of 1963 made it clear that the policy of the United States from that point frontward would be the gradual but inevitable chase of detente with the Soviet Union. [ 23 ]

The ultimate shadow hanging over Kennedy’s bequest. of class. is Vietnam. During Kennedy’s term of office. the figure of American advisers increased quickly. While Kennedy was clearly non satisfied with the class of events in Vietnam. it remains ill-defined what he would hold done had he lived. If he had pursued the class that his replacement did and direct in 100s of 1000s of American military personnels. his anti-communist bequest may hold been weakened rather a spot. Vietnam. like Korea. was a struggle that had much more to make with local history and political relations than with the Soviet Union. As in Korea. American learned this lesson much excessively late in Vietnam.


It seems clear in retrospect that Harry Truman had the best record of incorporating the Soviet Union. First. Truman benefits in this judgement from merely holding been there at the beginning. Beyond being at that place. nevertheless. he oversaw the creative activity of the tools and establishments that would be used to contend communism throughout the Cold War: the Department of Defense. the CIA. and NATO. For his foresight his scene of case in points entirely. Truman deserves a lion’s portion of the recognition.

In add-on to supervising these new establishments. nevertheless. Truman was besides faced with what he perceived to be cases of attempted Soviet enlargement. Iran. Greece. and Turkey all ballad merely beyond the boundary lines of the Soviet Union and. while the Soviets may hold felt that they were merely procuring their boundary lines by tampering in these states. the Americans were inclined to see their behaviour in these states as being aggressive. Wherever Truman detected this “aggression” . he finally forced the Soviets to endorse down.

By the clip Truman left office. the Soviets were assured that any open effort at territorial enlargement would be met caput on by the United States. Indeed. if anything. the United States was likely to leap the gun and intervene if there was even the smallest intimation of communist corruption in a strategic state.

Eisenhower endorsed Truman’s containment policy. and even talked on occasion of a more aggressive “roll back” policy. but he did non hold a direct confrontation with Soviet power of the kind that Truman did. so in the wide sense. his presidential term merely held the line and undermined certain left-of-center authoritiess that were non straight controlled by the Soviet Union.

It is unjust to state that Eisenhower contained the Soviet Union by subverting the authorities of Iran. although that was his declared purpose at the clip. Eisenhower should be condemned. moreover. by telling the edifice of 1000s of atomic arms that could hold ne’er have all been used. and which must now be destroyed before they fall into the incorrect custodies.

Kennedy deserves about every bit much recognition as Truman because he. excessively. was confronted withdirectSoviet menaces including the Cuban Missile Crisis. which was the most unsafe minute of universe history from a certain point of position. Kennedy’s containment of the Soviets in Berlin. his push back of the Soviets from Cuba. and his subsequent hunt for better dealingss before his decease combines to be declarative of really strong Cold War leading.

[ 1 ] Walter LaFeber.The American Age. Volume2 ( New York: W. W. Norton & A ; Co. . 1994 ) . 457.

[ 2 ] Ibid. . 479.

[ 3 ] Ibid. . 469.

[ 4 ] Ibid. . 469-70.

[ 5 ] Bernard Bailyn. et Al. .The Great Republic( Lexington: D. C. Heath and Company. 1992 ) . 452.

[ 6 ] Lafeber.The American Age.474-5.

[ 7 ] Ibid. . 483.

[ 8 ] Ibid. . 484.

[ 9 ] Bailyn.The Great Republic.461.

[ 10 ] Lafeber.The American Age.502-4.

[ 11 ] Bailyn.The Great Republic.502.

[ 12 ] Lafeber.The American Age.541.

[ 13 ] Ibid.

[ 14 ] Bailyn.The Great Republic.502.

[ 15 ] Ibid. . 500.

[ 16 ] LaFeber.The American Age. 546.

[ 17 ] Ibid.

[ 18 ] Ibid..564-5.

[ 19 ] Richard B. Morris. erectile dysfunction. .Significant Documents in United States History. Volume II( New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. 1969 ) . 201.

[ 20 ] Bailyn.The Great Republic.525.

[ 21 ] Morris.Significant Documents.225-8.

[ 22 ] Lafeber.The American Age.604.

[ 23 ] Morris.Signifcant Documents.247-53.