American History and US Politics Term Paper

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American History

Role of the United States in Europe After WWII

This essay attempts to present the role of the United States of America in the reconstruction of post World War II Europe. This report also attempts to provide information regarding the covert Cold War, the formation of NATO, and the ample economic trade opportunities sought by the Americans.

After the successful D-Day invasion of Normandy Beach, it did not take much longer for the allied forces to topple the rest of Hitler's army. The blitzkrieg was over and the world was ready to begin to disassociate the German people from Adolf Hitler's boisterous speeches, the holocaust, the charge on Moscow by the Panzers, and Rommil's quest for oil reserves in the deserts of Africa. Everyone wanted to believe that the German nation had simply been manipulated by a madman. But by the time Hitler fell, the damage had already been done.

In 1945, post World War II Europe was in both structural and economical shambles. The shell shocked Europeans had to contend with the fact that both urban and rural societal damage was extensive. Additional side effects of the war included escalating double digit inflation, a complete breakdown of the social order, high unemployment, starvation and poverty and to make matters worse a record cold winter on the way. European leaders at the time professed that all of these hardships were to be expected because a majority of the governmental infrastructure and agencies, schools, factories and homes were all either badly damaged or completely decimated. "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." (Congressional Record, 1947)

To say the least, in 1945, post World War II Europe's was bleak at best. Europe was not alone in their economic turmoil. The world economy of 1945 and beyond was thrown completely off kilter and something had to be done immediately upon the realization of the seriousness of the situation. Europe needed a viable solution to restart the failing social and economic systems which were each on the brink of complete collapse. The United States and the Soviet Union did in fact step up to save Europe - but, each of these newly proclaimed superpower nations wanted to help Europe under their terms and in their own ways.

Through the efforts of new radical approaches such as the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine, the United States offered Europe a fiscally reshaped European economic process and social order with the stipulations that aid would be forthcoming if Europe rebuilt with a foundation of the tried and true American style of diplomacy and democracy. The Soviet Union on the other hand was recruiting Eastern European nations the promise of a better world through the Communist political structure. Each of the superpowers saw the other as the antagonist who offered nothing to the Post World War II European way of life. The United States and Europe soon saw that the motivation of the former ally from Moscow would turn out to be as big if not bigger a threat to Europe and American democracy than the Nazi regime just toppled.

Hitler and World War II

World War II was a result of a nation trying to reestablish itself as dominant player in the social order coupled with the world's dire economic dilemma we now know as the Great Depression. In 1933, the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) or Nazi's, were lead by Adolf Hitler to power and position in the nation of Germany. This relationship lasted until 1945.

The German people accepted the likes of Adolf Hitler and his party with open arms because they as a nation had always been a proud people. They were thoroughly embarrassed by their loss in World War I. Those feelings of dismay were escalated because the German people had historically always ruled themselves and the Post World War I Treaty of Versailles allowed, in the German mindset, for other nations to take advantage of the German people and their assets.

Hitler and his gang were obviously brilliant in the sense that they were able to extend an offer which again allowed the German people to express their opinions and rights to stop what they felt were the injustices brought on by the Treaty of Versailles. "Then some one has said: 'Since the Revolution the people have gained Rights. The people govern!' Strange! The people have now been ruling three years and no one has in practice once asked its opinion. Treaties were signed which will hold us down for centuries: and who has signed the treaties? The people? No! Governments which one fine day presented themselves as Governments. (The Adolf Hitler Historical Archives, vol. 4/12/1922)

Reconstruction Needed

When Hitler and Nazi Germany were finished and World War II was officially ended in May of 1945, Europe lay in ruins. The continents once-fertile farms were cratered and scarred by the onslaught of aerial bombs and tank tracks. Whole cities were flattened and the scenes were probably like some modern day science fiction movie full of gutted buildings.

The European nations were literally broken. They could no longer produce or manufacture the necessary goods which prevented them from being able to finance their own recovery. The people who miraculously survived these harsh times literally had no shelter or means for supporting themselves. The world economy, having just recovered from the Great Depression and then a World War were more than simply disgruntled with the way things were. But it was not only the economic situation that needed reconstruction, the antidemocratic Communist philosophy was beginning to take root all throughout the battered European nations. The Russians were there in force helping the poor starving survivors that Communism could be the savior. The people both there in Europe and back here in the United States desperately needed answers other than what the old-line classical economists were offering.

United States Foreign Policy

As the European nations tried to come up with a map for recovery, the Communist movement was also devising a strategy. However, the Communist plan was to simply take over the world in a systematic fashion. In the United States, Communism was seen as the biggest post war threat. To combat the ever increasing communist movement, the United States felt that it needed to alter its existing foreign policies in order to stop the communist threat. In the United States, the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine were on the way to provide that help.

In the United States, the Secretary of State in 1947, George C. Marshall, gave a moving speech at Harvard University addressing the situation which was occurring in Europe. That speech eventually altered the nation's foreign policy forever. Since Ulysses S. Grant was president almost eighty years before World War II, the United States was adamant in its position as a non-imperialistic and non-expansionist state. The United States had no true colonies and therefore professed that Imperialism should be left for the British. However, the Secretary of State's speech in June of 1947 expanded the nation's view on what social and fiscal responsibilities the United States had adopted with their new found economic and military strength. The famous speech outlined a plan and a reason why America as a nation should help rebuild Post World War II Europe. That plan was later named the Marshall Plan.

President Harry S. Truman was thrilled to sign the bill which enacted the Marshall plan into law. "Surrounded by members of Congress and his cabinet, on April 3, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed the Foreign Assistance Act, the legislation establishing the Marshall Plan. His official statement said, "Few presidents have had the opportunity to sign legislation of such importance.... This measure is America's answer to the challenge facing the free world today." (Congressional Record, 1947)

Even before the Marshall Plan was conceived and enacted into law, the United States was beginning flex its economic muscle and stray from an almost isolationist foreign policy. As early as 1946 for example, when the United States offered several billion dollars in post war relief, the policy makers added the stipulation that the European nations could only receive these monetary relief funds if they united and ratified plans to best use the aid. It was unprecedented that the United States foreign policies outlined and expected Europe to work with as a single economic unit.

Also around the same time, The Truman Doctrines were beginning to shape the nation's opinion on the true foreign problem which was communism. The foreign policy adjustment precedents such as mandated relief stipulations, the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine were all desperately needed to reestablish Europe as a rebuilt system, but what occurred in addition to Europe's rebirth was that the world was truly altered…[continue]

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