More often than not, the plan of containment has been used to describe U.S. foreign policy. It is equally frequently traced back to the achievements of President Truman with regard to the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
In 1950, there was a shift in foreign U.S. policy after President Truman moved from passive to active containment by signing the top-secret policy plan NSC-68. It took a much more drastic approach towards the spread of Communism, which according to the new twist, claimed that Russia was en route for the domination of the world. It should be noted however that the doctrine had some major weaknesses and was repeatedly subject to contradictory interpretations. This may have led several other presidents and policy makers to toy with it at will. It could also very well explain some of the many long involvements of the U.S. In diverse wars and conflicts around the world.
Impact of the Truman Doctrine
The Truman Doctrine had a great impact through out the entire expanse. Its effects were felt in Europe as well, notably in the West in countries like France and Italy which harbored very influential Communist groups. In order to keep Communist groups from wielding power, support was given to concerned governments in various forms. They were most times counter responses to Soviet endeavors.
The Truman Doctrine reversed the Monroe Doctrine and paved the way for the Marshall Plan which advocated for a policy of 'collective security'. This brought America and Europe closer. Russia interpreted the U.S.' military aid to other nations and potential Soviet allies as a direct attack on Soviet Communism. This set of guidelines reinforced NATO and eventually led to the creation of the CIA and increased tensions between the U.S. And Europe on the one hand and Russia and her allies on the other. The Cold War was already obvious.
There were also negative consequences for Truman's ideology. It led America into many conflicts around the globe. Of particular interest here is the war in Vietnam. With the outbreak of war in Korea, America wanted to help France maintain her Vietnamese colonies. But this led to further complications. Michael O'Malley asserts that
"Under President Harry Truman, the United States had established a foreign policy doctrine called "containment." Originated by George Kennan, Dean Acheson, and other diplomats and policy advisors, the policy of "containment" aimed not to fight an all out war with the communist Soviet Union, but rather to confine communism and the Soviet Union to their existing boundaries. This doctrine led directly to the Vietnam war."6
Aftermath of the Truman Doctrine
The after effects of the Truman Doctrine are many and varied. The policy was both applauded and decried. One can infer that it was however successful to some extent. Recalling its original goal, O'Malley writes: "…communism, and the Soviet Union, must be contained. The doctrine of containment argued that all-out war should be avoided, but the U.S. should pledge itself to stopping any new communist governments, or preventing any existing communist governments from expanding."7 In reality, it was only the first in a series of containment steps to ensure economic and military stability through the Marshall Plan and the establishment of NATO. It also set the pace for the Cold War. But on the whole it brought about a greater sense of global security.
The Truman Doctrine was initially conceived for the good of smaller nations in a bid to stop stronger nations from oppressing weaker ones. It is worthy of note that it was for a reasonable cause. The Doctrine has both its strengths and weaknesses. All in all, it was about time for America to stand up as a global leader, end her policy of isolationism and lead the world in a new direction. This may not have been the case all along, but nevertheless, it was a good and fresh start. Politics will always be politics -- a game to either be won or lost.
1 KENNAN, "861.00/2-2246: Telegram." 800.00B International Red Day/2-2546: Airgram .