Characterize the nature of American foreign policy after World War II and discuss why the United States embraced such a policy?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

American foreign policy after World War II was designed to stop the spread of communism. We believed the communists intended to spread their system worldwide. We didn’t want a system that was the opposite of our system both politically and economically to spread to many places throughout the world. We believed this was not in the best interests of the United States.

Immediately after World War II ended, we followed the policy of containment. This policy was developed based on the Long Telegram written by diplomat George Keenan. In this telegram, Keenan indicated that communism was a flawed system. He went on to say it would eventually fail. Therefore, we needed to prevent its spread, not defeat the system itself. It would be a long-term struggle, but communism would eventually fail. Therefore, we worked to prevent the spread of communism.

While Truman was President, we developed the policies of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. The Truman Doctrine was aimed at keep the economies of Greece and Turkey strong. We knew a strong economy was a good defense against the spread of communism. The Marshall Plan offered economic aid to Europe. While it was mainly aimed at countries fighting the spread of communism, it was also offered to communist nations. However, the Soviet Union would not allow the communist nations they controlled to accept the aid, so it mainly went to western European countries.

When Eisenhower became president, he also fought the spread of communism. With his policies of massive retaliation and brinksmanship, we threatened to use nuclear weapons to stop the spread of communism. We went to the edge of war to get the communists to back off from spreading their system. This was used to help end the conflict with Korea, to keep Communist China out of Taiwan, and to end a war in the Middle East. Stopping the spread of communism was important to President Eisenhower.

President Kennedy also wanted to keep communism from spreading. He developed the Flexible Response policy that relied less on a nuclear threat and more on using conventional troops and weapons. Our involvements in Cuba and in Vietnam are areas where we fought the spread of communism during the Kennedy years.

After World War II, we used various policies by different presidents to keep communism from spreading. George Keenan was correct. Communism did eventually in the late 1980s and early 1990s when many countries were no longer communist. It was a long struggle, and the United States did prevail.