How was the Truman Doctrine a major turning point for US foreign policy?

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The Truman Doctrine can be considered a turning point in the Cold War because it signaled the United States's active involvement in the conflict at the international level. It became the official policy of the United States to counter any form of Soviet expansion. Prior to the Truman Doctrine, American...

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The Truman Doctrine can be considered a turning point in the Cold War because it signaled the United States's active involvement in the conflict at the international level. It became the official policy of the United States to counter any form of Soviet expansion. Prior to the Truman Doctrine, American foreign policy had been to preserve the détente status between the two powers. With this shift in foreign policy, the United States would take a more interventionist approach and signal itself as the leader of the free world.

By announcing that the United States would actively participate in promoting democracy and countering the proliferation of communism, the foreign policy of the country shifted dramatically and irreversibly. The Truman Doctrine came to define just about every aspect of American global actions for the next fifty years. To back away from it would be considered a defeat. The country would no longer make any concessions to the USSR. It would do all it could to contain the spread of Soviet influence and promote any government that would stand against communism.

Consequently, the United States actively opposed Soviet influence abroad as much as possible. Aspects of the Truman Doctrine would be employed by every US presidential administration until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

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Midway between World War I and World War II, American foreign policy was characterized by deep isolation. Even earlier, the United States had attempted to remain neutral during the First World War and had only entered it after being forced to do so due to repeated attacks upon its merchant ships. As World War II began, the United States stayed out of direct involvement in the conflict (though it did help the Allied cause with money and supplies) until it was directly attacked. By the time the war ended, the US foreign policy of isolationism was a thing of the past.

When President Harry Truman appeared before Congress on March 12, 1947, to announce that the United States would not sit idly by while the Soviets replaced independent nations with totalitarian regimes, he was effectively declaring that the Cold War had begun. This was a radical foreign policy departure from the past. Instead of avoiding commitments to foreign nations, the United States would take an active role in assisting nations to remain democratic.

This situation arose because after the war, the British government was bankrupt and could no longer fulfill its economic and military commitments to Greece and Turkey. Rather than allow communism to threaten these countries, the Truman administration resolved to take a stand against the encroachment of the Soviet Union. The Truman Doctrine affected US foreign policy for decades to come, prompting later US involvement in Korea, Vietnam, and other areas of conflict.

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The Truman Doctrine was a major shift in American foreign policy, as it placed an emphasis on containment. Truman was an internationalist like Franklin D. Roosevelt, but Truman lacked the relationship Roosevelt had with Stalin. Truman was influenced by Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech and George Kennan's "Long Telegram," which stated that the Soviet Union was behind Communist aggression all over the world.

Truman was a supporter of the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Western Europe after World War II. Truman engaged in this project both to fight communistic urges in Europe and to put one of the United States's leading trading blocs back on its feet as soon as possible. Truman also sought to contain Soviet aggression through covert and overt means. Truman defended South Korea from the North's aggression, though he sacked MacArthur when the general insisted on using atomic weapons in the conflict.

Truman placed the United States on a permanent internationalist footing and was one of the driving forces of the early Cold War. Since Truman's administration, the US has been on the lookout against global communism and global terrorism. The US also invests in nations bombed during its wars in order to reestablish order and trade. However, the US now believes in stopping short of full war, and Japan remains the only nation bombed by atomic weapons.

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The Truman Doctrine was a major turning point in US foreign policy for at least two reasons.

First, the doctrine can be seen as the beginning of American participation in the Cold War.  The Cold War was, of course, to dominate American foreign policy up through at least 1991.  The Truman Doctrine marked the first major step towards the containment of communism as the major focus of American foreign policy.

Second, the doctrine can be seen as a move away from isolation and the beginning of the American role as the “policeman” of the world.  For decades before 1947, the US had not typically involved itself in the affairs of the world.  Now, the country was going to completely change its approach.  Instead of remaining isolated or only intervening when something was clearly in its immediate national interest, the US was not going to try to maintain order in the world as a whole.  This was a huge change from what the US had been.  Now, the US was the world’s preeminent power and the leader of the free world.

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