Probably because of the enormous challenges confronting him on the foreign policy front, President Harry Truman's domestic policies have received much less attention by historians and biographers than have his foreign policy efforts. He ascended to the presidency and was immediately confronted with the decision on whether to use the...
Probably because of the enormous challenges confronting him on the foreign policy front, President Harry Truman's domestic policies have received much less attention by historians and biographers than have his foreign policy efforts. He ascended to the presidency and was immediately confronted with the decision on whether to use the atomic bomb on Japan. No sooner had the world war ended then the Cold War heated up, with the Soviet Union moving to consolidate its hold over Central and Eastern Europe and, in 1949, detonating its first atomic weapon. Then, in 1950, with Soviet encouragement, North Korea launched an invasion of South Korea that began a bloody three-year war.
President Truman's main domestic policy initiative was the Fair Deal, a broad proposal, based upon the "21 points" he set forth in a 1945 speech, intended to improve and expand social welfare and veterans programs, increase employment opportunities, assist farmers, and more. Because of opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress, Truman's Fair Deal was far less successful than he had hoped.
Much of Truman's time in office was dedicated to managing the transition of the government from one geared towards supporting the war effort towards one more appropriate for peacetime. Both as a result of Roosevelt's New Deal and the requirements of mobilizing and administering a major war effort, the size of the federal govenment had grown tremendously. Truman had to shrink it back down to a more managable size without sacrificing the government's ability to execute his Fair Deal.
On the foreign policy front, as noted, President Truman was immediately confronted with a myriad of overseas challenges, including Soviet expansionism, the end of the Chinese Civil War, the outbreak of war in Korea, and communist agitation and insurgencies in Western Europe, especially in Greece. While the policy of "containtment" of communism was articulated and implemented during Truman's years in office, the expanse of problems in Europe and Asia was such that the best he could do much of the time was simply react.
When Dwight Eisenhower was elected president, he was not a particularly ideological individual. His approach to governing was more one of management than of broad policy initiatives. That had both positive and negative consequences for the nation. The economy grew during his tenure in office, but the civil rights situation in the United States improved only gradually. One of the most important developments in the civil rights movement was "Brown v. Board of Education," the Supreme Court decision that ended the concept of "separate but equal" -- in effect, institutionalized segregation. Because of Eisenhower's commitment to enforcing the law, he dispatched federal troops to enforce desegregation in the South, but was not otherwise active in the area of civil rights.
Domestically, Eisenhower is probably best known for the "Highway Act of 1956," which established the federal interstate highway system that greatly facilitated transportation across the United States.
In the area of foreign policy, the Eisenhower Administration managed relations with the Soviet Union cautiously but without a sense of panic. Two questionable decisions involved the forced removal of elected leaders in Iran and Guatemala and their replacement with pro-U.S. dictators. The establishment of the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO), begun under Truman, was accelerated and expanded under Eisenhower.