What are the similarities and differences in the way Truman and Eisenhower handled issues relating to the Cold War?

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Presidents Truman and Eisenhower both had similar approaches to the Cold War overall. They both favored a policy of containment as first spelled out in the Truman Doctrine. Truman feared that if one nation fell to communism, then its neighbors were also in danger of the same. This fear of a "domino effect" compelled both administrations to take measures in an attempt to prevent the spread of communism around the globe.

Truman favored economic aid as a tool for promoting and supporting democratic regimes abroad. Notably, the Marshall Plan gave vast sums of aid to help rebuild post-WWII Europe with the intention of limiting the influence of the Soviet Union. Eisenhower, while continuing to send some aid abroad, was less focussed on this tactic.

Both presidents sent the military into foreign countries to limit the spread of communism. Truman sent troops into Korea with the support of the United Nations. Eisenhower took a more unilateral route when he ordered troops into Lebanon and military advisors into Vietnam without the support of other nations. Overall though, Eisenhower believed that military intervention was the result of a failure in diplomacy and made more efforts to negotiate with the Societ Union than Truman did. However, Eisenhower felt that if American troops were to be committed to any intervention, it should be with an overwhelming force.

While both presidential administrations entered into an arms race with the Soviet Union, Eisenhower took this to an extreme. Once the hydrogen bomb had been developed, he promoted the idea of "mutually assured destruction" to deter direct conflict with the USSR. This policy of brinkmanship meant that if the two nations were to go to war, the use of nuclear weapons would result in the complete destruction of both countries.

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Though both Truman and Eisenhower were ardent Cold Warriors they adopted slightly different approaches in dealing with what they regarded as the Communist menace.

With the Soviet Union in possession of the atomic bomb, Truman knew that a direct confrontation with the USSR was out of the question. So under the Marshall Plan he sought to contain the spread of Soviet influence by giving massive economic aid to those countries in Western Europe most vulnerable to Communist influence.

The thinking behind the Plan was that Communism tended to take hold in countries mired in poverty and with weak institutions of government. By helping to strengthen the economies of Western Europe—and by extension the foundations of Western democracy—the Truman Administration hoped to make it as difficult as possible for the Soviets to gain a foothold in an area of vital strategic importance to the United States.

For his part, Eisenhower was also committed to a policy of containment. Despite his persistently anti-Communist rhetoric , for example, it's notable that he made no effort to intervene after the Soviets invaded Hungary in 1956. However, Eisenhower was more aggressive than his predecessor in providing military and economic support to anti-Communist regimes and resistance movements in the developing world, especially in Latin...

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Unlike the Marshall Plan, Eisenhower's policy wasn't concerned with improving shattered economies to make it more difficult for Communists to take over. On the contrary, existing economic power structures, built on glaring income inequalities between the top and the bottom, were reinforced as the Eisenhower Administration propped up the social and military elite, seeing them as a vital bulwark against the potential spread of Communism in the developing world.

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Both presidents were committed to stopping the spread of communism, and took aggressive actions to do so. It was under Truman that the United States led a UN force into the Korean peninsula to stop the invasion of South Korea by the North. Eisenhower brought that war to a conclusion, but threatened to use military force (and indeed did actually send some Marines to Beirut) in the Middle East to stop the spread of communism. Eisenhower also sent substantial economic aid, and some military advisors, to Vietnam in support of the French colonialists at first and then the South Vietnamese anti-communists. Truman had sent billions in aid to Western Europe as part of the Marshall Plan after World War II and committed, under the so-called "Truman Doctrine," to assist any nation that seemed threatened by the potential spread of communism. This policy was known as "containment": simply stopping the spread of communism, it was thought, would eventually lead to its collapse. This was the key policy difference between Truman and Eisenhower. The latter administration pursued a policy known as "brinkmanship," advocated by Eisenhower's Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Dulles thought the United States should exploit its advantage in nuclear weapons to actively undermine communism around the world, not simply "contain" it. This could be achieved, he thought, by essentially threatening to respond to perceived Soviet aggressions with the use of nuclear weapons. This approach led to increased tensions with the Soviets and an "arms race" between the two superpowers.

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