The cold war 1945-1989 Truman and Containment Key Points



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THE COLD WAR 1945-1989

  1. Truman and Containment

  1. Key Points

  1. Containment was a foreign policy designed to contain or block Soviet expansion.

  2. Containment was the primary U.S. foreign policy from the announcement of the Truman Doctrine in 1947 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

  1. Role of George Kennan

  1. George Kennan was an American diplomat and specialist on the Soviet Union.

  2. Kennan wrote an influential article advocating that the United States focus its foreign policy on containing the spread of the Soviet influence.

  1. The Truman Doctrine

  1. President Truman was determined to block the expansion of Soviet influence into Greece and Turkey.

  2. On March 12, 1947, Truman asked Congress for $400 million in economic aid for Greece and Turkey.

  3. Truman justified the aid by declaring that the United States would support “free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugations by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” This sweeping pledge became known as the Truman Doctrine.

  1. The Marshall Plan

  1. World War II left Western Europe devastated and vulnerable to Soviet influence.

  2. The Marshall Plan was a program of economic aid designed to promote the recovery of war-torn Europe while also preventing the spread of communist influence.

  3. The Marshall Plan was an integral part of Truman’s policy of containment. Here is an excerpt from Truman’s speech justifying the Marshall Plan:

“Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. It’s the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist… Any government that is willing to assist in the task of recovery will find full cooperation, I am sure, on the part of the United States government.”

  1. The NATO Alliance

  1. Ten Western European nations joined with the United States and Canada to form a defensive military alliance called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

  2. The NATO alliance marked a decisive break from America’s tradition of isolationism.

  1. The Berlin Airlift

  1. Fearing a resurgent Germany, the Soviet Union cut off Western land access to West Berlin, located deep within the Soviet zone.

  2. President Truman ordered a massive airlift of food, fuel, and other supplies to the beleaguered citizens of West Berlin.

  3. The Berlin Airlift marked a crucial and successful test of containment.



  1. The Cold War in Asia: China, Korea, and Vietnam.

  1. The “fall” of China

  1. Led by Mao Zedong, the Chinese Communists defeated the Chinese Nationalists and declared the People’s Republic of China both an independent and a Communist nation.

  2. The collapse of Nationalist China was viewed as a devastating defeat for America and its Cold War allies. The “fall” of China had the following consequences:

  • The U.S. refused to recognize the new government in Beijing.

  • The U.S. interpreted the Chinese Revolution as part of a menacing Communist monolith.

  • The “fall” of China contributed to the anti-Communist hysteria in the United States.

  1. The Korean War

  1. The United Nations and Korea

  • The Korean War began when North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950.

  • President Truman took advantage of a temporary Soviet absence from the United Nations Security Council to obtain a unanimous condemnation of North Korea as an aggressor. The Korean War thus marked the first collective military action by the United Nations.

  • It is important to note that the Korean War was fought under U.N. auspices. In contrast, the Vietnam War was not fought under U.N. auspices.

  1. A Limited War

  • The Korean War was a limited war that extended the containment policy to Asia.

  • Stung by criticism that the Democratic Party had “lost” China, Truman was determined to defend South Korea.

  1. Truman’s Firing of MacArthur

  • The Chinese entered the war when the U.N. forces approached the strategic Yalu River.

  • General MacArthur disagreed with President Truman’s policy of fighting a limited was. MacArthur publicly favored a blockade of the Chinese coast and bombardment of Chinese bases. Truman responded by relieving the insubordinate MacArthur of his command.

  1. Peace Agreement

  • The combatants finally signed an armistice in July 1953.

  • The armistice set the border between North and South Korea near the 38th parallel at approximately the prewar boundary.

  1. Truman’s Integration of the Armed Forces

  • Prior to the Korean War, African Americans fought in segregated units.

  • President Truman ordered the racial desegregation of the armed forces. The Korean War marked the first time American forces had fought in integrated units.

  1. The Vietnam War, 1946-1963

  1. Containment and Vietnam

  • Following World War II, the United States adopted a policy of containment to halt the expansion of Communist influence.

  • American involvement in Vietnam grew out of the policy commitments and assumptions of containment.

  1. The French Withdrawal

  • Following World War II, the French continued to exercised influence and control over Indochina.

  • Led by Ho Chi Minch, the Viet Minh defeated the French at the pivotal battle of Dienbienphu. Following their defeat, the French withdrew from Vietnam in 1954.

  • The United States refused to sign the Geneva Accords and soon replaced France as the dominant Western power in Indochina.

  1. The Domino Effect

  • The U.S. believed that if one nation fell under Communist control, nearby nations would inevitably also fall under that influence.

  1. Key Cold War Events During the Eisenhower Administration

  1. Sputnik

  1. Launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, Sputnik was the first Earth-orbiting satellite.

  2. Sputnik stunned America, prompting President Eisenhower to establish the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

  3. Sputnik made education an issue of national security. Congress responded by passing the National Defense Education
    Act. The legislation significantly expanded federal aid to education by funding programs in mathematics, foreign languages, and the sciences.

  1. Diplomatic Crises

  1. Egypt seized the Suez Canal

  2. Castro gained control over Cuba

  3. The Soviet Union shot down an American U-2 spy plane.

  1. The Rise and Fall of McCarthyism

  1. Background

  1. Joseph McCarthy was a relatively unknown U.S. senator from Wisconsin who catapulted to national attention by making sensational accusations that the U.S. State Department was “Thoroughly infested with Communists.”

  2. McCarthyism is the making of public accusations of disloyalty without any sufficient evidence.

  1. The Rise of McCarthyism

  1. The following factors contributed to the rise of McCarthyism:

  • Fears raised by the “fall” of China to Communism and the emergence of Mao Zedong as the leader of the People’s Republic of China.

  • Fears raised by the Soviet Union’s development of an atomic bomb.

  • Fears raised by President Truman’s emphasis on a foreign policy designed to contain Soviet expansion.

  • Fears raised by revelations that Soviet spies had infiltrated sensitive agencies and programs in the United States (Two spy cases seemed to add credibility to the fear.)

  1. The first case involved a former State Department official named Alger Hiss. It is interesting to note that a young California congressman named Richard Nixon played a key and highly publicized role in the investigation of Hiss.

  2. The second case involved Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. The Rosenbergs were executed for secretly giving information to the Soviet Union about the U.S. atomic bomb project.

  1. McCarthy’s Tactics

  1. McCarthy directed his attack at alleged Communists and Communist sympathizers.

  2. Senator McCarthy plated on the fears of Americans that Communists had infiltrated the State Department and other federal agencies.

  3. McCarthy’s accusations helped create a climate of paranoia, as Americans became preoccupied with the perceived threat posed by the spread of Communism

  4. As a result of McCarthy’s anti-Communist “witch hunt” millions of Americans were forced to take loyalty oaths and undergo loyalty investigations.

  5. The fear of Communist infiltration even spread to the motion picture industry. Hollywood executives instituted a “blacklist” of about 500 entertainment professionals who were denied employment because of their real or imagined political beliefs or associations. The blacklist ruined the careers of many actors, writers, and directors.

  6. Senator McCarthy cynically used the climate of fear for his own political advantage.

  1. The Fall of Joseph McCarthy

  1. In 1954, Senator McCarthy accused the U.S. Army of being infiltrated by Communist sympathizers.

  2. A huge national audience watched the Army-McCarthy Hearings. McCarthy’s boorish conduct and lack of evidence turned public opinion against him. A few months later, the Senate formally condemned him for “conduct unbecoming a member.”

  3. McCarthy died three years later of chronic alcoholism.

Test Tip: The rise and fall of Senator Joseph McCarthy has generated a significant number of APUSH questions. Make sure that you review and study the key points listed above in the review of McCarthyism. Also, it is important to note that both Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy began their political careers as outspoken opponents of Communism.

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