Was President Truman Responsible For The Cold War?

1338 words - 5 pages

President Harry Truman came into office right at the end of World War II, after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. Almost immediately after becoming president, Truman learned of the Manhattan Project, and had to decide whether or not to use the atomic bomb. With the advice of James Byrnes, Secretary of State, Truman decided to drop two atomic bombs on Japan, in part to demonstrate America’s power to the world and gain a political advantage in Europe (Offner 294). After World War II ended, there were negotiations about Germany, and it was decided that Germany would be split into two halves; the western half would be controlled by the United States and its allies, while the eastern half would be controlled by the Soviet Union. This situation led to increased tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union because of the two nations’ different political and economic systems. The Soviet Union began to view the United States as a threat to communism, and the United States began to view the Soviet Union as a threat to democracy. On March 12, 1947, Truman gave a speech in which he argued that the United States should support nations trying to resist Soviet imperialism. Truman and his advisors created a foreign policy that consisted of giving reconstruction aid to Europe, and preventing Russian expansionism. These foreign policy decisions, as well as his involvement in the usage of the atomic bomb, raises the question of whether or not the Cold War can be blamed on Truman.

Supporting the view that Truman was responsible for the Cold War, Arnold Offner argues that Truman’s parochialism and nationalism caused him to make contrary foreign policy decisions without regard to other nations, which caused the intense standoff between the Soviet Union and America that became the Cold War (Offner 291). Offner explains how Truman wanted to use Germany to restore balance and gain power in Europe, so that he could have bargaining power over Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. Truman’s other bargaining chip was the atomic bomb. When urged to send an early warning to Japan and try to avoid using the atomic bomb, Truman refused, a decision which Offner believes was made because of Truman’s “need to demonstrate his authority” (Offner 292). Offner argues that the use of two atomic bombs, the second one being militarily unnecessary, made Stalin feel as if the bombs were used as a threat to him, a feeling which pressured him into creating an atomic bomb for the Soviet Union. When bargaining with Stalin over Germany, Truman showed no interest in any form of agreement, and because of his stubbornness, Germany remained separated until the 1990 (Offner 300). Offner asserts that actually negotiating the situation in Germany and not dropping the atomic bombs could have prevented, or at least greatly lessened, the Cold War, and because of Truman, these things did not happen.

Instead of blaming Truman, John Lewis Gaddis claims that the Cold War was primarily...

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