Truman’s Policy of Containment: As related to the Individual and Society
Containment in foreign policy is known as the strategy suggested by George Kennan to prevent Soviet expansionism by exerting counter pressure along Soviet borders. The Truman Doctrine was the name given to a speech President Truman delivered to a joint session of Congress on March 12, 1947, in which he proclaimed a new policy and role for the United States in global affairs. Specifically, the president sought $400 million in economic and military assistance for Greece and Turkey, two strategic Mediterranean countries threatened by subversive forces supported by the Soviet Union, after the British said a month earlier that they could no longer provide the needed support.
To justify aid for Greece and Turkey to a skeptical Congress, Truman placed the situation in the context of broader changes that he saw taking place in global politics. Truman felt that the peoples of a number of countries had totalitarian regimes forced upon them against their will. At the time the United States had made frequent protests against coercion and intimidation, in violation of the Yalta agreement, in Poland, Rumania, and Bulgaria, but those protests proved insufficient. Truman declared that the United States must now be willing “to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes.” The sweeping language of the speech and the worldwide commitment to assist any state threatened by totalitarianism gained it the status of a “doctrine” and a lasting policy for the United States. The speech became a declaration of Cold War. The issue was beginning to overshadow everything else on the global agenda.
Following Truman’s declaration, George F. Kennan, author of the Long Telegram, published an influential article under the pseudonym “Mr. X” in the journal Foreign Affairs in which he outlined a policy of containment against the Soviet Union. The strategy was designed to put enough pressure on the Soviet Union to produce a change in both its internal structure and its international conduct. The application of counter-forces at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points were designed to break-up or gradually mellow Soviet power. Thereafter, the United States embarked on a global strategy to confront the Soviet Union. Notwithstanding changes in tactics, containment remained the basis for U.S. policy for four decades.
In ensuing years, the United States made global alliance commitments. Washington signed the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) with twenty-one Western Hemisphere nations in 1947. The North Atlantic Treaty with twelve (later fifteen) European states in 1949. The ANZUS Treaty with Australia and New Zealand in 1951, and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization with countries...