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It started with the Truman Doctrine (1947) that stated the United States would help any country financially and militarily that was interested in keeping the world free for democracy. The Truman Doctrine came about as direct result of communist guerillas in Greece trying to take over the government. American advisers believed that the guerillas were taking orders from the Soviets after they launched a civil war against the government. The United States decided to assist the standing government in Greece because they believed it would have a large impact on Europe and most importantly Turkey that was having its own problems with communism and was strategically located next to large oil reserves of Iran. Congress approved $300 million to aid Greece and $100 million in food and military expenses to aid Turkey.


The second large step in containment was the Marshall Plan. Proposed by Secretary of State George Marshall, it would provide economic relief to rebuilding Western European nations such as Great Britain, France, Belgium and even Germany. By boosting European economies the United States would insure that communism does not rise in any of these countries from a weak economy. It also was in American interest to rebuild European economies to market American goods in Europe and to receive the money Britain and France borrowed during the war. Congress wasn’t in favor of the proposed plan at first but following a coup by communist in Czechoslovakia, they approved it.


With the Marshall plan helping to rebuild European industries and cities, Britain and France started to concentrate on reforming the currency of West Berlin. Trying to forestall that development Soviet Union imposed a blockade on all railroads, highways and rivers leading to West Berlin. Without thinking twice president Truman airlifted 2.5 million tons, one ton per person, of food and fuel over the blockade which later persuaded Stalin, the Soviets party leader to take the blockade down.


After the coup of Czechoslovakia, U.S. thought that they were in need of an official alliance with the counties opposing communism. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was founded in April 1949. They agreed that they would stand by each other, as one and any attack on a member of the alliance is an attack on all constituents. In 1949 in response to NATO the Soviet Union formed the COMECON (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) as a result of the Warsaw Pact, in 1955 that included Eastern European nations such as Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia and Soviet Union.


To stay on top of the game Truman turned tot the National Security Council (NSC). The NSC delivered their report known as the NSC-68, to the president that was an exaggerated assessment of Soviet capabilities that proposed the development of a more powerful bomb then the atom bomb known as the hydrogen bomb. It also called for an increase in income taxes to support “ a bold and a massive program of rebuilding the West’s defensive potential to surpass that of the Soviet world.”


In Asia containment took a new turn, U.S. was promoting a non-communist government in China, it invested time and money to see no results from a corrupt and self oriented Chinese ruler. When the U.S. realized that there was no use in helping the Chinese dynasty, they pulled out leaving Mao Zedong a pro communist leader to establish a communist state known as the People Republic of China.


On June 25, 1950 North Koreans launched a surprise attack across the 38th parallel. Kim Il Sung of North Korea intended to unite North and South Korea; Stalin supported the effort. Truman immediately asked the United Nations Security Council to authorize a “police action” against the invaders. Since the Soviet Union was absent because they were protesting the exclusion of China from UN they could not veto the request. The UN sent general Douglass McArthur to head the UN forces in Korea. The UN forces landed in Inchon surrounding the North Korean forces form both sides and with the help of American forces in Pusan pushed them back to the Yalu River where Korea borders China. The Chinese were not happy with Americans being right across the river from them so they helped North Korean forces to push American forces back to the 38th Parallel. McArthur was demanding that the U.S. used an atomic bomb on China. He was unhappy about the stalemate on the 38th parallel and was convinced that America has to win. However he was soon relieved of command by the president shortly. Peace talks began in 1951 and the armistice was sighed in 1953, it left Korea divided on the 38th parallel as it was done originally.


The Strategy of containment was practiced on the home front also. In 1938 the House Committee on Un-American Activities was established to investigate all alleged fascist and communist influence in labor unions and New Deal agencies. In 1946 they discovered a Soviet spy ring operating in Canada. In 1947 HUAC launched the Great Fear, started by senator Joseph R. McCarthy, holding widely publicized hearings on alleged Communist infiltration in the film industry. That same year Harry Truman issued an executive order initiating an investigation into the loyalty of federal employees. Following Truman’s lead many states and local governments conducted the same investigations. The Great Fear infiltrated the country. Many people were sent to prisons where they perished just because they were labeled a communist with no evidence of guilt, except maybe guilt by association, and sometimes even lacking that. Two of the most controversial trials were of Alger Hiss and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Alger Hiss was former New Dealer that went with President Roosevelt to Yalta during the Peace conference. He was accused by a convicted communist Whittaker Chambers, to be operating a communist cell inside the government. He denied the allegations or knowing Chambers, he was later found guilty of perjury when it was discovered that he did know Chambers and had affiliations with him. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. They were found to be guilty and executed in 1953. Both Hiss’ and Rosenberg’s guilt is still being debated.


The arms race was another important stage in the Cold War. It started when Dwight D Eisenhower took office. He decided that United States defense policy needed a “New Look.” Stalin died in 1953 and Nikita Khrushchev called for “peaceful coexistence.” However this peaceful coexistence did not last long, when nationalist revolted in Hungary and wanted to take the country out of the Warsaw Pact. Khrushchev without hesitation sent Soviet tanks into Budapest. This action showed the American policy makers that the only way to restrain Soviet Union in Eastern Europe was to go to war with them. Eisenhower hoped that the cold war wasn’t the only thing on his agenda and he didn’t want to spend a lot on defense but he wanted to be well prepared in case he needed to be that’s why he and John Foster Dulles his secretary of state decided to support the development of a hydrogen bomb and a massive nuclear arsenal. Eisenhower’s administration approved atmospheric testing in the South Pacific in some western states such as Nevada, Colorado, and Utah from which we are still seeing the effects of today. To improve the nation’s defenses against an air attack from Soviet Union, The administration made a commitment to develop the long range bombing capabilities of the strategic Air Command, and installed the Distant Early Warning line of radar stations in Alaska and Canada in 1958. That year both nations developed a fleet of long range intercontinental missiles call the ICBS. The arms race boosted the economy of military-industrial sectors of both nations, but it left a large portion of social programs obsolete because of the heavy investing into military resources that would soon be useless.


In Vietnam the French, that controlled the south and the communist forces of Vietnam lead by Ho Chi Mihn, the Viet Mihn have been fighting along the 17th parallel since 1946. The French were suppose to leave according to the Geneva Peace accord .The division was suppose to be temporary with all Vietnam elections held in 1956.to unite the country. However United States feared that the communists would win because Ho Chi Mihn was very popular among the Vietnamese because he was fighting for their independence and because they would rig the elections wherever they could. According to Eisenhower’s “domino theory,” it was essential to prevent the communist from taking power in Vietnam, or all other countries of South East Asia would fall as well. The United States organized an anti-communist faction lead by Ngo Dihn Diem that would be the resistance to Viet Mihn and in this way the United States set up a conflict which would later cost them a lot of money, prestige and lives


The Third World was very important to both superpowers. These nations were a source of raw materials and markets. Some could provide United States with valuable military bases. During Khrushchev’s regime he made several attempts to befriend Third World nations. The untied states tried to combat soviet penetration in several ways. It offered large amounts of foreign aid to non-communist Third World countries although sometimes it went to non-democratic regimes that only got the money for being non-communist. In these years U.S. supported stable anti-communist governments no matter how repressive. The other was supporting such organizations as the CENTO (Central Treaty Organization) and SEATO. Joseph Dulles, helped organize the SEATO (South East Asia Treat Organization), which consisted of Australia, Pakistan, Thailand, New Zealand and Philippines A new agency was setup to keep an eye on the world, known as the Central Intelligence Agency. It was involved in many covert operations and coups which helped U.S. establish a stable anticommunist government, dictatorship or not. Among these were Iran and Guatemala where the government was overthrown and CIA helped establish a new one that served the U.S. interests.


After World War II, United Nations helped Jews who had gone back to Palestine establish Israel. It divided the land previously owned by Arabs into two states, one for Jews and one for Arabs. Truman immediately recognized this country alienating the Arab nations angered by this division such as Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. When Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in1954 in Egypt he promised to lead the Middle East out of western dependence. The Soviets promised him financial and military assistance and so did Dulles, Eisenhower’s secretary of state. But Dulles wanted Nasser to terminate all negotiations with the Russians when Nasser did not agree Dulles withdrew his offer only to regret his decision when Nasser decided to nationalize the Suez Canal through which three fourths of all European oil is passed. After several months of negotiations Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt and retook the canal. United Nations condemned their actions and forced them to give up the canal to Egypt once again. As a result of the Eisenhower convinced Congress to approve the Eisenhower Doctrine that would “assist any nation in the region that required aid against aggression from any nation controlled by International Communism.” The Eisenhower administration was very careful not to alienate any Middle Eastern countries that could provide the country with a steady supply of oil and this affected his foreign policy and the policy of containment.


During the Truman and Eisenhower administration a policy of containment served to save the free world from communism. But at times these two administrations put world peace on the line to prove its superiority as a nation. One cannot judge these events to being wrong or right because values of a nation and people change with time, we can just learn from these events and know that the next time United States has a contest of superiority it could cost us the world.