SUMMARY: Most scholars argue that the “wise men” around President Harry Truman crafted the strategy of containment in the 1940s to meet the challenges of the Cold War. In fact, it was Truman himself who was the key decision maker in the critical period between 1945 and 1950. His statesmanship was characterized by policies such as the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the Berlin airlift and institutions such as NATO, the Department of Defense, and the National Security Council. Truman’s unique vision—which was shaped by his dedicated anticommunism and his religious faith—stressed the importance of free peoples, democratic institutions, and sovereign nations. By his words and actions, Truman fashioned a new liberal internationalism, distinct from both Woodrow Wilson’s progressive internationalism and Franklin Roosevelt’s liberal pragmatism, that still shapes our politics and policies in the post-September 11 world.
Elizabeth Spalding is Assistant Professor of Government and Director of the Washington Program at Claremont McKenna College, where she teaches U.S. foreign policy and American government. The author of The First Cold Warrior: Harry Truman, Containment, and the Remaking of Liberal Internationalism (University Press of Kentucky, 2006), she has contributed to several volumes on the presidency and U.S. foreign policy and written for the Wilson Quarterly, Comparative Political Studies, Presidential Studies Quarterly, the Claremont Review of Books, and The Weekly Standard.