In March 1947, US President Harry Truman was preparing to launch a major foreign policy orientation that would define US foreign policy in the post World War II era and beyond. It was based on active American involvement in world affairs for the purpose of containing, by force if necessary, the spread of communism around the world.
To secure the support of the American people for the dramatic sweep of the new policy Truman readily understood that he needed to define his doctrine in terms of broad commitment to defend American values of freedom and individual liberties.. But he also wanted Congress to approve a specific commitment to provide huge economic and military support to
He linked the security of the
He painted the world in simplistic foreboding Manichean terms, and called on peoples of the world to choose between the good side- Western democracies and free market capitalist economies- and the bad side- communist regimes: “At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one” he said.
“One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions….” Truman declared. “The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression….”
Truman then proclaimed the new foundations of American foreign policy, the Truman doctrine: “I believe that it must be the policy of the
A theoretical framework provided the necessary rationalization for the application of the Truman doctrine. US Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson articulated the theory that came to be known as the domino theory. He told Congressmen and State Department officials that what was at stake was much more than the survival of the Greek and Turkish governments. If these countries were allowed to fall to communism, he forebodingly warned, other countries, in a domino-like effect, from
The Truman doctrine was as sweeping a commitment as the
Secretary of State George Marshall believed that President Truman overstated the case. Even George Kennan, the American diplomat in
In articulating his own doctrine George Bush played on the fear engendered by the September 11 tragedy, exaggerated the threat of countries like
The Truman doctrine was reactive in that it committed the
Like Truman, Bush articulated a simplistically dark Manichean view of a world perpetually divided by the opposing forces of good and evil, and in which unless one sided with the forces of good, one is necessarily grouped with the forces of evil: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make.” Bush told the American Congress on September 20, 2001. “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
Borrowing the Truman doctrine’s theoretical frame of rationalization, the Bush administration invoked the domino theory to justify its preemptive war strategy. In August 2006, Secretary of Defense Donald Ramsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee:
“If we left
The Bush doctrine is inherently aggressive. It seeks not simply to contain the enemy, but to undertake “unwarned strikes” to swiftly defeat the enemy from “a position of forward deterrence.”
It also guarantees perpetual confrontation. It is committed to maintaining global American hegemony against all challenges: “