Meeting the Communist Threat: Truman to Reagan (Oxford Paperbacks)
Thomas G. Paterson
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This provocative volume, written by the distinguished diplomatic historian Thomas G. Paterson, explores why and how Americans have perceived and exaggerated the Communist threat in the last half century. Basing his spirited analysis on research in private papers, government archives, oral histories, contemporary writings, and scholarly works, Paterson explains the origins and evolution of United States global intervention. Deftly exploring the ideas and programs of Truman, Kennan, Eisenhower, Dulles, Kennedy, Nixon, Kissinger, and Reagan, as well as the views of dissenters from the prevailing Cold War mentality, Paterson reveals the tenacity of American thinking about threats from abroad. He recaptures the tumult of the last several decades by treating a wide range of topics, including post-war turmoil in Western Europe, Mao's rise in China, the Suez Canal, the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam War, CIA covert actions, and Central America.
Paterson's vivid account of America's Cold War policies argues that, while Americans did not invent the Communist threat, they have certainly exaggerated it, nurturing a trenchant anti-communism that has had a devastating effect on international relations and American institutions.
became a popular phrase to express this American idea (see Chapter 1). The message seemed evident: To prevent a reincarnation of the 1930s, the United States would have to use its vast power to fight economic instability abroad. Americans felt compelled to project their power, second, because they feared, in the peace-andprosperity thinking of the time, economic doom stemming from an economic sickness abroad that might spread to the United States, and from American dependency on overseas supplies
Jiang ignored strong American advice to reorganize his government on a more representative basis. He sought military assistance yet rejected military advice. The recalcitrant dictator asked for more American money, but, complained American leaders, proved incapable of utilizing it effectively. The Jiang regime, Marshall concluded, was a reactionary clique, much like "corroded machinery that does not function."37 Truman privately scored Jiang and his cohorts as grafters and crooks. At the cabinet
defined the administration's task in 1946 as "focusing the will of 140,000,000 people on problems beyond our shores. . . . "u Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon, a firm supporter of Truman's "hard-boiled policy" in 1945, feared that "sentimentalist groups" would once again gain control of American foreign policy.1 "Americans can no longer sit smugly behind a mental Maginot line," implored Truman just before the end of the war.13 "Isolationism" actually evaporated quickly. "Isolationism"— that vague
American business activity in high-risk, low-profit areas. "What capital wanted most, apparently," Fortune magazine concluded, "was a healthy investment climate, not an insurance policy against contracting malaria."18 Investment hazards persisted. In 1954, Clarence B. Randall, head of a presidential commission studying American economic foreign policy, found that only Turkey, Greece, and Panama had altered their laws enough to suit American capital. Between 1950 and 1957, American private
promotion of Soviet interests. But, as we have seen, even before this Egyptian decision and the rise of political opposition, Dulles had shifted toward a stronger anti-Nasser line. By mid-1956 the question was not whether to help build the dam but how to tell the Egyptians that the deal was defunct. "Egypt," American officials reassured themselves, "had disqualified itself."25 As the President told Dulles in mid-July, "weakening Nasser" was a topic they had discussed for some time already.26