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.
the origins of the Cold War. Truman's lasting legacy is his tremendous activism in extending American influence on a global scale—his building of an American "empire" or "hegemony." We can diagree over whether this postwar empire was created reluctantly, defensively, by invitation, or deliberately, by self-interested design. But few will deny that the drive to contain Communism fostered an exceptional, worldwide American expansion that produced empire and ultimately, and ironically, insecurity,
Critics were uneasy about Marshall's design to bring the Communists into a new Chinese government because, as Vandenberg asserted: "I never knew a Communist to enter a coalition government for any other purpose than to destroy it."6 The unveiling of the Truman Doctrine helped focus American concern about Communism in China directly on methods the United States could use to contain the danger. At a White House meeting two days before his speech, the President briefed leading congressmen on his
postwar period, the Soviet threat against China was often explained as indirect, quiescent, and longterm, but ever present. In the American mind, the threat became more ominous as the Chinese Communists unrelentingly threw defeat at Jiang. The United States had to make a strong stand in China, declared Truman in 1945, or Russia would take the place of Japan in the Far East. General Marshall reported from China early in 1946 that he had pressed the Nationalists to build a unified government "at
promised. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas complained that technical assistance shored up "corrupt and reactionary regimes" and "feudal systems" which subverted necessary social and economic reforms.21 But the United States seemed to be caught in a dilemma. To improve food production, Washington gave assistance to those few people who owned the land and who at the same time resisted land reform. If Washington pressed the landed elite to reform, it invited cries of "imperialism." If
with America's friend Israel, surely the United States would withhold military aid from the Arabs. So, specifying the threat mattered. And, although Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had pressed the Arabs to realize that "international Communism" constituted the primary danger in the Middle East, Nasser said that he had "seen no signs of Russian hostility except to the defense organizations" that the United States was "erecting to surround the Soviet Union."3 No, there were only two enemies