Summarize the Containment Doctrine and then assess US containment from 1947 to 1963
Requirements: 400 words
Kennan and Containment, 1947
George F. Kennan (Links to an external site.), a career Foreign Service Officer, formulated the policy of “containment,” the basic United States strategy for fighting the cold war (1947–1989) with the Soviet Union.
Kennan’s ideas, which became the basis of the Truman administration’s foreign policy, first came to public attention in 1947 in the form of an anonymous contribution to the journal Foreign Affairs, the so-called “X-Article.” “The main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union,” Kennan wrote, “must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.” To that end, he called for countering “Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the Western world” through the “adroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points, corresponding to the shifts and maneuvers of Soviet policy.” Such a policy, Kennan predicted, would “promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the break-up or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.”
Kennan’s policy was controversial from the very beginning. Columnist Walter Lippmann attacked the X-Article for failing to differentiate between vital and peripheral interests. The United States, Kennan’s article implied, should face down the Soviet Union and its Communist allies whenever and wherever they posed a risk of gaining influence. In fact, Kennan advocated defending above all else the world’s major centers of industrial power against Soviet expansion: Western Europe, Japan, and the United States. Others criticized Kennan’s policy for being too defensive. Most notably, John Foster Dulles (Links to an external site.) declared during the 1952 election campaign that the United States’ policy should not be containment, but the “rollback” of Soviet power and the eventual “liberation” of Eastern Europe. Even within the Truman administration there was a rift over containment between Kennan and Paul Nitze (Links to an external site.), Kennan’s successor as director of the Policy Planning Staff. Nitze, who saw the Soviet threat primarily in military terms, interpreted Kennan’s call for “the adroit and vigilant application of counter-force” to mean the use of military power. In contrast, Kennan, who considered the Soviet threat to be primarily political, advocated above all else economic assistance (e.g., the Marshall Plan) and “psychological warfare” (overt propaganda and covert operations) to counter the spread of Soviet influence. In 1950, Nitze’s conception of containment won out over Kennan’s. NSC 68, a policy document prepared by the National Security Council and signed by Truman, called for a drastic expansion of the U.S. military budget. The paper also expanded containment’s scope beyond the defense of major centers of industrial power to encompass the entire world. “In the context of the present polarization of power,” it read, “a defeat of free institutions anywhere is a defeat everywhere.”
Despite all the criticisms and the various policy defeats that Kennan suffered in the early 1950’s, containment in the more general sense of blocking the expansion of Soviet influence remained the basic strategy of the United States throughout the cold war. On the one hand, the United States did not withdraw into isolationism; on the other, it did not move to “roll back” Soviet power, as John Foster Dulles briefly advocated. It is possible to say that each succeeding administration after Truman’s, until the collapse of communism in 1989, adopted a variation of Kennan’s containment policy and made it their own.
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Crash Course #37
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VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION
Your answers must be based solely on information taken from the course lectures, readings, and assigned films. Answers based on outside sources will automatically incur a substantial point deduction. Evidence of shared exam answers (i.e. essays that do not vary substantively in content, organization, and writing) will incur a substantial point deduction as well as possible FSU and or/CIECHS disciplinary action. Any evidence of plagiarism will result in a zero for the offending answer and possible university-imposed disciplinary action for honor code violations.
As you prepare your answers, please use the essay checklist found in the welcome module. Although I do not have a minimum word count the questions generally cannot be fully answered in less than 400 words. Your answer should aim to synthesize the reading, lecture, and video content. You should paraphrase from the reading and avoid excessive quoting (If your essay contains quoted material, please be sure to indicate all quotes and provide citations) Do not use any sources other than those assigned for this class, and be sure to use all relevant assigned sources when preparing your essays (i.e., lecture, textbook, film, etc.). Answers that use outside sources will automatically incur a substantial point deduction.
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1. Have you answered the question fully and completely?
2. Have you met the minimum suggested length of 400 words?
3. Have you cited your sources?
4. Have you included all possible sources?
5. Is your paper plagiarism free?
6. Did you use quotation marks to clearly indicate all quoted material?
7. Did I write this essay myself?
8. Did you make sure to only use the assigned course material?
9. Does your essay have an introduction and a conclusion?
10. Did you include a clear thesis in your introduction?
11. Is your writing clear? Did you read your essay aloud?
12. Did you check for spelling and grammatical errors?