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Marshall Plan for Rebuilding Europe
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Marshall Plan for Rebuilding Europe

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  • 1. BILLOFRIGHTS INACTION CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS FOUNDATION SUMMER 2004 VOLUME 20 NUMBER 3The Marshall Plan forRebuilding Western EuropeThe Marshall Plan was a series of economic strategiesand reforms that helped to strengthen Western Europeafter World War II. It also helped to make the UnitedStates the leader of the free world.D uring World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union fought together as allies against Nazi Germany.When the war ended, Soviet troops occupied much ofEastern and Central Europe. Communist governments,allied with the Soviet Union, soon controlled this area andset up police states. In 1946, Winston Churchill, who had Pedestrians walk past bomb-damaged buildings in Berlin, Germany,served as British prime minister during the war, famously c. 1946. (Library of Congress)warned that an “iron curtain” divided Western and EasternEurope and that communism threatened to spread through- Soviet Union, weakened by the war, gave little support toout war-ravaged Europe. the rebels.)The wartime alliance between the Soviet Union and the Marshall realized that only the United States was economi-United States was ending. A new period of conflict between cally able to provide aid to Greece. The war had devastatedthe two powers—known as the Cold War—was beginning. the economies of other nations.In January 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed anew secretary of state—George C. Marshall. Marshall was At a key meeting in the White House, President Truman,a career military officer and had headed the Army during Secretary of State Marshall, congressional leaders, and aW World War II. As the leader of the Army, Marshall few others debated what the United States should do aboutU had earned the admiration of the American public. Greece. Marshall’s assistant Dean Acheson warned that this crisis was just the beginning. If the communists were Soon after Marshall took office, a crisis arose overS Greece. Greece had been occupied by Nazis during (Continued on next page) the war. Two resistance groups had fought theH Nazis. One supported the Greek monarchy. The oth- er was communist. After liberation from the Nazis, Nation-Building This issue of Bill of Rights in Action examines whatI the communists refused to join a new government and rebelled against the monarchy. British troops some characterize as “nation-building” efforts by the United States. The first article looks at one of the great-S put down the rebellion. In 1946, a new rebellion est successes in U.S. foreign policy—the Marshall Plan. erupted. In February 1947, the British announced The second looks at one the greatest failures—Vietnam.T that they could no longer afford to give military and The final article compares two reports issued in 2003 onO financial support to Greece. U.S. nation-building efforts and their successes and fail- ures.R Based on what had happened in Eastern Europe, many in the U.S. government suspected that the U.S. History: The Marshall Plan for Rebuilding Europe World History: Different Visions for VietnamY Soviet Union was funding the communist rebels. U.S. Government: U.S. Involvement in Nation- (Most historians have since concluded that the Building Before Iraq© 2004, Constitutional Rights Foundation, Los Angeles. All Constitutional Rights Foundation materials and publications, including Bill of Rights in Action, are protected by copyright. However, we hereby grant toall recipients a license to reproduce all material contained herein for distribution to students, other school site personnel, and district administrators. (ISSN: 1534-9799)
  • 2. not stopped, he said, Soviet domination might extend society.” He saw this not just as humanitarian aid, but“to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.” as the best way to fight communism in Europe. He believed that the European nations receiving U.S. aidOn March 12, 1947, President Truman addressed needed to operate as an economic unit, much like theCongress and asked for $400 million in economic aid 13 colonies did after the American Revolution.for Greece and its neighbor Turkey. He announced Eventually, he argued, a rebuilt Europe would benefitwhat came to known as the Truman Doctrine: “I the United States by once again being able to buybelieve that it must be the policy of the United States to American factory and farm products. More important-support free peoples who are resisting attempted subju- ly, an economically strong Europe would stop thegation by armed minorities or by outside pressure.” spread of communism.Truman had in mind mainly economic aid to eliminate“misery and want” that often became the “seeds of Only a few weeks after President Truman requested aidtotalitarian regimes.” for Greece and Turkey, Kennan and other top advisors to Secretary of State Marshall convinced him of theSome criticized this new doctrine as too aggressive and need for a massive aid program for all of Europe.likely to lead the United States into a costly “recklessadventure.” Within two months, however, the fear of a On June 5, 1947, Secretary of State Marshall made ancommunist power grab in Greece prompted Congress innovative proposal in a speech at Harvard University.to approve Truman’s request for aid. Noting the disastrous conditions in Europe, Marshall called for a “joint effort” by the European nations to plan the rebuilding of Europe. The United States wouldThe Idea of the Marshall PlanIn 1946, George F. Kennan, a State Department provide “friendly aid” in drafting the plan, but this wasRussian specialist, wrote a long telegram from really “the business of the Europeans.”Moscow analyzing Soviet intentions in Europe. Thefollowing year, Foreign Affairs magazine published the Marshall promised that once the plan was in place, thetelegram as an article by “X.” The article caused a stir United States would provide the necessary funds toand was widely discussed. Kennan concluded that the make it work. “Our policy,” Marshall made clear, “isSoviets, surrounded by capitalist countries, were inse- directed not against any country or doctrine but againstcure and wanted to expand their power. Kennan called hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.”for a “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant contain- Making the Marshall Planment of Russian expansive tendencies.” Marshall even invited the Soviets to participate. ButSecretary of State Marshall appointed Kennan to head Kennan predicted that the Soviet Union and Easterna planning group to assess whether European nations European countries under its control would refuse tocould resist Soviet expansion. Kennan quickly reported join. He believed that Stalin, the Soviet dictator, wouldthat the war had left Europe in terrible economic shape. never go along with an American-inspired plan thatHe reported on the grim realities in Europe: required the free exchange of economic information.• Many survivors of the war were homeless, hungry, As predicted, the Soviets refused Marshall’s invitation and unemployed. to help develop a plan to rebuild Europe. They charged• Inflation robbed the wages of those who were that his plan was a scheme to dominate Europe eco- employed. nomically. Under Soviet control, the Eastern European• Factories, railroads, bridges, electric power plants, nations also declined to participate. and water systems were damaged or destroyed. In July 1947, 16 Western European nations met in Paris• Farmers suffered from drought and when they to put together an economic recovery plan. But the brought their products to market, city dwellers Americans soon became disappointed about the direc- could not afford them. tion of the planning. Rather than a unified plan for Europe as a whole, each country was developing its• Trade and the flow of capital needed to finance own “shopping list.” In addition, the French argued reconstruction were interrupted. that western Germany, occupied by Britain, France,Kennan recommended that the United States help and the United States, should remain economicallyrebuild “the economic health and vigor of European weak and not receive much Marshall Plan aid. The 2
  • 3. French believed this would pre- afterward, President Truman spokevent Germany from ever again to Congress. “There are times ingoing to war. world history,” he said, “when it is far wiser to act than to hesitate.”Marshall insisted that the planmust establish an independent Congress moved quickly toeconomy, a reasonable standard of approve emergency aid to France,living, and the elimination of trade Italy, and Austria. The lawmakersbarriers for the whole of Western then passed the EconomicEurope. Marshall expected all this Cooperation Act of 1948, whichto occur within four years. He also funded the Marshall Plan at astressed the importance of full slightly lower level than TrumanGerman participation. He saw it as had requested. During the next fournecessary for the economic recov- years, the United States providedery of Western Europe. over $13 billion in aid to 16 Western European nations, includ-With this push from Marshall, the ing West Germany. (That is moreEuropeans compromised and sub- President Harry S. Truman and General Georgemitted a plan to the United States C. Marshall greet each other. Marshall directed than $100 billion in today’s dol-in September 1947. The the U.S. war effort in World War II and later lars.) served as secretary of state under Truman.Europeans said they needed $19 (Library of Congress) The Marshall Plan in Actionbillion to carry out the Marshall The basic purpose of the MarshallPlan. Plan, according to the EconomicSelling the Marshall Plan Cooperation Act, was to ensure “individual liberty, free institutions, and genuine inde-In November 1947, President Truman called a special pendence” by restoring “sound economic conditions.”session of Congress to request immediate aid for Between 1948 and 1951, the Marshall Plan attempted toFrance, Italy, and Austria, which all had active commu- implement several economic strategies and reforms tonist parties. Truman then followed up with the main rebuild Western Europe. It aimed to:Marshall Plan funding request of $17 billion over fouryears. • meet immediate needs for food, medicine, and housing.The Republican Party had been out of power during theGreat Depression and war years. But it gained control of • increase industrial and agricultural productionCongress in the 1946 election on a platform of reducing rapidly by rebuilding factories, railroads,government spending and returning to an isolationist bridges, etc.foreign policy. Congress and the president were com- • expand trade among the European nations andpletely at odds. But Marshall commanded great respect, with the rest of the world.and Truman put Marshall’s name on the proposal. • combat inflation and establish financial stability.The Truman Administration assembled many experts to • create a common market free of national tradepresent arguments for funding the Marshall Plan. They barriers.pointed out that the Marshall Plan would do many nec- Some Marshall Plan aid came as technical assistance.essary things—from providing humanitarian help for The U.S. Economic Cooperation Administrationwar-torn Europe to preventing another economic arranged for technical aid and advisors from Americandepression in the United States by making Europe a businesses, banks, farm organizations, and labormarket for American products. unions. Advisory groups worked on improvingBut the most powerful argument for Congress and the European production, business organization, and labor-American public was that the Marshall Plan would con- management relations.tain the spread of communism. In February 1948, at the Most aid came as cash grants or loans ($11.8 billion).peak of the debate on the Marshall Plan, communists The Europeans used this money to buy essential goodsoverthrew the government of Czechoslovakia. Shortly (Continued on next page) 3
  • 4. like wheat and oil and to reconstruct factories and For Discussion and Writinghousing. 1. Make a list of reasons why the United States decid- ed to provide Western Europe with more than $13The Europeans decided how to divide the American aid billion in Marshall Plan aid. What do you think wasamong the 16 nations. They sometimes disagreed over the most important reason? Why?how much each should get. The United States constant-ly pressured them to compromise and make “collective 2. In what way did the Americans and Europeans dif-use” of the aid to rebuild Europe as a whole. fer over the Marshall Plan?Many Europeans were skeptical of American inten- 3. Do you think the Marshall Plan was a good idea?tions, particularly in France. But as the Marshall Plan Explain.proceeded, skepticism dropped off. In a 1947 poll, 47 For Further Studypercent of French citizens thought Marshall’s idea for “The Marshall Plan.” George C. Marshall Foundation.aiding Europe was mainly to stimulate markets for 2002. URL: http://www.marshallfoundation.org/U.S. goods. Only 18 percent looked on the aid as a about_gcm/marshall_plan.htm“sincere desire to help France.” By 1953, however, 57percent of the French people polled believed the Schain, Martin, ed. The Marshall Plan: Fifty YearsMarshall Plan was “indispensable” or “useful” for After. New York: Palgrave, 2001.France. Only 14 percent expressed negative opinions,and these views came overwhelmingly from commu- A C T I V I T Ynist sympathizers.Did the Marshall Plan Succeed? Foreign Aid PrioritiesBy the time the Marshall Plan ended in 1951, industrial Considering the war on terror in the world today, whatproduction in Western Europe had risen 40 percent should be the priorities of the United States in provid-above the prewar level. Trade and exports also ing foreign aid?increased far above what they were before the war. A. Form small groups to discuss and rank the follow-People had returned to work and their standard of liv- ing forms of U.S. foreign aid from most (1) to leasting was rising. Politically, communist parties lost influ- (6) important.ence everywhere. After Czechoslovakia, no European • humanitarian aid (food, clothing, medicine,nation fell to communism. Also, the economic revival etc.) to nations experiencing droughts, earth-of West Germany helped rather than threatened its quakes, civil wars, and other disastersneighbors. • cash grants to poor developing nationsThe Marshall Plan did not cure all of Europe’s econom- • loans to poor developing countriesic problems. Western Europe was still importing 30percent of its food in 1951. Inflation remained a prob- • civilian advisors to provide assistance in build-lem in some countries. The Marshall Plan’s proposal of ing the economy and democracy in poor devel-a common market for Europe remained just an idea. oping countriesNational trade barriers continued to block the free flow • U.S. military bases and troops in strategicof goods and services, which would have lowered countries around the worldprices. In the next decades, Europeans eventually cre- • military arms and equipment to countriesated a common market and other institutions that today threatened by terroristsmake up the European Union. B. Each group should report to the class on its choiceGeorge C. Marshall, the professional soldier who for the most and least important form of U.S. for-inspired the rebuilding of Western Europe, won the eign aid along with the group’s reasons for itsNobel Peace Prize in 1953. The United States, by choices.investing in the future of Europe, cut the cycle of warsthat had plagued that continent for centuries. In doingso, the United States turned away from its traditionalisolationism to become the leader of the free world.Winston Churchill called Marshall’s decision torebuild Europe “the highest level of statesmanship.” 4