Communism Spreads

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Communism Spreads

Isaac Don Levine


Paul H. Nitze


Douglas MacArthur


B y April 1948, massive rebuilding aid via the Marshall Plan, a massive U.S. plan to promote Europe's economic recovery from the war, was headed to those Western European countries whose economies had been devastated by World War II (1939–45). Officially known as the European Recovery Program for Western Europe, the Marshall Plan was made available to all nations, though the communist regime rejected it. The United States feared that communist agitators, promising a better life, would overthrow the struggling democracies. (Agitators appeal to people's emotions to stir up public feeling over controversial issues.) Western Europe might fall just as Eastern Europe had fallen under the "Iron Curtain" (a term referring to the ruthless Soviet domination) of communism.

The excerpts that follow turn to another part of the world, China and Korea. In the 1930s, China's communist leader, Mao Zedong (1893–1976), and his forces, mostly consisting of peasants, were locked in a civil war with the noncommunist Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975). There was a halt in the civil war as both fought the invading Japanese from 1937 to 1945, but the conflict was resumed at the end of World War II. The United States had sent some aid to the Nationalists, but by 1950, Mao's communists drove the Nationalists out of China to the island of Taiwan. The communists gained control of Mainland China. The U.S. government under the administration of President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53) had clearly focused on Europe to the exclusion of China. It viewed China's fate as up to the Chinese people. In the United States, Chinese Nationalist supporters, known as the China Lobby, were outraged.

In the first excerpt, a 1949 article by journalist Isaac Don Levine (1892–1981) titled "Our First Line of Defense," Levine argues that the United States must defend against communist power wherever it is. He accused the U.S. State Department as having no "vision" for Asia. Overall, the fall of China was considered a grave, ominous loss for the free world. Under strong pressure from many sides, President Truman ordered the head of the Policy Planning Staff in the State Department, Paul H. Nitze (1907–), to thoroughly review U.S. foreign policy and its strategies worldwide. The result was the National Security Council (NSC) document number 68, known as NSC-68, which is excerpted here. Completed in April 1950, the strongly worded document called for a proactive foreign policy, one based on planning and action rather than on reaction to other countries' actions. Such a policy prepared the United States to build a healthy worldwide community capable of resisting communist influence. The document advised holding on to a tight policy of containment, a key U.S. Cold War policy to restrict the territorial growth of communist rule that was first put forth by Truman administration policy analyst George F. Kennan (1904–). NSC-68 also called for a massive increase in defense spending to further build up the military.

Just after the NSC-68 report was finished, in June 1950, the forces under the communist leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung (1912–1994), attacked and quickly overran democratic South Korea. President Truman sent World War II legend General Douglas MacArthur (1880–1964) to Korea to command a temporary alliance of United Nations forces, predominately made up of U.S. forces. He was charged with halting and pushing communist forces out of South Korea. Not only did MacArthur accomplish this task, but he then spoke threateningly to China, even suggesting that the United States would use nuclear weapons. Talking out of turn, MacArthur was relieved of his command by President Truman and recalled to the United States. Still extremely popular with Americans, he was invited to speak before a joint session of the U.S. Congress. On April 19, 1951, he delivered his famous "Old Soldiers Never Die" speech, excerpted here. MacArthur's speech supported the importance of Asia as in Isaac Don Levine's article and the strong anticommunist philosophy in NSC-68.

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Communism Spreads

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