[Viewpoint]Good riddance to Truman Doctrine‘I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures,” said Harry Truman, the 33rd president of the United States. Sixty years have passed since President Truman proclaimed promoting and defending freedom as the centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy.
On March 12, 1947, Mr. Truman appealed to a joint session of Congress to give support to Greece and Turkey, which were both on the brink of civil war due to infiltration by communist forces. At the same time, he emphasized that the United States should make defending and promoting a free democratic system against communist threats the guideline of its foreign policy.
He also claimed that such a policy was in the interest of the United States and that it contributed to the country’s national security. That’s how the Truman Doctrine was born.
The Truman Doctrine, based on active intervention and interference, marked a departure from the isolationist tradition of the Monroe Doctrine. It was, at the same time, a declaration that heralded the start of the Cold War; the struggle between the totalitarian communist forces represented by the Soviet Union and the free democratic capitalist forces represented by the United States.
It also served to the world in two: the freedom bloc and the communist bloc.
On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Truman Doctrine, there is a flurry of evaluations of its merits and demerits.
The International Herald Tribune carried two articles on the subject on its editorial page on Tuesday.
While Daniel Fried, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, highlighted the historic contributions of the Truman Doctrine, while James Carroll, a Boston Globe columnist, shined a light on the bad side-effects of the doctrine: it instigated conflicts and confrontations between the capitalist and communist blocs.
There is no doubt that the U.S. containment policy and pressure tactics toward the Soviet Union, which were based on the Truman Doctrine, contributed to end of the Cold War with the collapse of the communist bloc.
It is laudable that the United States has continued to defend freedom, even though the country suffered enormous damage and defeat in the Korean and the Vietnam Wars.
However, there were mistakes, too. The fact that the governments of Greece and Turkey at that time were far from free and democratic was a warning that the doctrine was destined to be inconsistent. The United States even helped military dictatorships, as long as they were not a communist bloc country.
It did so in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Using the expansion of freedom as its justification, such contradictory situations as rendering cooperation to the suppression of freedom took place during the Cold War era.
The Truman Doctrine, which was born under the prerequisite of confrontation between two rival blocs, fulfilled its historic duty when the Cold War concluded.
Nearly 20 years later, we are still waiting for a new principle to replace the Truman Doctrine. In the confusion of a transitional period with religious conflicts and terrorists who view the world as a dichotomy, the negative legacies of the Truman Doctrine will not disappear easily.
Although Mr. Truman might not agree, many people say President George W. Bush has similarities to Mr. Truman and that the latter was a role model for the former.
His hot-tempered character, the staging of a war against an ideology that cannot be identified easily and the crash in popularity are similar to Mr. Truman’s record. Especially, the inclination to divide the world into good and evil, friend and foe, is strikingly similar.
It makes us feel almost dizzy to see the dramatic recent change in Mr. Bush’s stance.
The United States is engaging in direct contact with North Korea. Washington had named the North as part of an “axis of evil,” and it had previously refused to permit direct dialogue. Now the United States is looking for a change together with the North.
The country is also preparing to have talks with Iran, another member of the so-called axis of evil, and Syria. The sudden turning of a huge aircraft carrier, the United States, rocks other boats.
There is no way for us to know where the end of the change will be. It could be a temporary one.
What is important is that the change should progress toward a new principle based on dialogue and compromise, mutual respect of different value systems and pragmatism.
This is the way for co-existence and co-prosperity.
The United States should get rid of the legacy of the 60-year-old Truman Doctrine.
*The writer is an editorial writer and traveling correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok