Chief Considerations driving American Foreign Policy in the Post WW II Era (1945-1963)
America was the only great Allied power that was left without devastation after WW II. This made the country emerge as the “leader of the free world”. The division of the world between the United States and its allies and the USSR and its allies reconfirmed the unquestioned leadership position assumed by United States. This emergence of the United States as the “leader of the free world” was one of the main considerations in deciding many of the foreign policies and defense policies by the country during the post war era. This also made the United States to play a pivotal role in deciding the great foreign-policy and geopolitical issues in the post war period. This position is evidenced by many of the decision of the government with respect to its foreign policies. For example, the decision by Harry Truman to extend aid to Western European countries which were affected severely by WW II and to organize NATO are some of the effects of the free world leadership position assumed by United States.
There were several other acts of the government with respect to its relations with other countries that were shaped by this position. Examples are; the leading of the United Nations efforts in resolving Koran Conflict and Eisenhower’s decision to provide support to South Vietnam. Opposition of Israeli-British-French war against Egypt, Kennedy’s decision to carry out military operations in Cuba, military interference in Lebanon and organizing SEATO are some of the other examples where the foreign policies of the United States were guided by its assumed leadership position of the free world.
The next major consideration for the country to devise its foreign policies is the rise of a strong American industrial economy promoted by the developing American science and technology and the post war economic boom. The combination of economic growth and the scientific and technological progress necessitated the country to look for overseas markets for the products manufactured within the United States. The pressure from the internal economic growth in the form of increased productivity and production capacity necessitated United States to change its foreign policies to maintain cordial relationship with many third world and developing countries which were found to be promising markets for American products.
Stopping the expansion of communism was one other consideration for the United States to form its foreign policies accordingly. In 1947 after the visit of General George Marshall to Europe the government had to consider an economic solution to stop the spread of communism in Western European countries which were in the clutches of poverty with the people becoming easy victims of communist ideologies. The US government on the suggestion of General Marshall decided to extend an aid of US $ 17 billion replacing the military option to stop the spreading of communism in Europe (Clare).
The start of Cold War also was one of the considerations for the United States to draw its foreign policies during the post war era. The strength of USSR, its desire to replace the United States as the dominant world leader, the political ideology of USSR and a number of other factors brought United States in open confrontation with USSR and this drove the country to formulate some of its foreign policies to adopt a paternalistic attitude towards countries like Germany and Japan which were allies to USSR.
Apart from the above considerations others such as development of nuclear weapons, changing relationship between foreign affairs and domestic politics, shrinking of the world by new technological developments, changes in the issues and approaches towards the issues of right, equality and democracy in the countries around the world and dramatic growth in the power of American presidency are some of the other considerations that led the United States to revise its foreign policies from time and again during the post war era between 1945 and 1963.
Role of Government in Society and Economy
The United States post WWII economy and society was characterized by economic boom and discrimination. GI bill introduced in this period spurred a housing boom. Returning WW II veterans looking for settling increased the demand for housing. However, increased general economic demand of the post-war boom and the Civil Rights Movement showed their impact on the allotment of housing, jobs and education. There was wide spread discrimination limited the opportunities for the returning black GIs. This created a discontent among them.
The Federal Housing Administration by its policies toughened policies of segregation by denying low-interest loans to non-whites. Wealth gap between whites and non-whites started mounting. Federal housing policy was one of the main reasons for such increase in the wealth gap. The policies sidelined the non-whites in the matter of housing sales, financing and insurance for homes. Blacks, Mexicans, Chinese and Japanese were the main targets of discrimination. Property ownership was denied to people belonging to these races.
Due to government policies Chinese Americans were denied citizenships until the 1950s. These people were prohibited from owning property and the opportunities for them to get jobs were also limited.
The increase in the number of men returning from WW II and joining the workforce led to a large scale displacement of women from their employment positions. There was a drastic change in the quantum of women in the American labor market who traditionally were holding the fort in places of men attending the war. These women were holding the male dominated positions and they returned to their original position of homemakers. It took until the year 1970 for more number of women to reenter job market to increase the proportion of working women.
Although the American economy had to suffer a mild recession immediately after WW II, it experienced an unprecedented growth afterwards. The influence of United States was felt across the world due to its wide participation in WW II. Since the world was recovering from the effects of war, world market offered a boom to the American economy. The country was in strong economic positions and changed its foreign policies in favor of international business. This has helped United States to gain more strength through exports. Changes in domestic policies adopted by Roosevelt’s administration created a favorable domestic economic climate for increased activities (American Anthroplogical Association).
There were many foreign policies that the US government adopted helped the economy grow at a faster pace. The most important was the Marshall Plan. This Plan helped the Western Europe countries worst hit by WW II to recover from the effects of war and to resist communist expansion. These European countries offered a potential market to United States for goods manufactured in US. The growth in exports helped the local economy also to grow. International Monetary Fund (IMF) created by the United States helped the global economy grow and this in turn helped the United States to expand its export market. Large loans provided by IMF to developed and developing countries enabled them to buy goods and services from the United States, thus enabling US economy to become stronger.
The advancements in engineering field and production techniques enabled American businessmen and industrialists to take advantage of the situation to enlarge their business domain. This move supported by liberal foreign policies of the government made the postwar economic environment conducive for faster development. The emphasis of the government as well as of the industry was on development of international business opportunities. Because of the available opportunities the industry could operate effectively in the new political and economic environment that emerged after the ending of WW II.
The increased buying of homes by the returning GIs and the local people facilitated by low interest mortgages offered by the Federal Home Mortgage association created a surge in the economic development. In addition to the support provided by low interest mortgages, new suburban communities developed across the country also helped the housing boom to emerge in the country. The increased demand for housing led by the housing boom had its positive impact on the construction sector with increased activities and employment opportunities in construction industry. With the starting of Cold War in 1947 there were increased employment opportunities because of increased military activity in the United States.
AmericanAnthroplogicalAssociation. 1945-1950s: Economic Boom, Discrimination. 2008. Web.
Clare, John D. Cold War 1945-63. Web.