History of Americas

Topic : The Cold War

Question 26 : For what reason, and with what success, did the United States adopt a policy of containment between 1947 and 1962?

Social Reasons for Containment Policy:


  • McCarthyism: Used the HUAC but had no real evidence to back up his claims.
  • HUAC- House Un-American Activities Committee purpose was to persecute suspected Americans in the community such as actors and public figures such as politicians of being affiliated with the communist party .
  • John Foster Dulles, secretary of state for Eisenhower, had attacked containment as an 'immoral' policy that had abandoned all those living in the Soviet bloc, and had called for the 'rolling back' of communism and the 'liberation' of Eastern Europe.
Political Reasons:



  • Domino Theory - the idea that when one country turned communist, bordering countries would soon follow, one after another.
  • The spread of communism would create a world with the lack of free elections.
  • Major changes in Indochina had particular impact on the US economy and its politics, as well as its ability to take aggressive action in other parts of the world.
  • According to most historians, Vietnam was the most striking failure of the US policy of containment .
  • Military threat posed by the Soviet Union.
  • Truman used the same fears of the spread of communism and the containment act to run-up to the 1948 elections and domestic politics saw the stand of campaign against communist subversion.
  • Some historians argue against the belief that United Sates withdrawal from Vietnam indicated a complete defeat of its policies and strategy for the region, instead believe that significant areas-Malaysia and the 'Asian Tiger' economies- were safeguarded. Through a combination of repressive regimes and booming economies , these states were able to resist the spread of communism.
Economic Reasons:



  • As the U.S emerged from the Second World War as a truly global power with worldwide interests, developments any where in the world might endanger the economic interest and thus the power of the US and should therefore be resisted.
  • Both United States industries and the military had benefited from the war economy and continued growth would be assured if a new threat appeared to take the place of the Axis Powers.
  • The Marshall Plan was an idea linked to economic aid as an anti-communist too, it was designed to gain congressional support, especially as an expanded European economy would also be good for United States exports.
  • Allowed the revival of the German economy within a European framework, thus preventing what France in particular feared-a new German dominance.
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