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Title:Harry S Truman, the politics of Yalta, and the domestic origins of the Truman Doctrine
Author(s):Ubriaco, Robert D., Jr.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Widenor, William C.
Department / Program:History
Political Science, International Law and Relations
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, United States
History, Modern
Political Science, International Law and Relations
Abstract:Events in 1946 marked a pivotal turning point in the development of Cold War tensions. Both Stalin and Truman abandoned accommodationism in favor of a more aggressive foreign policy approach. U.S. activity in the Mediterranean, Iran, Europe, and Southeast Asia clearly indicated that lines of containment had been drawn. Most historians agree, however, that the American public still lacked interest in foreign affairs at this critical juncture. Bread and butter politics dominated the 1946 campaign agenda and subsequently this election continues to be labelled the "beefsteak election."
This thesis, however, offers a different interpretation of this election and draws attention to the domestic implications of early Cold War foreign policy. Focusing on three Polish-American communities, it demonstrates that Truman's inability to derail the Sovietization of eastern Europe generated an ethnic revival in Polonia that culminated with a widespread belief that a "betrayal at Yalta" had occurred. Poles, who had traditionally voted for Roosevelt and the New Deal, jumped ship and voted Republican for the first time, if ever, since the Great Depression. As in other hyphenate districts, this backlash helped defeat incumbent congressmen in Chicago and Milwaukee, and it caused serious alarm in Hamtramck, Michigan.
Truman reacted to this problem in true political form. He immediately realized that internal disagreements within the party must be resolved before they evolved into irreconcilable differences. Most historians generally agree that domestic politics influenced the unveiling of this speech. The president lacked the support for an unprecedented foreign aid program. Therefore Truman needed to "educate" the public and "mobilize consent" for postwar containment. But this work suggests that an additional piece be added to the puzzle. Truman understood that he would be forced to rely on symbolic rhetoric in his defense of eastern Europe, and if tailored properly, this event could be used to dispel further defections and reinvigorate the New Deal coalition. George Kennan may have criticized the president for offering a "blank check" to the world, but perhaps this was Truman's purpose all along since it finally severed all of his ties with Roosevelt's "Yalta axioms." From a theoretical perspective this study also illustrates how grass roots politics, or bottom up social forces, affect the foreign policy decision making process in American diplomacy. By emphasizing the importance of electoral accountability, it concludes that domestic politics and foreign policy are explicably intertwined and have a considerable impact on the direction of U.S. foreign policy.
Issue Date:1992
Rights Information:Copyright 1992 Ubriaco, Robert D., Jr
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9305718
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9305718

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