The Truman Doctrine: Europe Benefited, While the Rest of the World Including Liberia Endured Hardship - Part I
Dr. Wafula Okumu is a Kenyan national who happens to work in Pretoria, South Africa. Moreover, I attended graduate school with Brother Wafula; he’s a friend and brother of mine, he’s neither an “educated fool nor does he write garbage”. The format of The Perspective calls for the intelligent discussion of issues without resorting to name calling or insults. Therefore, the irony of Mr. Harmon’s reckless remark appears to me that he has difficulty engaging in civilized and intelligent debate with those he disagrees with.
I would have prefered not to join the debate regarding AFRICOM because individuals like J. Yanqui Zaza, Ezekiel Pajibo, Elmira Jackson, Jefferson F. Cooper and others have put forward the points I would have made if I had joined the debate. Having been prompted by Mr. Harmon’s reference towards Dr. Okumu, I am forced to join the discussion by responding to the supporting argument put forward by him in his defense of AFRICOM. My article will consist of two parts; Part I is titled: The Truman Doctrine: Europe Benefited, While the Rest of the World, Including Liberia Endured Hardship; and Part II is titled: The Liberian and African Experience: AFRICOM, another Case of “Smell No Taste?”
According to Mr. Harmon:
“From the perspective of Liberia, just as Russia was wrong back when they opposed the idea of Europeans accepting American economic assistance, that is how wrong J. Yanqui Zaza, Ezekiel Pajibo, Elmira Jackson and others are. Dead Wrong!
He added, “On 12th March, 1947, Harry S. Truman, announced details to Congress of what eventually became known as the Truman Doctrine. In his speech he pledged American support for ‘free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures’. This speech also included a request that Congress agree to give military and economic aid to Greece in its fight against communism.
“Three months later George C. Marshall, Truman's Secretary of State, announced details of what became known as the Marshall Plan or the European Recovery Program (ERP). Marshall offered American financial aid for a programme of European economic recovery. Ernest Bevin, the British foreign secretary, made it clear he fully supported the scheme but the idea was rejected by the Soviet Union. A conference was held in Paris in September and sixteen nations in Western Europe agreed on a four year recovery plan.” Culled from, (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmarshallP.htm) The rest, as they say, is history”.
It is “The rest, as they say, is history”, which Mr. Harmon writes so passionately about I will focus my article: The Truman Doctrine: Europe Benefited, While the Rest of the World Including Liberia Endured Hardship.
Before I begin, let me share a quote by the popular acclaimed American writer, Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Wilcox reminds us that, “To sin by silence, when we should protest makes cowards out of men. The human race has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised against injustice, ignorance and lust, the inquisition yet would serve the law, and guillotines decide our least disputes. The few who dare must speak and speak again to right the wrongs of many”.
Against this backdrop and, if history is any guide to understanding the genesis of the problem of a people, then the African experience is worth looking into with critical assessments based on practical and historical experiences. And it is in this respect, I intend to prove that neither Dr. Okumu nor Africans are the ones who brought about the ‘perpetual and continued existence of poverty in Africa’. But rather the Marshall Plan or the European Recovery Program (ERP) contributed enormously to the North-South divide and the underdevelopment of many parts of the world, Africa in particular.
First, let’s take a look at how the East and West conflict which affected Africa got started:
On 12th March, 1947, Harry S. Truman, announced details to Congress of what eventually became known as the Truman Doctrine. In his speech he pledged American support for "free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures". This speech also included a request that Congress agree to give military and economic aid to Greece in its fight against communism.
Three months later, George C. Marshall, Truman's Secretary of State, announced details of what became known as the Marshall Plan or the European Recovery Program (ERP). The Marshall Plan offered American financial aid for a program of European Economic Recovery. Ernest Bevin, the British foreign secretary, made it clear he fully supported the scheme but the idea was rejected by the Soviet Union. A conference was held in Paris in September and sixteen nations in Western Europe agreed on a four year recovery plan.
On 3rd April, 1948, Harry S Truman signed the first appropriation bill authorizing $5,300,000,000 for the first year of the ERP. Paul G. Hoffman was appointed as head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OEEC) administration and by 1951 was able to report that industrial production in Western Europe had grown 30 per cent since the beginning of the Second World War.
The European Recovery Program came to an end on 31st December, 1951. In its three year existence, the ERP spent almost $12,500,000,000. It was succeeded by the Mutual Security Administration. (Culled from: (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmarshallP.htm)
From the beginning of the Marshall Plan, the Soviet Union was opposed to it. Why? According to the speech delivered on September 18, 1947 by Andrei Vyshinsky, the Soviet Union spokesperson at the United Nations, “The so-called Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan are particularly glaring examples of the manner in which the principles of the United Nations are violated, of the way in which the organization is ignored. This clearly proved by the measures taken by the United States Government with regard to Greece and Turkey which ignore[d] and bypass[d] the United Nations as well as the measures proposed under the so-called Marshall Plan in Europe.
“This policy conflicts sharply with the principles expressed by the General Assembly in its resolution of 11th December, 1946, which declares that relief supplies to other countries ‘should at no time be used as a political weapon’. It is becoming more and more evident to everyone that the implementation of the Marshall Plan will mean placing European countries under the economic and political control of the United States.
“The so-called Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan are particularly glaring examples of the way in which the principles of the United Nations are violated, of the way in which the Organisation is ignored. As is now clear, the Marshall Plan constitutes in essence merely a variant of the Truman Doctrine adapted to the conditions of postwar Europe. In bringing forward this plan, the United States Government apparently counted on the cooperation of the Governments of the United Kingdom and France to confront the European countries in need of relief with the necessity of renouncing their inalienable right to dispose of their economic resources and to plan their national economy in their own way. The United States also counted on making all these countries directly dependent on the interests of American monopolies, which are striving to avert the approaching depression by an accelerated export of commodities and capital to Europe.
“It is becoming more and more evident to everyone that the implementation of the Marshall Plan will mean placing European countries under the economic and political control of the United States and direct interference by the latter in the internal affairs of those countries. Moreover, this plan is an attempt to split Europe into two camps and, with the help of the United Kingdom and France, to complete the formation of a bloc of several European countries hostile to the interests of the democratic countries of Eastern Europe and most particularly to the interests of the Soviet Union. An important feature of this Plan is the attempt to confront the - countries of Eastern Europe with a bloc of Western European States including Western Germany. The intention is to make use of Western Germany and German heavy industry (the Ruhr) as one of the most important economic bases for American expansion in Europe, in disregard of the national interests of the countries which suffered from German aggression.” (Culled from: (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmarshallP.htm)
Again, on March 23, 1947, Konrad Adenauer, added to the concern raised by Andrei Vyshinsky in a speech he delivered in Berne:
“It is impossible to understand the present condition of Germany without a brief survey of what happened after 1945. The unconditional surrender of the German armed forces in May 1945 was interpreted by the Allies to mean a complete transfer of governmental authority into their hands. This interpretation was wrong from the point of view of international law. By it the Allies in practice assumed a task which it was impossible for them to fulfill. I consider it to have been a grave mistake. They would have been unable to solve this task with the best will in the world. There was bound to be failure and this failure badly affected the prestige of the Allies in Germany. It would have been wiser if the Allies had, after a short intermediate state due to the confusion left by the war, let the Germans order their affairs and had confined themselves to supervision. Their attempt to govern this large disorganized country from outside, often guided by extraneous political and economic criteria of their own, was bound to fail. It brought about a rapid economic, physical, and psychological disintegration of the Germans which might have been avoided. It also seems that intentions such as had once been manifested in the Morgenthau Plan played their part. This continued until the Marshall Plan brought the turning point. The Marshall Plan will remain for all time a glorious page in the history of the United States of America. But the change was very slow and the economic, physical, moral, and political decline of Germany which had begun with the unconditional surrender took great efforts to reverse.” (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmarshallP.htm)
The principal architect of the tension between the Soviet Union and the United States was an individual named George Kennan:
George Kennan was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on 16th February, 1904. After graduating from St. John's Military Academy he studied history at Princeton University. In 1926, Kennan joined the Foreign Service and was appointed as vice-consul to Geneva. This was followed by posts to Berlin, Tallinn and Riga. Kennan was being trained as an expert on the Soviet Union and in 1929 was sent to study Russian at the University of Berlin.
In November, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. William C. Bullitt was appointed as United States ambassador, and Kennan became third secretary at the embassy in Moscow. After two years in the Soviet Union he was assigned to Vienna. This was followed by spells in Prague and Berlin.
Kennan was opposed to the idea that the United States should appear to be supporting the Soviet Union against Germany. He feared this would identify the United States "with the Russian destruction of the Baltic states, with the attack against Finnish independence, with the partitioning of Poland and with the domestic policy of a regime which is widely feared and detested throughout this part of the world".
The bombing of Pearl Harbor, brought America into the Second World War. Kennan was still in Nazi Germany at the time and he was interned. In April 1942 Kennan was released and was reassigned to Lisbon in Portugal. At the time this was a notorious centre of international espionage. In 1944 Kennan returned to the Soviet Union where he took up the post of minister-counselor and chargé d'affaires.
Kennan remained critical of the actions of Joseph Stalin. This included the decision by Stalin not to order the Red Army to support the Warsaw Uprising against the German Army in 1944. Kennan reported to Franklin D. Roosevelt that he should have a "thorough-going exploration of Soviet intentions with regard to the future of the remainder of Europe".
After the war Kennan returned to the United States where George Marshall appointed him as director of the State Department's policy-planning staff. Over the next couple of years Kennan developed the foreign policy of containment. Kennan argued that communist influence should be contained within existing territorial limits, either by armed intervention or, more often, by economic and technical assistance.
On 22nd February, 1946, Kennan sent a series of five telegrams to President Harry S. Truman. This eventually became known as the Long Telegram. It included the following passage: "At the bottom of the Kremlin's neurotic view of world affairs is traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity. Originally, this was insecurity of a peaceful agricultural people trying to live on vast exposed plain in neighborhood of fierce nomadic peoples. To this was added, as Russia came into contact with economically advanced West, fear of more competent, more powerful, more highly organized societies in that area."
The following year Kennan wrote an anonymous article in the Foreign Affairs magazine, where he argued that the Soviet Union was fundamentally opposed to coexistence with the West and desired a world-wide extension of the Soviet system. He added that communism could be contained if the West showed determined opposition to their expansion plans. Kennan's ideas subsequently became the core of United States policy towards the Soviet Union and were reflected in both the Truman Doctrine and the European Recovery Program (ERP).
The main thrust of Kennan’s argument in the Foreign Affairs magazine is, “It is clear that the main element of any United States policy towards the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies. It is clear that the United States cannot expect in the foreseeable future to enjoy political intimacy with the Soviet regime. It must continue to regard the Soviet Union as a rival, not a partner, in the political arena”. Culled from: (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAmarshallP.htm)
It is safe to say that African countries, nations in Asia and the Caribbean were victimized by the very pledge that was supposed to free them from “armed minorities” or by “outside pressures". Instead, the world was between the so-called “Free World (North) and the Communism (East). The rest is history.
Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961) of the Congo, the young anti-apartheid advocate, Stephen Bantu Biko (1946-1977) who died under suspicious circumstances, Nelson Mandela who was sentenced to prison for 27 years for advocating to free his people from “subjugation by armed minorities” and “outside pressures”. These were a few that were directly victimized the Truman Doctrine. Now you know why it is important for Africans, and for that matter, Liberians to critically examine the proposed AFRICOM (the so-called Africa Command)?
I will end Part I here with, “…Politics is both spectator sport and political activity utilized by organized groups to get specific, tangible benefit for themselves. While many of us see politics as a passing parade of abstract symbols, to others politics confers wealth, takes lives, imprisons or frees people, or does other things, good or bad…In short, politics is life. Not to be politically active or conscious is to neglect your life,” writes my friend and brother, Wafula Okumu.