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Evolution of Foreign Policy, Economic and Military Aid

European Recovery Program, Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, direct aid, economic assistance

After World War II, American policymakers developed new tools to advance U.S. foreign policy goals. The United States provided economic and military aid to European countries devastated by the war. It helped repair broken European economies through the Marshall Plan (European Recovery Program) and later through President Harry S. Trumanís Point Four Program. The Marshall Plan of 1947, which was named after Secretary of State George Marshall, provided relief for the war-ravaged economies of Europe. The Truman Doctrine, proposed in 1947, was a response to the news that Britain could no longer maintain commitments to help Turkey and Greece. Fearful of Communist influence in these countries, Congress promptly approved Trumanís request for $400 million in direct aid. During the Cold War, nations that received military and economic assistance were expected to develop democratic institutions and ally themselves with the United States against the Soviet Union. In return they would be protected by the powerful U.S. military.

Between 1946 and 1988, while pursuing these policies, the United States gave a total of $212 billion in economic aid and $131 billion in military aid to other nations. After the Cold War ended, however, the proportions shifted. In the 1980s the United States extended $82 billion in economic aid around the globe and just half that amount in military aid.

Americans have disagreed about whether economic and military aid was actually useful. Critics of these programs complain that foreign aid rarely reaches the people of a nation; it mostly reaches only the governments and the leaders. Thus if the United States intended its contributions to be used for democratic or humanitarian efforts, the contributions were most likely wasted.

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