Harry S. Truman: Presidential Rhetoric

By Halford R. Ryan | Go to book overview

Foreword

The seeds of the Cold War were sown before the end of World War II at the conference table at Yalta where Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin divided up the real estate of the post-war world. Here the Big Three made the decisions that would lead to the assembling of the nations constituting the Soviet bloc and, on the other side of the iron curtain, those that would join NATO. Here, too, according to his Republican critics, did Roosevelt lose China to the Communists. The war had created the Soviet superpower and it had, furthermore, unleashed upon the world the atomic bomb, which in due course the Soviets would also possess. The Cold War was a war of nerves, of lines drawn in the dirt, of bluster and posturing, of pronouncements and doctrines, of brinkmanship diplomacy and frustratingly indecisive military conflicts, which, however, stopped short of world war. John F. Kennedy, in his inaugural address, lyrically expressed the essence of the Cold War: "Now the trumpet summons us again--not as a call to arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are, but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle year in, and year out, 'rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation.'" Rhetoric did not merely describe the Cold War, it animated it. Harry Truman's presidential rhetoric established the stance and national self- image of the United States in this long epoch of U.S. foreign policy. The United States became in the words of David Horowitz "the free world colossus," or, to use Dante Germino's equally apt expression, a "supernation," that took upon itself the responsibility of protecting and championing the cause of freedom against its Communist foe.

For forty years the nation fought in word and deed against the perceived threat of Communist world domination. In the first decades of

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