The Truman Administration: Its Principles and Practice

The Truman Administration: Its Principles and Practice

The Truman Administration: Its Principles and Practice

The Truman Administration: Its Principles and Practice

Excerpt

The difficulties with which Harry S. Truman was beset and hedged about when and just after he succeeded to the presidency are not likely ever to be overestimated, and to overstate them would be next to impossible. A suggestion, but only a suggestion, of their kind and moment--though hardly of their number and complexity-- is implicit in the observation that Mr. Truman had to be both a war President and a postwar or reconstruction President, and that he had to accomplish the transition with hardly more forewarning than had preceded his sudden induction into the presidency itself.

The thirty-second President was precipitated into his great office on April 12, 1945, in the midst of a global war, the duration of which could not then be foretold. In a matter of just over four months he found himself confronted with the radically different problems of demobilization. And those problems were as much civil and industrial as military, for the United States had been for over three and a half years totally dedicated to total war. The fortunes or misfortunes of war had already compelled him to determine as grave an issue as can ever have devolved on one man: whether to use or not to use the atomic bomb and, if it were to be used, when, how, and where. At Potsdam, he had to participate, with the minimum of preparation, in decisions that in retrospect appear hardly less grave in their long- run effect on a large fraction of mankind. The cessation of fighting left Mr. Truman the chief engineer of a structure designed to ensure enduring international peace; but its underpinnings were no more than laid when it became clear that his country was being inexorably drawn into war of a new kind, presently to be named "cold," against an adversary of as yet unknown stealth, subtlety, determination, and power. This war, whose end is still not in sight, was to remain prolific of mounting tensions and of multiplying problems to the new President's last day in office.

Probably no one would maintain that the vice-presidency of the United States, even if held for the full four years, is the ideal preparation for carrying such a load as Mr. Truman inherited. He held it for . . .

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