preload preload preload preload

"A New Kind of War": America’s Global Strategy and the Truman Doctrine in Greece Oxford University Press USA Howard Jones

28th December 2012 History Books 13 Comments

America’s experience in Greece has often been cited as a model by those later policymakers in Washington who regard the involvement as a “victory” for American foreign policy. Indeed, President Johnson and others referred to Greece as the model for America’s deepening involvement in Vietnam during the mid-1960′s. Greece became the battlefield for a new kind of war–one that included the use of guerrilla warfare, propaganda, war in the shadows, terror tactics and victory based on outlasting the enemy. It was also a test before the world of America’s resolve to protect the principle of self-determination. Jones argues that American policy towards Greece was the focal point in the development of a global strategy designed to combat totalitarianism. He also argues that had the White House and others drawn the real “lessons” from the intervention in Greece, the decisions regarding Vietnam might have been more carefully thought out.

“One hopes that everyone concerned about U.S. foreign policy will study Jones’s excellent work and absorb its thoughtful admonition.”–Perspective

“[An] excellent, well-researched study….Most impressive.”–Journal of American History

Howard Jones is at University of Alabama.

“One hopes that everyone concerned about U.S. foreign policy will study Jones’s excellent work and absorb its thoughtful admonition.”–Perspective

“[An] excellent, well-researched study….Most impressive.”–Journal of American History

“A New Kind of War”: America’s Global Strategy and the Truman Doctrine in Greece

  • 13 responses to ""A New Kind of War": America’s Global Strategy and the Truman Doctrine in Greece Oxford University Press USA Howard Jones"

  • Quick test
    4:35 on December 28th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    One of the most complex, divisive, and nuanced debates in the history of the twentieth century is the decision by U.S. President Harry S. Truman in August 1945 to drop two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, thereby ending World War II. A traditional conception of the decision, indeed the one most often voiced by actors in the decision, was that it was done to speed the end of the war and thereby preserve American lives that might be lost in future combat. The revisionist interpretation, often identified with Gar Alperowitz, argues that the war was almost over and that the Japanese were on the verge of surrender anyway. The reason to drop the bomb, therefore, had little to do with the ending of World War II and was aimed more at impressing and influencing future relations with the Soviet Union. Another interpretation suggests that the use of the atomic bomb had more to do with American racism, and that the U.S. would have refrained from using such a horrific weapon on other Caucasians in Europe. Other scholars condemn the use of such a weapon targeting large populations, including non-combatants, as immoral and obscene. Subsequent historians have argued various permutations of these interpretations and the debate remains far from settled.

    J. Samuel Walker’s “`prompt & utter destruction’: Truman and the Use of the Atomic Bomb against Japan” is a superb short discussion of the merits of each of these interpretations and an assessment of the current state of understanding on the subject. He takes an exceptionally even-handed approach, pointing up the strengths and weaknesses of each major argument and assessing how they have evolved over time. In the end, as Walker documents, five fundamental considerations played into the decision to use atomic bombs in August 1945.

    First, the decision makers, especially Truman, sought to end the war at the earliest possible moment. They believed this new and terrifying weapon would do so and should therefore be employed for what they considered the greater good of ending the bloodshed. Wrapped up in this argument, although Walker thinks it a bit of side issue, was a widely held belief that bringing the Japanese to the surrender table would require an invasion of its islands. This would be, as those considering it believed, a costly and lengthy campaign that might mean the loss of thousands of lives on both sides. Casualty estimates of all types exist, and they have been used in the debate since then to justify or condemn the use of the bomb. Walker finds that those estimates, which are at best educated guesses that range broadly depending on the assumptions and the perspectives of those making them, are less useful in assessing what took place than the understanding that Truman was unwilling to accept any more casualties than absolutely necessary.

    Second, Walker notes how Truman and his advisors were intensely concerned that they had to justify the enormous cost of developing the atomic weapon, and a decision not to use it once it existed would open them to significant criticism. As Walker states, “The success of the Manhattan Project in building the bombs and ending the war was a source of satisfaction and relief” (p. 94). In this context, Truman expressed great concern that should he decide not to use the weapon once he had it that every American life lost thereafter would have been wasted. As he explained to Secretary of State James F. Byrnes in 1947, “I believe that no man, in our position and subject to our responsibilities, holding in his hands a weapon of such possibilities for accomplishing this purpose and saving those lives, could have failed to use it and afterwards looked his countrymen in the face” (p. 94).

    Third, at least one of Truman’s advisors, Secretary of State Byrnes, realized immediately and argued to his colleagues that this weapon would be useful in helping to bend the Soviet Union to American wishes in the post-war era. Truman recognized this as well, but according to Walker this was definitely an added bonus and not the primary consideration in using the bomb. Walker concluded, “Growing differences with the Soviet Union were a factor in the thinking of American officials about the bomb but were not the main reason that they rushed to drop it on Japan” (p. 95). Gar Alperowitz’s “atomic diplomacy” thesis, therefore, has merit however overstated it might have been.

    Fourth, Walker asserts that there was a lack of incentives among those making these decisions not to use the bomb. “Truman,” Walker notes, “used the bomb because he had no compelling reason to avoid it” (p. 95). While many people since 1945 have questioned the morality of its use, Truman and his advisors did not let those scruples–and they did exist among them–outweigh their goal of ending the war as quickly as possible. Indeed, by the last year of the war conventional weaponry had laid waste to so many cities containing thousands of non-combatants–witness the firebombing of or Dresden and Tokyo–that virtually no one in a senior decision making role in the U.S. questioned the use of nuclear weapons despite their destructiveness since they believed dropping these bombs would shorten the war and save American lives.

    Fifth, Walker comments that “Hatred of the Japanese, a desire for revenge for Pearl Harbor, and racist attitudes were a part of the mix of motives that led to the atomic attacks” (p. 96). Again, this was not the primary consideration in dropping the bomb on Japan, “But the prevalent loathing of Japan, both among policymakers and the American people, helped override any hesitation or ambivalence that Truman and his advisors might have felt about use of atomic bombs” (p. 96).

    Walker ends “prompt & utter destruction” with a series of questions still being debated about the decision to use the bomb. These include: “(1) how long the war would have continued if the bomb had not been used; (2) how many casualties American forces would have suffered if the bomb had not been dropped; (3) whether an invasion would have been necessary without the use of the bomb; (4) the number of American lives and casualties an invasion would have exacted had it proven necessary; (5) whether Japan would have responded favorably to a American offer to allow the emperor to remain on the throne before Hiroshima, or whether such an offer would have prolonged the war; and (6) whether any of the alternatives to the use of the bomb would have ended the war as quickly on a basis satisfactory to the United States (pp. 108-109).

    These historiographical questions ensure that future study of this subject will remain contested; overlaying all of it, of course, is the question of the morality of Truman’s decision. Walker offers no conclusion to the debate, instead inviting further inquiry and exposition as each scholar makes a contribution to the marketplace of ideas where positions will be evaluated and accepted, rejected, or modified. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the nature of the end of World War II and the beginning of the cold war.

  • Evon Guire
    4:57 on December 28th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    “A New Kind of War” by Howard Jones gives its readers a look into the Truman Doctrine. The author’s work is well researched and thorough. Jones offers readers a look at the importance of the Truman Doctrine in America’s foreign policy. Although the main emphasis that Jones adhered to was how the Truman Doctrine impacted Greece and the metamorphosis of American foreign policy as it aimed to contain Soviet expansionism, Jones also makes a point to discuss how policymakers may not have considered involvement in Vietnam as carefully as they should have in light of the intervention in Greece.

    Jones begins by giving readers important background regarding the struggle between Greece and the KKE, the Greek Communist Party. The Greek civil war occurred just after German occupation during World War II. The occupation by Germany left Greece very unstable. The author tells how the Soviets began to pressure Greece; and how Communist Russia was poised to take Greece and neighboring Turkey into its possession. Jones explains how Britain’s economy was lagging and that the nation could not continue to assist Greece in fighting off the KKE. Because Britain withdrew its assistance so quickly, America was left to determine the course of action regarding the war in Greece. Jones explains that America’s position after World War II was one of power in the eyes of other nations, and that America was expected to respond to Greece’s need for aid. America felt that by giving aid to Greece, they could prevent Greece from falling under communist rule. Jones describes how the administration felt that should Greece fall to the KKE, that the results would be a sort of chain reaction-”domino effect”-throughout Western Europe.

    Jones titles his book “A New Kind of War” because of the changing dynamic of conflicts at the global scale. Basically, the author expresses the idea that the war that was being faced was not simply a combat war, but also a war with policy decisions that would allow the rest of the world to judge between the Communist Soviets and democratic America. Jones states, “The United states had to develop a policy that would at once be flexible enough to handle contingencies and yet be sufficiently restrained to prevent local conflict from erupting into full-scale war” (page 16). This is where the Truman Doctrine enters into American foreign policy.

    In his analysis of the Truman Doctrine as a global strategy, Jones explains that the doctrine is known as”the first shot of the Cold War” by critics (page 36). He goes on to note that some feel that the doctrine was an arrogant use of power that helped to lead America into the conflict in Vietnam. Jones also expresses the opinion that the doctrine showed America’s fortitude in containing communism. Jones not only addresses the benefits and negative aspects of the Truman Doctrine, but he also addresses the fact that the doctrine was designed to combat the fight against communism in social, political, and economic ways.

    Covering the specific provisions of the Truman Doctrine in detail, Jones gives readers a sense of the ideas behind the policy. On March 12, 1947, President Truman introduced his economic and military aid program to Congress. Truman asked for $400 million in aid for Greece and Turkey; and although he never stated that the money would be going towards aiding the struggle against communism, it was obvious though his referral to the “two ways of life” and the struggle between them (page 43).

    Jones cites the military itinerary of the Truman Doctrine to be the most controversial aspect of the doctrine. In his discussion of American military intervention, the author highlights the careful consideration on the part of the American government as to whether or not to send American forces to fight in Greece. America ultimately acknowledged, “only the Greek army could win (or lose) the war” (page 94). Jones discusses how America did, however, decide to send American officers to Greece to offer “operational advice” in the field.

    Jones includes little known facts about the struggle in Greece. This information-such as the reports in early 1948 that guerrillas were abducting children and taking them to Yugoslavia, a Communist nation-helps readers to see why the American government was so adamant about helping Greece and Turkey ward off the Communists. The author is also careful to emphasize the extensive considerations that went on behind each of the decisions made in regard to the situation in Greece.

    In his evaluation of American strategy, Jones is concise. “The administration’s strategy worked,” explains the author, “because the advisers maintained the distinction between the ideal and the reality” (page 226). Jones expounds on this by stating that America’s goals were consistent and that the main goal was to simply help Greece fight its own battle. In contrast, Jones explains that the goals of intervention in Vietnam were less cohesive and did not call for the South Vietnamese to fight for themselves, rather that Americans would come in and fight for them.

    Jones expresses the wisdom of the Truman Doctrine in regards to Greece. The utilization of the flexible and restrained policy allowed America to answer Soviets in a way that would prove to be wise. The government realized that America would not be able to impose the same policy on each nation or situation, and therefore the policy was solid with respect to meeting a variety of challenges (page 236). “The Greek experience constituted a victory for America’s foreign policy,” states Jones (page 226).

    Although the main focus of “A New Kind of War” was on the Truman Doctrine and the results of good foreign policy regarding Greece, Jones still manages to point out how sometimes foreign policy decisions are not as carefully evaluated as they should be. Jones uses a plethora of sources to research his work and he provides the reader with a complete view of the Truman Doctrine and the circumstances surrounding it. Overall, the book was of stellar quality.

  • Merzer Schike
    7:48 on December 28th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This book is an important contribution to the ongoing (and seemingly never-ending) debate on the reasons why the U.S. chose to drop two atomic bombs on Japan. The author took it upon himself to clearly determine whether the bomb was militarily necessary – as has been suggested by many U.S. historians writing before J. Samuel Walker – or whether it might have been used for purely political reasons such as intimidating the Soviet Union.

    The results he comes up with are in many ways quite remarkable. For instance it becomes evident that then president Harry S. Truman was never confronted with the categorical choice between using the bomb and invading the Japanese main islands (which might have involved heavy U.S. losses). Indeed, by the beginning of summer 1945 Japan was believed to be so weak that the war was expected to come to an end before an invasion began, and even if it had been necessary to proceed with an invasion, the resulting casualties were supposed to be much fewer than Truman and his top-level advisers claimed after the war. However, Walker demonstrates rather convincingly that whichever alternatives might have existed, the bomb nevertheless proved to be the best means to win a decisive victory at the lowest cost in American casualties. Taking into account the element of time, one begins to understand how great the temptation must have been for Truman and his cabinet to drop the bombs and thereby finish the war with a clean stroke. Although other reasons, too, played an important part in the ultimate decision, the finding that using the bomb simply provided the president and his advisers with the most convenient measure to end the war is a compelling one and without doubt the book’s most valuable message.

    J. Samuel Walker has to be applauded for presenting the reader with this highly readable account of the line of reasoning behind the U.S. decision to use atomic bombs against Japan. The book is both concise and completely free of any emotion otherwise detrimental to a scholarly approach to this debate: a truly outstanding work – and probably the final say on the subject!

  • Lynn VanDyke
    10:00 on December 28th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I bought this book for school.. I have not read it yet but it arrived in perfect condition.. Very fast shipping.

  • ejzgames
    12:59 on December 28th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I thought that this book was very informative in every way. It was precise on everything about the A-Bomb. It was 400 pages of some of the best written material that I have ever read in my life. If you are looking for a book about A-bombs please check out this book because it just might be the best book on A-Bombs you ever read

  • interesting
    16:55 on December 28th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Are you looking for a good book on A-Bombs then well this is definitely the book that you have to read. It is informative and interesting in everyway. All the way from the making of the bomb to when it was dropped to now with even stronger bombs. It is a very good book.

  • Ronnie Myers
    18:39 on December 28th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Ideology defined: The body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture.

    If you have already made up your mind that the atomic bombings of Japan were wrong, you have two choices: (1) Don’t buy the book and participate in the next demonstration against the bombings which will, again, make you feel morally superior; (2)buy the book and realize that it was not as simple a decision as you thought it was. Then ask yourself, what would I have done in 1945? Very challenging book. It certainly provides a very good understanding of the choices Truman had to deal with and the feelings in the US at that time.

    One final point for the anti-bombing crowd: Check the stats on the casualties in the conventional bombings of German and Japanese cities.
    And educate yourself about Japanese atrocities in China: 350,000 slaughtered in Sungchiang, and between 260,000-350,000 civilians murdered in Nanking. That’s for starters.

  • Desiree Mahnke
    0:46 on December 29th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This is a jewel of a book on the end of World War II. There have been many myths about Truman’s decision to drop the bomb-he even made a brief film explaining how he made the decision, but this clears the air. Truman never actually decided. Everyone involved simply assumed, and correctly so, that once it was completed, it would be used. The author points to many reasons why the atomic bomb should not have been dropped on Japan, most of them valid and discussed previously in historical circles. However, there is a very interesting tidbit about Stalin and some other surprises. It is well worth reading.

  • solipsism
    4:15 on December 29th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This book was an excellent historical account of the events leading up to the use of the atomic bombs. I now realize that there were a multitude of reasons for and against their use, and a lot of gray in between. The reader is presented the information and forced to make their own opinion on this very controversial event.

  • Tribble #
    4:50 on December 29th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This book gives a good overview but just that – an overview. The events and circumstances surrounding the use of the A-bomb simply must be addressed in greater depth for one who wishes to become truly knowledgable on the subject. However, its brevity is also a strength in that for one just getting into the subject it serves as a fabulous introduction and for those already familiar with the subject, it sums things up into a nice recap. Contrary to some reviews of the book, the author does NOT ever say or even imply that the bomb should not have been dropped. Quite the opposite, he provides compelling reasons why the decision to use the bomb was sound and wise militarily, politically, diplomatically, and morally. Nor is this book any where near a “one-stop-shop” on the subject. So while not the final say, this book would be a good addition to a collection for the reasons mentioned above. The research is credible and the arguments are as a whole very sound. Highly recommended.

  • José P
    12:35 on December 29th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    My opinion about this book is it joins a long list of similar books that pick out parts of the decisions that were made in 1945 about use of the atomic bomb and criticize U.S. leaders who made decisions under the press of time and circumstance and in dealing with a Japanese military, which totally ran the country. In such a situation, someone like the author of this book (and there are many others like him) can go back and question the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan from the safe distance of more than 50 years. In my review of the handling of the atomic bomb in August, 1945, with very minor exceptions, the leaders of the United States made the correct decision based on all the facts.


  • Amenemhat
    22:50 on December 29th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I was confronted in a class with the claim that we dropped the bomb for the purpose of intimidating Russia. Not so, I exclaimed, we did it to prevent massive casualties from a land invasion of Japan! Well, this book was a real eye-opener. The book showed that neither viewpoint was accurate, but I came away yet confident that the terrible decision had not been irresponsibly nor immorally made.

  • Charles H.
    4:20 on December 30th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Prompt and Utter Destruction carefully builds arguments in favor of the decision to use the bomb based upon correspondence, interviews, etc., then tries to demolish them with speculative opinion. Perhaps this was done in the interest of objectivity; however, the result is a difficult to read, conflicted narrative. It is certainly not the definitive word on Truman’s decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan.

    If you have a passionate interest in atomic age politics, WWII, and/or the Manhattan Project (as I do), this short book is worth reading, if just to have imaginary arguments with its author. However, if your interest is less intense, I can save you some time. The main conclusion of Prompt and Utter Destruction is that Truman had very strong reasons to authorize the use of atomic weapons, and no good reason not to do so:
    (1)Atomic bombs might shorten the war and save American lives.
    (2)Demonstrating that the US will use nuclear weapons would scare the heck out of Stalin, making him easier to negotiate with after the war.
    (3)If they were not used, Congress and the American people would want to know why the government spent $2 billion developing them.
    (4)Japan had it coming (payback for Pearl Harbor, the Battan death march, etc).
    Against these reasons stood only the vague concern that maybe atomic weapons were immoral. Not a big concern to politicians of any era.

  • Leave a Reply

    * Required
    ** Your Email is never shared