Research Paper: Marshall Plan and the Post 911 Global

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Marshall Plan and the Post 911 Global War on Terror

Many times in the history of the world, war or its aftermath has threatened catastrophe. Following the end of the First World War, the leaders of the victorious allied nations imposed punishing reparations on defeated Germany. The resultant economic depression and deep resentment has been blamed by many for the rise of Hitler and militant fascism. Hitler's ascent to power led directly to the even greater horrors of World War II. The carnage and destruction that was Europe in 1945 left impressions that were not easily dispelled. The Globe's leaders sought ways to prevent a repeat of the circumstances that had caused the two world wars. The United Nations represented an attempt to bring the nations of the Earth together in peaceful discussion. But the United Nations was not a military or economic power. Indeed, in 1945, there was only one great power in the World, and that was the victorious United States of America - a nation that dominated global affairs as had no other country before in the history of humankind. The United States; therefore, saw itself as possessed of a unique responsibility to build a safer and better world. The broken international system needed to be re-ordered, the devastated countries of Europe rebuilt as bulwarks against future military threats. The plan undertaken by the United States - the Marshall Plan - was one of joint economic and military assistance, the aim of which would be the preservation of United States security through the creation of a natural alliance between America and the nations of Western Europe and the wider Free World. For already, in the late 1940s, the world order was being challenged by the emergence of a new threat in the form of the Soviet Union and its bloc of communist allies. In a bi-polar world, the American Marshall Plan could mean the difference between success and failure, between life and death for American and Western democracy, capitalism, and social and cultural values.

Origins of the Marshall Plan

At the end of the Second World War, Europe lay in ruins. Great cities were little more than bombed out shells, particularly in Germany and Eastern Europe. Germany was entirely devastated, its economy non-existent, the country in the hands of occupying armies. As the war had drawn to a close, arguments among the Allies revolved around what to do with the country after Hitler's defeat. An early plan to divide up German territory among the victors was quickly shelved in favor of the need to rebuild and reorganize the former power, with Stalin's Russia demanding economic reparations and the Western Allies - the United States, Britain, and France - leery of re-creating the post-World War One conditions that had led to the second, more catastrophic war.

All except Stalin seemed agreed that the economic hardships imposed by reparations had played a leading role in Hitler's rise to power and the consequent success of a German revenge motivation in going to war against the other nations of Europe. Naturally, Stalin wished to recoup some of the Soviet losses at the hands of the Nazis. German depredations had been terrible, both in terms of loss of human life and materiel. Ultimately, it was decided that while the Soviets could extract reparations from their zone of occupation in East Germany, the West's priority would be the economic recovery of West Germany and its hope for participation in Western economic and political life.

Though on the side of the victors, France and Britain had been virtually ruined economically. France had been conquered, and then plundered, by the Germans. France was also the scene of much fighting, its cities and countryside still bearing the marks of modern industrial warfare. The British Empire had been brought to its knees by the strains of war, and its once great wealth was gone. Only two years after the war, the United Kingdom would be forced to let go of the crown jewel of its empire - India and all its potential riches. Italy and the smaller countries of the West were equally devastated. If economic aid was to come at all it must come from the United States. America was the only major nation untouched by the actual ravages of war. No battle had been fought on its soil, and its industry had actually expanded as a result of wartime production. At the end of the War, the United States accounted for fully half of the world's manufacturing output, and held an unbelievable sixty-one percent of its total gold reserves, and five years later American reserves were still 2.73 times as great as its liquid liabilities.

Only the United States possessed the necessary wealth, and wealth-generating capacity, to fund any sort of international recovery.

In 1946 and 1947, Europe appeared to descend deeper into collapse as even the forces of nature seemed arrayed against it. The continent that Winston Churchill described as nothing more than a "rubble heap, a charnel house, a breeding ground of pestilence and hate" was buffeted by a severe drought followed by a severe winter, while Germans and Austrians starved in the streets, six million British subjects remained out of work, and communist forces almost triumphed in Greece.

The rampant spread of Soviet communism throughout Eastern Europe appeared to find fertile ground for further expansion in the spreading horrors of the West and South. Americans realized that something must be done if the entire continent were not to fall under the sway of Marxist ideology and Soviet-backed regimes. Seen in this light, the plan for European recovery was a form of emergency aid that was meant to prevent the strengthening of America's enemies. A nation that had risen to global preeminence through the power of capitalist know-how could not allow the reaction to the horrors of war threaten its future success and influence. The more Stalin consolidated his hold over Eastern Europe, the more American interests appeared threatened in the rest of the continent. The Berlin Airlift was but a symbol of possibly dire problems, as Soviet forces closed off access to West Berlin. General George Marshall returned from his 1947 visit to Europe convinced that Stalin was determined to overrun the West - only a firm plan for European recovery would create the necessary conditions to prevent a cataclysm, in the words of the historian Theodore White, "The Marshall Plan had won because it had linked gain with freedom, had assumed that the movement of minds and the movement of peoples must go with the movement of goods and merchants."

The plan for the economic recovery of Europe would be premised on the idea that wealth and prosperity would bring with them a respect for capitalism and democratic institutions and, most importantly of all, a commitment to a system of joint security presided over by the United States of America.

The Marshall Plan: Implementation and Specific Goals

The Marshall Plan was much more than a means to aid in the recovery of nations devastated by war. Rather it was an elaborate scheme designed to instill a complete system of values, and so create a power bloc that would be juxtaposed against the growing threat from the Soviet system. The European states that were the target of American assistance would receive sizeable grants of funds as well as technical and other forms of aid. The idea was to strengthen capitalism at the same time as the local economies were rebuilt. American methods of business were imported along with much needed cash. American know-how would be used as a tool of American propaganda. By showing what good the United States could do for the people of the "old continent," the ideas and tastes of the new continent would gain wider acceptance. American would come to set norms and goals. Everything would work toward the furtherance of American interests. Not only economic, but also political, cultural, and social alliances would be built. A kind of symbiosis would hopefully develop that would guarantee American security and predominance as far as the eye could see.

George Marshall delivered a speech at Harvard University on June 5, 1947 in which he specifically addressed the issue of European "demoralization," speaking of how that demoralization threatened overall peace and security:

Aside from the demoralizing effect on the world at large and the possibilities of disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of the people concerned, the consequences to the economy of the United States should be apparent to all. It is logical that the United

States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace.

In keeping with the idea that the program was meant to benefit Americans and Europeans equally, Marshall emphasized, in addition, the notion that much of the initiative for the scheme must come, not from the United States, but from the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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