In the history of humanitarian aid, Hoover created a new history as he had brilliantly managed the state resources with the help of some highly motivated and publicly spirited volunteers. The tremendous results and message that conveyed were beyond imaginations. During the Great Mississippi River flood of 1927, he created another history in organizing rescue operations for the flood victims. According to Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy in the Presidents Club, people were left to convince that there was not a problem on the earth Hoover could not solve with his technical and organizational capacity. He was considered a kind of superman.
What Roosevelt had said in the early 1920s, was realized into the aspirations of American people and in 1929, he became the president of the United States. But only a few months later, the great economic depression followed his presidency devastated him completely and was doomed to become the most unpopular President in American history. The high expectations of the people turned into a similar disappointment that ultimately shattered his presidency.
In World War II, President Roosevelt ensured the victory of Allied powers, saved Europe from Nazi occupation and raised the morale of European countries for the very survival of democracy in the continent. As mentioned by C D M Ketelbey in A History of Modern Times, America had raised an army of twelve million to ensure the victory of war on behalf of Allied Powers to avoid the similar US retreat from the First World War that President Roosevelt believed was ultimately responsible for the World War II. He, therefore, was determined to build the machinery of post-war collective security into the very structure of peace agreements that followed the war and founded the United Nations.
Unfortunately, President Roosevelt could not see the conclusion of the war that he led so wisely and courageously. After his death Vice President Harry Truman succeeded him. Mr. Truman, an 80 plus days Vice President was destined to lead to the conclusion of the war. But to the surprise of many White House watchers, he did his job astutely and audaciously. He concluded the war and successfully created the bedrock for a long period of peace between major world powers.
But the true Truman was yet to born in Europe after the war.
The war had caused 39 million deaths in Europe alone. Industries, farms, cities, and villages all were turned into debris. People were forced to leave their home, abandon their property and migrate to new places with an uncertain future. Hunger and starvation were common. People were dying of cold, hunger and diseases. Food crises and food riots had engulfed the whole continent. Families were broken. Women and children suffered much more.
Once again, Mr. Hoover’s service was secured by the White House to shape the American Policy on Europe and also on the policy of reconstruction of Germany and Austria. Mr. Hoover, in the best interests of his country, succeeded in fighting the battle against famine in Europe and prepared the groundwork for Marshall Plan that restructured Europe.
Hoover’s efforts began to pay. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in his speech on May 14, 1947, at Albert Hall- London had drawn a clear picture of Europe when he said Europe has turned as “a rubble heap, a charnel- house, a breeding ground of pestilence and hate. Ancient nationalistic feuds and modern ideological factions distract and infuriate the unhappy, hungry populations.” During that speech, Mr. Churchill claimed that Europe could only meet those challenges only with a ‘‘United Europe’’ Movement.
From the war ravages a new Europe was emerging and earlier to his Albert Hall speech, British Prime Minister Churchill on September 19, 1946, had delivered, a historic speech in the University of Zurich, where he appealed Europe to rise for a United States of Europe.
Marshall Plan and Emergence of a New Europe
Then, George C. Marshall came into the scene. He was America’s a former Chief of Staff and the first five-star general. He had organized and directed the largest army in world history that led America and Allied power win the war against the Axis powers – commanded by Germany, Italy, and Japan. Immediately, after the war was concluded Marshall resigned from the Army and in January 1947, President Truman appointed him his Secretary of State.
Few months after, on May 27, 1947, in a memorandum presented to Mr. Marshall, his undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs, William Clayton stated that when millions of people are starving in the cities of Europe and if they did not receive prompt and substantial aid from the US, the economic, social and political disintegration will overwhelm Europe.
This, according to Clayton, would have awful implications – for the future peace and security of the world, and the immediate effects on the domestic economy of the US would be disastrous.
Thereafter, on June 5, 1947, George C Marshall, was at Harvard University to receive an honorary degree. There he delivered a short well-reasoned speech, popularly known as The Marshall Plan Speech. The remarks he made there if looked from his position as the Secretary of State, was an informal one, but by the time he finished the speech, that had become a landmark policy declaration upon which the post-war global order was constructed. Obviously, it was the bedrock for trans-Atlantic relations that had invited long-term responsibility of the United States for the unity and security of Western Europe.
In his speech, Marshall’s focus was restoring the confidence of the European people in the economic future of their own countries and of Europe as a whole.
He expressed American commitment to do whatever was possible for the revival of normal economic health in the world, ‘‘without which’’ he said, ‘‘there can be no political stability and no assured peace.’’
To remove the suspicions of the Soviet Union, he pledged the American policy not directed ‘‘against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos.’’ As said by Mr. Marshall, the purpose of the plan was only the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions could exist. Such assistance, he asserted, must not be on a piecemeal basis as various crises develop.
Perhaps the most important strategic message he imparted to American Allies in Europe was that the American assistance intended to help them stand on their own feet economically, had to be utilized unitedly, and therefore, he appealed them to come with such the initiatives. ‘‘The program’’ Marshall avowed ‘‘should be a joint one, agreed to by a number, if not all European nations’’. The only conditions attached with the aid was that all the recipient countries were to cooperate with each other and follow some type of united federal model so that they could combat against their economic and political woes.
Major West European countries like Britain and France were much enthused with Marshall’s speech. Immediately they called a conference of European countries to discuss the American offer. On July 12 (1947), the sixteen European countries including West Germany and Italy met in Paris. They formed a committee to develop a united framework of actions for the American Assistance and on September 22, the same year, the committee presented the report to the Secretary of State George Marshall under the name of Committee of European Economic Cooperation.
The Marshall Plan was meant to cover all European countries from either block – the Soviet and western, but the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, as mentioned by Nigel Hamilton in American Caesars, forbade all Soviet satellite countries in Eastern and Central Europe as well as the USSR to accept American Aid – thinking it as a capitalist ploy to undermine Soviet interests in Europe. However, during the War, Mr. Stalin had gracefully accepted food and other materials.
Czechoslovakia and Poland had agreed to participate in Paris conference on the Marshall Plan, but due to the pressure put on by Stalin they absented. According to Hamilton, Finland, considered although independent, declined to attend the conference with an aim not to antagonize Russia.
This signaled the beginning of Cold War and before that, the Soviet Union had already begun to criticize the US and its allies for their so-called capitalist and imperialist policies.
America is Safe Only When Europe is Safe
More than Marshall, it was President Harry Truman who was much excited with Marshall’s speech and immediately he initiated needed executive and legislative procedure to implement the project. With the Marshall Plan, President Truman proved his statesmanship and magnanimity. He selflessly authorized the plan to be named by his Secretary of State, as Mr. Marshall was widely popular in America and Europe as well. Any plan bearing his name was expected to move smoothly through the legislative procedures too. Mr. Truman only wanted the plan to get success and did not care for the credit for the plan and its successful implementation.
Besides, Mr. Truman was looking the project with quite a different angle that can well be understood by his observation as quoted by Stephen Graubard in his book, The Presidents: The Transformation of the American Presidency…, when he said, ‘‘in all the history of the world, we are the first great nation to feed and support the conquered. We are the first great nation to create independent republics from the conquered territory ….”
The plan successfully had built European confidence and had also prepared a foundation for creating a European Economic Community that is today the European Union.
Undeniably, because of war, Europe’s very survival was threatened and no other country in the world at that time was in a position to help them. With Marshall Plan America did it. In his renowned book The Marshall Plan, Benn Steil, has stated that between 1948 and 1952 the United States transferred $ 13.2 billion to the 16 Marshall Plan countries that in current dollar values was worth to some $130 billion. However, according to Steil, if calculated as a share of total US output over the period, this would be equivalent to $800 billion today.
The Marshall Plan is widely regarded as the largest and most effective foreign-aid program in history, and from among the countries fighting fiercely for centuries, the Plan created a united Europe and a united defense mechanism in the name of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). A united Europe with a common market and common defense shaped most stable democracies and most prosperous economies in Europe.
Ultimately, the strength of Europe, thus earned, was translated into American power in economic, political and military terms. The support and assistance that America provided to Europe after World Wars, was instrumental to make America a global power and command an international order in favor of America. A new Europe, fully committed to the ideals of freedom and democracy produced several forums for deep engagement between Europe and America—that ultimately helped America become First.
This partnership created global institutions that crafted an era of greater European peace and prosperity -not experienced in human history. This in return helped America amass unprecedented power and prestige that ultimately laid down the foundation for an American global order.
Europe’s trust over the United States was so great that it sacrificed all its military ambitions, forget all those past animosities among them and integrated into NATO and the European Union – the most important institutional mechanism for strengthening international order led by the United States.
Yes, there was a price to pay for it. In a peacetime, the price may seem a bit higher, but when compared to wars America and Europe fought in past, it is minimal.
Had America, failed in rebuilding Europe and protecting European democracy, then the US would have seen a world dominated by Communist Russia and the stability and prosperity that Western Europe has gained since then would not have been possible.
The history has exhibited — a safe America has come out of a safer Europe and similarly, a safer Europe is possible only when America is safe and protected. Political and military leadership across the Atlantic cannot undermine this for the vital security of their countries although, at times, they can make contradictory pronouncements only for the sake of internal political consumption and for a political luxury.
America and Europe have vast differences, but things that are common between them are much more important than those differences. Without their joint efforts the liberal world order – the bedrock for their security and prosperity, is hardly possible to sustain. For this, both America and Europe have paid the price gracefully and have made compromises. However, this has helped them defend their stakes, produce abundances of wealth and ensure greater peace among them. This offered America the massive global strategic power to defend its economic, political and military interest in the most important region of the world.
Unquestionably, Europe depends on the United States for its defense. It seems attractive to create a common European defense mechanism, but they on their own, may not have resources, willpower, leadership and motivations for such efforts. The differences among themselves in Europe is much more complicated than the differences they have with America.
On the other hand, it is a matter to note that during the World War II, a warring and divided Europe was planning to Attack America, and the strategic situation in Europe had prompted Japan to attack Perl Harbor. On 9/11 more than one hundred Europeans were killed and Europe is not only still threatened by Al Qaeda, but the threat to Europe is much more treacherous than to the United States itself.
America itself is the cultural extension of Europe. It offers global value chain that America has dearly hold for long. If America loses its political and military authority over Europe, America’s security itself will be imperiled. Therefore, for the time being, anyone from the positions of power in America or in any European capital, can ignore the basics of their partnerships, but the countries they represent will not agree with them in the course of time, the balance will prevail itself.