Policy of Containment post World War II

American Foreign Policy

The Policy of Containment post World War II

According to Bernstein (2002), in the post-World War era until the disintegration of Soviet Union in 1989-91, formulation of the foreign policy of U.S. was based on the plan of containment. United States continued following the policy of containment even in the 21st century to deal with countries with communist governments like Cuba, North Korea and China. Generally, containment means American endeavours to curtail spread of communism in the world through military, political and economic channels. Furthermore, this concept emerged after Second World War dynamics of global power and the concerns of U.S. leadership to avoid going into one more global war.

. In the view of Schoon (2011), primarily the concept of containment gained strategic importance and momentum after the author of the doctrine, George F. Kennan, a dominant foreign service officer in 1947 and further a regarded independent scholar, released an undisclosed article in July 1947 demanding ‘long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies’. Moreover, according to the Kennan’s view, expansionist approach of Soviet was more political in nature instead of threat of military might to the global power. To deal with this, Economics was considered the best tool.

Kennan’s ideas influenced U.S. foreign policy dominantly during 1947-48, wherein economic aspects were the most important in strategy formulation. Kennan’s approach seemed logical about the administrative decision to execute the Truman’s proposal of March 1947 to Congress for sanctioning $400 million aid to Greece as ‘essential to economic stability and orderly political processes’. It had a psychological effect on Soviet endeavour of penetrating Greece and thereby stopped further spread of Soviet in Europe. It also protected the non-industrial areas under the Soviet influence (Schoon, 2011).

The logic of containment in America’s commitments and engagements around the world after World War II

As per Pieper (2012), the reason behind the mobilization of military for containment was the communist revolution in China in 1949 and the onset of the Korean War in 1950. South Korea was backed by U.S. in fighting the communist North which was backed by China, with this a new dimension of Cold War strategy had emerged, that suggests, the reason for U.S. military intervention in the third world countries to contain Soviet domination. Without going into direct conflict, this proxy war in Korea started a foreign policy process wherein political instability in East Asia created a precarious unrest in an ideologically divided world between two extremes. The reasoning was that, if South Korea went under communist influence, it would lead to further expansion and assertion of Soviet domination, and thereby an extension of communist policies in the far-east countries.


Pieper (2012) explains, in following U.S. objectives globally, the need to dominate internal structure of third world countries became an important prerequisite. In the strategic positioning of U.S.-friendly regimes in significant areas, the purpose was containment of Soviet domination, which also had political, economic and security goals. U.S. foreign policy was based on a larger strategy of containing the Soviet Union, and instead for spreading Capitalism. It is also argued that U.S. foreign policy was reactive and based on circumstantial needs. Communist chaos in Greece and Italy or expansionist attempts of communists in Korea paved way for the formulation of containment policy.


Bernstein, B. J. (2002). Containment. 2nd ed. Vol. 1.New York, 345-364.Retrieved December 13, 2015, from World History in Context: http://ic.galegroup.com

Pieper, M. A. (2012). Containment and the Cold War: Reexaming the Doctrine of Containment as a Grand Strategy Driving U.S. Cold War Interventions. Retrieved December 13, 2015, from Student Pulse4(08): http://www.studentpulse.com

Schoon, S. (2011, July 26). Cold War Containment: the role of the military. Retrieved December 13, 2015, from E-International Relations: www.e-ir.info

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