From Publishers Weekly
Spalding, director of the Washington Program at Claremont McKenna College, claims the 33rd president "conceived, enunciated, and directed the strategy of containment" that fueled postwar US-Soviet relations in this flawed, dry political history. Truman inaugurated two major initiatives to stem what he saw as the march of communism across Europe: the Truman Doctrine, "the primary building block of containment" which proclaimed that the US would support "free peoples" resisting outside (read: Soviet) domination; and the Marshall Plan, which helped Western Europeans rebuild and "permitted the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist." Spalding argues that it was presidential advisor Clark Clifford, in a memo that integrated Truman's words and actions with administration policies from 1947 to 1949, that formed the basis of containment, and not usual suspect George Kennan in his article "Sources of Soviet Conduct." Among other elements, the memo emphasized that the Soviets were bent on "a chief goal of domination," a thesis counter to Kennan's view of the Soviet Union as a "nonimperialistic" actor. But dislodging Kennan from his perch as the pre-eminent Cold War theoretician is a Herculean task. Arguably, one of the elephants in the room is leading Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis, a proponent of Kennan-centered containment, whose work is only addressed in the final pages. An analysis of the moral underpinnings of Truman's containment is also left until the end, making the questions of morality and religion Spalding raises seem tangential at best.
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"Truman supporters will praise the volume... Recommended." -- Choice
"Offers a powerful example of how prudently to derive, articulate, and persuade principled political ends.... We owe Spalding a debt of gratitude for shedding important new light on the Truman Administration and on the character of its central figure." -- Claremont Review of Books
"This is an excellent book for those passionate about the evolution of America's national security and grand strategies pursued during the Cold War." -- Great lakes Bulletin
"Spalding's new book indicates what may become a new strain in the study of American foreign policy." -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
"An important reevaluation of Truman. " -- Ron Radosh, TNR blog
""This Harry Truman biography is more academic than most books about his colorful personality and presidency. Spalding's final chapter is a substantive treatment of Truman's underestimated faith, particularly in relation to his Cold War anti-Communism."" -- Paul Kengor, Christianity Today