It is possible to argue that Truman (with the creation and the implementation of his Doctrine) made the first steps towards the American presence in Southeast Asia that involved United States in Vietnam for a very long time.

An example of the application of the Truman Doctrine to Vietnam occurred in 1966 when Dean Rusk (Secretary of State) declared that “appearing before the Senate foreign Relations Committee who having quoted the Truman Doctrine said that is the policy we are applying in Vietnam in connection with specific commitments which we have taken in that Country.”[35]

It is important to note though that the Truman administration was not threatened by communism per-say (as subsequent administrations would be) but more with aggression… Such was the threat of the Soviet Union. Truman also argued that it was ‘arbitrary rule in and of itself, whether Left or Right, that contributes to instability in the world’ and he was committed to containing this sort of expansion.[36]

The Truman administration was completely influenced by the concepts of the balance of power, policy of containment and Domino Theory but, at the same time, it is possible to claim that Truman and his establishment were not just a part of an ideological war against Communism, “even at the height of the paranoia brought on by McCarthyism;”[37] in fact, all the implemented policies represented the principles of power acquisition in the international arena. This last point seems to be the most important in Truman’s foreign policy: in fact, about Vietnam and Indochina, the threat of a “Soviet aggression” was not that real and it is possible to define this fear as an American wrong perception (or even a false pretext) that later brought United States to fight and lose the worst war of the all American history.



Testimony of Abbot Low Moffat: (

Causes, Origins and Lessons of the Vietnam War, Hearings before the Committee on Foreign Relations. United States Senate, 9, 10, 11 May 1972 (Washington 1973).

William, C. Gibbons, The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War: Executive and Legislative Roles and Relationships, Part I, 1945-1961, prepared for the Committee on Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, by the Congressional Research Service, Senate Print 98-185, Pt. 1, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1984.

PP, Senator Gravel Edition (Boston: Beacon Press 1971), vol. 1.

Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States (Washington D.C.: Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Service), Harry S. Truman, 1948.

U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Supplemental Foreign Assistance Fiscal Year 1966 -Vietnam, 89th Congress, 2nd session. (Washington D.C.: U.S. Govt. Print. Off. 1966).


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Lloyd C. Gardner, Approaching Vietnam: from World War II through Dien Bien Phu, 1941-54 London, Norton, 1989.

Schulzinger, Robert D., A Time for War: the United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997.

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Young, Marilyn B., The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990, New York, HarperPerennial, 1991.


Herring, George C., The Truman Administration and the Restoration of French Sovereignty in Indochina, Diplomatic History (1977).

Taylor, Sandra C., Canadian Journal of History, December 1995.

Thomas J. Wheat, A State of Clear and Present Danger: History of American Foreign Policy during the Cold War, His. 188, 1998.