Sunday, October 06, 2002

What Bush Can Learn From Truman
Truman was a Woodrow Wilson internationalist — one who believed strongly in the efficacy of international law and organization. His instinct was to look for allies and international legitimacy in responding to security threats while mobilizing American resolve and resources. He built and strengthened multilateral institutions, forged broad alliances to confront the Soviet Union, and turned immediately to the United Nations when North Korea launched its attack in 1950.

Truman's policy of deterrence and containment was conservative at its core. It rejected the risks of a larger, potentially devastating war associated with "rolling back" Soviet gains in Eastern Europe. He was prepared to rein in an offensive-minded military to keep intact his strategic defensive policy by firing the very popular General Douglas MacArthur.

Facing strong Republican opposition in Congress, one that resisted much of his domestic agenda, Truman saw the wisdom of working hard to fashion bipartisanship on foreign policy. He championed a strong presidency but he respected the constitutional authority of Congress. His consultations with Congress on national security matters were early, continuous and substantive. In fact, he indicated to Congress that he would welcome Congressional authorization of military action in Korea but Congressional leaders demurred.