Kennan, “Universalism,” and the Truman Doctrine
Abstract

Abstract:

Two key documents in 1947—the speech proclaiming the Truman Doctrine and George F. Kennan’s “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” article—ushered in a new U.S. foreign policy aimed at containing the Soviet Union. The Truman administration’s request for aid to Greece and Turkey envisaged a global approach, albeit a qualified one. Kennan’s article included a call for pressure on the Soviet Union at every opportunity and in every quarter. Two decades later, Kennan repudiated the literal wording of his own article and claimed, inaccurately, that he had disapproved of the Truman Doctrine when he saw it in draft. A close examination of both documents suggests that the Truman Doctrine was never intended as a “universalist” call to action and that Kennan’s article, despite its expansive phrasing, was also more limited in its aims than often thought.