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Building the Cold War Consensus

The Political Economy of U.S. National Security Policy, 1949-51

Benjamin O. Fordham

Publication Year: 1998

In 1950, the U.S. military budget more than tripled while plans for a national health care system and other new social welfare programs disappeared from the agenda. At the same time, the official campaign against the influence of radicals in American life reached new heights. Benjamin Fordham suggests that these domestic and foreign policy outcomes are closely related. The Truman administration's efforts to fund its ambitious and expensive foreign policy required it to sacrifice much of its domestic agenda and acquiesce to conservative demands for a campaign against radicals in the labor movement and elsewhere. Using a statistical analysis of the economic sources of support and opposition to the Truman Administration's foreign policy, and a historical account of the crucial period between the summer of 1949 and the winter of 1951, Fordham integrates the political struggle over NSC 68, the decision to intervene in the Korean War, and congressional debates over the Fair Deal, McCarthyism and military spending. The Truman Administration's policy was politically successful not only because it appealed to internationally oriented sectors of the U.S. economy, but also because it was linked to domestic policies favored by domestically oriented, labor-sensitive sectors that would otherwise have opposed it. This interpretation of Cold War foreign policy will interest political scientists and historians concerned with the origins of the Cold War, American social welfare policy, McCarthyism, and the Korean War, and the theoretical argument it advances will be of interest broadly to scholars of U.S. foreign policy, American politics, and international relations theory. Benjamin O. Fordham is Assistant Professor of Political Science, State University of New York at Albany.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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p. v

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p. vii

Without the help and support of many people, I could never have completed this work. Timothy McKeown patiently read and commented on many drafts, providing crucial suggestions and all the attention one could ask from a dissertation adviser. Also at the University of North Carolina, I benefited from the comments (skeptical as well as supportive) of the ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. ix-x

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1. The Domestic Political Economy and U.S. National Security Policy

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pp. 1-23

The period between the summer of 1949 and the winter of 1951 was a crucial one in the history of American domestic and foreign policy. During this time, the annual military budget roughly tripled, rising from $l3.5 billion to nearly $45 billion, only a fraction of which was earmarked for the war in Korea. Military budgets have not since returned to the relatively ...

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2. The Politics of Rearmament in the Executive Branch I: The Fiscal 1951 Budget

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pp. 25-40

Accounts of the defense buildup that began in 1950 nearly always center around a National Security Council report best known by its file number, NSC 68. The report, which was submitted to the president by a joint State-Defense working group on April 7, 1950, argued that the Soviet Union was engaged in an all-out effort to extend its influence and control over all regions of the world. It asserted that the means available to the Kremlin ...

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3. The Politics of Rearmament in the Executive Branch II: NSC 68 and Rearmament

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pp. 41-74

If the decision to reduce the fiscal 1951 military budget is difficult to explain in realist or statist terms, the abrupt reversal of that decision in the spring of 1950 is even more problematic. President Truman's decision to accept NSC 68's call for more military spending is better explained by the requirements of maintaining the political coalition supporting his ...

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4. The Political and Economic Sources of Divergent Foreign Policy Preferences in the Senate, 1949−51

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pp. 75-101

Did congressional debates over the goals and priorities of U.S. foreign policy during the early Cold War era reflect cleavages in the American political economy? This chapter presents statistical evidence that they did. The international trade and investment interests of home-state firms and industries, mediated by the party system, strongly influenced senators' foreign ...

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5. The Conflictual Politics of Consensus Building I: Korea, Rearmament, and the End of the Fair Deal

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pp. 103-130

The statistical evidence presented in chapter 4 links divergent foreign policy preferences to the international interests of different domestic economic sectors. The evidence presented in chapters 2 and 3 indicates that the president's decision to increase the military budget was closely tied to political changes in his administration and his need to maintain the ...

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6. The Conflictual Politics of Consensus Building II: The Development of the Internal Security Program

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pp. 131-150

This chapter steps back from the political bargaining process that followed U.S. intervention in Korea and examines the constellation of business elites, bureaucracies, and members of Congress that supported the effort to remove the influence of radicals from American life. This policy current and the internal security program it sought provided an institutional ...

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7. The Conflictual Politics of Consensus Building III: Rearmament and the Red Scare

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pp. 151-183

This chapter presents historical evidence concerning the implementation of the trade-off between the rearmament program and the campaign against domestic radicalism. The last chapter examined the identity and institutional position of the conservative bureaucracies, business elites, and members of Congress backing this domestic agenda. A theoretical approach stressing bargaining between coalitions of interests rooted in the ...

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8. Conclusion: Domestic Politics and Theories of National Security Policy

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pp. 185-201

In addition to explaining the linkages between domestic and foreign policy choices during the early Cold War era, this book has compared two theoretical approaches to the policy-making process. In chapter 1, I outlined a domestic political economy theory of foreign policy, contrasting it with the more familiar realist and statist approaches. The domestic political economy theory emphasizes political conflict among divergent foreign ...

Appendix: Data Collection

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pp. 203-206


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pp. 207-237


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pp. 239-251

Name Index

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pp. 253-258

Subject Index

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pp. 259-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780472023370
E-ISBN-10: 0472023373
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472108879
Print-ISBN-10: 0472108875

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 1 drawing, 9 tables
Publication Year: 1998

OCLC Number: 651663929
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Building the Cold War Consensus

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Foreign relations -- 1945-1953.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1953.
  • National security -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Internal security -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Cold War.
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