Center for American Progress

National Security Lessons From the Harry Truman Administration

National Security Lessons From the Harry Truman Administration

Each generation of leaders has to delicately balance the dynamic between the politics and policy of national security.

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idea_bulbPresident Truman had to manage U.S. national security strategy alongside the demands of debate and the politics of American democracy. U.S. national security strategy abroad was challenged by an amalgam of conflicts: military engagements in Korea and Vietnam; diplomatic tensions regarding the race to space and nuclear arms negotiations; and the rise of nationalism in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Today, leaders in the White House and Congress find themselves facing a comparable situation. Key national security topics—tense negotiations with Iran; prickly relations with key allies; extremism in the Middle East; China’s ambitions and Russia’s provocations; along with rising global economic integration and a new nationalism—are reminiscent of President Truman’s tenure, when he tried to balance foreign policy, military responses, and domestic politics.

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