Monroe and Truman Doctrines

The foreign policy goals of the United States government have changed over the centuries going from a primarily isolationist approach to international affairs to a more hands-on approach, especially following World War II. This post will examine the Monroe doctrine’s policy statements and contrast and compare them with the Truman doctrine. The goal of both presidents was deterrence. President Monroe wanted to stop European influence and intervention in Latin and South America. On the other hand, President Truman was the first president who had to deal with the spread of international communism.

The Monroe doctrine, mainly written by Secretary of State and soon-to-be President John Quincey Adams, had two primary goals: (1) Stop European influence in the Americas, thus allowing the United States hegemony of the Western Hemisphere. (2) The United States would remain neutral in any European wars and not intervening in currently held European colonies in the Americas. In some instances, the status quo was kept. However, European intervention in the Americas in a free and independent country or those that have “declared their independence and maintain it” would be viewed as “dangerous to our peace and safety” Monroe Doctrine (1823). President Monroe hoped that the powers of Europe would realize that subduing colonies in the Americas was unlikely and that they would adopt the same hands-off policy toward them as the United States.

The Truman Doctrine, adopted in 1947, had a similar containment policy, this time directed towards the Soviet Union. Following the rise of communist groups in Turkey and Greece, President Truman vowed that the United States would stand with the free people of the world. “I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures” (Truman, 1947). The Truman doctrine was an active policy. The United States would send money, equipment, and even fight wars to stop the spread of the international communism movement.

Although both doctrines are policies of containment, the Monroe doctrine was much easier to enforce. Its goal, while significant: keeping Europeans out of the affairs of independent states in the Americas, was, in fact, limited and realistic. The Truman doctrine, with its policy of global containment, was much harder to enforce. By 1980, communism had spread to every part of the world, with a third of the world living under the rule of a communist state (Eberstadt, 2003).

The aims and goals of both doctrines are due to their respective power and ambitions. The United States in the 1820s was relatively powerless militarily. Therefore, its foreign policy goals were modest. On the other hand, the United States post World War II found itself and the Soviet Union as the two superpowers competing for global hegemony. Post-war America was far more robust militarily and economically than the previous generations, and its foreign policy goals reflected that change.


Eberstadt, N. (2003, January 1). Population Aspects of Communist Countries. American Enterprise Institute.

Monroe, J. (1823). Transcript of Monroe Doctrine (1823). Our Documents — Transcript of Monroe Doctrine (1823).

Truman, H. (1947). Transcript of Truman Doctrine (1947). Our Documents — Transcript of Truman Doctrine (1947).

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