The Foreign Service Journal - January/February 2018

26 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL FOCUS ON U.S. GLOBAL LEADERSHIP On the eve of its 70th anniversary, the Marshall Plan remains one of the most successful foreign policy initiatives in U.S. history and a model of effective diplomacy. BY AMY GARRETT Amy C. Garrett has served as the chief of the Policy Studies Divi- sion in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Historian for almost a decade. She directs this team’s efforts to provide high- quality, professionally researched historical expertise relevant to current policy issues and institutional decision-making to De- partment of State officials, bureaus and offices. Previously, Dr. Garrett worked as a staff historian in the Office of the Historian. She has also served as deputy press director of the U.S. Agency for International Development. The views expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. government or Department of State. T he European Recovery Program, better known as the Marshall Plan, is often cited as one of the most effective U.S. foreign policies of modern times. When there is a natural disaster, a humanitarian crisis or a national struggle with a social or economic challenge that demands immediate attention, American politicians and opinion-makers often call for “another Marshall Plan.” Announced on June 5, 1947, by Secretary of State George C. Marshall and signed into law by President Harry Truman on April 3, 1948, this famous initiative—which offered assistance to help European nations recover from the massive infrastructural Helping Europe Help Itself: The Marshall Plan and economic damage wrought by World War II—will soon cel- ebrate its 70th anniversary. Yet even though it is widely consid- ered successful today, many Americans were highly skeptical in the late 1940s that spending billions of dollars to help pull Western Europe out of economic distress was in the U.S. interest. Formulating the Marshall Plan In contrast with the massive direct food assistance the United States had shipped to starving Europeans immediately after the war ended, the Marshall Plan at its core was focused on the intricate, sometimes obscure details of long-term economic restructuring, industrial and agricultural infrastructure, interna- tional finance and trade. The legislation setting up the European Recovery Program consisted of a relatively complex set of stipu- lations and interventions formulated by economists, technocrats and industrialists to rebuild European money markets and economic infrastructure. In its simplest terms, then, the Marshall Plan was, as its official title implies, an economic recovery program rather than a humanitarian relief effort. It grew out of a consensus that developed within the Truman administration that, without help, struggling European economies with dwindling reserves of hard currency would be unable to participate in an international economy based on increased production, an efficient global distribution of products and an integrated global economy governed by liberal trade policies. That handicap, in turn, would