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10-08-2015, 22:15


In the immediate postwar era, the challenge was clear and intimidating. The peoples of Europe needed to rebuild their national economies and reestablish and strengthen their democratic institutions. They needed to find the means to cooperate in the face of a potential new threat from the east in the form of the Soviet Union. Above all, they needed to restore their confidence in the continuing vitality and future promise of European civilization— a civilization whose image had been badly tarnished by two bitter internal conflicts in the space of a quarter century. In confronting the challenge, the Europeans possessed one significant trump card: the support and assistance of the United States. The United States had entered World War II as a major industrial power, but its global influence had been limited by the effects of the Great Depression and a self-imposed policy of isolation that had removed it from active involvement in world affairs. But after the United States helped bring the conflict to a close, the nation bestrode the world like a colossus. Its military power was enormous, its political influence was unparalleled, and its economic potential, fueled by the demands of building a war machine to defeat the Axis, seemed unlimited. When on June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall told the graduating class at Harvard University that the United States was prepared to assist the nations of Europe in the task of recovery from “hun- ger, poverty, desperation, and chaos,” he offered a beacon of hope to a region badly in need of reasons for optimism.