Study Guide

The Marshall Plan Main Idea

By George C. Marshall

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  • Main Idea

    So: World War II. That was messed up, right?

    Turns out that, in the battle against what everyone can pretty much agree was pure evil, everyone kind of wrecked Europe. And it's really difficult to put people back to work, post-war, when factories and railroads have been specifically bombed to oblivion. In fact, it's hard for people to do much of anything when their homes are piles of rubble.

    Enter the Marshall Plan. Its mission, should it choose to accept it: pump money into Europe in order to rebuild the dang continent.

    And this plan was pretty awesome for a few reasons.

    First, it's the right thing to do: a bunch of people who had nothing to do with the rise of Nazism, etc., were lacking schools, homes, and jobs. Second, a booming economy in Europe helps pretty much everyone. And third (and maybe most importantly), we don't want World War III. What's that? Oh, right, when you have terrible economic conditions, you're practically begging for totalitarian rule, and that could mean another war.

    Questions About Main Idea

    1. What were the responsibilities of the United States after World War II? Did the U.S. have an obligation to get Europe back on its feet? Why or why not?
    2. Was the fear of communism spreading or fascism reappearing a warranted one? Was the cost worth it? Did it work as intended?
    3. Why did Europe's economy recover? Was it an effect of the Marshall Plan, or was it just a natural rebounding after the end of the war? A combination of both?
    4. Was the Marshall Plan the wrong solution to safeguarding Europe from political extremism and helping it recover from the ravages of war? Was there another that would have worked better? Would it be primarily economic, military, or political?

    Chew on This

    The Marshall Plan was a bold solution that worked exactly as it was intended to. Without it, there would have been a large possibility of Europe falling to the communists.

    The Marshall Plan was a grotesque overreach of power. The United States should have used that money to help the people in their own country first before looking outward.

  • Brief Summary

    The Set-Up

    Marshall's point: things are really bad, you guys. If the United States doesn't help Europe's economy, we're going to be staring down the barrel of another world war with so many communists.

    The Text

    Turns out that war is bad for places. (We know; we're surprised too.)

    Even before the actual outbreak of fighting, the Nazis had pretty much destroyed their economy by shifting everything over to manufacturing tools of war. Since we just fought those guys, and don't want to again, they're not allowed to do that. So what's next?

    It gets even worse once you factor in the whole idea that manufacturing and transportation hubs were military targets. So in winning the war, the Allies pretty much crippled Europe's economy. Go team.

    The trick, according to Marshall, is to help bring the economy back and restore the spirit of people who've been bombed. A lot. The answer: cold, hard cash. The U.S. was pretty untouched by the war, so there's cash to spare. And, if we help Europe recover, it does good things for the world and keeps them from going over to the communists.


    The U.S. doesn't want a communist Europe, so we should give them money.

  • Questions

    1. Should something like the Marshall Plan be an assumed part of the cost of war? Should it be utilized whenever the USA goes to war? Or was it a bad idea that shouldn't have been used then?
    2. The Marshall Plan had broad bipartisan support at the time. How would it do in the modern political climate? Does a plan need bipartisan support to be valuable?
    3. Of all the goals of the Marshall Plan, which is the most important? Restarting the economy? Fighting political extremism? Helping those hurt by the war? How do these things interact?
    4. Shipping large amounts of money practically begs for corruption and theft. How should something like the Marshall Plan combat these negatives?
    5. Had the Marshall Plan been implemented at the close of World War I, would there have been a second World War? Why or why not?

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