Study Guide

Truman Doctrine Analysis

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  • Rhetoric


    As a joint address to Congress doubling as an official statement on foreign policy, Truman's speech needed to convey the president's position as clearly and confidently as possible. Sure, there are some appeals to emotion and other "pathos-invoking" subjects. But the biggest persuasive standouts are his appeals to logic and a sense of reason: his use of logos.

    Check out a few prime examples:

    The foreign policy and the national security of this country are involved. (2)

    This is Truman's way of subtly saying, "Are you guys even listening?" The situation he's discussing involves one of the biggest essentials to our own wellbeing: our safety. You can't just ignore that.

    Next up:

    The United States must supply that assistance. […] There is no other country to which democratic Greece can turn. No other nation is willing and able to provide the necessary support for a democratic Greek government. (27; 29-30)

    "Like seriously," says Truman. Now that the UK is pulling out of Greece, there's no other country that is financially strong enough to help them besides us. This is beyond the scope of what the UN can do. Therefore, by process of elimination—another strategy for appealing to logic—it's up to the U.S. to save the day.

    And lastly:

    If Greece should fall under the control of an armed minority, the effect upon its neighbor, Turkey, would be immediate and serious. Confusion and disorder might well spread throughout the entire Middle East. (81-82)

    Really, isn't the entire domino theory, with its lines of dominoes and sequential reasoning, an appeal to logos?

    Truman uses logos for the same reasons we use a mobile app to order pizza: it's simple, straightforward, and easy to get what we want in under twenty minutes. Plus, we all know that pizza and freedom are basically the same thing.

  • Structure


    We can be certain "The Truman Doctrine" is a speech for a couple of reasons. For starters, Truman opens with an acknowledgement of his audience:

    Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Congress of the United States…

    Speeches are usually delivered to an audience, right?

    Second, if we put on our handy-dandy critical reading glasses, we can also separate the text into basic sections, like an intro, thesis, etc., that are often associated with making an argument. Then, we can remind ourselves that persuasive arguments are often presented as speeches.

    And finally, if we consider the fact that presidential doctrines are often presented as speeches— and we know that this text happens to have the name "doctrine" as well as a reference to a president in the actual title—we just know we're dealing with a speech.

    How it Breaks Down


    Truman introduces why he's called a joint session of Congress to deliver this speech (one of two thesis statements he'll give). He hits us with a nice little road map of the topics he'll discuss, including Greece, Turkey, and our national security.

    Part 1: The Crisis in Greece

    Truman's first body paragraph—his point of discussion—is about the civil war in Greece. He explains what the people there are experiencing, and why his audience (and us readers) should care about them.

    Part 2: Turkey

    Truman's second point (it's not really long enough to be a paragraph) is about Turkey and how things aren't going too well there, either.

    Part 3: Why We Should Care

    Truman's third (and strongest) body paragraph/point is about how the previous two points deserve our attention and could affect us as a nation.

    Like any good persuasive speech or essay, he really ties everything together here. He also gives us his second thesis statement about what we should actually do to address the problems he's discussing (what he "believes") (74).


    He closes by restating his points—with a heavy emphasis on Part 3—and again explains why he's giving this speech (Thesis Statement 1). He also ends with a call to action that reinforces and connects with Thesis Statement 2.

    Good job, Harry. Way to restate your points and weave your argument(s) throughout your spiel.

  • Tone

    Serious; Grave

    In the case of the TD, Truman is the Morgan Freeman of presidents: stoic, reserved, and narrating a potentially life-threatening situation. Only in this case, the struggle is about human liberation and world peace—not the migratory hardships of emperor penguins.

    Throughout the speech, Truman uses words like "gravity" (1) and "immediate" (34; 81; 88) to express his level of concern for the growing communist threat. There are zero jokes or examples of light-heartedness to contrast with a number of harder, more concrete phrases like "militant minority" (14) and "if we falter" (107). Yikes.

    The possibility of not living up to why we fought "the war in Germany and Japan" is also a powerful reminder of an emotional time in the listener's history, and a warning sign sure to stop him in his tracks (60).

    And all of this is to get Congress to understand the Soviet threat…and what might happen if they don't do something about it.

  • Writing Style

    Simple and Direct— Plain Speak Without the Jest

    Remember back in our Key Player analysis of Truman, where we gave you a definition for a speaking and delivery style called "plain speak" and lobbed a few quotes showing how Truman used it?

    Here's a refresher:

    Plain speak = the act of saying what you think clearly and honestly without trying to be polite.

    Truman Example = If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. (Source)

    When it came to speaking style, Truman didn't know anything but plain speak. In fact, his oral biography was appropriately titled Plain Speaking.

    The writing style presented in "The Truman Doctrine" also invokes that same simplicity and directness of plain speak, but without the wit or sass. (We've decided the speech has a more serious tone instead).

    Here's what we mean by this plain speak writing style:

    The sentences are short. Like really short.

    There is no other country to which democratic Greece can turn. (29)

    This is a serious course upon which we embark. (96)

    Truman doesn't need long-winded sentences to convey his message. Instead, his sentence structure is short and declarative, just like a declaration of foreign policy should be.

    The speech itself is short.

    Let's think about this for a second. The speech took eighteen minutes. That's it. Eighteen minutes was all Truman needed to lay out a policy that would change the way the U.S. interacted with the rest of the world for nearly half a century.

    The way it's laid out is short.

    Refer back to our section on how the speech breaks down. You can pretty much pick the text apart as a five-paragraph essay. Even better, the transcribed version of the text provides a visual breakdown of the natural pauses Truman put into his delivery—what show up in the transcription as line breaks.

    These breaks allow the reader/listener to follow along with ease. Think of them as structural rest stops inserted for you to stretch your legs and reflect on what's just been said.


    Together, all of this creates a speech that, while grave and serious in tone, is simple, direct, and to the point. As Truman himself said, he wanted the speech to be free of any kind of (complicated) double talk and hated anything with a lot of "hooey." (Source)

    (For an even closer look at "plain speak," check out our readings of the Opening and Closing sections of the speech.)

  • What's Up With the Title?

    The Truman Doctrine

    As foreign policy goes, doctrines are kind of a big deal.

    Basically, a doctrine is a speech or published statement that outlines a speaker's stance on an issue or certain set of ideas. Presidential doctrines specifically deal with issues or ideas regarding foreign policy.

    They're almost always given before a joint session of Congress, because the president needs Congress to support his stance (doctrine) by approving legislation that funds or enforces the doctrine. To give credit where it's due and to also reinforce the "official-ness" of the statement, the doctrine is usually named after the president that presents it. The Truman Doctrine is called "the Truman Doctrine" because, well, it's President Truman's doctrine.

  • What's Up With the Opening Lines?

    Let's Get Down to Business (Sentences 1-2)

    Like we said in our section-by-section summary, the beginning of the speech should really have the opening of Mulan's "I'll Make a Man Out of You" playing in the background. "Let's get down to business," sings Donny Osmond as Shang.

    And that's exactly what Truman plans to do:

    The gravity of the situation which confronts the world today necessitates my appearance […]. The foreign policy and the national security of [the] country are involved. (1-2)

    That's it. No long-winded intro, no exchange of pleasantries or awkward conversations about the weather.

    Instead, Truman slams the reason he's there into Congress' face the minute he opens his mouth: our national security is being threatened and we're in danger. It's like one of those onomatopoeia freeze frames from the old Batman TV show with Adam West. (POW!)

    Also, notice that there's nothing about communism in these opening lines. That's because there doesn't need to be. "Gravity of the situation," "national security," and "foreign policy" are enough signposts for listeners in 1947, because everyone's talking about communism.

    And if they aren't concerned about it by now, Truman's going to spend the next 17 minutes, 30 seconds telling them why they should be.

  • What's Up With the Closing Lines?

    Remember that super clear, super serious opening about the "grave" situation our country is in?

    Well, Truman's going to remind us about it in his closing. Except he's so good at conveying how serious it is by this point in the speech, that he's going to do it in even fewer words than he did in the beginning (Twenty-four words in sentences 108 and 109 versus thirty-two words in sentences 1 and 2 to be exact. But who's counting? Don't answer that. Clearly we are).

    Throughout the speech, Truman has outlined the communist threat to both the future of our nation as well as our role as a global leader in democracy. Taking actions that preserve both are the grave, serious, and "great responsibilities" currently facing the United States (108).

    Also, remember back in sentence 1 how he acknowledged the fact that he's speaking before a joint session of Congress? ("The gravity of the situation which confronts the world today necessitates my appearance before a joint session of the Congress," he tells us.) Sentence 109—the very last sentence in the speech—returns back to that idea of this being an issue involving Congress:

    I am confident that the Congress will face these responsibilities squarely. (109)

    At the end of the day, the entire speech was written to ask Congress to join Truman in trying to protect these "responsibilities." That's why he doesn't end with a "thank you" or some other endearing closing. Instead, sentence 109 is to the audience. He's done his part by telling them what he thinks we should do and now it's up to them to theirs.

    Truman out.

  • Tough-o-Meter

    (4) Base Camp

    The good news is the Truman Doctrine isn't necessarily a long speech (it's barely six pages if you print it out). And, aside from a few vocab words like "totalitarian," the language is fairly clear and straightforward.

    What might be a little tricky, though, is the political and historical context surrounding the speech—remember: this isn't just a speech about Greece and Turkey, but the Cold War and the U.S. in the Cold War as a whole. Lucky for you, though, the history buffs at Shmoop have broken it all down and made it as painless as possible—because that's what we do best.

  • Shout-Outs

    In-Text References

    Historical and Political References

    Charter of the United Nations (78, 79)

    The foundational treaty of the United Nations, ratified in 1945. The UN Charter laid out a new structure for international organization and had its own special blurbs on equal rights and self-determination. Truman says the U.S.S.R. is in violation of the Charter, and they totally are.

    Yalta Agreement (67)

    The Yalta Conference was the second of three wartime meetings between "the Big 3"—FDR, Churchill, and Stalin. During the conference, Stalin agreed to allow free elections in Eastern Europe. But he didn't, so the rest of the world's mad at him. And Truman calls him on it.

    References to This Text

    Historical and Political References

    Note: These major Cold War doctrines don't necessarily make direct reference to the Truman Doctrine, but they are direct extensions of the doctrine.

    The Eisenhower Doctrine

    This said a country could request American economic or military aid if it were being threatened by armed aggression from another country (*cough* the Soviet Union *cough*).

    Kennedy Doctrine

    Extends the commitments made in the Truman and Eisenhower Doctrines specifically to Latin America. Explicitly names the Soviet Union.

    Johnson Doctrine

    Took the above three doctrines a step further and declared that the foreign affairs of other countries would no longer be an isolated issue when Communism was involved.

    Nixon Doctrine

    Basically justified U.S. entry into Vietnam on the grounds of some of the same principles and ideals mentioned in previous doctrines.

    Carter Doctrine

    Declared that the Persian Gulf was off limits to Soviet expansion, and the U.S. would use military force if necessary to protect it. This one actually has a lot of common language with "the Truman Doctrine."

    Reagan Doctrine

    Implemented a policy/strategy for fighting Communism that said the U.S. would back armed guerillas fighting communism in any region.

  • Trivia

    Truman's actual middle name was S (both of his grandfathers had names that began with the letter, so in order to avoid playing favorites by picking a single a name, his parents just went with the initial). However, the practice of putting a period after the S is actually a topic of controversy, and has been known to get editors and punctuation fiends (including us) all riled up. (Source)

    Spies, spy rings, and spy culture were a major part of the Cold War for both sides. Hundreds of American agents were caught trying to enter the Soviet Union with fake passports because they had the wrong staples. The staples in U.S.S.R. passports always corroded, while the stainless steel staples used by the Americans did not. Talk about the importance of being detail oriented. (Source)

    Legend has it that, during the Cold War, the Soviets always had at least two missiles pointed at a round building located in the center of the Pentagon and visible by spy satellite image. They assumed that this building was the facility's most important meeting room (hence its central location) and that the Pentagon itself was a giant fortress built around this well-guarded, top-security area. Turns out it was just a hot dog stand with a sweet location. (Source)

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