The Magazine

Man with a Plan

When America saved Europe-after World War II.

Dec 24, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 15 • By ERNEST W. LEFEVER
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Most Western European governments enthusiastically accepted the Marshall Plan. But predictably, the French had reservations. Paris feared that it would promote German recovery over that of France, and such apprehension increased when the 1948 West German currency devaluation gave the new Deutschmark a competitive position in world markets.

The arrival of Marshall Plan ships in European ports infuriated Stalin and the Western European Communist parties. In June 1948, to counter growing American influence, especially in West Germany, Stalin blockaded West Berlin, an enclave located 120 miles inside Soviet-occupied East Germany, with the hope of expelling U.S. forces from the city. Truman responded with a massive airlift of food and fuel. In May 1949 Stalin lifted the blockade. Truman's heroism did much to assure the success of the Marshall Plan, but further fueled Moscow's imperial designs on Eastern Europe.

For three momentous years the Marshall Plan, despite bickering among European participants, achieved what it set out to do: rescue wartorn Europe from economic and political collapse, and restore a sound currency and stable political environment for NATO. Without the Marshall Plan, writes Behrman, West European statesmen would have been hard-pressed to curb the "internal communist threat, political violence and the external Soviet threat."

Ernest W. Lefever, founder and senior
fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is the author, most recently, of Liberating the
Limerick.