Harry S. Truman and "Far Eastern Policy":

A Neo-Aristotelian Criticism

by Jennifer Board

[Edited and Submitted for web on 26 August 2001]



On April 11, 1951 President Harry S. Truman delivered via radio broadcast a message on "far Eastern Policy" into homes across the United States and around the world. The purpose of the address was to build support for the Korean War, while at the same time putting a positive spin on the President’s choice to terminate the command of General Douglas MacArthur. The United States committed military assistance in June of 1950, after a United Nations resolution calling for military action to expel the communist forces from Korea. During the first several months of the conflict American forces proved highly successful. However during the last months of 1950 the tide turned against the American servicemen and the Chinese Communists gained momentum. By April of 1951 opposition to the War was growing among the American population and Truman faced the challenge of building support for the war while also explaining his decision to remove a popular and successful General.

After World War II the world watched the Soviet Union rise to power and increase the threat to other nations. In 1950 the United States faced accusations by Senator Joseph McCarthy that the State Department was compromised by communist collaborators. These accusations and the many that would follow only served to fuel the national fear of communism. Although this fear had begun to spread it was not until 1952 that McCarthyism reached its peak and the American public became most paranoid of communism. Also influencing Truman’s audience were recent memories of World War II. America had attained victory in a very costly war and the prospect of entering a new conflict with no resolution in sight was very frightening. The United States had been involved in the Korean War for several months, but the thought of several more years of ongoing war and the lives it would take was not acceptable to many Americans.

In this paper I will analyze Truman’s speech "Far Eastern Policy." I will ask how Truman attempted to establish support for the war effort despite the dismissal of MacArthur and how his immediate audience received this message. In answering this question I will use the Neo-Aristotelian form of criticism. This will include evaluating Truman’s speech based on the classical cannons of invention, arrangement and style. I will first describe the Neo-Aristotelian method of criticism, which I will employ for my analysis. Then I will look at "Far Eastern Policy" through this method of criticism. I will conclude by answering my research questions and providing the implication of this speech for Truman’s immediate audience.


Harry S. Truman was born in 1884 and raised in Independence, Missouri. Truman served time in the military during World War I. After returning home from war opened his own haberdashery in Kansas City and became an active democrat. He held a number of local offices and was elected to the United States Senate in 1934 and again in 1940. After serving quietly for many years he earned a respectable reputation while serving on the Senate Committee to Investigate War Production.

Truman was selected to run as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice presidential nominee in 1944 and they successfully won the White House. Roosevelt’s untimely death in April 1945, just a few months after their victory, propelled Truman into the Presidency. Truman was thrust into the difficult times of post-war diplomacy with very little knowledge of his predecessor’s actions. Truman set the tone for the ensuing Cold War early in his dealings with the Soviets. Some historians attribute Truman’s rhetoric to early intensification of the Cold War. Historian Thomas Paterson in his textbook American Foreign Policy: A History since 1900 quotes from a letter Truman wrote which states "you never saw such pig headed people as are the Russians" and he refers to Stalin as an "S.O.B." Paterson later describes a situation where Truman declares that if the Russians did not wish to attend a conference then they could go to "hell." This "Get Tough" policy toward the Soviets was a far cry from Roosevelt’s charming and persuasive manner at the negotiation table.

With the conclusion of World War II the world faced the challenges of rebuilding and redefining the relationships between individual nations. Hans J. Morgenthau writes in In defense of the National Interest that "The United States flatters itself that in its dealings with other countries it seeks no selfish advantage but is inspired by universal moral principles." Even as the United States opposed Imperialism the Truman Administration worked to increase their influence and the number of countries who had pro-American governments. Russia wanted the same. As Russia and the United States vied for power Truman faced opposition to both the Marshall plan to aide war ravaged nations in economic and political reconstruction and the Truman Doctrine. The Soviets viewed these policies as attempts to exert influence in foreign countries and they were largely correct.

When Truman first speaks of the Truman Doctrine he sets forth a policy, which will involve America in the Korean War. Paterson quotes Truman as saying, "I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." When supporting a people in resisting a faction of one political or ideological view the United States is in effect supporting and even putting into place a government, which owes their success to America. The United States first puts this policy into practice in Greece when troops are sent to help defeat a pro-Communist rebellion.

The negotiations for the development of the United Nations also foretold of future tensions. Paterson describes Truman as "short-tempered" with an angry attitude toward the Russians during talks in 1945. Again the problem lied in competition for influence. As Russia expanded its sphere of influence in Europe they grew increasingly antagonistic. There was a great power struggle between Russia and the United States, which seemed to be exacerbated by the personalities of Stalin and Truman.

While completing Roosevelt’s term Truman oversaw a tremendous buildup of the military. In 1947 Congress created the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency and Nations Security Council. This was all in response to a Russian threat, which was perceived at the time to be greater than it actually was. When elected to a second term in 1949 Truman uses his Inaugural Address to emphasizes the differences between "communism" and "democracy" in an attempt to persuade the American public that new military expenditures were necessary. Truman received vast support after Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China in October of 1949 and the communist invasion of South Korea in June of 1950. These events were widely rumored to be indications of a communist plan to control the world.

With the communist invasion of Korea an urgent meeting of the United Nations was convened. A resolution was passed, without Russia’s vote, to condemn the invasion of South Korea. Truman acted quickly, committing troops on June 30th with largely bipartisan support but without asking Congress to declare war. Morgenthau suggests that in Cold War situations "the peculiar qualities of the diplomatic mind are useless," for it is "superseded by military thinking." When addressing the Congress Truman declared "We’ve got to stop the USSR now."

Paterson in American Foreign Policy suggests that Truman’s quick decision might have been in reaction to a recent decline in the President’s approval rating or a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s accusation that Truman was lenient with the communists. Regardless of Truman’s motivation American boys were once again being sent off to war.

Critical Method

Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, studied the use of language as a tool of persuasion. He called rhetoric the faculty of discovering in each case the available means of persuasion. Aristotle believed that rhetoric was neither good nor bad, but a teachable art form. In The Rhetoric Aristotle discusses audience analysis, the speech or rhetorical artifact, and the effect of the speech on the audience. The Romans later canonized propositions Aristotle set forth in The Rhetoric and consolidated them into the Five Cannons of Rhetoric. These five canons allow rhetoricians to evaluate the effectiveness of a speaker.

Invention, the first cannon, includes Aristotle’s three basic modes of persuasion. A speaker must persuade his audience based on logical (logos), ethical (ethos), and emotional (pathos) appeals. Logos involves the arguments presented in the speech. Aristotle believed that the use of enthymemes, incomplete syllogisms, created the best arguments. One example of a syllogism would be:

  • Major Premise: Polite people never get in trouble.
  • Minor Premise: Sarah is a polite person.
  • Conclusion: Sarah never gets in trouble.

When a speaker uses an enthymeme in the context of a speech he may lave out the main premise. Thus, the statement would read that Sarah never gets in trouble because she is polite. A speaker is able to successfully use enthymemes when the audience is able to mentally identify and connect the main premise with the statement at a subconscious level.

When analyzing the argument it is also important to consider various claims that can be made. A speaker can make a claim of definition in which he/she is able to define his terms. The speaker can define a term in many ways and the truth of his/her definition may have no relation to the meaning commonly ascribed to a particular word. An example of a claim of definition would be, "All people have the right to freedom and by freedom I mean the right to elect their own government officials." The speaker is defining for his audience exactly what he means when he/she speaks of freedom.

A speaker may also present a claim of fact. A claim of fact will assert a proposition, which can be subjected to measurement in the real world. A speaker might claim, for example, that forty percent of the world’s population does not have freedom. If we were following the definition of freedom provided in the previous example this could be measured quantitatively.

The third type of claim is a claim of value. A claim of value has moral or ethical implications and will describe an issue or item as good or bad, right or wrong. A claim of value, unlike a claim of fact, cannot be measured in the real world. Continuing with the freedom example a speaker might claim that it is wrong for so much of the world’s population to live without freedom. The final type of claim is a claim of policy. A claim of policy will make claims about what should or should not be changed. For example, a claim of policy might claim that the United States should go to war against nations who do not allow their citizens the freedom to elect their own leaders.

A speaker also bears the burden of persuading his/her audience that he/she possesses ethos or credibility, perhaps the most persuasive factor. In the Rhetoric Aristotle presents three ideas, which will lend credibility to a speaker. The speaker must persuade his audience of his intelligence, his moral character, and his goodwill. The audience must be persuaded that the speaker has knowledge and common sense. They must believe that the speaker has pure motives and their best interests in mind. Finally, they must judge his character and find him trust worthy. Aristotle believed that if the audience had positive perceptions of the speaker based on these three qualities they would be more easily persuaded.

The final aspect of invention involves pathos or the emotions provoked in the audience. When employing pathos the speaker is attempting to put the audience in the best psychological frame of mind for his/her message. Depending on the desired effect, a successful speaker will be able to elicit from his audience emotions such as anger, love, fear, shame, indignation, and admiration. Speakers are able to rely on ethos and pathos when persuading an audience because conclusions are rarely based entirely on logical arguments.

The second cannon is arrangement. There are a variety of ways the speaker can effectively arrange a speech. However most rhetoricians agree that a speech must contain certain elements. In the introduction, the speaker should gain the attention of the audience. The introduction should establish the credibility of the speaker and preview the speaker's main points. The body of the speech follows next and can be arranged in a variety of ways. For example there is the problem solution design, the spatial, sequential and comparative designs. The conclusion of the speech should review for the audience the main points of the speech. The organization of the speech is important in making the information understandable and persuasive.

The third cannon involves the style of the speech and the speaker’s efforts to make the information easily absorbable for the audience. This section analyzes rhetorical devices such as anaphora and anadiplosis. This cannon also looks at individual word choices and the degree to which they were effective in persuading the audience. Style is an important consideration when analyzing the impact of the speech.



The primary aim of Truman’s speech was to rally the American people in support of the Korean War. When analyzing the invention of the speech it becomes evident that Truman includes in the text of his speech appeals to ethos, logos and pathos.


Truman first attempts to establish his credibility by demonstrating his goodwill. He shows that he has the best interests of the public in mind when he states, "We are trying to prevent a third world war." Evidently, however, this statement was not enough to persuade the public that the war was in their best interests. Following this statement Truman seems to become defensive stating, "Now, many persons, even some who applauded our decision to defend Korea, have forgotten the basic reasons for our action." He continues by saying, "It is right for us to be in Korea now." and "I want to remind you why this is true." Beginning the speech in this way seems to set the tone of a lecture about why the audience’s beliefs are wrong. Roderick Hart in his book Campaign Talk: Why Elections Are Good For Us offers an alternative view to these statements. Hart might have labeled such statements as "certain" or "assuring." He notes that United States citizens were still very trusting of their political leaders and politicians spoke with "authority." This might have been an effective beginning if the audience wanted an aloof President who stood above the common man.

Truman also attempts to establish his credibility by demonstrating his knowledge. Truman states, "I would like to read to you from a secret intelligence report which came to us after the attack. I have that report right here." He then proceeds to quote a Communist officer as saying, "Our forces are scheduled to attack South Korean forces about the middle of June… The coming attack on South Korea marks the first step toward the liberation of Asia." Truman refers to two intelligence reports and quotes two Communist officers. This was likely a very successful tool in establishing his credibility in the eyes of the average American. Truman was the leader of the most powerful nation in the world and he knows what is best for the nation because he shows that he had access to secret information, which is unavailable and unimaginable to the average American.

In 1969 President Nixon also faced the challenge of convincing America that fighting a war was in the best interests of the nation. He was very effective in using inclusive pronouns such as "we" and "our" to establish his credibility and build a rapport with his audience. Truman might have been more effective in connecting with his audience if he had made better use of inclusive pronouns. Instead he uses distant phrases including, "I think most people in this country…" "the decision of the Government…," and "If they don’t act together, they are likely to be picked off, one by one." Again in Campaign Talk Hart discusses the increase in "self-referential" language in recent elections. An increase in personal disclosure and the use of inclusive pronouns creates a sense of intimacy and perhaps if Truman had said "most of us," "we" or "our government" he would have been demonstrating that the war touches him in the same way it touches all Americans.

Toward the end of the speech Truman appeals again to his audience. He needs to be viewed as credible on the basis of his intelligence and his good heartedness. He states, "I have thought long and hard about this question of extending the war in Asia. I have discussed it many times with the ablest military advisers in the country. I believe with all my heart that the course we are following is the best course."


The primary emotion Truman seems to be attempting to provoke in his audience is fear. He uses the devil term "Communist," which alone would have struck fear in the hearts of most Americans. Truman, however, goes on to describe communists as "aggressors" plotting a "monstrous conspiracy to stamp out freedom all over the world." Truman states that, "When that aggression is supported by the cruel and selfish rulers of a powerful nation who are bent on conquest, it becomes a clear and present danger to the security and independence of every free nation." Although some Americans were building bomb shelters and practicing safety measures for nuclear bomb threats most were experiencing a time of post-war prosperity and peace. This was the time of bobby socks and coke floats. Families were just beginning to achieve the normalcy they had known before World War II but they were slowly incorporating feelings of fear into their daily lives.

Truman also attempts to establish pride in the military by labeling them as "tough and able and well equipped." This is a military that the American public can support and be proud of. Although Truman praises the accomplishments of the military he seems to have missed two opportunities to explicitly commend the military for jobs well done. When providing the examples of United States involvement in Greece and with the Berlin blockade he uses "we" and "this country." A more personal phrase like "our brave boys," might have served to better stir pride in the hearts of many Americans.


In studying Truman’s use of logos it becomes apparent that the primary argument of the speech works from the central claim, "It is right for us to be in Korea now." This is a claim of value, stating that this is "right." His first argument in support of this claim proposes that if the United States were to pull out of Korea it would encourage the Communists to continue conquering countries all over the world. The argument in the form of an enthymeme states:

  • Communists will conquer other countries. (minor premise)
  • America must continue to fight in Korea. (conclusion)

Truman expects his audience to subconsciously make the connection to a premise which states that countries, which conquer other countries, must be fought against. With this argument Truman is asking the audience to believe that by fighting an aggressive nation they will be able to prevent future conquests. A brief look at history, however, will quickly disprove this claim. Germany was on the losing side of World War I. They were a nation beaten down by most of their European neighbors and yet they were able to rebuild their army and launch one of the most destructive wars in history within twenty years of their previous defeat. In his speech Truman also speaks of previous instances in which America has successfully stood up to communist aggression proving that stopping an aggressive nation once will not insure peace in the future.

Another fault with this argument is its minor premise. This slippery slope fallacy proposes that if America were to withdraw from Korea, a subsequent series of events would bring the entire world under the rule of Communism. Truman states that if nations do not act together, "they are likely to be picked off, one by one." This is similar to the Domino Theory, which became widely accepted during the Vietnam War. This theory stated that if Vietnam fell to communism then Cambodia, Laos and perhaps all of Southeast Asia would fall. The problem lies with the fact that it is not necessarily true that the fall of one nation will lead to the fall of the entire world.

Truman’s second argument in support of his primary claim proposes that, "The best time to meet a threat is at the beginning." The unstated premise in this argument suggests that it would be more difficult, if not impossible to stop a nation after they have gained momentum. Truman’s argument in the form of an enthymeme states:

  • America must stop Communists in the beginning. (minor premise)
  • America must continue to fight in Korea. (conclusion)

To support this argument Truman refers to Europe in the 1930’s. He states, "if the free countries had acted together, to crush the aggression of the dictators, and if they had acted in the beginning, when the aggression was small there probably would have been no World War II." Immediately after making this argument Truman seems to contradict it. The world is not seeing the first signs of communist aggression rather this is at least the third time the United States has become involved in stopping communists. Truman cites Greece and the threat of the Berlin blockade as two times when the United States has stood up to communism. If Truman wanted to stop communist aggression in the beginning this should have occurred in Greece or in Berlin.

A third argument Truman made involves his dismissal of General MacArthur. Truman makes the claim that, "events have made it evident that General MacArthur did not agree" with his administrations policies for the Korean War. MacArthur agrees that America must continue to fight in Korea, but he does not agree with Truman’s military goals. It must be implicitly understood that Generals who disagree with the President must be relieved of their command. The argument, in the form of an enthymeme states:

  • MacArthur did not agree with the United States war policy. (minor premise)
  • MacArthur must be relieved of his command. (conclusion)

This was a very important argument for Truman and a very difficult one for him to win. The basis for this argument is found in the Unites States Constitution. One of the fundamental bases of our government is the principal of civilian control of the military. Truman, a civilian, is in control of the United States Armed Forces. MacArthur, with his extensive military training and distinguished career, was under the command of Truman. It was absolutely necessary for the future of the United States and the future of the developing military that this chain of command remain unquestioned.

Most Americans were probably unaware of the complexities involved in the important relationship between a president and military generals and the reasons for its particular organization. Americans might have questioned why MacArthur could not fight the war, as he thought was best. Had he not proven his talent and ability through his great success in the Pacific Theatre? What Americans who asked this failed to recognize was Truman’s broader world perspective. A war is not fought only to accomplish military objectives. Truman is in communication with other world leaders and not exclusively involved in the daily decisions of combat. Truman might have been more effective if he had briefly and simply explained the dangers entailed when a single general gains complete control of the military in a foreign war.

When looking at the Cannon of Invention it becomes evident that Truman had some successes as well as some failures. Truman seems to successfully demonstrate his knowledge and gain respect but he remained unable to establish a real connection with his audience on the intimate level necessary for a trusting relationship. His attempt to use pathos might have been successful in reinforcing fear of communism but he was not effective in establishing pride in the United States power and the military. Two of Truman’s arguments were ineffective because of faulty logic.


Truman uses a pattern of alternating appeals to fear and pride. He begins by discussing the evil plots of "Communists in the Kremlin" and then moves to describe recent American military successes. Truman follows this by reading statements of Communist military officers describing plans for conquest. He then tells of United States military successes in Korea stating, "We have taught the enemy a lesson." Through this pattern Truman seems to be attempting to gradually build pride and confidence in the American public.

Structurally, Truman loosely follows a problem solution model. He clearly lays out the inherent problems America will have to deal with if faced with Communist success in Korea. Truman follows this by offering possible solutions and explaining why they would be inappropriate for this particular conflict. He concludes by offering his solutions and objectives and enumerating his criteria for a settled peace.

Disrupting the structure of the speech is the news of General Douglas MacArthur’s dismissal. Perhaps Truman meant to include it in his solutions hoping that the American public would be persuaded to believe that the dismissal of a hero was for the best. The United States need to remain in the Korean War and the ultimate goal was to win the conflict. Based on this claim and goal Truman proposes that MacArthur is an impediment to success and therefore must be removed. MacArthur, commander of the United States forces in the Far East had a distinguished military career and was well known and respected by the American public for his success in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. MacArthur was an American hero.

The placement of this subject might also be a strategic attempt to focus attention on the other aspects of Truman’s message. He began by building up fear and securing his audiences attention as he persuaded them of the importance of their involvement in Korea. By the time he addresses General MacArthur's dismissal the audience is unable to turn away from him even in the face of unpopular news. It is possible that discussing MacArthur’s dismissal in the beginning would have resulted in negative reactions in much of the audience causing them to tune out the rest of the speech. Truman could not ignore the issue. He likely understood the negative impact his decision would have on his audiences perception of the war. He needed to justify his decision and focus on the future.

Truman sticks to the subject of Communist aggression in Korea and its importance quite well throughout the speech. The situation with General MacArthur addressed quickly and Truman moved on to his solutions. Transitional paragraphs or occasional summaries might have assisted his audience in organizing his ideas as they attempted to digest them.


Truman incorporated many rhetorical devices which both worked in his advantage and to his disadvantage. Early in the speech he lays out a series of claims using anaphora as he emphatically states, "It is right for us to be in Korea now. It was right last June. It is right today." The purpose of the speech is to prove that these claims are true and Truman first proposes them in a clear, memorable and forceful way. Later Truman uses a combination of anadiplosis and anaphora when he calls on Americans to remember the basic democratic values we believe are the intrinsic rights of all people. He states, "This plan of conquest is in flat contradiction to what we believe. We believe that Korea belongs to the Koreans. We believe that India belongs to the Indians. We believe all the nations of Asia should be free to work out their affairs in their own way. This is the basis of peace in the Far East and it is the basis of peace everywhere else."

Truman also uses anaphora in a way which may have undermined the confidence in the power and authority of the United States and its military. Rather than simply stating what the United States "has done" or "is doing" he begins a series of statements with "so far." By saying "so far" Truman seems to be showing a lack of confidence in the military and his administrations objectives for the war. He also seems to show this same feeling later when he states, "If the Communists realize they cannot defeat us in Korea, if they realize it would be foolhardy to widen the hostilities beyond Korea, then they may recognize the folly of continuing their aggression." This would have been much more powerful if Truman had said, "When the Communists realize…, then they will recognize…" "When" would also seem to be more consistent with Roderick Hart’s research which describes Truman’s language as "certain" and "assuring."

One explanation for Truman’s use of "If" however might be the turn the war had recently taken. United States troops had been highly successful in the beginning but in the months before this speech the forces of the opposition had been gaining momentum and increasing success. Truman might actually have been unsure of the outcome of the war. A second explanation might have been Truman’s new idea of "limited war." Truman had set limits for the war and refused to use atomic weapons or allow the war to expand beyond a certain geographical area. Paterson in American Foreign Policy quotes on United States soldier as saying, "We need somebody who will… give Russia an ultimatum,…jump into the driver’s seat, put the gas to the floor and a hand on the horn, and let her roll so that everyone will see we mean business." This soldier wanted a leader who would say "when" instead of "if."

Truman appeals to the post-World War II feelings of peace and prosperity by referring to, "new courage and new hope." He uses epistrophe to challenge Americans to show the communists that, "the champions of freedom can stand up and fight and that they will stand up and fight." And he uses alliteration to praise the efforts in Korea referring to the, "forces of freedom now fighting…" Freedom is a word, which has been associated with America since the time of the Revolutionary War. Freedom is what America stands for and what Americans are willing to die for.

Truman also uses distinctio to establish his own definition for a word used in his quote of a Communist military officer. The officer quoted states, "The coming attack on South Korea marks the first step toward the liberation of Asia." Truman follows with his own definition of liberation stating that, "This is Communist double-talk meaning "conquest."" Truman takes "liberation," a word with relatively positive connotation and replaces it with a word with a negative connotative meaning. This is an attempt to show the communists as evil and aggressive.

Truman makes use of rhetorical questions throughout the speech, but they are primarily seen in a portion of the speech dealing with possible solutions. Truman says, "But you may ask why can’t we…?" or "Why don’t we…?" These are questions, which had probably been thought of by many Americans. Instead of simply addressing the issue Truman legitimizes the question and catches the attention of his listeners again as some say to themselves, "Yes, I thought of that." Truman then proceeds to explain why these possible solutions would not be feasible.

Truman’s carefully chosen use of rhetorical devices often enabled him to make strong memorable statements, which affirm his central claim. He is successful in painting the communist nation as evil and aggressive but uses weak language when discussing the United States position against them. Clear, strong and decisive language when describing the war effort might have worked to instill confidence in the war and his ability to deal with the communist threat.


In this paper I have analyzed Harry Truman’s address to the American people entitled "Far Eastern Policy." First, I analyzed Truman’s use of invention, including his use of ethos, pathos and logos. I discussed the arrangement of the speech and finally style, including word choice and rhetorical devices.

I found that Truman was largely ineffective in persuading his audience that the United States needed to remain involved in Korea and that the dismissal of General MacArthur was for the best. Truman, although he may have been somewhat successful in demonstrating his knowledge, was not able to establish a personal connection with his audience. He failed to use inclusive pronouns and instead sounded aloof and distant. His attempt to induce fear in his audience was successful

Truman’s logic was faulty in places. He employed a slippery slope argument and even contradicted one of his own arguments. His argument for the dismissal of MacArthur may have been valid but he was unable to clearly explain the complexities of his decision. Truman’s strategic use of arrangement was successful in dealing with the issue of MacArthur’s dismissal. It’s placement allowed the audience to focus on the future of the war and minimized negative reactions. The arrangement, however could have benefited from a clearly defined pattern and occasional summaries. Truman’s use of rhetorical devices was often appropriate but in a few instances should not have been used. He made statements affirming his central claim but often weakened these statements with subsequent language choice.

To demonstrate Truman’s failed attempt to deal with MacArthur’s dismissal Historian John W. Spanier in The Truman-MacArthur Controversy and the Korean War states that MacArthur returned to the United States with "great popular acclaim while Harry Truman was burned in effigy." Historian Glenn Paige in Truman’s Decision: The United States enters the Korean War proposes that Truman’s inability to persuade the American public led to Truman’s political downfall. Paige states that, "dissatisfaction with the war became one of the main issues that brought down the Truman Administration and catapulted General Dwight D. Eisenhower into the Presidency in the election of 1952." Consistent with these claims my analysis finds that Truman’s speech on "Far Eastern Policy" was ineffective in persuading his audience to support the Korean War.


This analysis constituted a case study in Presidential War Rhetoric. This analysis suggests that Presidential War Rhetoric, as used by President Truman, was ineffective in persuading the American public. The faulty logic Truman presented was probably only effective because of the emotional feelings of fear it produced. This case study suggests that appeals to emotions alone are ineffective in wartime situations. This analysis also proposes that the strategic placement of sensitive issues can influence the audience’s reception of the speech as a whole. The Democratic party’s failed attempt to maintain control of the White House in 1952 also suggests that a presidents inability to persuade the American public during wartime situations will have political consequences in future elections.


Hart, Roderick P. Campaign Talk: Why Elections Are Good For Us. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Paige, Glenn. 1950: Truman’s Decision – The United States enters the Korean War.

New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1970. Patterson, Thomas G. American Foreign Policy: A History since 1900. Lexington: D. C. Heath and Company, 1983.

Morgenthau, Hans J. In Defense of the National Interest. New York: University Press of America, 1950.

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Michael E. Eidenmuller.
The University of Texas at Tyler.
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