The Commitment Challenged: The ‘Great Debate’ of 1951

  • Phil Williams


For a nation which had always been reluctant to support a standing army, and had traditionally relied upon wartime mobilisation rather than peacetime preparedness, the decision to send US troops to Europe was momentous — as great a departure from the past precepts of American military policy as the North Atlantic Treaty had been from the orthodoxies of American diplomacy. Yet the announcement of the decision on 9 September 1950 was met by a mixture of acquiescence and apathy. The challenge to the decision was not to emerge until well over three months later; the issue was then to consume the interest and attention of the Senate — to the exclusion of almost all other business — during January, February and March of 1951.


Foreign Policy Foreign Relation Great Debate Ground Force American Troop 
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Notes and References

  1. 3.
    For a fuller account of Taft’s position see J. T. Patterson, Mr Republican: A Biography of Robert Taft (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972) especially pp. 474–96.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Quoted in M. Bundy (ed), The Pattern of Responsibility (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1952) p. 86.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    H. B. Shill III, ‘Senate Activism and Security Commitments: The Troops-To-Europe and National Commitments Resolutions’, PhD dissertation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1973) pp. 149–51.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    W. Lippmann, ‘Mr Truman and the Constitution’ reproduced in Congressional Record, 16 January 1951, pp. 313–14.Google Scholar
  5. 15.
    See A. Schlesinger Jr, ‘Congress and the Making of American Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs, vol. 51, no. 1 (October 1972) 78–113 at p. 95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 17.
    J. P. Armstrong, ‘The Enigma of Senator Taft and American Foreign Policy’, Review of Politics, vol. 17 (April 1955) 206–31 at p. 223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 43.
    See W. B. Truitt, ‘The Troops to Europe Decision: The Process, Politics and Diplomacy of a Strategic Commitment’, PhD dissertation (New York: Columbia University, 1968) p. 349.Google Scholar
  8. 59.
    R. L. Strout, ‘Direct Test By-passed’, Christian Science Monitor, 23 January 1951.Google Scholar
  9. 80.
    See R. Taft, ‘Address to Executives Club of Chicago’ reprinted in the Appendix to the Congressional Record (1951) pp. 418–20.Google Scholar
  10. 139.
    R. L. Strout, ‘Troops to Europe Backed in Senate: New Bout Looms’, Christian Science Monitor, 19 March 1951.Google Scholar
  11. 156.
    W. S. White, ‘Democrats Wary of Vote on Troops’, New York Times, 30 March 1951.Google Scholar
  12. 166.
    W. S. White, ‘First Vote Reversed: Chamber Rejects Curb by McClellan, Then Adopts Declaration’, New York Times, 3 April 1951.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Phil Williams 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Phil Williams

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