Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War, and the Fight for Western Civilization

Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War, and the Fight for Western Civilization

by Joe Scarborough


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For political history enthusiasts, this engaging and taut history of post-WWII US foreign policy under President Harry Truman should be a delight. Scarborough’s first-hand knowledge of Washington politics, politicking and his Morning Joe perspective on national and international world events, combine for a dramatic, nuanced telling of Truman’s deft ushering of the nation from isolationism to an active leadership role on the world stage. It is a tale of back-door diplomacy, international cooperation, political persuasion and bipartisan cooperation, with plenty of resonance for today.

New York Times Bestseller!

History called on Harry Truman to unite the Western world against Soviet communism, but first he had to rally Republicans and Democrats behind America’s most dramatic foreign policy shift since George Washington delivered his farewell address. How did one of the least prepared presidents to walk into the Oval Office become one of its most successful?

The year was 1947. The Soviet Union had moved from being America’s uneasy ally in the Second World War to its most feared enemy. With Joseph Stalin’s ambitions pushing westward, Turkey was pressured from the east while communist revolutionaries overran Greece. The British Empire was battered from its war with Hitler and suddenly teetering on the brink of financial ruin. Only America could afford to defend freedom in the West, and the effort was spearheaded by a president who hadn’t even been elected to that office. But Truman would wage a domestic political battle that carried with it the highest of stakes, inspiring friends and foes alike to join in his crusade to defend democracy across the globe.

In Saving Freedom, Joe Scarborough recounts the historic forces that moved Truman toward his country’s long twilight struggle against Soviet communism, and how this untested president acted decisively to build a lasting coalition that would influence America’s foreign policy for generations to come. On March 12, 1947, Truman delivered an address before a joint session of Congress announcing a policy of containment that would soon become known as the Truman Doctrine. That doctrine pledged that the United States would “support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” The untested president’s policy was a radical shift from 150 years of isolationism, but it would prove to be the pivotal moment that guaranteed Western Europe’s freedom, the American Century’s rise, and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. 

Truman’s triumph over the personal and political struggles that confronted him following his ascension to the presidency is an inspiring tale of American leadership, fierce determination, bipartisan unity, and courage in the face of the rising Soviet threat. Saving Freedom explores one of the most pivotal moments of the twentieth century, a turning point when patriotic Americans of both political parties worked together to defeat tyranny.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


MSNBC host Scarborough (Rome Wasn't Burnt in a Day) delivers a brisk and informative look at the development of the Truman Doctrine. In 1947, Great Britain, which had been economically devastated by WWII, informed the Truman administration that it couldn’t provide much-needed financial aid to Greece and Turkey. Secretary of State George Marshall and his top deputy, Dean Acheson, recognized the importance of providing humanitarian assistance to the two countries, which the Soviet Union wanted to add to its sphere of influence. If that happened, Marshall and Acheson argued, other countries in the Middle East and Western Europe might soon follow. The broader rationale behind their recommendation for U.S. intervention was accepted by President Truman, even though it meant transforming “America’s conception of itself and its role in the world” and becoming “an active participant in the political affairs of other nations.” Though that role is now commonly accepted, Scarborough expertly details the behind-the-scenes politicking that made it happen, paying special attention to the role of Republican senator Arthur Vandenburg, who charted a new, internationalist direction for his party. Though it breaks little new ground, Scarborough’s vivid account will appeal to readers who long for a new era of bipartisanship in American politics. (Nov.)

Library Journal


Morning Joe host Scarborough, a former member of the House of Representatives, here examines President Harry Truman's first year in office. Truman might have been intent on "saving freedom," but he surely faced challenges: many parts of the world were still climbing out of the rubble, and the Cold War loomed. With a 200,000-copy first printing.

Kirkus Reviews

The story of the aid program that helped launch the Cold War.

MSNBC host and former congressman Scarborough reminds readers that 1947 began with Americans basking in peace after the end of World War II less than 18 months earlier, and the budgets for the armed forces were slashed drastically. This was the scene in February when the British Foreign Office delivered two notes described as “shockers” by undersecretary of state Dean Acheson. They summarized events in Greece, which was impoverished and reeling under a communist-led civil war, and Turkey, threatened by Soviet expansion. Britain had long provided their support, but, bankrupt after the war, it could do so no longer. Tactfully, British leadership suggested that America step in to prevent those nations from falling to the communists. Acheson showed the notes to Harry Truman, who agreed that the circumstances required action. Scarborough delivers a lively blow-by-blow account of Truman’s consultations with advisers and meetings with congressional leaders, including Sen. Arthur Vandenberg (whom the author clearly admires), formerly a hidebound Republican isolationist but a convert to internationalism who won over many of his colleagues. There followed Truman’s famous March 12, 1947, address before Congress urging aid to Greece and Turkey; the president proclaimed that America “must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.” Isolationist Republicans were opposed, as were liberal democrats, who urged that the matter be turned over to the U.N. and pointed out that Greeks were not “free” but ruled by an unpleasant autocrat. In the end, with Vandenberg’s backing, the aid passed, and the Truman Doctrine was born. Defeating Greek communist rebels turned out to require several years, during which Truman returned America to world leadership with actions such as the Marshall Plan, the founding of NATO, and the defense of South Korea from the North’s invasion.

Solid American history and another feather in the cap of Truman, whose presidential reputation is rising steadily.

Jon Meacham

As a practitioner of politics and an astute analyst of the storms of the present, Joe Scarborough is uniquely positioned to bring history to life. And that’s exactly what he’s done here, giving us a compelling account of a great man and a great American moment. Harry Truman comes to life in these pages— and his is a life that repays our attention now more than ever.

New York Times

"In an earnest, engaging new book, ‘Saving Freedom,’ Joe Scarborough, the eponymous host of MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe,’ shows readers why and, most important, how Truman set a precedent for all his successors...its rediscovery of the politicians’ role in the Cold War comes at just the right time.

Washington Post

"Bold and highly readable."

The Guardian

Scarborough’s eerily timely book is Saving Freedom, a fluently written and engaging account of the Democrat Truman in 1947 winning over sceptical Republicans in Congress to end 150 years of American isolationism and unite the west against the Soviet Union.

David Ignatius

Saving Freedom speaks to our national crisis here and now. Joe Scarborough tells the American miracle of how Harry Truman, a 'strange little man' from Missouri, pulled together Republicans and Democrats to confront Soviet communism and establish America as a global power. As Joe reminds us in this wise history, American greatness begins with unity and good values."

Eugene Robinson

Joe Scarborough’s Saving Freedom is a wonderful examination of a pivotal moment in world history, and a perfect lesson for this tumultuous moment in America. Scarborough illuminates how, at a moment of existential peril for Western democracy, farsighted and skillful presidential leadership built the transatlantic architecture that has sheltered seven decades of peace and prosperity. It is a story for the ages, beautifully told.” 

Claire McCaskill

As someone who sat in Harry Truman’s seat in the US Senate, I have read every book written about him. I thought the subjects had all been covered. I was wrong. This book explores, in depth, the broad reach of Truman’s revolution in US foreign policy. If you want to understand why isolationism harms America’s national security, read this book. The Truman Doctrine ushered in the dominance of the United States in the world and the containment of communism, but this book is even more important as a cautionary tale about the fraying of America’s alliances with freedom-loving nations.

Washington Post

"Bold and highly readable."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062950499
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/24/2020
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 1,465
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

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