History of Bipartisanship in Foreign Policy and National Security

Sixty years ago, a great generation of Americans came together to build a better world from the ashes of war.

President Harry S. Truman

Senator Arthur Vandenberg

Americans have worked together to address major foreign policy and national security challenges since the founding of the United States.

In recent times, the bipartisan tradition was perhaps best personified by the relationship between President Harry S. Truman and Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-MI).These two leaders helped pass legislation that laid the foundations for prosperity and security in the United States and around the world following World War II. Vandenberg’s assertion that “politics stops at the water’s edge,” was characteristic of the political climate that led to the Marshall Plan, and the establishment of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

The Marshall Plan, announced in 1947, which offered economic support to Europe in an effort to rebuild the devastation caused by World War II, and the establishment of NATO in 1949 would not have been possible without the strong bipartisan support that Truman, Vandenberg, and others forged during an extremely challenging time in American history.

As Senator Vandenberg said in 1952, “To me ‘bipartisan foreign policy’ means a mutual effort, under our indispensable two-Party system, to unite our official voice at the water’s edge so that America speaks with maximum authority against those who would divide and conquer us and the free world. It does not involve the remotest surrender of free debate in determining our position. On the contrary, frank cooperation and free debate are indispensable to ultimate unity. In a word, it simply seeks national security ahead of partisan advantage. Every foreign policy must be totally debated (and I think the record proves it has been) and the “loyal opposition” is under special obligation to see that this occurs.”