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The Cold War Era Essay, Research Paper

The Cold War was a response to the perceived threat by the United States that Communism would interfere with national security and economic stakes in the world. It was a perceived threat by communist countries that the United States would take to the world. During the Cold War, the United States, Russia, and other countries made efforts to avoid another world war, while warring in proxy in other lands. The devastation caused by the hydrogen bombs exploded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the next technological advancements became only deterrents to the public. Governments had their own agenda which would result in worsening the strain between nations. The United States hid behind a curtain of nationalism resulting in increased hatred and mistrust between the people of the United States and Russia. Noam Chomsky reminds us that Communism is a broad term that includes those with the ability to get control of mass movements. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles once stated that, The poor people are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich. So, in one view, the U.S. felt they must be overcome, to protect our doctrine that the rich should ravage the poor. This became another motivation for the Cold War. In his historical account of the events leading to the Cold War, Jacob Heilbrunn reports that after World War II, realists agreed that Soviet aggrandizement was responsible for the cold war. (Heilbrunn) They felt the reason, rather than Communism, Heilbrunn notes, was that Stalin was pursuing Russian national interests that dated back to the czars. Others, however, accused the president and Congress of following a consistent policy of economic imperialism, tracing it back to the Open Door Diplomacy of the nineteenth century, which outlined an insatiable American appetite for new [economic] markets. (Heilbrunn) Heilbrunn says that Gabriel Kolko also felt that Roosevelt s anti-Russia stance was formed to create dominance by the United States in world economic markets. (Heilbrunn) Heilbrunn says that Leffler s A Preponderance of Power, has become the sacred text of the neo-revisionists. (Heilbrunn) Leffler claims that U.S. security policy was established between 1940 and 1946 based on geopolitics, not economics. Truman was far from fearing a Soviet military attack and was defending American economic stability guaranteeing there would not be a return to the economics of the 1930 s and wanted to create a Wilsonian liberal democratic order led by the United States. Leffler stated that they were worried that the Kremlin might exploit these weaknesses to alter the balance of power so they harnessed the economic principles of the open door to the national security interests of the United States. (Heilbrunn) Leffler describes the Cold War in this way: neither the Americans nor the Soviets sought to harm the other in 1945 The protests that each country s actions evoked from the other fueled the cycle of distrust as neither could comprehend the fears of the other, perceiving its own actions as defensive. Herein rests the classic security dilemma U.S. officials chose to contain and deter the Russians rather than to reassure and placate them, thereby accentuating possibilities for a spiraling cycle of mistrust. (Heilbrunn) In 1947, Ernest Bevin, British foreign secretary, believed it essential to construct a defensive military alliance in Western Europe; and in December of that year he proposed to George C. Marshall an alliance that would guarantee Western European security and prevent further Soviet aggrandizement. (Heilbrunn) This proposal was realized in the North Atlantic Treaty and the establishment of NATO in 1949. Only an alliance such as this would halt Soviet infiltration and the gradual collapse of one western wall after another. According to Heilbrunn, the Soviet military buildup started after 1945. By 1950 American intelligence estimates suggested that the Soviets possessed 175 divisions, several hundred bombers capable of flying missions against the British Isles, 300 submarines and a substantial tactical air force. Heilbrunn states, It Is easy enough now to scoff at the apprehensions felt by Truman and Acheson, but the threat that the Kremlin posed was the threat of intimidation and the ability to strike decisively is a seizure of power was possible. Indeed, it was Stalin s approval of North Korea s attack on South Korea in 1950 that finally provoked an American military buildup. (Heilbrunn) While John F. Kennedy was running for president, he charged Eisenhower with complacency in letting Russia create a missile gap. According to Michael Moore, Kennedy was relying on misinterpreted intelligence worst case scenarios, anti-Soviet hysteria, and cynical domestic political calculation. (Moore) Messages similar to Kennedy s were compounded with hysteria in the media and from trusted individuals in government. During this time there was an outpouring of film and TV shows dealing directly or indirectly with the threat of nuclear war. The 1964 classic Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is one such film. While receiving highly critical reviews from the media at the time it has transpired into a perfect image of the hysteria surrounding the threat of nuclear attack. Dr. Strangelove, humorously recognized the evil system of science and technology in the atomic age and in itself helped to reinvigorate a dynamic tension in America between the forces of cultural dissent and the forces of the political and technological status quo. This film along with others and their attention to accidental nuclear war and the profanity of the nuclear establishment summed up postwar cultural qualms about the corruption of American power and leadership and undermined the sacred cold war institutions of the bomb and its military and political bureaucracy. Dr. Strangelove tied together all of the culture s diversified atomic age concerns- from the fears and expectations of accidental nuclear war and human extinction to the revisionist interpretation of anti-communism as an insane and internal menace, from the recognition of increased power and position of technology and militarism in American society and the accompanying dehumanization of that same society to the open understanding of America s system as an irrational and unworkable one, directed by leaders tinged with fascism, madness, and moral corruption. (Henriksen)

These films at the time had an enormous effect on the majority of the American viewing audience. They were seen as motivation to the popular fears and intolerance toward Soviet military actions. The truth at the time was that Eisenhower announced that the U.S. would use nuclear weapons to stop the war in Korea, sending the message that the United States was a force to be reckoned with. Still, there was unrest in Korea after the war, and in Southeast Asia, China and Chiang Kai-Shek were involved in a civil war, with the United States as Chaing s protector. Other areas of conflict were the Sinai peninsula and the Suez-Canal. Attempts to introduce democracy to European countries such as Hungary and West Berlin had been stopped by Russian tanks. In Eisenhower s era, Moore states, Third World leaders had already become adept at playing Americans and Russians off one another. (Moore) This is because the United States and Soviet Russia were trying to build allies. When Israel invaded Egypt in 1956 in order to gain control of the Suez canal, they were supported by the U.S. Allies in Europe. Moore states Eisenhower was in a bind. If the United States supported its friends- the British, French and Israelis- Nasser might turn to the Soviet Union for help. After that, anything could happen. (Moore) Eisenhower cautiously condemned the invasion to the United Nations. The invading troops withdrew and the Soviets stayed out of the commotion. Moore believes that the outcome of the Suez canal and the Cuban Missile crisis were the result of universal fear of a great war and as a result, war threats and counter-threats were becoming bluffs and counter-bluffs. The Soviets and the Americans were cautious of each other and it was understood that direct confrontation between the superpowers was generally to be avoided. In November of 1969, because of mutual fear of U.S. and Soviet leaders, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) began in Helsinki. The SALT talks discussed a mutual suicide pact based on equalizing vulnerability. IN 1972, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was signed, putting an end to the development of ABMs and the SALT Interim Agreement which froze the number of ballistic missile launchers at 1972 levels but did not limit munitions. In December of 1979, the Soviet Union sent troops to Afghanistan. President Jimmy Carter condemned the invasion, canceled U.S. participation in the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, and asked the Senate to postpone action on SALT II, which he had just sent to the senate for ratification. In addition, Carter devised a wider range of nuclear options, including the implementation of command-and-control measures that would, in theory, insure that the United States could fight a delayed nuclear conflict. In November 1980, Ronald Reagan campaigned on the premise that the United States had become dangerously weak, and after elected, said SALT II was fatally flawed, and that the way to end the Cold War was to win it. Nuclear weapons were deployed in Europe by both the United States and the East. Both sides willfully delude themselves that a nuclear war can remain limited or even be won. In 1980, both sides officially declared nuclear war thinkable. (Moore) Reagan accelerated the weapons buildup started by Jimmy Carter, and insulted Soviets by calling them the evil empire. Pro-nuclear build-up champion, Eugene Rostow, previously with Carter, became director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, an organization dedicated to persuading the nation that the Soviet Union was dangerously ahead of the United States in nuclear weaponry. In 1983, Reagan announced his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), dubbed Star Wars) resurrecting the long-dead fantasy of unfurling an anti-ballistic missile umbrella over the United States. This action simultaneously coincides with a decreasing G.N.P and increasing unemployment rates causing criticism from the American public. SDI would violate the ABM Treaty, leading the nation back into the nuclear arms race. The United States and Soviet Union cut off all communication. After protests from around the world, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in December of 1987, eliminating all weapons. Public opinion had made it clear to the Reagan administration that we were fed up and it became politically savvy to sign the INF. Soviet power internationally had been declining for years and with the intelligence of their new leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Cold War was ended. The build-up of nuclear arms- the potential for annihilation- may have prevented World War III, however it was only the public s opinion and outrage that led us to this feat. Governments were prepared to use their weapons in order to win. From the beginning, both sides seemed to have dismissed possibilities for a peaceful resolution of the Cold War conflict. The Cold War helped the Soviet Union ingrain its military-bureaucratic ruling class into power and it gave the US a way to coerce its population to fund high-tech industry. Both were not easy accomplishments but were satisfied by the constant insistence of the threat of the great enemy. This phase has ended, but conflicts continue. The Soviet Union may have called off the war, but the U.S. is continuing as before, even more freely with Soviet obstruction a thing of the past. George Bush celebrated the symbolic end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, by immediately invading Panama and announcing that the U.S. would overturn Nicaragua s election by maintaining its economic stranglehold and military attack unless our side won. With the threat of the Soviet Union no longer existing the U.S. is now free to use unlimited force against almost anyone it may choose. The end of the Cold War has caused its problems too as new enemies have needed to be invented. This problem has been solved quite easily if you were to look at the United States current international footing. A new and possibly better convincing enemy has been found in the likes of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The U.S. government has continued a policy of convincing the American public of the great evil existing elsewhere to achieve their economic, technological and defensive objectives.

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