Cold War Paper Essay, Research Paper
The role of America at the end of World War II was where the origins of policing the world originate. America had been engaged in a very costly war in terms of dollars as well as lives. But, despite the expense the United States came out of World War II better than any other nation that was involved. The Second World War was a battle between the Allied and Axis Powers. The Allied Powers consisted of the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China, and France. This war was seen as the fight against Nazi Germany, and therefore resulted in a majority of the battles fought on German and Russian soil. The aftermath left the Soviet Union in bad shape. Close to twenty million Russians had died fighting the war, which accounted for about eight percent of their population. Conversely, none of the fighting was done on American soil, and while the United States suffered in terms of casualties it was nothing compared to the loss Russia had endured. Because the war would not end until the Axis Powers fully surrendered to the Allied Powers, the United States was forced to use the first atomic warfare in history. The atom bomb would later serve as America’s greatest possession.
Stalin, the Premier of the Soviet Union had always distrusted the American and English intentions. Because of Stalin’s aggression and attitude pertaining to Soviet influence on Europe, the postwar stance on Russia had turned into a standoff. This became the origin of the Cold War. The Cold War, seen as a battle between communism and capitalism, was “in reality a more complex struggle over a broad range of ideological, economic, and strategic issues.” (Henretta, 868) Over the next several years the United States would spend more money on military and defense than ever before. Several measures were taken to ensure that the same mistakes at the end of World War I would not be repeated. The first in a series of measures was a postwar conference involving President Truman and the Soviet Foreign Minister, V.M. Molokov, where Truman controlled the entire meeting and basically scolded the Soviet’s for not honoring agreements on Poland. Truman “told the Russians just where the got off and generally bossed the whole meeting.” (Henretta, p. 869) This symbolized America’s strong-arm stance against communism and signified the position we would hold throughout the Cold War.
The next step in Truman’s agenda was to work with Congress to pass the National Security Act of 1947, which was designed to strengthen defense operations. This act created a single Department of Defense, and created the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA. These two new agencies acted as the first step in atomic warfare management. Continuing to act as police of the world and leader of capitalism, Truman drafted the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan, which complemented the Truman Doctrine, “was a program of large scale economic and military aid to Europe.” (Heretta, p.871) Considered by some, this was the most “innovative piece of foreign policy in American History. Where over the next four years the United States contributed over $12 billion to a highly successful recovery effort.” (Heretta, p. 874)
The Soviet Union stilled commanded a blockade on highway, rail, and river traffic to West Berlin. As a result, the United States responded by entering into a peacetime military alliance; this being the first time since the American Revolution. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) a project costing $1.3 billion, enabled the basing of all four United States Army divisions into Western Europe. Twelve nations agreed to sign this pact that stated “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.” (Henretta, p. 875) Consequently, a few months later, Stalin “lifted the blockade which had made the city a symbol of resistance to communism.” (Henretta, p.875) Between the creation of NATO, the National Security Act and CIA, and the Marshall Plan, America was dictating their position with Russia and communism. These measures made it possible for Americans to become more comfortable with the Cold War.
While all of these governmental policies were being put into action, Americans were settling back into the ideology of family and free enterprise. The post-war period became one of the most exciting in American history. With the rising economy and feeling of consumerism, Americans were rebounding from their efforts in World War II. Capitalism was on the rise and the “Apple Pie” portrait of middle class suburban families was shaping the country. America was now the wealthiest country in the world and Americans had “accumulated savings of $140 billion” in 1945. “Over the next two decades the gross national product more than tripled,” (Henretta, p.904) signifying prosperity. Between 1945 and 1960, the gross national product would grow from $213 billion to more than $500 billion, while real income would rise 25 percent. Included in these figures was the percent of American families owning homes, which grew from 43 percent to over 60 percent in this same time period; this created the suburban explosion. This suburban lifestyle was intended to symbolize the superiority of capitalism over communism and imply that the American way of life would win the Cold War.” (Henretta, p.903) Americans were again beginning to see the capitalist society they fought for, and the confidence level of the country continued to rise throughout the 1960’s. The people cannot create a great nation themselves; great leaders must direct them. Besides the three Presidents who led America throughout the end of World War II and through the Cold War, there were many influential voices that helped to shape the views of the public.
Among these influential people was a man named George F. Kennan. He was a member of the United States embassy to the Soviet Union and author of the “long telegram” which was sent to the heads of state in Washington D.C. In his telegram, Kennan described the Soviets as insecure, inferior, and less advanced than Americans. “As Russia came into contact with the economically advanced West, fear of more competent, more powerful, more highly organized societies,” (Gorn, p.229) was the general message Kennan was trying to get across. Because he saw the country from the inside Kennan also believed the United Sates should ” pursue a policy of firm containment?at every point where the Soviets show signs of encroaching upon the interest of a peaceful and stable world.” (Henretta, p. 870) This opinion and idea of the relationship between the United States and Russia should have been widely accepted by Americans. They backed this idea of aggressive behavior, rather than a passive approach to the Cold War. Conversely, postwar liberal such as Henry Wallace, “a Progressive Party leader, continued to seek cooperation with the Soviet Union and defended the participation of Communists in their organizations.” (Henretta, p. 885) These ideals were quickly silenced. The American majority, being extremely anti-communist, felt relations with the Soviet Union should be harsh and firm.
This period introduced American dominance in foreign policy. The ideals of personal freedom and opportunity were the driving forces behind Western philosophy throughout the Cold War. Not only were these principles showcased, they were set as the benchmark of equality for the human race.