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Cold War Case

Autor:   •  May 28, 2015  •  Essay  •  2,192 Words (9 Pages)  •  684 Views

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What was the cold war and what did the US government argue was at stake? Consider with examples from the Vietnam War.

The Cold War was a prolonged power struggle between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, commencing shortly after Nazi Germany’s fall in World War Two in 1947 and lasting until 1991 with the disillusion of the Soviet Empire. Although Germany’s aggression against the Soviet Union during the Second World War forced the Soviets to align with the United States, this did not impede a drift between the two super powers in the decade to come, resulting in extreme global tension and anxiety between the Eastern and Western blocs. The Cold war took the form of military, economic and mainly ideological methods, as the US government viewed communism as an ideological threat and therefore argues that capitalism and democracy was at stake for the Western world. This essay will examine this, while also considering how the Cold War conflict led to a series of proxy wars, and thus will place a focus on the conflict through the lens of the Vietnam War. The Cold War was thus a lengthy struggle between the US and the Soviet Union as well as their respective allies, while each side strategized to propagate their social and political perspectives on a global scale.

Following the dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima 1945, American consciousness of the communist threat begun as the government became convinced that communism was a ‘super enemy’ taking the place of former Japanese and fascist German and Italian threats had previously stood (Engelhardt 2007, p. 6). Having emerged as a world super power by 1945, American strength lay with its economy and technological prowess (Leffler 1992, p.3). For American society, victory in World War Two meant a confirmation of the superiority of capitalist America’s democratic values, and given their newfound power, the US government expected to ‘refashion the world’ in their image to create world peace and create international stability (Leffler 1992, p.3). US hegemony was therefore seen as the most effacious and desirable way of organizing global power (McCormick 1995, p.10). However, this glorious aim was quickly overshadowed by the rise of Communism across Europe, growing to 20% of the electorate in France, Italy and Finland in 1945, and to 53 000 in 1946 in Holland and 100 000 in Hungary in December 1945 (Leffler 1992, p.3). US policy makers increasingly became aware of the appeal of communist ideology to war-torn societies who looked towards their governments with hopes of economic, political, social and cultural reconstruction. Thus, the US government regarded communism and its growing power as nothing less than ‘tools of the Kremlin’, spreading its ideology throughout Europe to merely serve the purposes of the Soviet Government (Leffler 1992, p.3).  

By the 1950s, the Cold War had infused American life on every level from the government to the bedroom (May 2008, p. 93). Books such as Philip Wylie’s Smoke Across The Moon (1954) involved the theme of submissive wives who cared for children and had sexual affection only for their husbands, and the latter who were strong, capable of assuming their rightful economic and sexual dominance in the home and into their marriage (May 2008, p. 93). Such ideology insisted that a man’s power and strength within the domestic home was linked to the outside political world, as it was considered that if a man is sexually fulfilled within his marriage he will not be tempted by ‘pornography, prostitution, ‘loose women’ or homosexuals’ and thus is able to defend himself and his family against communists (May 2008, p.93). American popular culture worked in this way as propaganda against the communist threat while working to spread fear across the nation. Communism was portrayed by the government and literature as ‘the weakness of [a man’s] impotence’ and contrasted with the ‘tough-minded’ American capitalist man (May 2008, p.95).  Therefore, it is clear that domestic capitalist values focussed on ideals of marriage and the ‘home’ to create an ‘ideal’ family in an attempt to combat the communist threat.


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