Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Cold War Case Essay
The Cold War was a contest between the USA and the Soviet Union. It led to the existence of thousands of nuclear weapons, two universal ideologies in conflict, and two different self-images, the United States championing a world made safe for democracy. Its opponent, the Soviet Union advocated world Communism. The United States prides itself on its heritage of freedom, a refuge for persecuted religious groups, a land of liberty that successfully rebelled against the imperial power of Britain in 1776. Its guiding principles were the protection of the individualÃ¢â¬â¢s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness and the establishment of a constitution that embodied the best political idea of modern times, a system of checks and balances so that the president, Congress or parliament and judiciary or Supreme Court shared power, checking each otherÃ¢â¬â¢s work to guard against dictatorship. While the United States did not always live up to its ideals, nonetheless, on paper at least, it looked good compared to its Cold War rival, the Soviet Union. Led by a murderous dictator, Joseph Stalin (1928 to 1953), the Soviet government was brutal, outlawing all opposition, banned political parties opposed to the Communist Party, murdered millions and set up a vast prison camp system known as the Gulag. In the years 1937-38 alone, Stalin ordered the execution of one million citizens of the Soviet Union. In the fifty years of the Cold War, the United States only executed two of its own citizens, the husband and wife Rosenberg spy team. Even though the Rosenbergs should not have been executed because their crimes were tiny in the context of the Civil War, the difference between the United States and the Soviet Union in terms of political mass murder of its own citizens is obvious. Despite this fact, one third of the world went the Communist way and other countries were tempted by the promises of Communism. How could this be? In theory, Communism promised a more equal world and at its greatest extent in the 1970s, Communist governments ruled one third of the worldÃ¢â¬â¢s people. These were mostly poor countries looking for a quick way to industrialise. These countries looked upon the United States as a champion of the rich and powerful, an exploitative superpower that exported its economic system of capitalism only because it suited its interests to do so. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States strides the world as the sole superpower. The United States maintains its grip on this unipolar world without having to make too much effort. The United States spends only about 5-6% of its economy (its gross national product) on defense. The Soviet Union spent somewhere between 20% and 33% of its economy to try to keep up with the United States during the Cold War. It couldnÃ¢â¬â¢t keep up the pace. The position of the United States has declined only slightly in the twentieth century. In 1928, its economy was four times the size of its nearest rival (France) and in 1950 its economy was three times the size of its nearest rival (the Soviet Union). It is not just a question of economic or military power. American films and popular music dominated the mass culture of the world from World War One to the present day. In 1994, the biggest-selling film in Austria, France, Germany, Argentina and Mexico was the The Lion King, an American cartoon. The Flinstones was the best-selling film in Poland and Turkey. Forrest Gump won Finland and Norway. It is important to remember that power is projected and wars can be won not just by military and economic means but also by winning what is now an international culture war. A reluctant empire? The United States expanded its frontier in North America throughout the eighteenth century and after victory over Spain in 1898 became a maritime power whose empire stretched as far west as the Philippines. Ever since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, the United States has pledged itself to prevent the European powers from intervening in the western hemisphere, specifically Latin America. Following its victory over Spain in 1898, the Untied States arrived as a world power. For many Native Americans and African-American slaves, some of the rhetoric of freedom did not ring true. But AmericaÃ¢â¬â¢s promise of freedom and opportunity attracted migrants from all over the world. They arrived in New York at the rate of a million a year in the early 1900s. As a result of EuropeÃ¢â¬â¢s self-destruction in World War One (1914-18), the United States became the dominant economic and political power in the world. It would later describe itself as a reluctant empire, a democratic state whose aim was to spread its ideals over the world but not to control in the way that European empires had done in the past. But what would it do with this power? Britain and France, weakened by the loss of Russia through revolution, were able to overcome Germany only with AmericaÃ¢â¬â¢s help. Wilson believed that the values of the United States were in fact universal values of peace and democracy. In 1918 Woodrow Wilson, the American president published his Fourteen Points which called for a democratic peace based on the rights of self determination of all nations and the setting up of an international body, the League of Nations, to solve conflicts. But the world was changing. In Russia in 1917 Lenin and his Communist Party had come to power. Even worse for Wilson, his ideas were rejected in his own country, the United States. Wilson was pleased that the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War One established a League of Nations, but then found that the United States would not join. The League of Nations was rejected by the Senate, the upper house of the US Congress. Instead the Untied States tried to secure its future through the Washington Conference of 1921-22 which agreed that the US Navy should be of equal strength to the largest navy in the world, the British. In the 1920s and 30s, American foreign policy was dominated by isolationism, a refusal to intervene in Europe even when fasicsts, nazis and communists were on the march against American-style democracy in Europe. Those who support American power in the world today still worry that if the rest of the world criticises the United States too much it will retreat into its shell again and leave Europe and Australia at the mercy of a new (presumably Asian) religious fascim. Despite or because of its spectacular economic growth, American capitalism hit a major snag in the Great Depression that began in 1929 and economic problems increased the mood of isolationism in the US public, that is a mood of cutting the United States off from the worldÃ¢â¬â¢s troubles. The president to take the US out of the Depression was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who introduced his New Deal. It was Roosevelt who would take the USA into the Second World War but only after Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941, putting an end to the argument for isolation. The USA suffered more than three hundred thousand deaths in World War Two, mostly soldiers. But as in World War One this was a relatively small price to pay for what was a huge victory. The Soviet Union now under Joseph Stalin lost 27-30 million people, the majority of which were civilians. At the end of world War Two, the United States had a new and powerful weapon, the atomic bomb that it had to used to force japan to surrender in 1945. Under president Truman from 1945-52, the United States staked out a new role as the worldÃ¢â¬â¢s policeman whose task it was to protect the democratic and free Ã¢â¬ËWestÃ¢â¬â¢ from the tyranny of StalinÃ¢â¬â¢s Communism in the Soviet Union. The United States would win the Cold War, in large part because of its continuing economic success. On the eve of its collapse in 1990, the GNP of the Soviet Union was approximately one third of that of the USA, even though the United States and the Soviet Union had almost identical population sizes. The secret to AmericaÃ¢â¬â¢s success? Unlike the Soviet Union, which experimented with a new and untried economic model of a state-rune economy, the Untied States had a proven economic model of capitalism. It had its faults such as inequality and crises of unemployment but encouraged innovation and efficiency in a way that the Soviet system did not.