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How
did the Cold War shape the American economy, society and politics from 1945 to
1992?

 

 

The
Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union emerged and developed
after World War II, though its origins go back in history to the Bolshevik
Revolution in 1917. The Cold War was an ideological, economic, political and
military confrontation, but it never actually was fought between these two
nations on a battlefield. It was a war of tensions and hostilities where the
belligerents engaged each other around the world but avoided direct conflict
because of the dire consequences of such actions. As the Cold War
progressed until the collapse of the Soviet Union, it had significant impact on
the American society, economy, and politics.

 

The Cold War prompted strong
anti-communism within the American society. The hatred towards Communism was so
great that it eventually led to McCarthyism. During McCarthyism,
Americans were obsessed with the process of identifying the Communists and
removing those Communists from American society. The purpose of organizations
such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the House Un-American
Activities(HUAC) became the ‘removal
of Communists’ and laws such as the Communist Control Act were passed to
identify, capture and remove Communists. The McCarran Act was also introduced,
which forced all Communist organizations to be registered within the US
government and banned Communists from carrying US passports and working in the defense
industry. Many were questioned without having done anything wrong, many lost
their jobs and some even lost their lives. This red scare, which was  the fear of communist rebellion, continued to lead
American society up until the late 1950s. The Cold War also made many Americans
fearful of war. This fear of war was prompted by the arms race. One example is the
Cuban
Missile Crisis, which caused high tension within the USA. It was a
13-day confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union involving
American ballistic missile deployment in Italy and Turkey with resulting Soviet
ballistic missile deployment in Cuba. Nikita
Khrushchev began to
ship ballistic missiles to Cuba and technicians to operate them. After discussing
with his foreign policy and military advisers, Kennedy blockaded Cuba on
October 22, 1962. The two sides stood on the edge of nuclear war, but
Khrushchev surrendered six days later and the missiles were dismantled. In
return, Kennedy dispersed its own missile sites in Turkey 1. Apart from Cuban
missile crisis, Americans lived in constant fear as the Cold War could turn
into a hot war at any time. The
Cold War affected many aspects of American social and cultural life, from the
civil rights movement to survivalism, from Hollywood to American universities.

 

The Cold War also had an impact on the
American people economically. The United States used to adopt isolationism
previously, meaning that the USA did not intervene in any other foreign matters
to only concentrate on the internal issues. As the USA decided to interfere in
foreign matters, Americans had to pay more taxes to support the USA’s actions.
These actions, including the arms race and other wars, required large amounts
of capital. For instance, the Vietnam War was one of the factors
that used up massive amount of capital. American involvement in Vietnam dated
back to the end of World War II, when Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese nationalist,
asked for American support for Vietnam’s independence. The US snubbed the
Vietnamese leader at that time and went on during the late 1940s and early
1950s to provide military aid to the French government to reassert its
authority over Vietnam, which it had colonized almost a hundred years earlier
1. After the Cold
War, Americans bought consumer goods to help the economy grow resulting in the
U.S. becoming the world’s leading economic power. In the 1980s, President
Reagan helped stimulate massive economic growth with his tax cuts and
deregulation.

 

The cold war changed the political climate
of the United States. Politicians used anti-communist campaigns while accusing
the current administration of softness to improve their support. American foreign policy became one
of containment as it reacted to the Cold War. Containment policy was a foreign
policy doctrine adopted by the Harry S. Truman administration in 1947,
operating on the principle that communist governments will eventually fall
apart if they are barred from expanding their influence 1. The United States
supported corrupt and anti-democratic governments, but friendly to America and
the Soviets backed groups favorable to their own interests.

What makes the Cold War so
fascinating is that it’s very different from past wars. Most wars had been
“hot” wars where there’s direct armed conflict between different
countries. However, the Cold War was a fight between the Americans and the
Soviets to determine which of their economic and ideological systems would rule
world affairs. Not only was it a war of diversity, but a war of great length
that lasted about fifty years (1945-1992) 1.

 

References:

1 Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: an American History.
W.W. Norton, 2017.

 

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