Thesis: US Foreign Affairs Since 1898

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U.S. Foreign Affairs Since 1898

Explain the origins of the containment policy after World War II. Also, explain the reasons for the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Even when the Soviet Union was an official ally of the United States, distrust of Stalin's USSR and communism as an ideology was pervasive in the U.S. Vocal critics of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal decried the legislation as socialistic, even though the New Deal was actually intended to offer a middle ground between classical economic theory and radical leftism. However, the defeat of Nazism and the expansion of the Soviet sphere of influence into Eastern Europe alerted President Harry Truman and the rest of the Western world that a new level of communist threat had arisen, threatening the free world. "Conflicts among the Allies surfaced at the end of the war. As Soviet troops freed the nations of Eastern Europe from Nazi control, they set up pro-Soviet governments. The other Allies called for free elections, but Stalin refused. He wanted Eastern Europe to serve as a buffer against any future German attack" (World War II and the Cold War, 2009, Fresno). This is important to note: Stalin was not a madman, however undemocratic and brutal he may have been as a leader; Stalin's policies were based in his fears and memories suffering inflicted by the Nazis upon the Soviet people.

However, President Truman and the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were dubious of Stalin's assertion that he needed a buffer zone to ensure his nation's security. They remembered Neville Chamberlain's ineffective policy of appeasing Hitler. Neither Roosevelt nor Churchill wished to appease Stalin. The western powers resolved to contain the spread of communism, and drew a line past which the U.S.S.R. was not permitted to cross in Europe. Even Stalin did not desire a fully-fledged war with America, particularly given America's atomic capacity, as demonstrated in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The first test of the American policy of containment came in Berlin. At the end of World War II, Germany had been divided into four zones, each occupied by a different power: Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was more punitive and controlling over its sphere of influence, and was determined incorporate Berlin into its empire. On June 24, 1948, the Soviet army created a blockade around its section of Berlin. In response, the western powers organized by the United States airlifted food, and other supplies to sustain the city. "The Soviets did not respond to the airlift by trying to stop it, mainly because they believed that they would have failed or triggered a war" (The Berlin Airlift, 2010, Cold War Museum).

Truman's policy of containment also extended to giving aid to anti-communist guerilla forces in Greece and Turkey in what would later be called the Truman Doctrine. Gradually, the mandate of containment expanded from Western Europe, as the U.S. began to recover economically, from World War II. "In the early years of the Cold War, our foreign policy goals focused on containing communism in Europe. We recognized that our resources were limited. We had been demobilizing since the end of World War II and the American public had reverted to its traditional isolationist character. Containment was limited only to Western Europe where our military strength was greatest" (Staten 2005). But as communist movements began to take root in China, Southeast Asia, the U.S. feared that Soviet influence would take hold internationally, and vowed to contain communism wherever it might lurk. Western and Eastern Europe were polarized in the alliances of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, but behind the scenes covert and not-so covert aid was given by both the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. To rebel forces around the globe.

Q2-What happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and why is it an important case of Cold War confrontation?

The Cuban Missile Crisis was important for what happened -- and did not happen. "The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. The United States armed forces were at their highest state of readiness ever and Soviet field commanders in Cuba were prepared to use battlefield nuclear weapons to defend the island if it was invaded" (An overview of the crisis, 1997, The Cuban Missile Crisis). At the time of the crisis, the Soviet Union still lagged behind the U.S. In the arms race. The U.S. was on a state of heightened alert because of the relatively recent takeover of Cuba by communists. It seemed as if a communist insurgency was knocking on the U.S.'s back door. "In late April 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev conceived the idea of placing intermediate-range missiles in Cuba. A deployment in Cuba would double the Soviet strategic arsenal and provide a real deterrent to a potential U.S. attack against the Soviet Union" (An overview of the crisis, 1997, The Cuban Missile Crisis). Fidel Castro, feeling threatened by the hostile U.S. government welcomed the Soviet missiles.

On October 15, 1962, American reconnaissance photographs revealed Soviet missiles were under construction in Cuba. Under the advice of EX-COMM, a group of President Kennedy's twelve most important advisors, the president resolved to impose a naval quarantine around the island rather than to invade the island, as some of his more hawkish advisors wished him to do. Kennedy announced the discovery of the missiles and his decision to impose the blockade to the American public on October 22. "He also proclaimed that any nuclear missile launched from Cuba would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union and demanded that the Soviets remove all of their offensive weapons from Cuba" (An overview of the crisis, 1997, The Cuban Missile Crisis).

Kennedy ordered low-level reconnaissance missions once every two hours. "On the 25th Kennedy pulled the quarantine line back and raised military readiness to DEFCON 2" (An overview of the crisis, 1997, The Cuban Missile Crisis) Khrushchev sent a relatively conciliatory letter to the U.S., proposing the removal of Soviet missiles in exchange for a U.S. guarantee not to invade Cuba (a genuine fear of Khrushchev). On October 27, relations between the two powers deteriorated after aU-2 was shot down over Cuba. EX-COMM received a more belligerent letter from Khrushchev demanding the removal of U.S. missiles in Turkey in exchange for Soviet missiles in Cuba (An overview of the crisis, 1997, The Cuban Missile Crisis).

The most important decision of the crisis was made by Attorney General Robert Kennedy who ignored the second Soviet letter, pretended it had never been sent and contacted Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin to say that the U.S. had agreed to the terms of the first letter. On October 28 Khrushchev announced that he would dismantle the installations and return the missiles to the Soviet Union. "Further negotiations were held to implement the October 28 agreement, including a United States demand that Soviet light bombers be removed from Cuba, and specifying the exact form and conditions of United States assurances not to invade Cuba" (An overview of the crisis, 1997, The Cuban Missile Crisis).

Many years later Robert Kennedy's decision was revealed to have been the 'correct' decision that brought the superpowers back from the brink of nuclear war. Unbeknownst even to Kennedy, "in addition to their intermediate-range ballistic missiles, the Soviets had deployed nine tactical missiles in Cuba to be used against any U.S. invasion force. Even more significant, General Gribkov stated that Soviet field commanders in Cuba had the authority to fire those tactical nuclear weapons without further direction from the Kremlin" (Chang & Kornbluh 1998)

Q3-Explain how the United States got involved in Vietnam, and how did the United States end its role in Indochina?

The United States became involved in Vietnam as a direct result of The Truman Doctrine's policy of international containment of communism. When communist China began to support the anti-colonial Viet Cong, the U.S. helped the French create a non-communist government in South Vietnam and gave aid to South Vietnam to help prop up the French-controlled regime. President Eisenhower was the first president to formulate what later became known as the Domino Theory of communism after the retreat of the French, justifying continuing American involvement in the region: "You have a row of dominoes set up. You knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly" (BBC, 2009).

Eisenhower used this theory to justify American support for the South Vietnamese dictator Dien Bien Phu, a fanatical Catholic anti-communist who ruled with an iron fist. In 1960 The National Liberation Front (NLF), a guerrilla group was formulated to resist Dien's government. It also resolved to expel the Americans (whose presence was increasing as President Kennedy sent more advisors to the South) and unite the two sections of the nation. However, the NLF needn't have worried about Dien -- Dien was so widely loathed, even in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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