- America: The Egotistical Superpower
America first came out of its isolationist shell and stepped onto the world stage in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and since then things have never been the same. After its victory over Spain, it had reached the top of the ladder of world prominence and was looking to play a part on the global level. It had a become a world-power with influence and a foothold in the affairs of the world, and with that came great power and responsibility. America’s ill-advised decisions, ambition and overbearing self-confidence, and the twisted desire to exert itself as a world power that was firm on its stance to contain communism and protect freedom and democracy have resulted in rising, global tensions that have endangered the American people.
The Korean War was a direct result of the United States’ ambition and steely resolve to not stand idle as North Korea threatened the democracy of South Korea. The United States, determined to stay in line with its policy of containment, hastily threw together a group of men and sent them out to fight for South Korea and capitalism. “On June 23, 1951, the Soviet ambassador to the UN suggested a cease-fire, which the U.S. immediately accepted. Peace talks continued for two years (Locke and Wright). The cease-fire ended a war that had lost thousands of lives, and while it was shaky, it had protected the border between both countries and deterred the threat of Communism in the Koreas.
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This, while it is generally regarded as a successful event, caused repercussions that soured the atmosphere between the Soviet Union and the United States. The United States had been followed through successfully in its foreign policy of containment by neutralizing Communism in its territory, but it became the breeding ground for future Soviet/U.S. aggression. Within the U.S., the newfound alliance between South Korea and the U.S. was applauded in terms of diplomacy.
Between the Soviet Union and the U.S., it was a different story. Feelings were high initially, but the strain placed on the U.S. and Soviet relationships and the atmosphere created by such tension allowed for quite a bit of manipulation of the American people in the name of “liberty and freedom” (Locke and Wright). The U.S. presented themselves as anti-communism, fighting for liberty and freedom, which threatened and offended the Soviet Union.
After the close of the Korean War and some years of fleeting peace, the U.S. decided to reprise its role as an anti-communist policeman and landed itself in some hot water during the Kennedy administration. The nation, helmed by Kennedy, was reluctant to delegate hard-won executive power to another country. That, along with the increased stress being put onto the nation by Communist threats close by in Cuba, caused Kennedy to spring for an ill-planned overthrow of Fidel Castro’s Cuban government who the U.S. was not very fond of. However, the impetuousness of the maneuver manifested itself in the poor outcome, killing scores of innocent people needlessly. This fiasco became known as the Bay of Pigs invasion and is synonymous with the rapid escalation of tensions between the two warring countries during the Cold War.
The Bay of Pigs was an absolute failure on behalf of the U.S. in its endeavor to contain and halt the spread of Communism in the Western Hemisphere with its foreign policies. As our textbook phrased it, “The Cuban government’s success at thwarting the Bay of Pigs invasion did much to legitimize the new regime [Castro’s men] and was a tremendous embarrassment for the Kennedy administration” (Locke and Wright). The U.S. itself did not look kindly upon the endeavor, as the blunder stained the nation’s reputation.
This ill-advised invasion was not only a major embarrassment and hit to America’s ego, it destroyed political relations between Cuba and the U.S., and Cuba soon began to gravitate toward the Soviet Union. “This strengthening of ties [Cuba and the Soviet Union] set the stage for the Cuban Missile Crisis, perhaps the most dramatic foreign policy crisis in the history of the United States.” The Bay of Pigs invasion is a prime contender for being one of the most negative, influential factors that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, a crisis that pushed the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear warfare.
Despite the U.S. track record when dealing with communism, yet again the U.S. reprised its role during what became known as the Vietnam War. The U.S. refused to back down, despite the fact that all of the odds were stacked against them and suffered greatly. The Vietnam War undermined the U.S. as a respected world nation. The obsessive desire to maintain an image of a global, democratic bulwark that was bent on protecting free choice and destroying communism resulted in a needless war that killed thousands of lives pointlessly and strained the U.S. relationship with the Soviet Union past the point of no return.
The conflict brewing in Vietnam became a point of interest for the U.S. during the Cold War. As the war was fundamentally shaped by the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the U.S., as well as the inter-Asian and Soviet relations that were surfacing at the time. The war was greatly exacerbated by the latter, as the U.S. became angered after discovering that the Soviet Union was economically supporting the Viet Cong’s immoral invasion of South Vietnam by providing arms as well as food and other funding. After realizing that the Soviet-funded invasion was an indirect attack on the United States, the U.S. was determined to machine an excuse to go to defend the ideals of democracy against such a threat (Locke and Wright).
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The U.S. was determined to find justification for military force in Vietnam, and after the sinking of the U.S.S Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin incident passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that allowed President Johnson to use military force without declaring war. This was start of the downward spiral that would lead to an abuse of power that resulted in the immoral declaration of war, that caused horrendous war crimes, the loss of thousands of American and Vietnamese lives, a distrust of the government by the American people (because there really weren’t any just motives behind the war), as well as the loss of credibility of the U.S. as a capable and just nation (Locke and Wright).
The U.S. took a huge hit after their withdrawal of ground forces from Saigon in 1975 and the unification of both sides of Vietnam under communism, as it was the first war that the U.S. had partook in and lost. This war, however, is regarded as a huge failure for American foreign policy, as it showed the world that we were so mad about stopping communism and keeping an image that our government never took the time to listen to the protests of the people to consider the stakes and risks we were taking, and blindly toying around and endangering the lives of people (Locke and Wright).
America’s ill-advised decisions, ambition and overbearing self-confidence, and the twisted desire to exert itself as a world power that was firm on its stance to contain communism and protect freedom and democracy have resulted in rising, global tensions that have endangered the American people. America, who was just an infant when it came to dealing with foreign issues, had a lot of ups and down in its history as a world power. The Communist threat to the U.S. had a major role in shaping U.S. foreign policies, as it presented a wide range of issues, some of which the U.S. had never dealt with before. These three issues presented a U.S. in which pride and ego created conflicts that could have been easily avoided. Lastly, I have learned that the United States still has a lot to learn in relation to becoming a just and respectful world superpower. While foreign policy has not always been the United States’ forte, it has and will continue to shape our nation in the future.
- Edited by Joseph Locke and Ben Wright, The American Yawp, Stanford University Press, 2018, www.americanyawp.com.
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