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After the Second World War, the United States began seeing an expansion of communism into Eastern Europe and sought to stop the spread of communism by adopting a policy of containment. The U.S and President Truman saw the Soviet Union to be a serious threat to the free world and as a result, they were about to enter a new kind of war: the “Cold War.”
After defeating Germany during World War II, most of Europe and Asia lay in ruins, and on the horizon a new threat appeared, communism. Even though the U.S. and the Soviet Union were allies during World War II, they both emerged from the war as global powers, with differences on their perspectives of the world. Both nations were competing with each other economically and militarily and where in at an impasse. The U.S. was the richest country in the world and it promoted democracy and capitalism, while the Soviet’s thought communism was a better (political system because it transformed their economy and status in the world from nothing but a declining empire to a super power once again) (StudyWorld). By 1947, relations between the two countries had broken down completely. President Truman took decisive steps to contain Soviet expansion in regions in which the U.S. had vital interests.
With the takeover of Greece and Turkey by a Soviet backed guerilla movement, this was the first sign of communist aggression that forced the U.S. to react. In March 1947, Truman decided to (draw a line in the sand)(US History)by asking Congress to appropriate $400 million for these two nations to help them in the form of military and economic assistance. The Truman Doctrine came about as direct result of the Soviet aggression and was basically an (open pact to any group willing to stand against communism, guaranteeing them military and financial aid)(US Dept of State). This is also the beginning of an embarrassing an unprecedented series of foreign policy blunders on the part of the U.S. The Truman Doctrine would later be used to “justify” shady actions in Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba.
The second step in containment was the Marshall Plan, which provided economic relief to the rebuilding of Western European nations such as Great Britain, France, Belgium and even Germany. By boosting these economies, the U.S. ensured that (communism would not rise in any of these countries from a weak economy)(Studynotes). Four years later, not only were the Western European industries producing twice the amount that they had before war broke out, but the U.S. saw a postwar economic boom with record levels of trade. At first the U.S. Congress wasn’t in favor of the proposed plan, but following a coup by communist in Czechoslovakia, they approved it.
An official alliance with other nations that opposed communism came to be after the coup in Czechoslovakia. In April 1949, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was founded. The countries agreed that they would (stand by each other as one, and any attack on a member of the alliance is an attack on all)(US Dept of State). At the time, this was a great idea; trying to prevent communism from taking over the world. But as time went by, we have come to realize that as a part of NATO, the U.S. is the majority partner, and is becoming the world’s police and major contributor of the funds for these efforts. I think that the U.S. needs to withdraw from NATO and try and get the U.S. back to status of the “world’s super power”. We don’t have the funds to bail out the rest of the world, when our own economy is in such dire straits.
Being a member of NATO, provides a presidential loophole for military intervention by America in any foreign struggle without Congress declaring war, which is a bad idea. All this did was force the Soviet Union to flex its muscles and in 1955, it formed an alliance, known as the Warsaw Pact, with other Eastern European nations, such as Poland, Bulgaria, E. Germany, and Romania. Now, these countries are (no more than puppet nations held by the Grand Puppeteer, Russia)(Pieper). In one fell swoop the Soviet Union (gained almost as much land as Napoleon or Hitler; but without a war)(US History). America’s idea of a united effort at the containment of Communism had exponential grown into a united expansion of communism, just the opposite effect the U.S. was trying to accomplish.
After World War II, redrawing of boundaries all over the world came about. Korea, who was conquered by Japan during the war, was divided at the 38th parallel, and the northern part of the country was given to the Soviet Union and the southern half to the U.S. In 1950, the Soviet’s left N. Korea leaving a communist regime behind. That regime, funded and equipped by China, invaded S. Korea. The United Nations, led, of course, by the United States, (raised an army to restore peace and expel the aggressors)(Pieper). The U.S. established a cease-fire zone, but not before the victory changed hands twice and lasted three years. Some might say that (communism in this case was successfully contained but with the loss of 53,000 American lives in a fruitless attempt to topple a regime is hardly a victory)(US Dept of State).
Another failure of containment by the United States would be in Vietnam. After the fighting with France ended in 1954, Vietnam was split in two like Korea, North Vietnam being Communist and South Vietnam led by the Vietnamese who supported the French. In 1963, the South Vietnamese leader was assassinated, and the U.S. sent over American troops to support the non-Communist regime, while in accordance with the Truman Doctrine. The resulting struggle would prove to be (the most agonizing and long defeat of the American military in history)(StudyWorld). Two elements of the U.S’s failure of Vietnam were trying to win a traditional war in a guerrilla setting and not having full support of the U.S. people. This resulted in a loss of 68,000 U.S. soldiers and over 400,000 South Vietnamese. The U.S. started withdrawing troops in 1973, but by 1976, all of Vietnam came under communist rule, proving once again that containment didn’t work.
Even after the Korean War and the creation of the Warsaw Pact, the expansion of communism was not over. In 1959, a rag-tag band of guerillas overtook the government of Cuba and it fell under Fidel Castro’s regime. The U.S. was unwilling or unprepared to stop this, either for fear of judgment from the international community or of the (shortsightedness caused by a general distaste for Cuba’s previous government)(Nuclearfiles). This would later come back to haunt them, in both the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Realizing the problem that Castro could cause, the U.S. planned a literal exertion of the Truman Doctrine. President Kennedy ordered the execution of The Bay of Pigs operation and in April 1961, 1500 Cuban exiles landed in the Bay of Pigs. American air support never arrived and the plan backfired and all of the exiles were gunned down mercilessly. Again containment was once again dashed.
A year later was probably the scariest moment of the Cold War. The Soviet Union made a deal with Castro to place nuclear missiles on Cuba and those missiles gave the Soviets a chance to hit U.S. soil without an air offensive. The range of those missiles was 3000 miles, which could demolish the whole eastern seaboard. After a U2 flight over Cuba, President Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba and stated that any further attempts to arm Cuba would result in an act of war. The Soviets backed down and removed the silos from Cuba. It was found later, that Russia’s president made a secret deal with the U.S. agreeing to remove the missiles from Cuba if the U.S. would remove missiles from Turkey. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a (propaganda victory for the U.S. and an undisclosed blow to containment)(Nuclearfiles).
Even though 1989 marked the end of the Cold War, some say that since the Soviet Union ultimately fell, the policy of containment was successful. I think this is wrong. The Soviet Union fell under its own weight; the countries expenditures were huge. They had a very large army to support and the cost of such a large country could not be sustained, leaving them no choose but to declare bankruptcy. Another symbol of the U.S. failures to contain communism, is that the nations under the Soviet bloc remain to this day; Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, and China are still completely Communist nations. Not only was American (containment in the height of the Cold War a failure)(US History), those failures can still be seen to this day. And if the U.S. isn’t careful, we too could come under communist rule due to our astronomical debt in which China holds the note.
Works Citied – Containment of Communism
Nuclearfiles.org. Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. 1998-2012. Web. 5 Nov 12
Pieper, Moritz. Containment and the Cold War: Reexaming the Doctrine of Containment as a Grand Strategy Driving US Cold War Interventions. Student Pulse. 2012. Web. 5 Nov 12.
Studynotes.org. 2008. Web. 5 Nov 12.
Studyworld.com. Oakwood Mgt. 1996-2012. Web. 5 Nov 12.
U.S. Department of State. Office of the Historian. US Department of State. Web. 6 Nov 12.
USHistory.org. Containment and the Marshall Plan. Hall Assoc. 2008-2012. Web. 5 Nov 12
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