Howdid the Cold War shape the American economy, society and politics from 1945 to1992? TheCold War between the United States and the Soviet Union emerged and developedafter World War II, though its origins go back in history to the BolshevikRevolution in 1917. The Cold War was an ideological, economic, political andmilitary confrontation, but it never actually was fought between these twonations on a battlefield. It was a war of tensions and hostilities where thebelligerents engaged each other around the world but avoided direct conflictbecause of the dire consequences of such actions. As the Cold Warprogressed until the collapse of the Soviet Union, it had significant impact onthe American society, economy, and politics. The Cold War prompted stronganti-communism within the American society.
The hatred towards Communism was sogreat that it eventually led to McCarthyism. During McCarthyism,Americans were obsessed with the process of identifying the Communists andremoving those Communists from American society. The purpose of organizationssuch as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the House Un-AmericanActivities(HUAC) became the ‘removalof Communists’ and laws such as the Communist Control Act were passed toidentify, capture and remove Communists.
The McCarran Act was also introduced,which forced all Communist organizations to be registered within the USgovernment and banned Communists from carrying US passports and working in the defenseindustry. Many were questioned without having done anything wrong, many losttheir jobs and some even lost their lives. This red scare, which was the fear of communist rebellion, continued to leadAmerican society up until the late 1950s. The Cold War also made many Americansfearful of war. This fear of war was prompted by the arms race. One example is theCubanMissile Crisis, which caused high tension within the USA. It was a13-day confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union involvingAmerican ballistic missile deployment in Italy and Turkey with resulting Sovietballistic missile deployment in Cuba. NikitaKhrushchev began toship ballistic missiles to Cuba and technicians to operate them.
After discussingwith his foreign policy and military advisers, Kennedy blockaded Cuba onOctober 22, 1962. The two sides stood on the edge of nuclear war, butKhrushchev surrendered six days later and the missiles were dismantled. Inreturn, Kennedy dispersed its own missile sites in Turkey. Apart from Cubanmissile crisis, Americans lived in constant fear as the Cold War could turninto a hot war at any time. TheCold War affected many aspects of American social and cultural life, from thecivil rights movement to survivalism, from Hollywood to American universities.
The Cold War also had an impact on theAmerican people economically. The United States used to adopt isolationismpreviously, meaning that the USA did not intervene in any other foreign mattersto only concentrate on the internal issues. As soon as the USA decided to interferein foreign matters, Americans had to pay more taxes to support the USA’sactions.
These actions, including the arms race and other wars, required largeamounts of capital. For instance, the Vietnam War was one of the factorsthat used up massive amount of capital. American involvement in Vietnam datedback 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 theVietnamese leader at that time and went on during the late 1940s and early1950s to provide military aid to the French government to reassert itsauthority over Vietnam, which it had colonized almost a hundred years earlier.After the Cold War, Americans boughtconsumer goods to help the economy grow resulting in the U.S. becoming theworld’s leading economic power.
In the 1980s, President Reagan helped stimulatemassive economic growth with his tax cuts and deregulation. The cold war changed the political climateof the United States. Politicians used anti-communist campaigns while accusingthe current administration of softness to improve their support. American foreign policy became oneof containment as it reacted to the Cold War.
Containment policy was a foreignpolicy doctrine adopted by the Harry S. Truman administration in 1947,operating on the principle that communist governments will eventually fallapart if they are barred from expanding their influence. The United Statessupported corrupt and anti-democratic governments, but friendly to America andthe Soviets backed groups favorable to their own interests.