Cold War: Historical aspect
U.S. - Soviet relations in Cold War period. Causes and Interpretations. The Cold War Years Chronology. The Truman Doctrine. The Role of Cold War in American History and Diplomacy. Declaration of the Cold War. Cold War Issues. The main Cold War's events.
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Truman implemented the same no-nonsense approach when it came to decisions about the atomic bomb. Astonishingly, it was not until the day after Truman's meeting with Molotov that he was first briefed about the bomb. By that time, $2 billion had already been spent on what Stimson called "the most terrible weapon ever known in human history." Immediately, Truman grasped the significance of the infor-mation. "I can't tell you what this is," he told his secretary, "but if it works, and pray God it does, it will save many American lives." Here was a weapon that might not only bring the war to a swift conclusion, but also provide a critical lever of influence in all postwar relations. As James Byrnes told the president, the bomb would "put us in a position to dictate our own terms at the end of the war."
In the years subsequent to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, historians have debated the wisdom of America's being the first nation to use such a horrible weapon of destruction and have questioned the motivation leading up to that decision. Those who defend the action point to ferocious Japanese resistance at Okinawa and Iwo Jima, and the likelihood of even greater loss of life if an invasion of Japan became necessary. Support for such a position comes even from some Japanese. "If the military had its way," one military expert in Japan has said, "we would have fought until all 80 million Japanese were dead. Only the atomic bomb saved me. Not me alone, but many Japanese. . . ." Those morally repulsed by the incineration of human flesh that resulted from the A-bomb, on the other hand, doubt the necessity of dropping it, citing later U.S. intelligence surveys which concluded that "Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated." Distinguished military leaders such as Dwight Eisenhower later opposed use of the bomb. "First, the Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing," Eisenhower noted. "Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon." In light of such statements, some have asked why there was no effort to communicate the horror of the bomb to America's adversaries either through a demonstration explosion or an ultimatum. Others have questioned whether the bomb would have been used on non-Asians, although the fire-bombing of Dresden claimed more victims than Hiroshima. Perhaps most seriously, some have charged that the bomb was used primarily to intimidate the Soviet Union rather than to secure victory over Japan.
Although revulsion at America's deployment of atomic weapons is understandable, it now appears that no one in the inner circles of American military and political power ever seriously entertained the possibility of not using the bomb. As Henry Stimson later recalled, "it was our common objective, throughout the war, to be the first to produce an atomic weapon and use it. ... At no time, from 1941 to 1945, did I ever hear it suggested by the president, or by any other responsible member of the government, that atomic energy should not be used in the war." As historians Martin Sherwin and Barton Bernstein have shown, the momentum behind the Manhattan Project was such that no one ever debated the underlying assumption that, once per-fected, nuclear weapons would be used. General George Marshall told the British, as well as Truman and Stimson, that a land invasion of Japan would cause casualties ranging from five hundred thousand to more than a million American troops. Any president who refused to use atomic weapons in the face of such projections could logically be accused of needlessly sacrificing American lives [3, 123]. Moreover, the enemy was the same nation that had unleashed a wanton and brutal attack on Pearl Harbor. As Truman later explained to a journalist, "When you deal with a beast, you have to treat him as a beast." Although many of the scientists who had seen the first explosion of the bomb in New Mexico were in awe of its destructive potential and hoped to find some way to avoid its use in war, the idea of a demonstration met with skepticism. Only one or two bombs existed. What if, in a demonstration, they failed to detonate? Thus, as horrible as it may seem in retrospect, no one ever seriously doubted the necessity of dropping the bomb on Japan once the weapon was perfected.
Chapter 3: The Role of Cold War in American History and Diplomacy
3.1 Declaration of the Cold War
In late February 1947, a British official journeyed to the State Depart-ment to inform Dean Acheson that the crushing burden of Britain's economic crisis prevented her from any longer accepting responsibility for the economic and military stability of Greece and Turkey. The message, Secretary of State George Marshall noted, "was tantamount to British abdication from the Middle East, with obvious implications as to their successor." Conceivably, America could have responded quietly, continuing the steady stream of financial support already going into the area. Despite aid to the insurgents from Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, the war going on in Greece was primarily a civil struggle, with the British side viewed by many as reactionary in its politics. But instead, Truman administration officials seized the moment as the occasion for a dramatic new commitment to fight communism. In their view, Greece and Turkey could well hold the key to the future of Europe itself. Hence they decided to ask Congress for $400 million in military and economic aid. In the process, the administration publicly defined postwar diplomacy, for the first time, as a universal conflict between the forces of good and the forces of evil [2, 11].
Truman portrayed the issue as he did, at least in part, because his aides had failed to convince Congressmen about the merits of the case on grounds of self-interest alone. Americans were concerned about the Middle East for many reasons--preservation of political stability, guar-antee of access to mineral resources, a need to assure a prosperous market for American goods. Early drafts of speeches on the issue had focused specifically on economic questions. America could not afford, one advisor noted, to allow Greece and similar areas to "spiral downward into economic anarchy." But such arguments, another advisor noted, "made the whole thing sound like an investment prospectus." Indeed, when Secretary of State Marshall used such arguments of self-interest with Congressmen, his words fell on deaf ears, particularly given the commitment of Republicans to cut government spending to the bone. It was at that moment. Dean Acheson recalled, that "in desperation I whispered to [Marshall] a request to speak. This was my crisis. For a week I had nurtured it."
3.2 Cold War Issues
Although historians have debated for years the cause of the Cold War, virtually everyone agrees that it developed around five major issues:
Poland, the structure of governments in other Eastern European countries, the future of Germany, economic reconstruction of Europe, and international policies toward the atomic bomb and atomic energy. All of these intersected, so that within a few months, it became almost impossible to separate one from the other as they interacted to shape the emergence of a bipolar world. Each issue in its own way also reflected the underlying confusion and conflict surrounding the competing doctrines of "universalist" versus "sphere-of-influence" diplomacy. Ex-amination of these fundamental questions is essential if we are to comprehend how and why the tragedy of the Cold War evolved during the three years after Germany's defeat.
Poland constituted the most intractable and profound dilemma facing Soviet-U.S. relations. As Secretary of State Edward Stettinius observed in 1945, Poland was "the big apple in the barrel." Unfortunately, it also symbolized, for both sides, everything that the war had been fought for. From a Soviet perspective, Poland represented the quin-tessence of Russia's national security needs. On three occasions, Poland had served as the avenue for devastating invasions of Russian territory[5, 67]. It was imperative, given Russian history, that Poland be governed by a regime supportive of the Soviet Union. But Poland also represented, both in fact and in symbol, everything for which the Western Allies had fought. Britain and France had declared war on Germany in September 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland, thus honoring their mutual defense pact with that victimized country. It seemed unthinkable that one could wage war for six years and end up with another totalitarian country in control of Poland. Surely if the Atlantic Charter signified anything, it required defending the right of the Polish people to determine their own destiny. The presence of 7 million Polish-American voters offered a constant, if unnecessary, reminder that such issues of self-determi-nation could not be dismissed lightly. Thus, the first issue confronting the Allies in building a postwar world would also be one on which compromise was virtually impossible, at least without incredible diplo-matic delicacy, political subtlety, and profound appreciation, by each ally, of the other's needs and priorities.
The final issue around which the Cold War revolved was that of the atomic bomb. Development of nuclear weapons not only placed in human hands the power to destroy all civilization, but presented as well the critical question of how such weapons would be used, who would control them, and what possibilities existed for harnessing the incalcu-lable energy of the atom for the purpose of international peace and cooperation rather than destruction. No issue, ultimately, would be more important for human survival. On the other hand, the very nature of having to build the A-bomb in a world threatened by Hitler's madness mandated a secrecy that seriously impeded, from the beginning, the prospects for cooperation and international control.
The divisive potential of the bomb became evident as soon as Albert Einstein disclosed to Roosevelt the frightening information that physi-cists had the capacity to split the atom. Knowing that German scientists were also pursuing the same quest, Roosevelt immediately ordered a crash program of research and development on the bomb, soon dubbed the "Manhattan Project." British scientists embarked on a similar effort, collaborating with their American colleagues. The bomb, one British official noted, "would be a terrific factor in the postwar world . . . giving an absolute control to whatever country possessed the secret." Although American advisors urged "restricted interchange" of atomic energy information, Churchill demanded and got full cooperation. If the British and the Americans worked together, however, what of the Soviet Union once it became an ally?
In a decision fraught with significance for the future, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed in Quebec in August 1943 to a "full exchange of information" about the bomb with "[neither] of us [to] communicate any information about [the bomb] to third parties except by mutual consent." The decision ensured Britain's future interests as a world power and guaranteed maximum secrecy; but it did so in a manner that would almost inevitably provoke Russian suspicion about the intentions of her two major allies.
Given the nature of the personalities and the nations involved, it was perhaps not surprising that, as the war drew to an end, virtually none of the critical issues on the agenda of postwar relationships had been resolved. Preferring to postpone decisions rather than to confront the full dimension of the conflicts that existed, FDR evidently hoped that his own political genius, plus the exigencies of postwar conditions, would pave the way for a mutual accommodation that would somehow satisfy both America's commitment to a world of free trade and democratic rule, and the Soviet Union's obsession with national security and safely defined spheres of influence. The Russians, in turn, also appeared content to wait, in the meantime working militarily to secure maximum leverage for achieving their sphere-of-influence goals. What neither leader nor nation realized, perhaps, was that in their delay and scheming they were adding fuel to the fire of suspicion that clearly existed between them and possibly missing the only opportunity that might occur to forge the basis for mutual accommodation and coexistence. For nearly half a century, the country had functioned within a political world shaped by the Cold War and controlled by a passionate anticommunism that used the Kremlin as its primary foil. Not only did the Cold War define America's stance in the world, dictating foreign policy choices from Southeast Asia to Latin-America; it defined the contours of domestic politics as well. No group could secure legitimacy for its political ideas if they were critical of American foreign policy, sympa-thetic in any way to "socialism," or vulnerable to being dismissed as "leftist" or as "soft on communism." From national health insurance to day care centers for children, domestic policies suffered from the crippling paralysis created by a national fixation with the Soviet Union.
From the information of the whole research we can make the conclusion that America seemed to face the greatest moment of possibility in all of postwar history as the decade of the 1990s began. So much positive change had already occurred in the years since World War II--the material progress, the victories against discrimination, the new horizons that had opened for education and creativity. But so much remained to be done as well in a country where homelessness, poverty, and drug addiction reflected the abiding strength that barriers of race, class, and gender retained in blocking people's quest for a decent life.
1. Belknap M. Cold War Political Justice, 1977
2. Borovik H. Cold War, 1997
3. Caute H. The Great Fear, 1978
4. Cooke A. Generation on Trial, 1950
5. Griffin. R. The politics of Fear, 1970
6. Harper D. The politics of Loyalty, 1959
7. Wechler J. The Age Suspicion, 1980
8. The Unfinished Journey: America since World War II" New York Oxford, Oxford University press, 1991.
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