The Cold War

Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・History ・MLA ・7 Sources

The Cold War was a military operation between two superpowers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Between 1945 and 1989, when the Soviet Union dissolved, confrontation dominated. The war was sparked by misunderstandings, rivalries, and disputes between these two superpowers and their allies that were there. In philosophies such as communism and capitalism, mistrust and misperception, the great powers had distinctions. The U.S. rejected the propagation of communism, an intellectual notion that the Soviet Union was based on expanding worldwide. Similarly, after the United States had acquired an atomic bomb, the Soviet Union was frightened. The superpowers were both worried about The Cold War had several influences on the United States and the Soviet Union.

Theories That Guided the U.S. Foreign Policy

In the early 1950s, United States foreign policies were guided by a major theory, Domino theory (Walker and Mark, 749-754). This theory states that a communist victory in one country or nation leads to a linked response of communist in the neighboring countries. The U.S foreign policy makers believed that if one country was allowed to fall to communism, several other countries would also follow. Therefore, the U.S. was forced to support anti-communist systems in other parts of the world regardless of whether the systems support democratic ideals or not. This theory led to policies like Containment, the Marshall plan and the wars in Vietnam and Korea. The U.S. under President Harry S. Truman supported the French-backed regime in South Vietnam. He also supported Turkey and Greece to help control spread of communism in the Middle East and Europe.

Changing View of the Cold War from 1949 to 1979

In 1949, the U.S. foreign policy experienced a setback towards communism in other parts of the world. The U.S. was one step ahead of the Soviet Union by having the atomic weapon that the Soviet Union did not have. However, in 1949, the Soviet Union detonated their own atomic weapon hence creating a level field for both superpowers. One of the U.S. foreign policy, containment, also was rejected in China when Mao Zedong declared all of the main land China is under communist rule.

In 1959, there was a signing of cease-fire agreement at Panmunjom between U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower and new Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev. This agreement was signed after the U.S. president gave the threat to drop an atomic bomb on China. China had joined the war in Korea and backed North Korea. The Korean conflict saw the first fall of the U.S. in achieving military goals set before the commencement of the war. From the agreement, the U.S. got militarily snared in Asia since they could not prohibit communist expansion in Vietnam and they faced a setback when they withdrew from Saigon in 1975. 

Happy Days in the Postwar Suburbs

The postwar period in the 1950s is regarded as the happy days of the decades that preceded and those that came after were worse. In the 1930s, there was the Great Depression, the world war of the 1940s, the conflict of 1960s, and the malaise of 1970s. During the 1950s, the American dream became a reality for many Americans. They could afford a house on their own lands, a car, a dog, and they could afford to feed their children. Postwar affluence redefined the American Dream. In the postwar period of the 1950s the president, Dwight Eisenhower helped raise the minimum wage and expanded the social security coverage in the United States. The president was aiming at maintaining pressure on the Soviet Union while reducing expenditure. The American economy boomed and helped shape the perfect reflective view of the 1950s. The middle class was able to afford goods previously considered for the upper class such as televisions, ovens, automobiles, and refrigerators. For the first time, Americans living in apartments found affordable homes, leading to the suburbs population exploding. The youth in the postwar era also had a happy life when rock and roll were first introduced.

Civil Rights Movement Success

The civil rights movements and the cold war were connected. The United States was in war with the Soviet Union, therefore, it had to prove that the U.S. system of government was superior. To achieve this, the government had to put democracy into practice. Many blacks felt aggrieved by their exclusion from many benefits of the new culture that had been adopted in the U.S. after the cold war. These benefits were for the whites who never valued the benefits. Civil rights movements had to fight for the minorities in the society. Their success can be credited to legal victories against the oppressive regime, strong leadership and commitment at the grassroots level, and the legislative initiatives of liberal democrats at the federal level. Without the fight by the Civil Rights Movements, the federal government would not have been willing to take the politically risky steps needed to implement civil rights laws.

Push for Equality in America

The African Americans have had the longest, greatest, and most violent struggle for equality in America. The African Americans were seen as very inferior and even the constitution did not value their presence in U.S. Their fight for freedom and equality has provided the moral and legal foundation for others who are fighting for equality in America.

Political Actions of J.F. Kennedy and L.B. Johnson

The United States president John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson had similar political actions to Franklin D. Roosevelt and other progressive presidents in that they all fought for human rights (Hersch, 13-27). J.F. Kennedy was not willing to witness undoing of human rights in his administration. After the assassination of Kennedy, L.B. Johnson signed the civil rights act of 1964. This bill shows the prohibition of discrimination and banned segregation in terms of race, color or sex (Phyllis). In the presidency of Roosevelt, the rights of women, children, and African Americans were promoted to both the president and the first lady.

Rise of Silent Majority of Conservatives

Conservatives in the years 1950-1960 were widely viewed to have no political future in U.S. (The Atlantic Monthly, 130). However, over time, the conservatives have shifted to become one of the most powerful forces in American politics. In 1964, the conservatives lost a campaign due to poor management and disunity in their Party (The Atlantic Monthly, 134). This defeat for the conservatives was a wake-up call to the Republicans as it appealed to the silent majority conservatives. From this defeat, the conservatives emerged well organized, had experience, and determined to get the political power. The working and the middle class had no more trust in the government due to issues such as protests from students and civil rights movements and the Vietnam defeat, the conservatives took advantage of the increasing disillusionment. They promised to restore law and order in the country and they earned a lot of support from Americans.

Effects of Watergate Scandal on American Confidence

Watergate scandal ended with the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon and a scandal that is still felt in American culture four decades later (Anderson, 1). The scandal dented American’s faith in their government and leaders. The scandal ended the myth that the President is always a great, moral, and trustworthy leader. In the 1970s, many Americans were burdened with this political disillusionment. They felt that America had lost its direction and the American Dream. They were faced with unresolved conflict, economic stagnation, increasing poverty, a decline in living standards, fear of loss of the American Dream, and divisions in the American culture (Evans, 391-393).  Many of these problems facing the Americans, already existed before the Watergate scandal, but they seemed to be getting worse and more intractable.

Americans believed that their government could not solve the issues affecting them since they had lost their faith in the government after the Watergate scandal. They ended up becoming more disillusioned with their government. They felt that the government did not care about their needs and the American government did nothing towards the declining culture, society, and economy. President Jimmy Carter who came in after the resignation of Nixon admitted that the American citizens had lost their trust in the government. This crisis he admits were caused by government’s inaction and inability to address the problems that the Americans were experiencing (Eidenmulle, online). Carter was unable to restore public confidence in the government and Americans rejected his second term as President (Anderson, 64).


The United States of America experienced several influences from the Cold War. There were economic prosperity and improvement of the living standards. In the modern world history, the cold war has also had a significance as it provided political, social, and economic developments. It has had considerable effects on the Soviet Union, Europe, as well as the foreign policy of the U.S.


Anderson, Dale. Watergate: Scandal in the White House. Minneapolis, Minn: Compass Point Books, 2007. Print.

Eidenmulle, Michael E. "Jimmy Carter - A Crisis of Confidence Speech - American Rhetoric." American Rhetoric: The Power of Oratory in the United States, 3 Jan. 2017, Accessed 4 June 2017.

Evans, Kevin A. "The Historical Presidency: Looking Before Watergate: Foundations in the Development of the Constitutional Challenges Within Signing Statements, FDR-Nixon." Presidential Studies Quarterly. 42.2 (2012): 390-405. Print

Hersch, William R. Images of Inherited War: Three American Presidents in Vietnam. Alabama: Air University Press, Air Force Research Institute, 2014. Print.

"Phyllis Schlafly and the ERA." Tom Brokaw, correspondent. NBC Today Show. NBCUniversal Media. 22 Aug. 1977. NBC Learn. Web. 2 April 2016.

The Atlantic Monthly; December 1995; The Conservative 1960s; Volume 276, No. 6; page 130-135

Walker, Stephen G, and Mark Schafer. "Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson As Cultural Icons of U.S. Foreign Policy." Political Psychology. 28.6 (2007): 747-776. Print.

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