Cold War

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Offner, Arnold, "Provincialism and Confrontation: Truman’s Responsibility" in Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, Volume II. Gaddis, John Lewis, "Two Cold War Empires: Imposition vs. Multilateralism," in Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, Volume II

The Cold War was the longest war in which the United States has ever partaken and is the only war that involved little to no fighting. After researching the events, reading historical opinions, and listening to lectures in class, I have come to the realization that the war was just an exaggerated argument between two neighbors over which model fence, wood or metal, they would allow in their yards. One neighbor, President Truman, wanted Democracy, and the other neighbor, Stalin, wanted Communism. The problem is that they each had a valid argument for their type of fence and neither side would appease the other. It is important to realize that the Soviet Union has been invaded multiple times in the last couple decades and twice by their eastern neighbor, Germany. Therefore, Stalin’s attempt to protect his country is through maintaining control of neighboring governments like Poland, Northern China, and Germany. His means of doing so were through instilling Communist governments, which is not as terrible as it is made out to be. The basic idea of Communism is that the working class should have control verses a few individuals who are on top, and many Americans right now might see this idea to be in their favor. However, while the basic idea of Communism might be good, implementing it in a functional society is difficult and almost impossible. While the Soviet government, Communism, was indeed flawed and Stalin was definitely a cruel dictator, Democracy is not always in check either. The point is that no government is perfect and therefore, in a moral society, it is difficult to decide which side is right and which is wrong. Arnold Offner, historian, believes that Truman was at fault for causing the Cold War and John Lewis Gaddis, historian, believes that Stalin and the Soviets were to blame. In this essay, I will compare the two different opinions and offer my own opinion based the information given in the two essays. Arnold Offner argues that throughout the Truman presidency, he remained a parochial, narrow-minded nationalist who lacked the vision and leadership to move the United States away from conflict and towards a better future. Instead, he promoted an ideology which uses threats and power to confront his enemies and gain his goals. Arnold believes the Soviets and Stalin only aimed to restore “Russia’s 1941 boundaries, establish a sphere of influence in border states, provide security against a recovered Germany or Japan or hostile capitalist states, and gain compensation, notably reparations, for the ravages of war” (Arnold 215). Truman’s desire to make quick decisions and his “be tough” policy clouded his sight, making him unable to compromise and prevented him from trying to understand the Soviets’ motives. Truman decisively stated that the United States would win peace on its terms. His administration believed that Germany was the key to the balance of power in Europe and began uniting the three zones of Germany that the Western Allies controlled. Of course Stalin saw this as a threat; he feared that he was no longer being seen as an equal among the great powers. Stalin said, “The West will make Western Germany their won, and we shall turn Eastern Germany into our own State” (Arnold 222). However, Truman and the United States had the ace of spades, the atomic bomb, and were able to hold that over the heads of the Soviets which only added to the conflict. In addition, Truman refused Russia’s bids for industrial reparations and withdrew from the Yalta accords. According to Arnold, Truman’s simplistic analogies, exaggerated beliefs in U.S. supremacy, and limited grasp of world affairs worsened conflicts with the Soviet Union and China. For...
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