Alternatives to Violence
“Mankind must put an end to war or
war will put an end to mankind.”
John F. Kennedy
September 25, 1961
The Cold War, which took place between 1945 and 1989, has been the event in which the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union directly threatened each other with nuclear weapons, almost bringing “an end to mankind”. All those that offered explanations during and after the Cold War have been classified into two groups: the traditionalists and the revisionists. The traditionalist point of view was focused on the idea that if there was somebody to be blamed for the outbreak of the Cold War, the Soviet Union deserved to be acknowledged with complete responsibility for the start of the conflict, whilst the United States was totally innocent. The traditionalist scholars dominated the historiography of the Cold War until the mid 1960s, when many came to question the American innocence and blamed the Cold War on the American economic imperialism and untrustworthy behavior regarding the Korean War and the Vietnam War. By the 1970s, the so-called Post-revisionists went beyond placing blame on either side and contended that misperception and miscalculation accounted for the beginnings of the Cold War. According to traditionalist views, George Kennan was the man that developed the first explanation of the origins of the Cold War. He shaped the American foreign policy in his characterization of the Soviet Union as a paranoid and insecure power that exaggerated the external threats to justify internal repression and cautious expansion. Kennan almost single-handedly transformed a former wartime ally into a nervous enemy that needed to be contained. The main traditionalist diplomats have been Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, George F. Kennan and William H. McNeill. For instance, Herbert Feis was convinced that under Stalin the Russian people “were trying not only to extend their boundaries and their control over neighboring states but also beginning to revert to their revolutionary effort throughout the world”. Similarly, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. concluded “The Cold War was the brave and essential response of free men to communist aggression”. In contrast with the traditionalists, the revisionists made the reinterpretation of orthodox views on historical evidences. Initially the revisionists were few in numbers and attracted relatively little attention. However, in the 1960s and 1970s the revisionists grew larger in numbers and influence. Frequently revisionist scholars have claimed that Soviet expansion was not a reply to domestic insecurity but the evidence of a sincere commitment to a more literal interpretation of communist ideology. The Soviets did not merely desire greater power and influence in the world, but have also sought to employ their power and influence to foster their ideological aspirations. º
Starting with the Korean War, the primary traditional believes suggested that the US enemies had consistently attacked the public support using the media as a weapon. The Chinese maintained the Korean stalemate along the 38th parallel knowing media coverage of mounting US casualties would disintegrate public support. In the 90s scholars began to portray the Korean War as a civil conflict, rejecting the traditional interpretation of the war as an example of Soviet-inspired, external aggression. Kathryn Weathersby concluded that the war origins “lie primarily with the division of Korea in 1945 and the polarization of Korean politics that resulted from . . . the policies of the two occupying powers…The Soviet Union played a key role in the outbreak of the war, but it was as facilitator, not as originator." President Harry S. Truman firmly believed that North Korea was a puppet of the Soviet Union. Many historians wrote that the Unites States had to act against Soviet-inspired aggression or risk...
Bibliography: Max Hastings, “The Media and Modern Warfare,” Conflict Quarterly 9, no. 3 (Summer 1989), 7.
Herbert Feis, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin. The War they Waged and the Peace They Sought, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1957, p. 655.
Kathryn Weathersby, "The Soviet Role in the Early Phase of the Korean War," The Journal of American-East Asian Relations, 2 (Winter 1993), 432.
Review Essay. James I. Matray: Korea’s Partition: Soviet-American Pursuit of Reunification, 1945-1948. © 1998 James I. Matray
Studies on East Asia: The Korean War in History
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