American History 1940s1960s
The primary economic, social, diplomatic, and political challenges that confronted Americans during the 1940s1960s cannot be attributed to one single underlying factor or political party, but rather several different factors and political parties. For instance, liberalism cannot be blamed for all issues during this period since McCarthy, a Republican, had further perpetuated the already prominent fear of communism in society. Most of these issues originated with the Cold War consensus and general fear in communism during this period. The unstable diplomacy between the United States and Soviet Union and the roots of the Cold War began with mutual distrust and fear between the United States and Soviet Union. Truman viewed all steps taken by Stalin as a threat to democracy. Stalin made it his primary focus to secure his borders and maintain his sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. The democratic ideas of the United States and the communist ideas of the Soviet Union were completely opposed, and "each step taken by one side to enhance its security appeared an act of provocation to the other.”1
Truman's policy with the Soviet Union was not favored by many Americans, even liberals of his own party. The Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace warned that the U.S. must take into account "Russian history...because it is the setting in which Russians see all actions and policies of the rest of the world," that all actions of defense taken by the US "seem to have an aggressive intent," and "after twentyfive years of isolation and after having achieved the status of a major power, Russia believes that she is entitled to recognition of her new status."2
Steven M. Gillon, The American Paradox: A History of the United States since 1945, 2nd ed. (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007), 1113.
American Social History Project / Center for Media and Learning and Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, "“Achieving an Atmosphere of Mutual Trust and Confidence”: Henry A. Wallace Offers an Alternative to Cold War Containment," American Social History Productions, accessed March 15, 2014, http://historymatters.gmu.edu/credits.html.
George Kennan, Soviet specialist in the U.S. embassy, had had also warned the United States about the Soviets’ outlook, stating it as "the product of ideology and circumstances."3 This refers to the ideology that had been passed down through the decades, and the way the Soviet Union had practiced its power in the last three decades. Kennan recommended "cautious, persistent pressure toward the disruption and weakening of all rival influence and rival power."4 Using cautious counterattacks against Soviet aggression created the policy of containment and the idea that America could be an assertive force in international affairs.
America’s assertiveness led to its involvement in the Korean War. After General Douglas MacArthur miscalculated that the Chinese would not intervene with the war, Truman hoped the “Communist plan of conquest can be stopped without a general war”5 and sought after a more peaceful solution than MacArthur's suggestion of attacking China and risking the start of another world war. When Truman relieved MacArthur of his command, the public was angry and Republican leaders threatened to impeach Truman. However, the war continued the expansion of public power and intensified suspicions of communism at home.6 The idea of anticommunism originated even before WWII in American unions. Richard Frankensteen, director of the aviation division of the United Automobile Workers (UAW), blamed an unauthorized strike on the “vicious maneuvering of the Communist Party.”7 During the convention for the UAW in 1939 Walter Reuther, proponent of anticommunism,
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