31 March 2015
Cold War DBQ
During the time period pertaining to the Cold War, the foreign policies and ideas established by each president remained in effect despite social and political unrest. However, United States’ involvement in the eastern hemisphere, governmental influence in the nation and in the “hot wars”, and presidential diplomacy caused foreign policies and ideas to contain many similarities throughout the duration of the Cold War. Therefore, the United States experienced more continuity in her methods of dealing with the threat of communism.
Although the foreign policies during this time period contained many similarities, the policies and tactics relating to the fight against communism had changed from the commencement of the war. During Truman’s presidency, tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States as the two world powers intensified through the installment of the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan granted financial aid to rebuild Europe and its malnourished people, but withdrew the offer from the USSR (Doc. 1). George F. Kennan proposed the containment policy to halt the spread of communism from the Soviet Union to other nations without advanced military aid and restore the balance of power; however, communism spread to Asian countries in retaliation and the Soviet Union began the nuclear arms race and the space race against the United States, instead of large scale battles. In 1954, Eisenhower cut military spending to focus on other aspects in the nation that required governmental funding, and it remained cut until the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1965, when the American government and President Johnson created the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution during the Vietnam War. The United States neglected to aid nations such as Hungary against the communist threat until the Eisenhower Doctrine was adopted in 1957. John Dulles felt that the containment policy was ‘too soft’ and wanted to liberate those who had been subjected to the rule of communism, for the Soviets would dominate the world if the United States did not take action with the plan of “massive retaliation” with nuclear bombers (Doc. 3). Once the United States began to aid Middle Eastern countries from the communist threat, the intervening actions and diplomacy of the presidents carried on throughout the course of the war.
Due to the adoption of the containment policy and the Eisenhower Doctrine as well as the desire to spread capitalism and democracy, each president held the same opinion of United States intervention against communism. The Soviet Union had taken control of China and North Korea in the late 1940s, but in order to halt the spread of communism to the entire country of Korea, Truman involved the United States in the Korean Civil War by aiding the South Koreans against the communist threat (Doc. 2). Following the Korean War, the Soviet Union was able to filter their communist influence to Cuba where Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union established nuclear weapons against the United States. President JFK took action against this threat by allowing the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 to overthrow and assassinate Castro, but when the invasion rang unsuccessful, negotiations between Khrushchev and Kennedy about both nations removing the nuclear weapons placed in Cuba and in Turkey surfaced (Doc. 4). The Vietnam War, like the Korean War, was a Civil War pinning the communist north against the south. Eisenhower sent financial and military aid to southern Vietnam to reunify the country. JFK increased the number of military advisors during his presidency to ensure prevention of spreading communism, but after Kennedy’s assassination, President Johnson sent in ground troops in fear of the Domino Theory (Doc. 5). President Johnson fought the communist threat in Vietnam by involving the United States against the Soviets in a ‘quagmire’ war. The federal government had granted Johnson a ‘blank check’ after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, increasing military spending on air and ground troops and supplies to hinder the Vietcong. However, this excessive military spending seemed fruitless as the Vietcong ambushed the south with a surprise attack called the Tet Offensive in 1968. Each president during the time period of the Cold War supported United States involvement against the communist threat and utilized the federal government for funding for the military both in the nation (pertaining to the Civil Rights Movement) and overseas.
Continuity was also present in the diplomacy of the presidents throughout the duration of the Cold War. Although JFK and Nixon were involved with intervention in the war, both attempted to have peaceful negotiations with the Soviets. Throughout the war, there were not any direct attacks on the Soviet Union. However, in the threat of a possible attack from the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK resorted to negotiation between the two nations to remove the missiles (Doc. 4). The 1970s saw the election of President Nixon, the withdrawal of 540,000 ground troops from South Vietnam, the establishment of the Nixon Doctrine, and the withdrawal of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The Nixon Doctrine dictated that in the future all other countries would have to fight their own wars without the support of United States’ troops. Nixon employed a policy of Détente with China and the Soviet Union following the Vietnam War. The Soviets feared an America-China partnership as the relationship between the two improved due to China’s split from the USSR because of opposing views of communism, and the Soviets agreed to negotiate with Nixon (Doc. 6). Nixon held SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) talks with the Soviets, which froze the numbers of long-range nuclear missiles for five years and limited the power of both nations to two clusters of defensive missiles. Ronald Reagan, a modern conservative facing New Deal opponents like Eisenhower and the “Modern Republicanism” created ‘Star Wars’, satellites of the Strategic Defense Initiative to protect against nuclear attacks and relieve tension and mistrust (Doc. 7). Like Nixon with the SALT talks, President H. W. Bush performed START talks with the Soviets in 1989 to set the ceiling of 1,600 strategic nuclear delivery vehicles and 6,000 “accountable” warheads, reducing both the Soviet and the United States’ long-range nuclear warheads. During the Cold War, the United States dealt with the threat of communism similarly as the presidents changed.
The time period relating to the Cold War saw more continuity in the United States’ foreign affairs against the Soviet threat. Although there were some changes, each president held some similarities in their policies, actions, and negotiations. Without the negotiations between the United States, China, Cuba, and the Soviet Union, the United States would not have China as her biggest import through the established diplomatic relationship. The Cold War brought great advancements in education and technology, which required governmental funding; however, the governmental funding helped improve and create beneficial programs present in the nation today. The Cold War helped shape a stable foreign policy for the United States, which continues to still have an effect in the present-day United States.