The Effects of the Cold War on the Americas
For nearly fifty years, the world lived in fear as two super-power nations quietly battled for power, respect and popularity of their respective political views. The Cold War arose out of the ashes of the failed alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union in World War II. Many different factors could be linked to the actual cause of the Cold War, however many agree that the political future of Eastern Europe was the major spark that ignited the battle between Communist Russia and Capitalist America1. The American fear of the spread of communism and their ambition to penetrate the "Iron Curtain" only added fuel to the fire that had been burning for some time already. Although the causes are too numerous to get into detail, the effects were felt throughout the world, not only just in the US and Russia. The effects of the struggle can still be seen in today's culture, and are prominent at that. Hence, although many lives were lost, millions of dollars were spent and resources expended2, the Cold War "benefited" some more than others, mainly "benefiting" North America and Europe, while Latin America still seems to be suffering the consequences of becoming involved with the war. However, if one were to ask who "won" the war, it is near impossible to answer, as the negatives of the situation far outweigh the positives.
Nowhere was the impact of the Cold War felt greater than in the United States. The fear of communism spreading, referred to as "McCarthyism", dominated the minds of Americans shortly after the Cold War commenced and stayed that way for quite some time3. However fear, if it was that, paved the way for landmarks that would help shape the United States into the powerful nation that they are today.
The use of atomic weapons in WWII was a symbol of nuclear monopoly for the US. Thus, the threat of "nuclear devastation"4 to the Soviets was real. As a result, a race for atomic respect began. In August of 1949, the Soviets successfully detonated their first nuclear weapon, mutualizing the threat of a nuclear Armageddon5. Out of the arms race came a huge increase in technological advancements that could be useful against the enemy, as well as a new psychology known as MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction)- the philosophy that both nations had the power to destroy the other if need be6. Technologically, the Cold War gave rise to Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, Submarine Launch Ballistic Missiles and spy planes such as the SR-71, which is now used by NASA for upper atmospheric research7. Going hand in hand with the race for technological superiority was the Space Race. Not only did the launching of Sputnik by the Soviets in 1957 indicate their advantage in space technology, but rather posed a threat because it signaled the Soviets' upper hand in missile technology8. In response to the launching of Sputnik, President Eisenhower signed a legislation creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), designed to operate separately from the Department of Defense and also requiring by its 1958 charter to make its research available to the American public9. As we know, NASA is now the world's foremost leading authority on space travel and aeronautical research.
Out of the Cold War also came the emergence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Twelve nations signed the pact: the US, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Norway, Great Britain and the Benelux, pledging to use force in self-defense and to develop "free institutions" by means of "economic collaboration" between the nations10. Article 5 of the treaty was the central theme of the pact, and it stated that The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all; and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each them
will assist the Party of Parties so attacked by...
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Thinkquest Team, Thinkquest.com. "Cold War: The Effects", March 20th, 2004.
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