When World War II ended, many people hoped for an era of peace and cooperation across the globe. However, the new war started much earlier than anyone had anticipated. Despite it being fundamentally different from the original understanding of the term “war,” the Cold war was a war, nonetheless, occurring on various political, economical, ideological, and cultural levels. The world became bipolar, with the world map gradually being recolored into blue and red colors that resembled the areas of American and Soviet influence, respectively. In contrast to the American isolationism that was a dominant foreign policy course in-between World Wars, American internationalism entered the world arena and challenged the expansion of communism. The intersection of their influence can be seen in the local wars in Korea and Vietnam. In addition, the reasons behind the Cuban Missile Crisis provide additional evidence of U.S. foreign affairs. Overall, the American involvement in mentioned events resembles one of the most significant changes in the U.S. policy that occurred in the context of the Cold War.
After the division of Europe, the first major intersection of American and Soviet influence took place in Asia. Following World War II, the northern part of Korea was occupied by Soviet forces, with the south remaining in the hands of American ones. The military presence was intended to be temporal; however, it led to the establishment of two hostile regimes, each of which sought to unify Korea under its rule (Berkin et al., 2012). In 1950, shortly after American and Soviet forces withdrew, North Korea launched a successful full-scale assault on its southern neighbor. To support the South Korean government, the U.S., with the help of the UN Security Council, intervened in the conflict, restored the initial borders, and attempted to “liberate” North Korea (Berkin et al., 2012). Finally, the retaliatory Chinese intervention pushed the allied forces back to the initial borders, which remained that way till the end of the conflict (Berkin et al., 2012). The conflict generally resulted in an increased American military presence in Eurasia. In particular, the Korean war signalized the expansion of the American containment policy regarding communism in the Asian region.
Another example of American military involvement in world affairs is the Vietnam War. In the beginning, the Vietnam conflict could be described as the civil war, where the pro-American government faced the communist rebels of the Viet Cong. Kennedy’s administration was cautious in conducting the direct intervention, limiting the support to the military and advisory aid (Berkin et al., 2012). However, in 1965, Johnson’s administration used the Vietnamese aggression against their sea forces as an opportunity to intervene in the conflict and ultimately escalate it into the war between the U.S. and North Vietnam (Berkin et al., 2012). Despite the number of resources and effort put into the conflict, neither of the sides managed to claim a definitive victory. In addition, the anti-war movements in American society made it difficult for the government to further commit to the Vietnam war (Berkin et al., 2012). Eventually, Nixon’s administration decided to withdraw troops from Vietnam as a part of the Vietnamization policy (Berkin et al., 2012). It ultimately led to the defeat of South Vietnam forces and the U.S. failure to secure its influence in the country.
Korean and Vietnam wars showcase the “hot” features of the Cold war; nonetheless, the title of the “hottest” event of the Cold war rightfully belongs to the Cuban Missile Crisis. It took place in 1962 when the Soviet Union deployed the missiles on Cuba in response to the American ballistic missiles’ deployment in Turkey and Italy (Berkin et al., 2012). An additional indirect cause of the crisis is the U.S.’s attempts to undermine Cuban industry and remove the contemporary Cuban leader Fidel Castro in a series of unsuccessful assassinations (Berkin et al., 2012). Followed the discovery of Soviet missiles, the U.S. initiated Cuba’s sea blockade, demanding the missile removal. Thankfully, Kennedy and Khrushchev managed to reach the agreement, which resulted in the missile removal from Cuba, Turkey, and Italy and initiated the attempts to reduce the intensity of the Cold War. At that moment, the world was at its closest to the beginning of the nuclear war. Despite Cold War lasting for the next three decades, the U.S. and Soviet Union’s ambitions received certain boundaries that were not to be exceeded.
The major events on a scene of the Cold War showcase the change that occurred in the U.S. foreign policies after World War II. To contain the Soviet expansion, the U.S. asserted a primary political, economic, and military role across the globe. The U.S. participated in local conflicts in Korea and Vietnam as a part of its political and military influence. In addition, the U.S. military presence in Europe, followed by the attempts to impact the political scene in the Caribbean, provoked the Soviet retaliation that almost turned the Cold War into the “hottest” war the world has ever seen. It is hard to imagine what would have happened if the U.S. decided to maintain the policy of isolationism; consequently, the radical change in its foreign policy due to Cold War is hardly deniable.
Berkin, C., Miller, C., Cherny, R., & Gormly, J. (2012). Making America: a history of the United States, Volume 2: Since 1865 (6th ed.). Cengage Learning.