Gaddis The Cold War Thesis

Was the Cold War "the brave and essential response of free men to Communist aggression," as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Or did the United States contribute to the onset of the Cold War in its pursuit of an "Open Door" empire?These questions about Soviet and American culpability, and about the motivations underlying the two nations' foreign policies, have fueled a historiographical debate over the causes of the Cold War that has evolved alongside the struggle itself.Herbert Feis' studies, such as Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin: The Wars They Waged and the Peace They Sought and From Trust to Terror: The Onset of the Cold War, 1945-1950, exemplify this perspective.

Adopting a policy of "containment"—a nebulous and constantly evolving concept—U. policymakers sought to limit Communist expansion, indirectly challenge the Soviet empire, and ultimately force the Soviet Union to alter its attitudes and actions.

State Department official George Kennan introduced the concept to the public in a widely read 1947 article, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct." Writing under the pseudonym "Mr.

In other words, to ensure the long-term national security of the United States, policymakers were willing to risk antagonizing Moscow. Without casting aside these important issues of causation, recent study has begun to shift the examination of the Cold War in new directions by exploring different facets of the conflict.

John Fousek combines culture and ideology to examine the development of the domestic "Cold War consensus" in To Lead the Free World: American Nationalism and the Cultural Roots of the Cold War.

Driven by this fear, the United States engaged in a strategy of preponderance.

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It sought to integrate Western Europe, the western occupation zones of Germany, and Japan into the American orbit, and link this "industrial core" with the Third World "periphery" and its vital markets and raw materials.Orthodox historians, many of whom were former Roosevelt or Truman administration officials, place primary responsibility for the Cold War on the Soviet Union.According to this view, Moscow's aggressive and expansionist tendencies stood in stark contrast to Washington's passive and defensive behavior.In The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947, Gaddis argues that the two nations' power positions in Europe after World War II meant that disagreements would inevitably arise; the Soviet quest for security, its ideology, and Stalin's leadership, combined with America's "illusion of omnipotence," built upon ideals, economic strength, and possession of the atomic bomb, ensured that the confrontation would be hostile.In a more recent book, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History, Gaddis shifts back toward a more traditional interpretation of the Cold War and restores Josef Stalin and the role of ideology to the center of his account; "as long as Stalin was running the Soviet Union," Gaddis concludes, "a cold war was unavoidable." He also suggests that great numbers of people, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, viewed the Cold War as a "contest of good and evil." While the United States did create a kind of Cold War empire, the civility, democratic tendencies, and humane behavior involved in its operation stood in sharp contrast to the coercive and repressive attributes of the Soviet sphere of influence.Leffler stresses that Soviet military conquest was not an immediate threat and that Moscow's actions displayed a mixture of aggression and conciliation.Indigenous Communism, however, had great appeal in war-torn countries mired in poverty and instability.Driven by the need to sustain economic prosperity and democracy at home, policymakers sought to create a global, free-market economy and to impose American political values on the world.Those who would not accept the American view were not only wrong but "incapable of thinking correctly." Faced with this unrelenting pressure to open their markets and societies to western goods and ideas, the Soviets were left with "no real choice on key issues." Walter La Feber provides a readable revisionist interpretation in America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1992.Thus, if the western powers acquiesced to Communist political power, the situation would have likely redounded to Moscow's long-term benefit as Communist countries aligned themselves with the Soviet Union.Over time, Soviet control of Eurasian resources could have threatened America's own security, economic prosperity, and democracy—as had been the case earlier with imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.


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