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Lecture 16

AS.190.209 Lecture Notes - Lecture 16: Counterforce, Dean Acheson, Mutual Assured Destruction

AS Political Science
Course Code
David, Steven R

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THE COLD WAR: Lecture Thursday, October 16, 2014
Group 1: Defend the Orthodox explanation of the Cold War and critique the Objective
and Revisionist explanations
o Orthodox view puts blame on Soviet Union
o Orthodox say Stalin was crazy; we can look at the fact that Russians went into
Poland and went crazy killing people; political prisoners; sent people to work
camps; makes the argument that he is irrational
Coupled with the fact that Russia lost 27 million in WWII their actions
were not most rational in terms of self-defense
o Critique of Revisionists place blame on US
Orthodox says US was actually acting rationally
Orthodox says Truman’s advisors were the same as FDR’s, so Truman
cannot be blamed
o Critique of Objective view that USSR, being a communist state, is going to be
inherently antagonistic toward the capitalist state, and the US being the apex of
that capitalist state, will inevitably be opposed by USSR (naturally)
Objective view is that the Soviets were reactionary towards a US
aggression (the Soviets believed that in capitalism, there is a need for
imperialism. So, US was thought to expand due to capitalism)
Critique: Eastern Europe became communist, yet that did not
really hurt American capitalism, whatsoever.
Group 2: Defend the Revisionist explanation of the Cold War and critique the Orthodox
and Objective explanations
o Revisionist view: America is blamed for the Cold War. America refused to open
a second front
US assumed that Stalin was Hitler Revisionists argue there is no
rational explanation for assuming that Stalin is anything other than an
esteemed leader, who did everything he could to defend Soviet values.
Revisionists say that NATO was not a coalition of countries trying to aim
for balance of power; it was a coalition that opposed everything Soviets
stood for and it was a rejection of their communist ideals and Soviets did
not want to be part of that alliance
The American leaders were clearly too effected by results of Munich
Conference. Truman desperately is in FDR’s shadows. Revisionists say
he was not acting in the interests of America, he was acting for himself (a
first image argument); thus, revisionists blame Truman
Other Group 2:
o Revisionists blamed US. US had this view that they had to expand into eastern
Europe to avoid economic downturn. BUT, they expanded into the Soviet’s
sphere of influence. All the Soviets did was solidify it’s side of the iron curtain
meanwhile US tried to expand into an area that was not theirs; where it did not
belong. Any Soviet reaction is therefore a reaction against American imperialism
and aggression. Also, US claims are not justified because eastern Europe did
become communist and nothing bad happened to US’s capitalist world.
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* (My argument) Group 3: Defend the Objective explanation of the Cold War and
critique the Orthodox and Revisionist explanations
o Objective view places the blame on no one. They argue that no single state US
or Soviet Union is entirely at fault for the Cold War. They are 2 international
powers emerging, with little international experience, suddenly becoming
superpowers of the entire world and they both had insecurities
Soviets had a reason to be so defensive (in light of loosing 27 million
people in WWII). They needed that expansive mindset as a buffer so that
they appeared strong and not weak.
US appropriately saw the Soviet actions as aggressive and threatening
and did not want to be passive and watch it all happen. This makes sense
coming off the heels of where the US just was in World War II,
attempting at appeasement, which did not work. So, the US felt that
containment was a justified policy and that pursuing a policy of
containment would be taking action, justifiable action, against the
looming Soviet threat.
So, while capitalism and communism strife does play a part, it really
comes second to the bipolar explanation
Reason: Orthodox and Revisionist views while having good
points are not totally comprehensive on how the Cold War
actually started.
Objective critique against Orthodox view:
o Soviet Union was not always “the bad guy (In WWII,
they sacrificed a lot and sided with the allies, the great
capitalist countries US, GB, and France)
o Also, the US was not always “the good guy” as Orthodox
argues. US did have spheres of influence in Latin
Objective critique against Revisionist view
o US was not always the bad guy (the US was not totally
tied to capitalism; did not do anything when trade was cut
off to Eastern Europe; it was more of an ideological
battle; only when communism is implemented is when
they start making moves containment, etc.)
Group 4: Make the case for the inevitability of the Cold War
o 3rd image:
Bipolar system aspect: said that the 2 great powers would inevitably come
into conflict and, even though for the first time there was an international
arbitrator (the UN), it was pretty much powerless to resist and did not
play a real role in this anarchical environment
o 2nd image:
The inevitable conflict between capitalist and communist ideology
The sphere of influence vs universalist doctrine
The security dilemma (US was making things look one way and the
Soviets made things look another way)
On the one hand, the Soviets are convinced that the US is aiming
for US ultimate supremacy
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o 1946, in the Novikov Telegram USSR said the foreign
policy of the US which reflects the imperialist tendencies
of American monopolist capital is characterized in the
postwar period by striving for supremacy
On the other hand, Truman says:
o Truman Doctrine: “The present moment nearly every
nation must choose between alternative ways of life: one
way of life is based on the will of the majority and the
other way of life is based on terror and oppression
So, in the rhetoric of both leaders, there was no room for middle
ground, which led, inevitably, to conflict between the 2 systems
o 1st image:
Truman US leadership characterized everything in the context of WWII
“Our victory was won over countries which sought to impose
their will and way of life upon other countries framed this
conflict with the USSR as a conflict much like one that was just
finished, therefore righteous and justified, and thus inevitable
against Russia’s terror and oppression
Stalin perception: autocratic, paranoid
Group 5: Make the case against the inevitability of the Cold War
o Cold War is not inevitable
o 1st image:
Truman and Stalin lacked understanding of each other. Maybe, if FDR
was in Truman’s place, he would have had a better understanding of
Stalin and Russian motives and intentions and could therefore pursue
foreign policy in better, more effective ways. Therefore, it was Truman
and Stalin in their individual-ness to blame making the conflict not
so inevitable happened because of specifics of leaders
o 2nd image:
Clear misunderstanding between 2 sides: Soviets thought they had free
control over eastern Europe whereas Churchill and US thought otherwise
If they had better understanding and recognized sphere of influence and
made clear what gains WWII would bring to Soviet Union & US, and
those gains were laid out clearly, Cold War then would not have
happened. It is because they didn’t have this clear outlining that it did not
happen. SO it was not inevitable because this simple fix would have
undid the conflict
Security dilemma: Soviets continued to mobilize army after WWII and
US threatened atomic bomb as their means of defense. BUT, if they
disarmed at the same time, then the security dilemma/ambiguity would
have been lessened between the 2 sides, and might have avoided cold war
o 3rd image:
If Soviet Union and US better understood 1st and 2nd images of one
another, they could have brought into practice balance of power theory
and better balanced one another. They could have better recognized one
another’s powers if they better understood one another on the levels of the
1st and 2nd image
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