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Lecture 13

AS.190.209 Lecture Notes - Lecture 13: Nuclear Warfare, Counterpoint, Truman Doctrine

AS Political Science
Course Code
David, Steven R

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Why did the US spend trillions of dollars and risk war to confront the Soviet Union?
Was it worth it and necessary? How did we avoid conflict with the USSR? How did
the Cold War end and do we know if fact that it has ended? Was the Cold War
Foundational roots of the differences between the US and the Soviet Union that
helped account for the Cold War even before communism emerged:
Russia (like Sparta):
1. It was a land-power and poured most of its money into its army; most of its
nuclear weapons are land-based. Those who follow the geopolitical vision of
international relations say that land-powers and sea powers see the world in
fundamentally different ways.
2. It tended to expand its influence militarily and politically, not economically –
using its army and its imposition of its political regimes. Its pattern was to
seize a territory and then close it up from the rest of the world; it was very
nervous that after having conquered a territory while it still being open, it
might retain influence – fearful of what that influence might engender.
3. It had a geographical position that made it vigilant and aware of international
politics and the BOP – center of Europe and Asia surrounded by hostile
countries; worried that its neighbors might encroach on its territorial
4. There was also a tradition/strong belief that in order to control this vast
territory, there needed to be dictatorship and a strong central government.
United States (like Athens):
1. It has tended to emphasize its strength on sea; most of its nuclear weapons
are sea-based; the navy is always the most important element of our military
2. It tended to expand its influence through trade and investment – strong
economic power. By moving that economic wealth to other countries,
America was able to expand its own influence. If it were to seize and gain
control over a territory, it would open it up to the rest of the world. The US
felt that the extent to which territories were open to trade and investment
vis-à-vis other states made it more susceptible to American influence.
3. Politically speaking, America has been relatively isolationist because of our
geographic position with the oceans flanking both sides. It could afford not to
be concerned with international politics and the BOP of other countries. As a
result, America tended to be inexperienced with power politics at least until
the end of WWII.
4. It put an emphasis on liberal democracy – restraint on government. The
American tradition is that the concentration of power is to be distrusted –
believed in the diffusion of power.
The US and the USSR had fundamental worldviews and had little contact with each
other through much of their history. The emergence of communism in Russia
deepened the hostility and differences that already existed between the countries.
The communist ideology was hostile to capitalism – openly talked about
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