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Lecture 11

GOV 312L Lecture Notes - Lecture 11: X Article, Warsaw Pact, Reagan Doctrine

9 pages17 viewsFall 2018

Department
Government
Course Code
GOV 312L
Professor
Moser
Lecture
11

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Module 11: Historical Overview of US Foreign Policy: The Cold War
George Kennan and Containment
George Kennan- “Father of containment policy” → published “Long telegram” in 1946
Main objective
Explain the behavior of the Soviet Union and based on this understanding of the nature of
the Soviet threat to create a policy that would counteract it
Nature of the Soviet threat
Soviet Union would be persistently antagonistic towards the US and its allies
US needs to give up hope for an war alliance/negotiations with the Soviets
Soviet Union was a special threat that was very different from Hitler and the threat of
Nazi Germany
Soviet Union did not want war while Hitler did
Too weak from WWll to directly confront the US
Since its ideology teaches that their system is on the right side of history, the
Soviet regime could remain patient and not be afraid to temporarily retreat
hostility toward the West was part of the DNA of the soviet regime.
Soviet threat was expansionary, but cautious (like “water”)
Kennan’s view of the Soviet Union
Patience and Marxists Ideology
Dictatorship and the need for an external enemy
Containment as a contrast between rival political systems
“It would be an exaggeration to say that American behavior unassisted and alone
could exercise a power of life and death over the Communist movement and
bring about the early fall of Soviet power in Russia. But the United States has it
in its power to increase enormously the strains under which Soviet policy must
operate, to force upon the Kremlin a far greater degree of moderation and
circumspection than it has had to observe in recent years, and in this way to
promote tendencies which must eventually find their outlet in either the breakup
or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power... The issue of Soviet-American
relations is in essence a test of the overall worth of the United States as a nation
among nations. To avoid destruction the United States need only to measure up
to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great
nation.” (Kennan, p. 868)
Importance of the definition of the threat from Kennan
It called for a very specific strategy that matched the nature of the threat
CONTAINMENT
Soviet Union was innately and persistently antagonistic towards the US and its allies and
expansionary, yet cautious because:
1) Soviet Union’s ideology, Marxism-Leninism, both demonized the US which
causes the innate antagonism and provided Soviet leaders with patience
Patience based on central assumption of the Marxism-Leninism that
capitalism would fail because of its gross inequality
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Marxists argue that the working class within capitalism would rise up in
a revolution to overthrow the system and establish a workers state
2) Argued that authoritarian system, established by Lenin and solidified by Stalin,
required an external enemy to justify its centralization of power and its extreme
use of coercion
The soviet’s had to remain vigilant because of the external enemies
(capitalist encirclement)
Argued that the US could not defeat the Soviet Union militarily in the foreseeable future
Saw Cold War as an extended conflict that would stretch over years or decades
Containment was aimed at wearing down the Soviet Union by keeping it from expanding
Soviet would not last if it did not expand
“Implode” from within from its own internal contradictions
US and its political and economic system had to outperform the communist system of the
Soviet Union
US had to be better as a political and economic system and as a country than the
Soviet Union to win the Cold War
Kennen’s vision was born out
US and capitalism witnessed the implosion of Soviet communism without a shot being
fired
The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan
Truman Doctrine (established that the United States would provide political, military and
economic assistance to all democratic nations under threat from external or internal authoritarian
forces)
Landmark foreign policy statement that set a precedent for the rest of the Cold War
Civil war in Greece sparked this doctrine
US needed to support the Greek government and its conflict against Greek communists
Rose because the previous hegemonic region, Great Britain, withdrew from the
region after WWll
Left a power vacuum: "when someone has lost control of something and
no one has replaced them."
Established the US as the new global leader, only country capable of intervening to
prevent tragedy from striking
Set a precedent for American international intervention and domestic conflicts around the
world
Established the Domino Theory as an important justification for these interventions
Greece was not important to American security interests in it of itself
incapable of invading, or threatening the US
Made American interests expansive
If Greece was allowed to go communist, then communism could spread
throughout the region and threaten US interests
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Logic applied throughout the Cold War to legitimate third-world interventions to
prevent the spread of communism
Another challenge that faced the US was economic devastation in Europe
Feared that the public in Europe would vote communist government into office through
the ballot box
Large communist parties existed in France and Italy and were posed to capture power
without a shot being fired
Stalin and his communist party would be able to control these parties and their
governments because of the ties between European communist parties and communist
party of the Soviet Union
Underlying theory that was animating this policy was that economic dislocation was a
central cause of mass attraction to extreme ideologies like communism
Economic growth was the best antidote to the attraction to communism
Gave the US a major advantage over the Soviet Union, a more powerful and dynamic
economy
US could contain communism and provide itself with foreign export markets for its goods
and services which serve to fuel domestic economic growth at home, by tying European
economies to the global capitalist economy anchored on the economy
Soviet Union argued
Marshall Plan was a manifestation of American imperialism (a policy of extending a
country's power and influence through diplomacy or military force)
Strings attached to economic aid came at a high cost of sovereignty and economic
independence
Theoretically: US would have given the Soviet Union Marshall Plan aid
Would have been difficult to justify politically
American policy makers hoped that the Soviet Union would decline Marshall Plan aid
Saw Marshall Plan as a strategy to build western Europe economies and attract Eastern
European economies into the fold of the American led global capitalist system
Would not let this happen even if it meant using force to prevent Eastern Europe
countries from participating
Marshall Plan (economic aid to western european countries) worked incredibly well
European economies were rebuilt
Domestic attraction to communist parties subsided (became less intense) in France and
Italy
Prospects for electoral success of communist parties dwindled (diminished)
European economic integration with each other and the American economy was well on
its way
German economy was being rebuilt as an engine for European recovery
Helped to solidify the division of Europe into the western half under US hegemony and in
eastern half under Soviet hegemony
Reinforced the Iron Curtain
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