Positive Effect Of The Cold War On The United States

Following the second World War America experienced a period filled with highs and lows. They went from a golden age as a result of their success in World War II and establishing themselves as the leading world power, to facing one of the most dangerous threats to democracy with the rise of the Soviet Union. From the time democracy was established in America the leaders saw it as their duty to protect it and spread it to less fortunate countries. With the Soviet Union on the rise and spreading communism, America saw this not just as a threat to democracy, but more so as a threat to their power and influence.

As a result, America went head to head with the Soviet Union in what essentially became a battle fought mentally more so than physically. Both sides were ignorant and determined to prove that they were the more powerful country with the more beneficial form of government. This war goes to show what can happen when two countries let their ego fight the battle. Though potentially devastating, with the possibility of all out nuclear warfare, the Cold War turned out to be an important and beneficial period for America. As history has shown during times of war, innovation grows exponentially as the entire country unites to defeat the opponent. America saw a rise in technology that they never thought was possible. The Cold War should not be viewed as a negative event in American history, but rather a progressive stage of development and learning, where America was able to achieve their goal in preserving and spreading democracy, while simultaneously revolutionizing technology and warfare all together.

The United States was fueled by a sense of leadership which drew them into this battle. Those who oppose the government’s choice of intervening the Soviet Union often ask the question, why would America risk their civilian’s lives by entering an unrelated conflict across the globe? In fact, the answer to that is quite simple because it wasn’t an unrelated conflict, it was a direct attack against everything the United States stood for. The Soviet Union was able to use their newly found power to spread communism to weaker, defenseless countries. America took the position of the big brother and felt it was their duty, as a powerful and wealthy nation, to protect and deter any attacks of such on nations incapable of defending themselves. This was the pride that carried the U.S. into the war and later it was the same pride and confidence that won them the war. For the first time since the U.S. established themselves as a world power, they were challenged by an equally powerful nation.

Out of greed the war quickly shifted into a type of competition in which both nations attempted to show they were the better one. For every action the Soviets took the U.S. responded, not necessarily out of fear, but out of selfishness, feeling that they needed to be the superior nation. This competition waged on from when it began in 1947 until its end in 1991. As a country, the hunger to be powerful is quite common, and certainly not a bad characteristic, but it can come to a point where it changes to greed, as it did in the case of the Cold War, where it then became a problem. There is a clear difference from wanting to improve as a nation and wanting to be better than everyone else, unwilling to accept any differing thoughts. Both the Soviet Union and the United States struggled from this greed as it endangered their nations, however, it served as an important lesson learned to the U.S.; to learn their boundaries and not overstep them again as they did in the Cold War. Though, the war put both nations in a potentially dangerous situation, the United States was able to overcome by turning this negative situation into a positive.

The Cold War presented a whole new type of warfare; a war where there were very few person to person encounters. With developing technology, it became possible for a battle to be fought from the opposite side of the globe. In some cases, this was a safer and more productive alternative to the traditional type of warfare, however, considering the evolving weapons of mass destruction each nation possessed, it was much more dangerous. Technology was advancing at such a rapid rate no one knew what or where it could lead them to next. With the launch of Sputnik in 1957 the Soviets became the first nation to take the war outside of Earth. Sputnik was a spy satellite designed with the purpose of orbiting Earth and photographing the U.S. With this information the Soviet Union could see exactly what the United States was working on at any given time. Soon after, President Eisenhower ordered the development of secret spy satellites. Not only did America keep the Soviet Union’s actions in check in order to keep up with them, but they even went a step ahead and began to develop new technology unknown to the Soviets.

With the recent advancement in technology such as computers, radar, and the rocket engine, America saw this not just as their duty to protect their people, but also as an opportunity to take the lead from the Soviet Union. Due to these circumstances the United States developed the CORONA satellite which was essentially a much more advanced version of the Soviet Union’s spy satellites capable of retrieving data and delivering it back to the U.S. about the development of weapons, and actions taken by the Soviet Union (The Cold War Museum). NASA was then established with the goal of creating innovative technology, specifically space related technology, such as satellites and later rockets. These same technologies remain prevalent today as satellites are still used for a variety of things such as personal navigation, geology, air-traffic control, and many more. Throughout this war America made it their mission to always stay ahead of the Soviet Union. They succeeded in doing so, both physically, through the development of revolutionary military technology, and mentally as they psychologically tormented the Soviets with constant fear of Armageddon.

This constant fear was shared between both nations, but the victor was the one who could outstand the other and, in this case, it was the United States. “The cold war was fought as much in the imagination as on the battlefield” (The Thaw). Even though an attack was never launched, the impending threat of all out nuclear warfare was very much real, yet neither side wanted to attack, knowing the mutual devastation it would cause. Rather than directly threatening the Soviet Union with an attack, the United States decided to send a message by demonstrating their immense power and influence as a world power. Among the Cold War was a series of smaller battles, or competitions, between the two nations. These competitions were ways in which each nation could show their power and military capability. One of the most well-known was the Arms Race, which was fought over military expenditure. In a sort of ignorant way, each side believed that by demonstrating their military ability, they would be able display their superiority as a country.

The disparity between the two nations soon after the war began was tremendous. Shortly before 1957 the United States led the Arms Race with 2,123 warheads of their own while the Soviet Union had just 84 (Arms Race). This was a message taken to heart by the Soviets. They attempted to retaliate with the expansion of their own development of weapons, but for every answer they had, the U.S. had more. Furthermore the U.S. competed in other forms of “competitions” with the Soviet Union including the Space Race, based off the development of space technology which would later prove successful for America as they landed the first human on the moon, as well as the use of propaganda. Propaganda played a major role in the late 1900’s appearing in movies, cartoons, and comics with the shared goal of promoting democracy as superior to communism. This propaganda was overwhelmingly successful as it sparked patriotism throughout the United States, creating a unified nation in a period of turmoil. Without a unified nation chaos would have pursued and possibly lead to the downfall of the nation. The Cold War was a complex stage for America, people were detached from one another because of the overwhelming feeling of fear and confusion that filled the nation. The propaganda however, was the driving force that provided a similar interest and goal, tying the nation back together. Psychologically America was the stronger country; whether they truly were physically, is debatable, but the United States' confidence in their own ability was enough to deter the Soviets from any attacks.

America not only won this war on the battleground but also at home as they experienced insurmountable benefits as a result of their wartime efforts. From creating technology that revolutionized the future to improving their economy, the United States truly made the best out of dreadful situation. Critics often view the Cold War as an enormous waste of money, as the U.S. poured billions of dollars into research and development. However, this is not the case. With such a boom in the development of technology tens to hundreds of thousands of jobs were created and the United States’ GNP “increased at an average rate of 3.1 percent per year” from 1948 to 1989 (Higgs). Among this, President Reagan “helped stimulate massive economic growth with his tax cuts and deregulation” (Cold War Influences). Deregulation has many benefits in the economy including both business owners and consumers. Customers tend to see a decrease in price and an increase in quality, which in return will result in increased consumer spending and a more stable economy. Even though the economy benefitted from the United States’ involvement the benefits seemed to go un noticed especially during the war as the nation was filled with fear of a nuclear attack.

Though this fear filled everyone alike, from the nation’s leaders to the civilians, America was able to come out victorious. It was the first time the United States’ power was challenged, but they were in control every step of the way as they outclassed the Soviet Union in every aspect of the war, politically, economically, and technologically. This war was simply a competition between two inexperienced nations who were oblivious to the impact of their actions. This however was an important lesson that America learned from and overcame as they still managed to simultaneously create new technology that pushed the world further than it had ever thought possible. The nation experienced a sense of unity, inspiration, and motivation to push boundaries further than ever before. From advanced military technology to everyday pieces of technology that continue to play a crucial role in people’s lives today, America was able to take advantage of an unfortunate situation and turn it into a valuable time period.

Works Cited

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Axelrod, Alan, and Charles L. Phillips. “Cold War.” Wars in the Early 20th Century (1900 to 1950), Facts On File, 2015. History, online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=98347&itemid=WE52&articleId=193832. Accessed 19 Dec. 2018.


Campbell, Joel R. 'The Wrong War: The Soviets and the Korean war, 1945-1953.' International Social Science Review, vol. 88, no. 3, 2014, p. i+. Academic OneFile, http://link.gale.gst.orc.scoolaid.net/apps/doc/A436983421/AONE?u=nysl_sc_wkglen&sid=AONE&xid=cf21a48c. Accessed 7 Jan. 2019.

'Cold War.' Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 17 Feb. 2017. academic-eb-gst.orc.scoolaid.net/levels/collegiate/article/Cold-War/24721. Accessed 7 Jan. 2019.

“Cold War Influences on American Culture, Politics, and Economics.” Shad's Blog, 4 Apr. 2010, tradshad.wordpress.com/writings/cold-war-influences-on-american-culture-politics-and-economics/.

“Harry S. Truman and the Origins of the Cold War in International Perspective.” A Companion to Harry S. Truman, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. History, online.infobase.com/Auth/Index?aid=98347&itemid=WE52&articleId=369719. Accessed 7 Jan. 2019.

Higgs, Robert. “The Cold War Economy.” The Independent Institute, www.independent.org/publications/article.asp?id=1297.

'Space Exploration.' Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 15 Sep. 2017. academic-eb-gst.orc.scoolaid.net/levels/collegiate/article/space-exploration/111026. Accessed 7 Jan. 2019.

“The Cold War Museum.” Cold War Museum, www.coldwar.org/articles/60s/corona.asp.

'The Thaw; Revisiting the Cold War.' The Economist, 30 June 2018, p. 71(US). General OneFile, http://link.gale.gst.orc.scoolaid.net/apps/doc/A544637148/ITOF?u=nysl_sc_wkglen&sid=ITOF&xid=493a7575. Accessed 18 Dec. 2018.

07 September 2020
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