Specter Of Communism
Before, throughout, and after World War II, Soviet policies were muddled and inconsistent, and the reach of Soviet Communists into other countries was limited. Stalin, though he had the same general revolutionary goals as Lenin, chose to place emphasis on ideological purification within the Soviet Union and de-emphasized inciting revolution abroad.
Following the war, much of Western Europe was struggling and thus repeatedly asked the United States for financial support. They warned that, if aid was not received, Communists would more easily convert their populations and find a foothold in positions of power. Convincing the American people to provide for the needs of the Europeans mandated a threat against their own freedoms, though this turned out not to be too difficult a task: by pitting American institutions and ideals against Communist autarky in Europe and Asia, policy-makers persuaded the public of the necessity of accepting the role of watchdog and caretaker of the West. President Truman was successfully able to transform people’s fear of local Communism into foreign policy wins. A Republican Congress, despite their opposition to increased spending, passed not only the Marshall Plan, but also the Selective Service Act and funds for a military build-up, they supported the Vandenberg Resolution, and they approved America’s first peacetime military treaty, the North Atlantic Treaty. In return, they demanded that Truman be harder on Communists at home. Many businessmen were eager to use the Communism as a fear-mongering tool with which to attack pro-social movements and labor unions.
In 1947, catching wind of the impending Marshall Plan and other actions by the United States, Stalin abruptly dropped the idea of cooperation with the West, further exacerbating the conflict. The Kremlin took a stranglehold on its satellites, alarming the United States and pushing them into a state of accelerated “security dilemma” in which both sides cyclically enhanced their defensive and offensive capabilities. By the latter half of the year, Stalin had re-established the Comintern, denounced Western ideals and popular front culture, and made clear his intentions to organize the missions of foreign Communist parties. The specter loomed ever-larger on the horizon as Communist regimes came to power in Europe and Asia.
When Czechoslovakia fell, moderate politicians in France, Italy, and the United States knew that the only way to protect their mutual interests was to collaborate. Revolutions in Asia exacerbated the issue; the Chinese Communist victory sat as a heavy omen for the rest of the continent. Truman knew that it was necessary to prevent Stalin and Mao Zedong, leader of China’s Communist Party, from cooperating for the spread of Communism. So when Mao signed a thirty-year treaty with the Kremlin, the United States responded to the threat in Asia and the fear of spies in the States by expediating the construction of the hydrogen bomb, continuing to expand the military, and seeking out stronger economic opportunities. Their greatest anxiety was that without these measures America would lose its military advantage, lose hold of its allies, and the world would succumb completely to the grip of Communism. Then the Communist Party in Korea sought Soviet and Chinese support for a Korean war for unification. While at first the Kremlin was uninterested, not wanting to give the United States a reason to launch an offensive, they gave their hesitant support. Backed by the Chinese and the Soviets, conflict erupted in Korea, and the United States responded with force. The Korean War became a true geopolitical proxy war for the ideological struggle of the ideals of Communism versus the ideals of American Individualism.
American foreign policy in the years leading up to and during the Cold War was based around becoming the greatest world power and using that power to police both the world economy and the world ideology such that both were non-Communist.
While prior to World War I Soviet Communism was disagreeable and the Bolsheviks were putrescent to the American people, after World War II its evilness was inflated to the level of Nazism. The specter of Communism abroad provided a basis for fear of its infiltration at home. The conflation of political disagreements to large-scale ideological incongruency allowed for Americans to latch onto anti-Communist rhetoric and use it to excuse the violation of their own freedoms. Convinced that freedom and faith were in jeopardy as Communism threatened to continue spreading, the American public supported the waging of the Cold War against the Soviet Union in order to maintain a capitalist, democratic order in the United States.
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