Chapter 4: The Cold War Context: Origins and First Stages
The early Cold War years
were a period of crucial choices for American foreign policy. The policies
pursued in these years not only addressed the immediate issues but also became
the foundations and framework for the pursuit of the 4 Ps in the decades that
Peace during the early
Cold War years was pursued through international institutionalism and the
creation of the United Nations. The UN drew from the lessons of the failure of
the League of Nations and was intended to peace and international cooperation,
while serving US national interests. The UN, however, was unable to ensure
peace because of the political ambivalence of a number of countries, including
the US, that wanted an international institution strong enough to keep the
peace but no so strong as to threaten nation-state supremacy or sovereignty.
The onset of the Cold War and the ensuing priority given to considerations of
Power significantly undermined the ability of the UN to achieve its original
Power became the driving
consideration during the early Cold War, and the two basic doctrines of Power
that developed during these years remained the core of American foreign policy.
Nuclear deterrence was meant to prevent attack through the fear of
retaliation. Containment, as promoted by George F. Kennan, recommended
that the US counter any attempt by the Soviets to expand their sphere of
influence or to spread communism beyond their own borders.
Both deterrence and
containment began during the Truman administration and were implemented in the
Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, and the creation of NATO and were expanded
under NSC-68. Both these policies intensified during the 1950s and early 1960s.
US containment policy was exported to both the Middle East and Latin America.
The nuclear-deterrence doctrine evolved during the Eisenhower administration
and came to a head during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
One of the key differences
between the Cold War and other historical great-power struggles was the Cold
War's emphasis on principles and ideology. During this period American
presidential administrations advocated and "ABC" Democrat policy, supporting
regimes in Asia and Latin America. This support for questionable foreign
leaders coupled with CIA covert action elsewhere raised questions about the
consistency of American foreign policy with Principles.
Prosperity during this
period was largely pursued through the creation of the LIEO. Though many
aspects of the LIEO did provide broad economic benefits internationally, it was
also criticized for reinforcing American economic dominance and economic
hegemony. Other critics also feared corporate interests were driving US foreign
The main pattern in
American foreign policy politics during this period was the "Cold War
consensus," which was composed of three fundamental components:
- Presidential dominance over
- A vast expansion of the
executive-branch foreign and defense policy bureaucracy
- A fervent anticommunism pervading
Such consensus resulted in
poor policy planning during the Bay of Pigs invasion and the persecution of
American citizens. These events demonstrate how too much of a consensus can
have negative consequences.