The Fallout of the Cold War
A Look into Some of the Aftereffects of the Cold War that Changed the World as We Know It
Developing from the Second World War, the Cold War became a global clash of ideologies of the two great superpowers—the United States of America’s capitalism and the Soviet Union’s communism. A period lasting from 1945 to 1991, the Cold War era ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and left the world with the United States as the only remaining superpower.
Of course, the end of this international conflict did leave some still bleeding wounds, which we shall look into in this post. In the previous articles, we learned a lot about the Korean War which happened in the years 1950–1953 and was a direct result of the Cold War. This costly conflict, however, was not the only casualty of this fundamental disagreement.
After the Yalta Conference in 1945, an iron curtain divided Europe into two areas: the western side falling into the hands of the United States and the eastern side to the Soviet Union. Thus began the Soviet Union expanding with the goal of creating a communist cushion between the Kremlin and Germany. This was taken as a threat to capitalism, and the United States then executed the geopolitical strategy known as containment to block further expansion of the Soviet Union. This meant that the United States would aid any country in a fight against communism, which then led to many unfortunate consequences that we are now suffering up to this day. It is interesting to note that the aftereffects of this ideal to protect capitalism would bring about adverse side effects that would essentially lead the current US President Trump to ban immigrants for fear of terrorists.
In 1947, the United States made a policy called the Truman Doctrine (named by then-president Harry S. Truman after himself) to aid Greece and Turkey because they were threatened by communism, which was then extended to be the basis of the containment policy. Because of the success of this endeavor, as well as the very agreeable Marshall Plan that reinvigorated the markets of France, Germany, Japan, and other US allies, the plan of containment seemed like an excellent strategy and was then continued to be applied to other counties to stymie communism, which was still going strong under Joseph Stalin.
This led to a nuclear arms race that saw a new peak in the development of nuclear weapons that scared many people into building bomb shelters after both superpowers tested their weapons in a show of force (not to mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki). This prompted an extensive interstate highway system to be built in the United States to make it easy for people to evacuate, which was such a terrifying scenario to occur. This helped fan the flame of the Red Scare that made everyone suspicious of their neighbor for fear of them being communists. Another effect of this was that labor unions suffered greatly for fear that anything resembling socialism was just a cover for communists infiltrating the country. This wasn’t a very good time for the state of mind of the American people.
Then the Korean War happened, which cost so many lives and dollars, despite the fact that it was called the Forgotten War due to the fact that President Truman didn’t declare it as an official war at all. The aftereffect of this was the split of the two Koreas into a North and South that even until this day is still under an armistice treaty.
Two years after, the US then declared another war on Vietnam in 1955. This one was a misstep by the US because what the Vietnamese were fighting for was Vietnam, not communism. This belief in the ownership of their country helped the Vietnamese win against this Goliath and subsequently led to the reunification of Vietnam under a socialist rule. During the war, however, the United States had troops in Cambodia which led to the destabilization of the Cambodian government and paved the way to the massacre known as the Khmer Rouge that killed one-third of their population.
And finally, the Soviet version of Vietnam, Afghanistan, was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1979, hoping that they could utilize the country under a Soviet regime. The CIA under the Carter Administration in Operation Cyclone funded the mujahideen (Jihadi warriors) with roughly three billion dollars and equipped them with arms to free Afghanistan from the “evil” clutched of the atheist Soviet Union. This ended with the repelling of the Soviet troops in 1989 but left the country with many warlords that split factions, with some forming into international terrorist groups, like Al Qaeda and the Taliban, bent on the destruction of the West.
So there you have it—the Cold War fallout. We now have the reduction of the nuclear warhead stockpiles under the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine, the creation of a very well-funded terrorist group with a beef against the United States, the creation of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and many lives lost due to ideologies. Merely the tip of the iceberg, these events that were discussed are only the easiest ones to identify as there are other conflicts still happening due to US interventionism in the name of containment in South America, Africa, and Asia. When will this end? Nobody knows. All we can do is watch and wait.
Wikipedia. 2017. “Cold War.” Last Modified February 4, 2017. Accessed on February 6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_War.