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A State of Clear and Present Danger: A History of American Foreign Policy during the Cold War

by Tom Wheat



Chapter 1

Chapter 2


Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6


Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9


Of Further Interest

Middle East
Research Links
Historical Documents

Chomsky on Terror
Iriquois Confederacy

Global Consumerism

Cold War International History Project 




And yet to found a republic, maintain states, to govern a kingdom, organize an army, conduct a war, dispense justice, and extend empire, you will find neither prince, nor republic, nor captain, nor citizen, who has recourse to the examples of antiquity! This neglect, I am persuaded, is due less to weakness to which the vices of our education have reduced the world, than to the evils caused by the proud indolence which prevails in most of the Christian states, and to the lack of real knowledge of history, the true sense of which is not known, or the spirit of which they do not comprehend. Thus the majority of those who read it take pleasure only in the variety of the events which history relates, without ever thinking of imitating the noble actions, deeming that not only difficult, but impossible; as though heaven, the sun, the elements and men had changed the order of their motions and power, and were different from whatever were in ancient times.

- Niccolo Machiavelli The Discourses Book I, -



A State of Clear and Present Danger:

A History of American Foreign Policy during the Cold War

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." -Eisenhower- 


By Thomas J. Wheat

a paper for

His. 188


date of completion 12/11/98


The Shape of American Foreign Policy during the Cold War developed in response to the disruption of the balance of power in Europe, and Soviet expansionism. This Cold War marked the creation of a bipolar world and the creation of two camps, Communism and Capitalism, each locked in an ideological struggle, in which America saw itself as the progenitor of what was right. In this struggle American Foreign policy developed "Four Pillars" or basic policy tenets in engaging the Soviets. These policy tenets were, deterrence, containment through alliance, commitment to intervention, and establishment of the Bretton Woods liberal economic order. These basic tenets arose out of the break up of the WWII Alliance and Stalin closing the Soviet Union to the capitalist world system as well as both core hegemons creating satellite states that effected for a time the geopolitical and geoeconomic concerns among American policymakers and the arising consensual relationship with American business. Thus, these doctrines and polices in the beginning of the Cold War reflected this relationship and would continue to guide American foreign policy throughout the Cold War.

Furthermore, in the West the need was assumed that the US must assume the mantle of leadership in deposing the archaic colonial balance of power system that was chiefly the source of European power had caused to World Wars and then had begun to create nationalism in the Third World. This last phenomenon became much of a headache for American policymakers while seeking to appease the Business establishment, who were engaged in a surplus economy with the need for market access, to dispose of the them they often ran counter to their core values. The political and economic realities of our system of political and economic alliances where often constrained due to the majority of the time being spent dealing with corrupt and inept elites who stood in contradiction to our core values, democracy and freedom, and among others the relative ability to contain the Soviet threat of expansion. This contradiction of security aims increased nationalist revolt in third world countries. However, that political instability in third world client states was viewed as a potential vacuum waiting to be filled by the soviets. Thus American foreign policy was influenced by Geopolitical concerns and by the Business communities desire for raw markets.

Finally the Cold War created the National Security State, and strengthened the office of the President, giving him war powers in some instances over Congress, in terms of limited police actions and military engagements. Overall this era as Gorbachev would later define it lacked glasnost or openness and often policy was formulated on either a gluttony of information or on the other disinformation made available to unqualified personnel on both sides and policies directed from there portrayed an era of mutual mistrust.


My Thesis is that business domestic interests including civilian defense contractors having been mobilized during WWII were in part responsible for Cold War escalations in general, the apparatus of the military industrial complex fully geared towards one inevitable end expansion of the war machine. Arguably the American side of the Cold War could be seen as first a history of state directed military mobilization and economic production, and then gradual privatization of that military industrial complex and exportation of manufacturing by newly emerging American Transnational Corporations. The Cold War created an economic system that was dependant upon vast military spending with the Europeans at first bound to support the American Dollar and Third World Countries living and dying by it. In the end the demands of the European creditors become too much and Nixon allows the Dollar to depart from fixed exchange rates. With this marking the end of the Bretton Woods system and the precursor phase of globalization the Cold War gradually begins a process of de-escalation and normalization of relations with East and West. The Hawks and Doves as Krushchev and Eisenhower both agreed often escalated conflict in part because the ideology of both bureaucracies favored escalation because that meant both hands of the East West war machine established during WWII could sustain itself and expand influence. The Four Pillars of American foreign policy supported this relationship as well, and both sides looked for mutual antagonisms as a means of support for their military mobilization and production systems. For America this bred ideologies, real or imagined as to how these four policy tenets were to maintain the balance of power in the world and overall the process represented the gradual evolution from independent state actors to a gradual evolution of the internationalization of the political and economic systems of the globe. The military industrial system bred an ideology that was mutually reinforcing in that policy demands depended on the stability of the international system.


Origins of the Cold War

"I know from experience that the leaders of the armed forces can be
very persistent in claiming their share when it comes time to allocate
funds. Every commander has all sorts of very convincing arguments why he
should get more than anyone else. Unfortunately there is a tendency for
people who run the armed forces to be greedy and self--seeking. They're
always ready to throw in your face the slogan "If you try to economize on
the country's defenses today, you will pay in blood when war breaks out
tommorrow." I am not denying that these men have a huge responsibility,
and I am not impugning their moral qualities. But the fact remains that
the living standard of the country suffers when the budget is overloaded
with allocations to unproductive branches of consumption. And today as
yesterday, the most unproductive expenditures are all of those made on the

armed forces." Krushchev - 1970

This next section will begin with the origins of the Cold War and the development of the four pillars of American foreign policy beginning from 1943 to 1949. A special focus will be placed on the nature of the alliance albeit the system, and convergence of the powers, the states and their separation into two camps upon establishing a New World Order in the international system. The failure to deal with the Soviets, after Roosevelt, a major discontinuity emerged in American foreign policy in this regard; rather the focus was on meeting the threat of Soviet expansion head on, rather than plans for mutual reconciliation. Rather the vision of huge Soviet Occupying armies poised to take Europe by storm by the fissioning of the European political heartland afterthe rise of totalitarianism became the view that was the rallying call for continued mass mobilization. America at this time knew that the dissolution of Fascist Germany was imminent and it was presumed that Eventually a military alliance structure would need to fill that gap caused by the eventual collapse of fascism that could also contain the Soviet expansion threat caused by the political vacuum in Europe.


One could argue that The Cold War began with death of Roosevelt. He envisioned a world order run by four policemen, the US, Britain, China and the Soviet Union, all providing collectively for world security. It was during this pivotal war period that the Alliance maintained consensus of aims and nowhere in modern history except at this time would individuals play such a a major role in the systematic reorganization of the balance of global power. Besides Roosevelt the other key players were Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin. These state leaders maintained an uneasy alliance, through various international Charters and agreements and they sought political stability in a matter suited towards their own individual state security aims. However, when Roosevelt died all attempt at cooperation with the Soviets were ended.


As a world figure, Churchill wanted to reconstruct the old balance of power in Europe while recognizing America's newfound power, as leading or co-joining that coalition with Britain. Britain wanted desperately to preserve its colonial possessions but this was not a systemic reality. Much of the early Cold War period was marked by British liquidation of its colonial territories in the Third World and the Soviet's supporting those nationalist uprisings in order to create spheres of influence and incorporate alliances in territories perceived to have geo-strategic interests to the US and England. According to the West this was a direct threat and challenge to the Bretton Woods Agreements, the matter in which the post war economic map of Europe was to be drawn, and this inexorably tied its fate to Asia of which more will be discussed later.


Stalin was a realist who incorporated Marxist Leninist models while relying on the ideology of utopianism to unify his country and monopolize total state control over his populace by nationalizing the limited means of production that existed in the hands of individual entrepreneurs and directing that capital into the hands of a newly created centralized Leninist bureaucracy solely under his control. Stalin was a key figure in Soviet history, because on the one hand sought to maintain traditional Tsarist Russia foreign policy aims he also incorporated Communism as the official ideology of the State. Stalin envisaged expansion into to Eastern Europe so as to create a security belt from any further threat of future European invasion. At the Yalta conference as WWII was still being waged Stalin gave notice of his intention to occupy Poland in order to prevent further encroachments from the Germans who had previously used the country to launch an invasion into the Soviet Union. Historian Walter Lefeber describes Stalin's key goals in establishing a sphere of control in Poland.


"Having been invaded four times since 1914 and having suffered the destruction of much of the western Soviet Union, he added, the Soviets wanted puppet regimes in all contiguous countries and a guaranteed freedom from danger to recover and industrialize."(American Age, 438)

Stalin as did Churchill viewed the alliance as temporary unlike Roosevelt who envisioned cooperation and eventually including China who at the time was still occupied by the Japanese and undergoing a Civil War between Nationalist and Communist War Lords. To Stalin the world was an unstable place, by the nature of his ideology, and the image of the world that he presented to his people, there could never be true peace, between capitalism and communism and rather the current compromise was forged out of necessity. Stalin also relied on crisis to maximize his authority relying on the historically characteristic Russian Tsarist image of the savior/sovereign autocrat. According to many diplomatic theorists Stalin was able to secure far to many concessions from Roosevelt and the effects of which were perceived to be detrimental to following US Administrations.




The Creation of the Pillars

Between 1944-1954 the four pillars of American foreign policy developed in response to the unstable alliance with the Soviets during the War. These pillars were not at all fixed and after a while some basic tenets such as deterrence became irrelevant, in the face of total nuclear war. However, this period represents a major discontinuity in American History in that America was now committed to a very active role in foreign affairs. Indeed the US would have a major card to play in shaping the post war world. A description of the four pillars shall now follow.


The first pillar was deterrence and it was based on four things. It assumed that the threat of nuclear war was imminent. Thus many scenarios were conjured up in US and Soviet policy think tanks on how best to use nuclear weapons in order to maximize advantage. While the Soviets did not detonate their first Atomic bomb until 1949, a Russian spy, Klaus Fuchs was a member of the Manhattan project and actively assisted the Soviets in atomic design protocols. The second form of deterrence was the requirement for massive stockpiling of nuclear weapons. The third form of deterrence was the willingness to use nuclear weapons at all levels of engagement. The final commitment was to stay ahead. Later on as previously mentioned deterrence became the first pillar to erode as one might imagine.


The second pillar was containment through alliance. The goal of this was to contain Soviet expansionism, either in its ideological or territorial form. Out of this pillar emerged the institutions of NATO and among others CENTRO and SEATO. This was the most expensive of the four pillars.

The third pillar was commitment to intervention. This meant that US foreign policy, in an effort to contain the Soviet threat would engage the enemy, anywhere, either through direct combat or combat via proxy through a series of limited engagements throughout the Third World. Containment of the Soviet threat created a policy of intervention into the political systems of the countries of the Third World where nationalism was rampant after the decay of colonialism. Intervention in these countries was deemed imperative in order to prevent the spread of Soviet Marxism a favorite tool utilized by many Nationalists hoping to seek political and economic independence from the dominate western economic capitalist system. It was this pillar that gave rise to the Truman Domino theory an ideology characteristic of Third World Intervention and culminated in US policy being ideologically committed to a losing cause in Vietnam.


The Fourth Pillar was the establishment of a "liberal" economic international world order. This had been a long established program of which Stalin had been present at its creation. This new World Order was conceived at the Bretton Woods agreements where the uneasy alliance had endeavored to create a multi-polar world. However, though, through a policy of mutual distrust, and ideological incompatibility, Stalin withdrew from the conference and closed his markets to the west. Bretton Woods created the IMF and the World Bank. It was the function of these international agencies to loan money to embattled countries, to prevent a potential future war that would disrupt the Free Trade system, and that the economic incentive of cash loans would overwhelm the desire for regional power brokers to carry vendettas that could lead to future world wars. According to the architects of the Bretton Woods agreements, John Maynard Keynes and White, [1][1] War represented a failure of the economy and as such the IMF and the World Bank were perceived as stabilizing buttresses that could contain and transpose the threat of war into the realm of international commerce.


The central factor of this pillar that is still with us today is the concept of free trade. Free trade involved lowering tariffs and among other things a balance of trade favorable to the capitalist system. Secondly Free Trade relied on the free convertibility of currencies. Thirdly, in the beginning, free trade relied on fixed monetary exchange rates; since it was viewed that major monetary fluctuations could stall the free flow of trade. The goal was for economic stability, no country could without first consulting the IMF could devalue its currency. The US one could argue now emerged with a willingness to manage the international system something in the past it had not shown willingness to do before. Also America maintained willingness to station troops throughout Europe and later that military structure was grafted into an international military force structure called NATO.


Military Mobilization

Western European countries supported NATO because the thought of massive soviet land armies overtaking the European continent was an unsettling thought. US troops in Germany established the notion of a trip wire on the border of East and West Germany in which initially a force of 30,000 American troops were pitted against a much larger soviet force. However, if the Russians crossed this line that meant that nuclear weapons would soon be raining down on Stalingrad and Moscow. As such it was perceived that a nuclear war of which the Cold War was a prelude to was to preclude a conflict with the US and Soviets over Germany; Hence the notion of a tripwire. After WWII, Germany was not only occupied but divided as well. There was a fear of Soviet Expansion into Western Germany since the East had already been conceded to the Soviets. Thus, Western Germany also formally elected to cast its lot with the West rejecting Stalin's call for unification.


When Roosevelt died in 1945 the alliance with Soviets dissolved entirely. By 1947 the Soviets were ideologically defined as the enemy of the Western powers. Some of the reasons for this had to do with the system of negotiations it self as well as the Soviet's themselves. The Soviet's refused to cooperate in a US dominated economic system. According to the Soviets America dominated world trade and as of 1945 it still had an Atomic monopoly of which the Soviets viewed as a means of diplomatic extortion. On the other side of the Berlin wall Stalin had unified his country after a series of bloody purges and had developed key foreign policy initiatives that demanded increased Soviet spheres of influence throughout the globe. The destruction of Germany and Japan created a vacuum in which the soviets felt instinctively compelled to fill by exerting influence in Greece and Indo China. Traditionally, Japan and Germany had acted as counterweights to Soviet power and now with their defeat the Soviets went on the offensive.


The Man From Missouri

Harry S. Truman comes on to the scene after Roosevelt's death and immediately as a result of personality conflicts with Stalin the Man from Missouri would not compromise with the Soviet dictator. The Soviet's in turn refused to cooperate with the Bretton Woods agreements, --the said agreements constituting a new economic dimension to the US's diplomatic position on free trade after WWII to the present. Truman enjoyed enormous power in Western Europe after the Allied occupation. In 1946 as the Allies were rebuilding Germany's 4 occupation zones Truman called for a merger of all four Zones. The Soviet's refused.

Prior to this in 1945 at the Pottsdam conference the Allied forces had agreed to 4 occupation zones of Germany. In part this was a departure from the Yalta conference in which an economically hind and quartered Germany would have intensified the political vacuum in Europe. Germany had been the center of Industrial production in Europe and the leaders of the Alliance with the exception of Stalin realized that a debilitated Germany stripped of its production capabilities could only be maintained by force, and that eventually Europe would have to rely on a prosperous re-developed German Nation. In the end the Pottsdam conference created two zones of occupation with West Germany going over to the West and East Germany going over to the Soviets. However, a key concession one at Pottsdam was Stalin's ability to carve out territory in Poland and merge it with this newly created East German block. According to Walter Lafeber, Truman recognized that the Pottsdam conference settled 3 important factors, concerning the fate of Germany. Two of these factors were in accord with American policy objectives and the third suited Stalin's notion of a security buffer zone.

"Pottsdam in truth (but not through mutual agreement) )settled three key German problems: dismemberment went forward; reparations from the western zones to the Soviet Union were stopped, and over Truman's and UK Prime Minster, Clement Attlee's objections, Stalin insisted that the new Poland have German territory." pg. 446) (American Age) The 1945, Pottsdam Conference also called for the complete and unconditional surrender of Japan.

In 1946 the US suspends dismantling of German industry in its zone. By the latter half of 1946 the US and Britain agree to merge their occupation zones and by 1947 the French agree to do the same.

US foreign policy in 1946 focused primarily on Europe and not Asia. In light of this it is not hard to imagine that unqualified personnel in Asia paralleled qualified personnel in place in Europe. US foreign policy had two key directives during this time. The first one was to establish security in the new international system, i.e., a European American Alliance of established trade networks and at the same time to maintain political security in the developing bipolar world. Not only did the US focus on Europe more than Asia had to do with more with Anglo and other ethnocentric and economic affiliations then the political and economic instability offered by Asia which at the time had little to offer other than endless civil war.


The political reality was posed to US policymakers as well as to its Allies that the amount of Red Army occupation troops poised to overrun Europe in comparison to allied troops stood at a 30-10 ratio. Walter Lafeber describes how the US viewed Soviet political expansion into eastern and central Europe by virtue of their occupying forces being put in place after WWII and how the US viewed the Soviet's interpretation of spheres of influence and the resulting creation of satellite client states as constituting a Military and ideological threat to capitalism and the new emerging US-European security arrangement.


"Moreover not only were the Red Army's divisions concentrated in Eastern Europe, but large communist parties in war devastated France and Italy were poised to seize power. Byrnes [secretary of state] and Moltov [Russian foreign minister] fought bitterly…until they finally agreed on peace treaties for Finland and Italy that the Americans liked and for Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria that the Soviet's could accept."(American Age, 468)



The Paper Tiger

In Asia Roosevelt's vision of the fourth policeman, China was undergoing Civil War. US General Hurley who had been stationed in China maintained that US foreign policy objectives would best be served if the US backed Chiang Kai Shek's Nationalist faction as opposed to the communist faction backed by Mao Tse Tung who was affiliated and perceived to be a potential soviet puppet. Hurley is inexperienced in the state of domestic Chinese politics and his sole mission is to keep the Soviets out of China.


Truman sends General George C. Marshall to work out a truce settlement with Chiang and Mao. The US congress earmarks 800 million dollars for Chiang's regime and Chiang wastes no time in using the money to fight Mao. At the same time the Nationalist government was rife with corruption since it was entirely headed by Chiang's relatives who embezzled as frequently as modern day Chinese light up cigarettes. The result was skyrocketing inflation. In some places people could be seen with wheelbarrows carting around worthless currency to the markets to buy just bread in the waning days of Chiang's inept regime. Mao ends up defeating Chiang due to the Nationalist army having ill trained and disloyal troops in the face of Mao's fanatically loyal troops. This was a major failure in US foreign policy. The US had an opportunity to bring Mao under a western orbit and due to ethnocentrism and western aversion to all things vaguely Marxist, despite Mao's Chinese socialism more or less being in tune with mercantilist fascism and so America lost China and she became aligned with Russia. Later China would emerge into a regional power that would attempt to challenge Soviet hegemony. The US would counter this Sino-Soviet rivalry by relying on a strategy of detente. This Foreign policy blunder would later set the tone for the limitations of US power in Korea.


Dean Acheson, Truman's Secretary of State established the US's diplomatic objectives as they would be exercised throughout the Cold War. Acheson was a self-described realist. He believed that Stalin could only be negotiated with through "positions of strength." Acheson had helped write the Bretton Woods accords and viewed peace with the Soviets could only be achieved if the Soviets agreed to the Bretton Woods agreements. When the Soviet's refused Acheson began to call for massive US military mobilization. Historian Walter Lafaber asserted this point succinctly:

"Americans had to either find open markets and liberal international trade or they would find themselves facing the economic horrors of the 1930's. Since the Soviet's refused to join the Bretton Woods system, Acheson turned to reliance on military power."(American Age, 466)

Acheson also placed little faith in the power of the UN, which he viewed as a mere forum.


With the creation of the United Nations a world forum was created which consisted of a General Assembly and a Security Counsel the latter of which consisted of five permanent members and two alternate members among the G-7 industrialized nations. The Security counsel functioned on the principle of the unit veto system. At times this unit veto system could be skirted in favor of US objectives. For example the with the later Korean conflict, the UN security counsel authorized the US engagement in Korea with the Soviets absent from the council on that day because they were protesting China's exclusion from the member body since the Nationalist government in Taiwan was the only legally recognized sovereign body outside of China.

The Tehran Conference


During WWII in 1943 the Tehran Conference underlined the process of troop withdrawals from occupied areas in the oil rich Middle East. Later in 1946 British and American troops had withdrawn from these regions when Stalin decided to claim the Iranian republic as a Soviet client state. A second war almost ensued. Originally, it was the British who had created the partition of Persia into Iran and Iraq and now they along with the US were not about to allow the Soviet's to effectively install their own puppet regimes in order to nationalize those oil fields under Communist control. The US and its allies realized that nationalization of these oil fields would cause the price of oil world wide to skyrocket. The US response was an appeal to the United Nations and the UN threatened invasion of Iran. This was forestalled when the pro- west faction of the Iranian government executed the Soviet puppet Iranian "Tudeh" party leaders.


The Tehran Conference also became pivotal with the notion of Turkey and its strategic position on the Bosphorous. During the Tehran conference Churchill had promised Stalin access through the straits as well as limited control. However, when that issue was brought before Truman, he maintained that any, "..island waterways bound by more than two states be placed under international control."(American Age, 469). It was at this point that Acheson's view on the necessity to deal with Stalin from "positions of strength" came to be characterized by Truman's new emerging containment doctrine, the Domino theory. Deterrence was the first measure of response when Truman ordered the US Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Roosevelt to remain permanently in the Mediterranean. Stalin responds to this by withdrawing from all overt participation in any Bretton Woods Agreements, and closed his borders to all western trade. Stalin then began a massive armament campaign and a policy of a coup entente in the Third World.


George Kennan: The Father of US Containment Policy

Containment of the Soviet threat originated under the George Kennan. He provided the foundation for all subsequent geo-strategic policy doctrines for US military police actions around the globe. Later he would disagree with some such interventions, especially US intervention in Vietnam, attributing such interventions as having to do with more of an ideological divide in the bipolar system then the need to conduct rational relations with the soviet's who in reality were merely exercising the same foreign policy objectives as the Tsars had before them. Stationed in Moscow as an attaché to the US state department, Kennan underlined containment and patience as the means to meet and combat Soviet expansionism. He had seen the transformation of Russia, from pre Bolshevik times to the vast purges of Military police state under Stalin.


It was Kennan who developed the Four pillars of American policy later to be announced in the Truman Doctrine and later to be carried out officially with the Marshall Plan. This Marshall plan marked the official beginning of the Cold War, as the Soviet's responded with their own plan the Comintern. With containment came the justification for vigilant counter force and as such his famous "Mr. X [2] ," article along with Churchill's "Iron Curtain Speech," characterized the tone of America's ideological conflict with the Soviet Union. Since the Soviet's had already withdrawn from the Bretton Woods system a mobilization of American political and economic resolve was deemed necessary to counter the Soviet's plan to create their own economic world order.


The "Mr. X" article relayed much for American policymakers. Not only did America's newfound role as the top political and economic power reach a level of heightened importance by containing the Soviet threat but it also provided the impetus for lawmakers in the US Congress to challenge isolationists intent upon returning America to what they perceived as pre-WWII obscurity. Yet Kennan as well provided a window into Soviet political thought by underlining the Soviet's ideological objectives in the new emerging Cold War.

"For ideology as we have seen taught them that the outside world was hostile and that it was their duty to overthrow the political forces beyond their borders."(X[Kennan], Foreign Affairs, 1947)

Kennan was developing a notion of a mutually sustained antagonism between two opposites, that the Soviet Union was the exact opposite of the US in ideology, and culture. Kennan argues that the Soviet's were also realists. As realists the USSR had to preserve the guise of Cold War antagonism and the US as antithesis to the worker, so that their people could be compelled to make sacrifice, albeit trade democracy in times of war for military government and state security aims that required a never ending state of crises as justification for the Soviet's to legitimize their institutional means of control over the Russian populace.


Kennan further states that "..the Kremlins conduct of foreign policy: the secretiveness..the duplicity, wary suspiciousness, and the basic unfriendliness of purpose," [3] characterized the tone of Russian foreign policy. Thus, Kennan concludes, "United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies."(Foreign Affairs, 1947. p575) He later concluded that the Soviet Union would fall due to its over developed military and underdeveloped economic system.


Kennan's cry for containing the Soviet's developed from the Truman Doctrine in which four months prior to the writing of the X article, Truman had underlined US general containment objectives when he described Soviet influence in Western Europe as expansionistic. Truman ordered military and civilian advisors to Greece and Turkey. This corresponded to Truman's vision of the Domino theory. Truman's Domino theory required the US to draw geographic lines to limit Soviet peripheral expansion. The method for this was to envision a security net drawn over portions of Europe and elsewhere-whereby geo-strategic centers of power and economic production, albeit Iran, Turkey, Greece had been firmly locked into the political and economic orbit of the West. According to US policymakers, to allow Communist or even nationalistic uprising in these countries would create power vacuums that the soviets could in turn exploit to their advantage by wreaking havoc on the economic supply client production system of the West.


Truman viewed the balance of power after the war as unstable and that various states were dependant upon one another for the development of mutual and regional security. In terms of US security framework these target countries had to be installed with pro western conservative regimes to maintain the Western Alliance, by preserving stability in the region, and conversely deny the Soviets the opportunity to spur Marxist revolt even if it constituted a populist base of support. According to the Truman Domino theory, if Iran falls then Turkey and Greece will follow and soon Red Armies would be converging on Central Europe. This would lead to WWIII with the Soviets. The Domino Theory was not just exclusively applied in these regions but also throughout the world. The Domino theory would be the impetus for incursions in Korea, Vietnam, Latin America, Africa and Asia. This was a major departure from just containing the Soviet's to one of which every revolt in the Third World was believed to be under Soviet sponsorship, of which to certain extent was a legitimate reality, and on the other, also a representation of US ideological disdain for populist based class revolt when it interfered with the needs of capitalism to have raw markets at its disposal.


The Marshall Plan: A Cold War Call to Arms


The Marshall Plan was created to aid the war torn countries of Europe and rebuild their industry and other domestic infrastructure destroyed by WWII. The Plan was proposed for two reasons. The first reason was for humanitarian reasons and the second reason was to combat Soviet influence from entering impoverished regions where poverty would be a fertile breeding ground for Soviet Marxist ideology. France was a good example of this in that after having been ravaged by the NAZIS a large communist party had managed to unify many of the partisans under common opposition to the economic chaos that ensued. With the Truman Doctrine of containing Soviet expansionism the Marshall plan provided the economic financing for rebuilding of domestic infrastructure, and as such the policy platform included all of Europe to be rebuilt and reintegrated under a US dominated capitalist system. Here again the Domino theory underlined the need for this program in that if Europe fell to Soviet Communism the US dependant upon Europe for export of its surplus production would lose such a vital market, and would be dragged into another great depression, or worse a revolution. Historian Lafeber on Paul Nitze, a member of Truman's State Department, summed up the administrations view of the economic crisis in Europe and the potential for the demise of the newly constructed balance of power if the US did not act quickly with a plan for economic recovery.


"The most dangerous problem as Nitze and other business leaders saw it, was not the threat of soviet invasion, but a European economic collapse that could turn the pivotal region toward socialism, paralyze the US economy, and threaten the entire Capitalist system."(American Age, 479)

Hence the economic well being of Europe was tied to America's conceptions of security in this respect.


The Marshall plan accomplished two objectives. One it allowed the US economy that had been mobilized for the war effort, the trappings of which included a huge surplus of goods to be exported over to Europe as loans with the promise that Europe would rebuild and recover and consequently American investment would flourish. Furthermore, America had to get rid of its surplus after the war or it would face a recession of its own. The second objective to the Marshall plan allowed the US government and its constituent business networks considerable oversight into the affairs of European governments, which amounted to easing tariff restrictions and ending all thoughts of implementing central economic planning the tool and method of the Soviet economic system. This effectively distanced the Soviet's from the Marshall plan and at the same time attempted to establish a third pole in Europe to offset the dangerous extreme nature of the bipolar system. The overall effect of the Marshall plan was the creation of the Cold War, where the Soviet's sealed their borders to Western trade and developed their own economic recovery plan for their client states.


Stalin could not have accepted the Marshall plan and remained in power for long. The Marshall plan would have given the United States a major share in reorganization of Russian economic and monetary policy. The structure of the Soviet state saw itself as independent of capitalism and incompatible with capitalist directed globalism and its ensuing interdependent market structures. The Soviets viewed the system of balance of power in colonialist terms and Marxism taught them that imperialism from the West first comes by the establishment of western market contacts, whereby the economic integration with the stronger or more industrialized nation would create a marginalizing effect on the sovereignty of the nonwestern state and reduce it to peripherary status.


Michael J. Hogan of the Corporatist school of Diplomatic History has argued that the Marshall Plan created a stable region in Western Europe. The Marshall plan he argues had continuity with Roosevelt's own New Deal program for American economic recovery. He also argued that the Marshall Plan endeared a system of collective stability, and that such economic recovery could only occur through capitalism, and specifically the plan relied on Keynesian deficit spending through government capital flows to stimulate economic recovery.


"Marshall planners used the New Deal as a blue print in their struggle to assure international stability through the spread of liberal capitalism. Economic assistance provided the means for rebuilding a balance of power in Europe by establishing an organization that could simultaneously contain the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe and reintegrate Germany into an economically interdependent and politically stable Western Europe." (America in the World, 263)

An equally influential theorist John Lewis Gaddis [4] argues that Corporatist theory places too much emphasis on domestic factors of production and not to geopolitical interests. Gaddiss faults Stalin as being the cause of the Cold War due to the constraints of his bureaucratic management style that required a constant state of paranoia and aversion to all things western and that ideology of totalitarianism was paramount in Stalin's dealings with the west. Furthermore at times the US did not solely act according to the dogma of free trade when it blocked Japan's attempts to resume normal trading relations with China. This was presumed necessary in that geopolitical interests were paramount in containing the newly constituted expansionistic Chinese Communist state.

Both Hogan and historian Melvyn Leffler agree that the Marshall plan accomplished what its chief aims were at that time and that intensification of Cold War Conflicts were residual, and rather reflected overarching policy concerns attempting to preserve peace through economic recovery. (America in the World, 265)


Thus, US policymakers viewing the successes of the Marshall plan in Europe tried to implement similar measures in the Third World though not as grand in duration and this led them to conflict with the Russians and later the Chinese in Korea. The prewar mobilization of the US economy created a system in which surplus goods could be sold directly to Europe and later to the Third World.. This surplus included military, industrial and agricultural hardware, and foodstuffs produced by a WWII war machine that was not going to go away soon. The implementation of the Marshall plan also caused the Soviet's to retreat to their own economic bloc as well as an attempt to blockade Berlin, the first military action of the Cold War.


In the next section of this paper an analysis of Melvyn P. Leffler's theory on reasons for cold war escalation shall now follow.


The Road to Korea


Historian Melvyn P. Leffler in his essay, "A Preponderance of Power," summarizes the key factors as to why the Cold War originated, and how it came to be mutually self reinforcing for both systems. First he argues that the US emerged as the most powerful and industrialized nation in the world after WWII. With this in fact the US emerged as the leader in the global and political and economic system and for the first time demonstrated a willingness to manage that system. The examples of this were the development of the IMF and the World Bank. As such Leffler argues that American policymakers were envisioning a multipolar world.

"Having learned the bitter Lessons of the interwar era, the United States would join the United Nations and play a constructive role in the international economy."(Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, 296)

The only thing standing in the way of peace and prosperity Leffler argued was essentially complicated hegemonic idealism, by both parties since Europe was effectively carved in half by the US and the Soviet's and neither had a means for resolution, rather a system of peace through confrontation, forestalling total war.

Leffler also argues that four factors stood in the way of US policy goals. Furthermore, Leffler asserts that these factors as perceived by US policymakers where what had created the Cold War and came to characterize US Cold War policy. The first factor was the security threat posed by occupying soviet armies based in Eastern Europe and North East Asia. Secondly the rise of Leftist ideology and political support in countries such as Italy, France, Greece, China, and Korea meant attempts by the Soviet regime to exercise through its perceived satellite countries, attempts to thwart "liberal capitalist multilateralism." If these countries were allowed to become Communist then it would undermine the Western Alliance and strengthen the Soviet Sphere of influence. The Third Factor was the notion of emerging nationalism in Japan and Germany might endear these two countries to join the Soviet orbit with promise of markets and revenge upon the West. The fourth factor was nationalism in the Third World. It wasn't that nationalism itself was a bad thing rather nationalism in the third world due to its location on the peripherary had few models of economic development to turn towards and chiefly the one that was most favorable carried the ideology of anti-imperialism, and that was Marxism. Marxism was attractive because it made the state all-powerful and offered a simple explanation to people's marginal status in the global economic balance of power system. To the US this was just another ideology that was a symptomatic feature of totalitarianism that had already caused one world war, and the lessons learned from that war was that totalitarian states are never happy unless they are expanding their borders.



The US then saw its role as offering economic assistance to embattled countries undergoing Nationalist revolts. This put the US in a position that it had never been in before. Foreign elites such as China's Chiang Kai Shek were major problems and undermined at times US credibility as a long-term player in Third World Affairs. This was a major discontinuity in the history of American foreign relations in that now it had political and military commitments throughout the globe that had previously not been its responsibility. With the demise of European Colonialism after WWII the US was faced with the same problems as the prior balance of power system and often they could as in the Third World at times, scarcely be perceived as no different than the conquerors of the past.



For the US the view was different rather there was a need for Europe and Asia to be integrated into a core-peripherary economic and political relationship. To do this as Leffler argues:

"..They came to believe that ever more weapons were necessary to support the risk taking that inhered in co-opting the industrial core of Eurasia and in integrating its underdeveloped periphery..eventually rearmament became the essential prerequisite to America's diplomatic, economic and political initiatives." (Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, 298) Leffler concludes that as colonialism declined there was no stable force in the region in the third world, and that any revolt came to be defined by US policymakers as the work of the Soviets. Thus, the US developed a policy of mutual assistance for friendly regimes, and a development of covert paramilitary operations, to overthrow leftist regimes and or to protect those current regimes from being overthrown. The problem, which more or less was the cause of the inequity in this relationship, was that Europe had the administrative ability to unite, with NATO to back it up, and rather Asia fragmented after years of colonialism had no such capabilities. Thus, what ended up happening was the US mistaking civil wars as grand communist plots and often the US would also become the aggressors, making those countries more or less fertile breeding grounds for Soviet ideological encroachment.



Leffler essentially argues that in 1946-1947 that America felt that its "..core values..democracy, free enterprise, pluralism and territorial security were being threatened."(America in the World, 266) With the Soviet threat and the precarious nature of the core and periphery, the Truman administration adopted a two-prong approach. While briefly scaling back containment, it adopted move towards globalism and maintenance of the international economy. Every major raw market attained the level of utmost importance. Leffler argues that the Soviets possessed no military threat at this time until 1949 and rather the US was also establishing an intelligence network around the globe to augment its political and economic influence. The US conception of the "Soviet threat" was the projected effect that potential Soviet expansion could have on the international system. From the perspective of the West, At a state to state level, Leffler argues that there were legitimate business and domestic interests in maintaining a functional international system, in which the fortunes of the West were now mutually obliged to defend.



The Marshall plan no doubt put the Soviet's on the Defensive. It was implementing a capitalist and world corporatist structure that modeled itself after the US economy. The Marshall plan for America accomplished a policy of double containment in which it contained the economic influence of the Soviet's and at the same time tied German expansion and industrial output to be contained in a system in a system controlled by the US and its Allies. The creation of NATO helped to implement this by combining British, French, and German states into a multilateral military alliance backed by US resolve and military might. To preserve this power the US as Hogan and McCormick agree required a functional relationship with elites who were willing to merge their economies in the new system. McCormick and Cummings both proponents of World Systems theory argue that this was what led to the US coming into conflict with China and Indo China. Japan was viewed as an Asian capitalist hub trade in that continent. However, Japan had invaded Manchuria, Korea, and Indo China for access to raw markets in developing its "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere." The Truman administration as did the later Eisenhower administration viewed the emergence of Communist China as directly threatening this trade, and that China was viewed as potential core hegemon that would seek to incorporate client states traditional to its own historical system of alliances.



The struggle Cummings and McCormick assert was that there was a need to incorporate this underdeveloped peripherary, and to preserve the economic system of Japan as well as increase the vitality of western market diversification. Leffler on world systems theory agrees that this corporatist structure made intervention in Korea and Vietnam unavoidable.


"Aware that Japan traditionally depended on extensive economic ties with Manchuria, North China, and Korea, and noting that most of this area was now in enemy bloc, Acheson and Dulles felt that they had to link Japan and South East Asia. In this interpretation one sees the extent to which US officials believed that the industrial core of the world system had to be integrated with the underdeveloped periphery."(American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, 117)




1949 was a pivotal year and it must be described as a series of events leading to test firing in Korea and then at its end a major discontinuity in policy engagements due to a perceived secure means of maintaining the Western military doctrine of massive retaliation. The Korean War was supposed to be a challenge to US resolve as well as a challenge to US military logistics in Europe. A brief summary of events in Europe leading up to the Korean conflict will now follow.



NATO the chief military instrument of the West is founded in April of 1949. A series of power plays ensue with the Soviet's and Americans over the Soviet's request at the Paris Conference to have Allied troops withdraw from Europe. The US refuses citing the size and close proximity of Russian land armies to Western Europe. In September Truman increases US commitments to Europe by increasing US troop deployments to Europe. The US is named the head of the Alliance assuming the tactical decisions of the NATO military apparatus. The Chief source of NATO power was its ability to incorporate long-range bombers able to strike anywhere and capable of delivering nuclear payloads in the event of war with the Soviet Union. In December at the Brussels Conference it was decided to rearm Western Europe including W. Germany. The US is also formally established as the supreme authority of NATO. No doubt the soviets had reason to be alarmed for a majority of three continents were politically allied against the Soviets. The soviets were now effectively sealed off from potential encroachments upon the capitalist system. During the Korean War the Shuman Plan provides for total integration of Western Europe with the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community.



The end of America's atomic monopoly marked the end of 1949. The Soviets had found a means to attack the power of the alliance by detonating a bomb of their own. Equally unsettling was the establishment of the Communist Republic of China and its desires to establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. The US response to this was National Security Directive 68. NSC 68 directly defined the nature of the system as bipolar and that the conflict between the US and the Soviets was an intractable reality given the two ideologically opposed systems. NSC 68 identified four main Soviet objectives. One was a desire for absolute control within their borders as well as in Eastern Europe. The second factor was that the Soviets were irrational driven by extreme fanaticism and that their main desire was world domination. The third factor was that US soviet conflict was intractable given the nature of both political systems. However, the threat of total nuclear annihilation had to be gauged in dealing directly with Soviets. The final factor then was to contain the autocracy and expansionary aims of the Soviets. Thus, NSC 68 favored a policy massive arms stockpiling and nuclear weapons production and proliferation by the United States. Hence, Deterrence the first pillar of American foreign policy began to take preeminence over containment, now that such an alliance structure was in place in Europe. By 1952 the US had a fully functional Hydrogen Bomb, and this policy of nuclear weapons stockpiling would carry over into the Eisenhower administration. NSC 68 also called for increasing defense expenditures as well as complimenting Dean Acheson's call for a civilian preparedness program. Unfortunately this last program had a negative residual effect in the McCarthy's communist witch-hunts.



An individual such as McCarthy was able to unite the US citizenry against communism and perhaps spearheaded a willingness to engage the enemy anywhere. The problem was that he was a political opportunist and he used the paranoia through a series of political purges to advance his own political career undermining the cohesion of the state. When he tried to claim that George C. Marshall was a Communist he was defrocked. Thus, in 1955 he was scarcely a memory in Eisenhower's newfound "dollar diplomacy" backed by nuclear missiles. Historian Walter Lafeber identifies the link between McCarthyism and Acheson's attempt to unite public opinion against communist infiltration ultimately entailing a sacrifice evinced by increased taxes. Acheson was not a willing conspirator in the McCarthy witch hunts rather he viewed the threat of Communism as external beyond US borders yet he required united resolve from the American public to act quickly. Thus, McCarthy provided the popular hysteria, i.e., America's rabid fear of Communist infiltration into every aspect of American life that ultimately lent support for all of Acheson's security proposals. "The time was perfect for McCarthy tactics in early 1950. Even while Acheson was traveling around the country to warn the populace about Communism." (American Age, 510) However, the American public was unmoved until June 26th 1950, when North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel that then the Cold War became a factor of American popular imagination.


The Korean Conflict & The Origins of America's Commitment to Indo China


  The Korean War started as a Civil War between North and South Korea that had been escalating since the end of Japanese occupation in 1945. According to US policymakers at this time Korea was not going to be lost to the communists like Poland and Manchuria. Korea also marked the beginning phase of America's commitment to military intervention in the Third World in upholding the capitalist world order. To do this US American policy leaders relied on the pillars of containment and commitment to intervention. Roger Dingman asserts that the conflict is ended only due to the deterrence factor of atomic diplomacy brought on by the Eisenhower administration. (America in the World, 290)The Korean conflict as Leffler will argue had been in place since the inception of the Marshall Plan. Korea will also mark a trend in which all Presidents' afterwards would use issues such as international security, i.e., police actions to increase Presidential power in Congress.



The Tehran conference had specified the divisions of the two countries until such time reunification could be achieved. The boundary of the two Koreas was to serve as a check to Soviet influence in Asia. A 6-month civil war had erupted and the Soviets installed Kim Il Sung a former officer in the soviet army as the new head of North Korea. The US wanted democratically free elections and eventual reunification between North and obviously this ran counter to Soviet ambitions and North Korean nationalistic aims. Thus, the US installs Syngman Rhee at the helm of the South Korean government. North Korea responds by invading South Korea and Truman responds by moving the UN Security Council to pass a resolution (with the soviets conspicuously absent) to declare that N. Korea make an immediate withdrawal, and cessation of all hostile attempts at takeover. Walter Lafaber argues that Truman viewed the conflict in Korea in terms of a domino effect, that if the Soviet's were not stopped in Korea then all of Asia would fall to Communism.



Lafeber in accord with McCormick argues that Truman relied on memories of Nazi appeasement, Japanese appeasement in Manchuria and now Appeasement of Stalin's expansionary aims would set off another world war and thus intervention was not necessary but self evident.


"US interests everywhere seemed to be at stake. For if Stalin and Kim won in Korea, Truman believed, the Soviets would hit more pivotal interests, especially Japan and Western Europe. The president reached these conclusions largely through his use of history."(American Age, 513)

 South Korea was out manned and outgunned and it had to contend with a corrupt government. The US interpretation of the Tehran protocol required them to defend South Korea due to the Soviet's sphere of influence being extended beyond North Korea. The UN approves a military police action, and Truman appoints General Douglass Macarthur as head of the operation. Truman by virtue of declaring a "police action" sets a precedent in American foreign policy later to be invoked by LBJ by committing massive amounts of troops without requiring Congressional approval. However, the reasons for this non-War declaration had to do with North Korea's alliance with the USSR and in theory an overt declaration of war would have caused the Soviet's to commit their own troops to the conflict.


This also set off a trend of events in which Taiwan was spared invasion by Communist China due to Truman's desire of establishing a defensive perimeter around Japan and the remaining portions of capitalist Asia. It is important to note that Taiwan is recognized as the de facto representative of China in the UN and would continue to occupy that spot until China was formally recognized and admitted to the UN Security Council in 1979. The Truman administration also began the process of rebuilding the war racked Japanese economy and permanently stationed US troops in Okinawa.


US officials had determined that the Japanese economy was dependant on Indo-China's raw markets. With the potential of these countries adopting closed market systems under a soviet economic bloc would entice japan to rebuild trade relations with China and possibly with the Soviet's as well. This according to the Truman Domino theory would cause japan to become allied with this bloc in order to garner access to Indo China's markets.


Secondly, the US had to contend with Nationalism in Indo China. Vietnam had begun to rise up against French colonial domination. The US wanting NATO cooperation from France sided with them instead of Ho Chi Minh despite his appeal for recognition. Acheson was the principle player behind this affirmed that NATO's interests were preeminent in containing the Soviet threat in Europe then affirming nationalist aspirations in the periphery due to the perceived power vacuum they would create.


Bruce Cummings argues that the Korean War had to do with nationalism brought on by 35 years of Japanese colonial occupation. Korea also became viewed as a little China since historically it had acted as a satellite state and trade intermediary between China and Japan, and as such the region was to receive greater attention when China became communist. To Truman this was an affirmation of the Domino theory." Meanwhile events world wide and especially Communist revolution in China pushed the US towards a formal policy of resisting further Communist advances in Asia."(Major Problems in American Foreign Relations [5] , 387)


In retrospect there was no doubt that the Chinese Communists were exercising influence in Korea. China had fought along side North Korea during the Korean Civil War. As far as Soviet and Chinese military support the elements of collusion were there for Truman and Acheson to see. The Soviets had provided the North Koreans with fighter planes and Mao had provided experienced veteran Chinese ground troops. Thus, Truman believed that if direct intervention were not forthcoming he would lose all of the Third World to nationalism. China the most populous country in the world had become Communist, and now it was allying itself with Soviet's in supplying aid to N. Korea. Thus, the World's largest countries were now principle allies and were beginning to exert hegemonic control throughout Asia, and consequently that whole market would be lost to the West. This would undermine all of American foreign policy goals as that generation of policymakers interpreted the events in Korea.


Another important factor of consideration is the domestic nature of american politics in relationship to america's foreign policy. Historian Gary Kaufman maintains that there were domestic factors driving American foreign policy of which McCarthyism and the polarized anti-Communist purge of American government and media was wracking a state of frenzied paranoia and destroyed many talented peoples careers. "McCarthy was at the height of his power during the war years and his impact on the administrations' ability to govern and on overseas perceptions of the United States was clearly enormous."(American Age, 525)


However, more than just McCarthy was at stake an ideology of historical interpratation governed the process as well. The Third World became became the battlefields of the Cold War and as such the two main superpowers excercised hegemony in these regions. For the Third World colonialism had ended but nationalism and the call to economic selfsuffiency remained. Nationalism came to be identified under Truman as Communist infilitration and memories of appeasing Hitler's expansionist tendencies in Truman's mind could not be repeated with the Soviets.


Dependencia theory was the chief theory relied upon by the majority of Cold War nationalists inclined towards Communism. Dependencia theory held that colonialist rule had caused their countries to be rendered into a state of "economic backwardness." Nationalism in the Third World often borrowed from Marxist Leninist models of the command economy and this came to undermine the fourth pillar of American foreign policy the maintenance of free trade. The US policymakers of the time viewed the world in terms of spheres of influence, core states, and peripheral states. Containment the second pillar of American foreign policy took significance in the fact that the third world was the most populous. Hence Containment also became an ideology of maintaining the free trade system. Thus, one had to create an ideology on containing Soviet influence and the fanaticism they aroused in nationalists and on the other an ideology of the administration itself having to maintain the third world, through often ethically compromising means to safeguard trade and prevent war. US policymakers viewed nationalism as dangerous and usually synonymous to Marxist-revolution.


The ideology of Marxism had maintained that revolution could only come after industrialization. The third world was primarily agrarian. However, Marx's theory of colonialism producing nationalism catered to these nationalists and fit into many of their agendas, hegemony over local and provincial political forces. Marxism was a simple book on how to mobilize and monopolize control if you were a nationalist. It offered simplistic explanations as to why third world countries were in the economic positions they were in. Economic determinism maintained that in the end there is violent revolution and then there is utopian peace. That peace could only come when the workers had claimed the means of production and received the "fruits of their labor." In reality often it allowed Marxist nationalists to develop police states, and conduct genocide on their own people and in the territorial expansion often committed the same acts of colonial oppression that spawned their original nationalist tormented cries for freedom and nationhood. As many of these Marxist countries sought to industrialize they relied on Leninist theories of production and building of large infrastructure and factories. Case in point for example in China during the Great Leap Forward Mao's economic plan for modernization, over 60 million people died of starvation, due to forced communalism, and the lack of farm tools to grow crops, since most of the material had gone to building huge grain processing plants and foundries that remained empty and useless.


In all there were two options for nationalists. Democratically supported fascism or Marxist inspired mercantilism. However, due to the large disbursement of foreign owned capital in their land with little control over that material flow of wealth, peripheral countries under the international trade system would suffer violent swings in monetary and price value for the goods they produced. This led many nationalists to attempt to nationalize industry and this brought the ire of American government and its constituent business interests as well as those of the other industrialized nations. Hence the US administration's virulent application of an anti-Communist policy, in both Latin America and Asia, the former region was already deemed to have precedents of intervention going all the way back to the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.


There was real fear in Washington as to the functional application of Marxism in the Third World. As an ideology it justified violent overthrow of the capitalist system, and a mobilization of the means of production in order to sustain that revolution until some state of utopian equality could be achieved. On a smaller scale it justified monopolizing power into an autocratic state controlled system in the guise of public welfare. However, beyond ideological concerns, the chief fear for US at this time was the supposed threat to the fourth pillar of American foreign policy, free trade. This was posed by either nationalization of industry absent Marxist ideology, or the implementation thereof, a closed economic system with a command and control economy, and virtual political hegemony sustained by the Soviets. On the one hand Washington could not promise clear results in the international system. On the other, the Soviets ran a superb propaganda campaign and promised third world countries rapid economic development. (Calloss, Lecture)


Meanwhile all is not quiet on the Western front. In supporting the French in Europe there was a call to rearm West Germany and reincorporate it into the NATO alliance to have them bear some of the costs of defending Europe from a soviet attack. Early attempts at containment and commitment to intervention had become expensive. However, in 1950 Truman increases US troops to four more divisions with General Dwight D. Eisenhower as commander of NATO.


Truman manages to send some 600,000 troops to Korea and with Macarthur's amphibious landing at Inchon managed to push the North Koreans back to the Yalu river, 90 miles from the Chinese border. The anti Communist fervor and paranoia cooked up by McCarthyism at home overwhelmingly favored immediate occupation and reunification of all Korea. The Truman administration initially agreed with this plan until intelligence sources reported large numbers of Chinese troops amassing near the border, and he ordered Macarthur to withdrawal his troops. General Macarthur refused and ventured North with the intention of invading China. That action would cost Macarthur his job as Chinese troops engulfed Macarthur's army forcing him into a hurried retreat, to small province far south of the 38th parallel. Macarthur and UN troops manage to restore the former border and the two sides stalemated until a UN brokered ceasefire was agreed. However, theoretically the two Koreas never rescinded their declaration of war. In 1953 the Korean war was over.


The Korean conflict and subsequent Chinese intervention caused Sino-Soviet relations to deteriorate as well as establishing permanent US commitments to the stability of the balance of power in Asia, by containing Soviet influence and preserving market access to keep Japan afloat in the Bretton woods system. This was a major discontinuity in American foreign policy as Walter Lafeber states, "The nation made its first significant military commitments to both Vietnam and Taiwan." The Korean war gave new meaning to the ideology of NSC 68 and the US defense budget skyrocketed in response. In 1952 Harry Truman loses the election to Eisenhower and Joseph Stalin died, and so a new era of American foreign policy began.


The Korean conflict involved an exercise of all four major pillars of American foreign policy, and although historians have challenged the strategic significance of the war it was a test of American resolve. The Truman administration however focused primarily on three of the pillars, containment, and commitment to intervention as well as safeguarding the international market system. The first pillar deterrence was mainly used as a check to Soviet expansion and somewhat quarantined Soviet Power in the third world and E. Europe as a result of the NATO alliance. However, soon Eisenhower would usher in a new age of Atomic Diplomacy, and a doctrine of deterrence, based upon, MAD, mutually assured destruction, and strategic long range bombers.


Leffler maintains that actions in Korea were the result of the US providing for its national security interests in a global sense. All the containment alliances in both the political and economic map of europe point to this. America had almost complete control over the UN Security Council, which made joint police action a virtual rubber stamp in Korea. American troops were stationed in Japan and Japan's economy became dependant upon the war machine as well. It was also percieved that America's economy had now become tied to the war machine as well.

The New Deal had been successful with moblizing the economy for the war effort. It also provided the apparatus for the Marshall plan.


"American offcials sought to cope with an array of challenges by implementing their own concepts of national security… the mode of thinking about national security that subsequently accellerated the arms race and made military intervention in Asia possible was already in place."(America in the World, 297)


The bureaucracy would continue to perpetuate itself. It would change form with each successive presidential doctrine and yet in no way did it decrease. Everything was geared toward containment and this would be the last time in the Cold War that America would enjoy such total power. The definition of nationalism would remain unchanged for the next several administrations and the Third world loomed large in presidential imaginations, and of the potential for economic stagnation and soviet hegemony, despite overall American hegemony in the world. The next section will be an analysis of the Eisenhower Administration in specific regards to his use of Deterrence and the approaching era of nuclear parody between the US and the Soviets.


Eisenhower's National Security State and the Third World

Eisenhower followed two principles that shaped his foreign policy. Communism must be contained and American capitalism and the liberal international system must not go broke in doing this. In his view economic expansion was more favorable to political expansion. He agreed in the end that war was caused by an economy dependent upon on a military industrial complex and so in his view deterrence was to be the cheapest and yet the best possible defense against Communist expansionism. This would limit troop numbers and the cumbersome military bureaucracy that accompanied it. Secondly he favored covert ops and military coups to protect economic interests rather than political interests as well a campaign of propaganda. The problem was that the bureaucracy that formed around deterrence and spawned the overall national security state created an even larger military industrial complex that Eisenhower never intended to create. Here again the ideology of the Cold War coupled with the this foundation for mobilization and arms proliferation would later set the tone for Kennedy's "flexible response," program, and provided LBJ with the means for escalation of the Vietnam conflict. Deterrence had short term value and long term administrative implications.

Eisenhower is elected in 1952. He begins a program of lowering taxes and attempts to contain spiraling military costs. He does this by relying on the doctrine of massive retaliation. This ushered in an era of massive nuclear weapons proliferation. This policy occurred at the end of the US's atomic monopoly and spurred a policy massive nuclear arms proliferation among the Soviets. Atomic diplomacy was then replaced by the threat of, MAD, mutually assured destruction. The Geneva Conference of 1955 was held between the two superpowers in order to discuss the alarming rates of arms proliferation and yet these talks produced little in terms of international arms control treaties. The Soviets wanted American disarmament and the Americans wanted Open Skies, the ability to fly over each territory to confirm that disarmament was actually taking place. In all the chief policies of the Eisenhower administration were the deterrent capabilities of nuclear weapons as the dominant diplomatic device, supplemented by covert ops in the third world in the third world as in exercise in maintaining a cheaper form of containment.


In 1953 a major policy paper NSC 162 built on the outlines of NSC 68 and formally replaced containment with deterrence in order of priorities. NSC 162 outlined that Soviet hostility and military power were a threat to US national security. The policy outlined the key Soviet goal was the destruction of the US dominated capitalist economy through means of economic warfare. This paper was to provide the bureacratic impetus for mass nuclear weapons proliferation. The ideology behind this was that nuclear weapons were cheaper to maintain then traditional occupying armies. The threat of massive retaliation would be the deterrent to Soviet Communist aggression. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles  explained the premise behind the use of deterrence:

"We need allies and collective security. Our purpose is to make these relations more effective, less costly. This can be done by placing more reliance on nuclear power and less dependance on local defensive power." (Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, 424)


The realist Robert Divine argues that Eisenhower employed a policy of restraint backed by ultimate force. He ended the conflict in Korea and this was the evidence of Eisenhower as being a model of restraint, unlike Kennedy and LBJ who escalated conflict in Cuba and Vietnam. However, in judging the ability of deterrence in decreasing Soviet aggression Divine concludes did not "ease Cold War tensions."(America in the World, 303) In fact this policy created an arms race. Eisenhower was able to achieve short-term national security goals through deterrence, and yet this policy created nuclear parody--absent the Rosenberg/Fuchs affair--and would provide the necessary antagonism for soviet incursion and expansion under later presidencies.

The Eisenhower administration would inherit themes from the Truman era. However, in the short term that administration was able to avoid wars of attrition rather policies of coup detete in the Latin America banana republics. In the long term Eisenhower would set the tone for such a war of attrition by establishing military commitments to Vietnam after the French were defeated in 1954 at Diem Bien Phu.

The major policy platforms Eisenhower inheritied from Truman where limited containment and as previously mentioned committment to intervention. However, unlike Truman's broad application of the Domino Theory, Dulles and Eisenhower were to incorporate that theory into a policy reality by clear regional demarcation as to what was to be in the capitalist zone and what must not be lost to the communist zone. Any major provocation by the Soviets would lead to all out nuclear war . Hence deterrence as a philosophy was peace backed by the threat of nuclear war, and total annihilation. The third major policy was the establishment of covert ops and propaganda in the communist bloc countries, such as Radio Free Europe, a program sponsered by the CIA to undermine communist ideology in E.Europe with news from the West.

Nuclear weapons were viewed by the administration as being cheap. By virtue of just having stockpiles was enough to avoid war during the early part of the administration. The policy paper NSC 162 established this view. This was meant to make the Soviets fully weigh the alternatives to expansion since such an act would result in eventual nuclear holocaust. The first test to this theory came in 1954 when Maoist China began shelling Taiwan. Rather then send military troops and undergo the previous policy and practice of containment Eisenhower used the threat of nuclear war to force the Chinese to back down. The approach was successful and China's priemiere, Zhou En Lai indicates that good relations with the US are more essential than China's plans for immediate reunification with Taiwan. Divine argues that Eisenhower's success in this had to do with his deliberate vaugness as to whether he was fully committed to defending Taiwan as Truman had been. However, as Divine also asserts that:,.."he took Dulles concept of massive retaliation and refined it." (Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, 441) He made China weigh the options of a possible nuclear strike without having to act first. The residual effect of this short term policy gain as Gordon-Chang argues was the long term development of nuclear weapons proliferation in China.

In 1955 there is an effort to create arms reduction at the Geneva conference. This was the first attempt at arms detente and it failed miserably. Eisenhower as Divine maintained was able to create short-term stability through the use of deterrence. However massive nuclear arms arsenals on both sides entailed an uneasy peace preserved by the threat of total annihilation, proliferation corresponding more to mutual paranoia then as necessary measures for real security.

There is also an attempt by Eisenhower to establish the Atoms for peace program, and to supply civilian nuclear technology to the third world and also to the Soviets. However, disarmanment polices failed due to mutual mistrust. Eisenhower insited that a policy of Open Skies exist between the Soviet's and the US to verify that disarmanment was taking place as a part of this program. However, at the same time the US military detonates a hydrogen bomb in the South Pacific, at Bikini Atoll. This effectively ended the Geneva talks. The Soviets refuse to take part in any Open Skies agreements and Cold War escalation increased. The Soviets also begin a massive program of H-bomb testing on their own.. In 1957 and in 1958 there are attempts at further means of arms reduction and a nuclear moratorium is agreed upon until a summitt conference can be held in Geneva in 1960 could stipulate a test ban treaty. However, that convention was doomed to failure, when pilot, Francis Gary Powers, flying a U-2 spy plan from Pakistan is shot down over Soviet territory.


The question that emerges here is how much does an individual, for instance the President of the United States, have control over his own bureaucracy? Revisionists claim that Eisenhower was in almost complete control by maintaining that he attended some 339 NSC policy debates and operated an open forum of discussion in these proceedings. In reality Eisenhower delegated his authority through channels depending upon the region in question, for instance Latin America was a veritable fiefdom for the Dulles brother's and United Fruit company. In terms of overall policy committments Eisenhower was profoundly influenced by the Domino theory and limited containment. He relied on covert operations and sent military advisors and weapons to pro western guerrilla fighters in countries such as Zaire and Tibet. He also militarily intervened in the middle east. However, the overwhelming evidence would seem to point to John Foster Dulles as more or less micromanaging Eisenhower policy in concert with the business establishment's intrests for economic spheres of influence in third world nations. John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles were both on the board of directors of United Fruit Company. Arguablly, during this period the Cia's policy in Latin America was based more on the interests of the Dulles brothers then on real interests of national security. (Stephen SCHLESINGER & Stephen KINZER, Bitter Fruit: the Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala (New York: Anchor Press, 1990)

Q/A Were the fifties a search for a corporatist world order.

To answer this question one must view ideology as a common consensus builder. Both Eisenhower and Dulles were vehemntly anti-Communist. However, they had different reasons for acting in concert. Eisenhower identified nationalism with communism as much as Truman did and in the case of Guatemala he had Dulles overthrow the elected government of Jacobo Guzman. Guzman had wanted to nationalize United Fruit company lands and redistrubite them to the peasants. To Eisenhower this was Soviet Communist ideology infilitrating Latin America. To Secretary of State ,John Foster Dulles, the attempted nationalization of the United Fruit Company meant a major loss in personal net assets.

Historian Walter Lafeber maintains that Eisenhower on record maintained that it was Dulles who implemented the national security apparatus that would have us in vietnam and in every other fault line war."Eisenhower, meanwhile set important precedents by using the CIA to try to overthrow nationalist popular governments in Iran, [installing the pro-western, Shah to protect US-British Interests] Guatemala, Indonesia. Dulles fashioned a far flung network of alliances that in Eisenhower's words committed Americans to support the defense of almost every free area..facing the Sino Soviet complex."(American Age, 572)

In some instances Eisenhower does appear to have excercised unilateral authority. In the case of Korea, Eisenhower overrules Dulles and right wing republicans who favor escalation. He briefly thought of using nuclear weapons as a last ditch attempt to secure a victory from the north Koreans and wisely did not act upon that perrogative. However, the nuclear option was non-negotiable when it came to the issue of Taiwan and China.


In 1952 the EEC is formed in Europe backed by US investors. The theme of US foreign policy at this time was to lock countries into alliances based on the material flow of international trade. Eisenhower advanced this aim by enlarging the scope of the Export-Import bank developed by Roosevelt and incorporating it under the World Bank. The World Bank was designed to provide long term loans and long term capital investment projects in third world nations providing assistance to those nations seeking economic integration into the new international capitalist system. The stability of Europe relied on the freeflow of trade and commodities from the Middle East, i.e., oil, and from other regions that had large reserves of raw materials for extraction.

Furthermore the Eisenhower Doctrine outlined the administrations policy in the middle east as one of which the status quo must be maintained at all costs, oil must flow freely to the US and its allies. If a nationalist such as Nasser appeared among the Arabs the CIA would be called to either quarantine or overthrow the regime and in the case of Lebanon American troops were deployed despite the knowledge that that the movement in Lebanon was nationalistic and not communist. The Eisenhower administration's viewed this as a case in which the fragile economic order was deemed necessary to preserve or the domino theory would manifest and lead to the disintegration of alliances in Europe as well as create a world wide energy shortage leading to inevitable war.

In all Eisenhower, viewed nuclear weapons as foundational to his deterrence policy, and this was supplemented by covert ops in the economic peripherary. Yet Eisenhower's policy platform was more or less an inheritance of Truman's security affirmations in the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia. Truman created the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, and Eisenhower was the first President to more or less incorporate those institutions into integral elements that would shape American foreign policy for years to come. These intelligence agencies would create a security apparatus predicated upon interventions in foreign countries perceived to have geo-strategic value to the US. The clearest example of this was when Eisenhower began to send military and intelligence advisors to Vietnam. The French had been defeated at Diem Bien Phu in 1954 by Vietnamese nationalists led by Ho Chi Minh. Here again the Ghosts of containment would committ Eisenhower to this region to support French colonial interests that still remained in the region and provide an attempt at quarntining Soviet and chinese influence.

The ostensible reason for intervention in Vietnam stemmed from the fact that the US needing support from the French in terms of its mutual treaty obligations with NATO. Hence the US became saddled with the economic burden of keeping the post colonial world from turning Communist or creating political fissures in the political and economic system. The Geneva conference of 1955 divided Vietnam into North and South regions with line of demarcation at the 17th parallel. Eisenhower and Dulles install Ngo Dinh Diem as President of South Vietnam. Diem in reality was corrupt and inept like Chiang Kai Shek and yet Eisenhower overlooked this. Historian David Anderson argues that "The administration tied US global credibility to the survival of the regime, pouring military reaffirm its faith in containment and the domino theory."(American in the World, 312)Meanwhile Ho Chi Minh is established as the defacto ruler and president of North Vietnam.

Eisenhower was more or less re affirming the existence of the Greater East Asia Co Prosperity Sphere which had provided the ideology for Japanese colonial expansionism, and in the undertaking of this policy of intervention in Indo China more or less was a creation of America's attempt to exercise hegemony in the raw markets of East Asia by grafting original Japanese imperial designs into the American capitalist system. Since Ho was a communist, despite his intial overtures for US recognition, the Eisenhower administration became constrained by its own anti communist ideology. The Domino theory more or less envisioned that if Vietnam fell to Communism, then Malay and Japan would follow suit since the vital hub of Asia's tin and rubber trade would fall under a Sino-Soviet orbit. Furthermore, Eisenhower viewed the potential loss of Vietnam would mean the loss of American naval power in the pacific, to the chinese and their supposed russian allies. In all of this Eisenhower creates the Asian military alliance's counterpart to NATO, SEATO, in 1954 that provided the mechanism and precedent for unilateral intervention into Vietnam under LBJ. Furthermore, as Lafeber maintains: "Southeast Asia had both strategic materials (such as oil and tin) and locations (for air and naval bases) that the west required for its Cold War build up." (American Age, 548)

The US national security state under Eisenhower also had other reasons to feel threatened. In 1959 Fidel Castro defeated Juan Batista and entered into a diplomatic and political alliance with the soviets. Cuba nationalized its sugar and oil industries and the US followed with an economic embargo on the island. The administration would sponser asassination attempts on Castro just as Keneddy would later implement the same program later with Operation Mongoose. Eisenhower would also allow the CIA to spy on americans and as such this era is defined as the emergence of the imperial presidency.

The Historian H. W. Brands maintains that deterrence during the Eisenhower administration along with Dulles implementation of a national security state, created a military industrial complex that Eisenhower sought to limit in spirit due to his reliance on deterrence and that such a policy created increase military arms build ups globally and increased nuclear arms proliferation, due to Eisenhower's belief in the conventional uses of nuclear weapons.(American in the World, 318) The presidencies of Kennedy and LBJ would be beholden to massive military budgetary increases due to the fact that nuclear weapons were politically and militarily, irrellevant in the battlefield. Thus, faced with huge military arsenals later presidential administrations reaffirmed political and economic committments established by Eisenhower. He outlined the foundations for further cold war escalation in concert with Dulles due to his thinking that Nuclear weapons could have conventional uses, and could deter and or secure diplomatic concessions from the Soviets or the Chinese. Once MAD and nuclear parody were achieved among the the US and the Soviets they would then increase their political committments to fermenting revolutions in the Third World and and in so by doing defense budgets sky rocketed. In 1961 a new president, Kennedy would be elected by promises of being tough on Communism.


Kennedy, LBJ & Vietnam:

The Struggle to maintain Economic Hegemony

"Should I become President...I will not risk American permitting any other nation to drag us into the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time through an unwise commitment that is unwise militarily, unnecessary to our security and unsupported by our allies. " -John F. Kennedy, speech, New York Times, October 13, 1960

kennedy and rfkIn this section of the paper I will conduct a historical analysis of Kennedy's and LBJ's foreign policy. I argue that these policies mutually reinforced each other. Johnson's domestic policies were a continuation of Kennedy's and although there is some speculation as to how their foreign policies may have differed in the case of Vietnam in light of the evidence presented this will be proved to the contrary to the overarching aims of the function of the Kennedy presidency. Furthermore I will describe how the fourth pillar of American foreign policy, the implementation and maintenance of the liberal capitalist world order provided the impetus for escalation of the Vietnamese conflict that more or less severely strained the US's economic relations with Europe since they started out footing the cost for that War.

Kennedy is elected to office with the promise that he will be tough on communism. He appoints Allen Dulles as head of the CIA and Dean Rusk as secretary of State. Robert McNamara is appointed head of the DOD. In all of this Kennedy raises taxes because deterrence due to MAD had rendered their conventional use obsolete. Containment and commitment to intervention by conventional troops supplemented by a limited policy of nuclear deterrence were to implement under Kennedy's program of a "Flexible Response." This policy maintained that military power had to be harnessed for diplomatic means. The Eisenhower administration had developed MAD and this had put American policymakers at in impasse with the Soviets. The Soviets knew that the Americans were not going to sacrifice New York for the third world. Flexible Response was to entail the use of conventional and strategic nuclear weapons developing a system of gradation over the previous all out nuclear warfare scenario that provided few options.

However, in the third world there was an economic crisis. Prices for raw materials had drooped. Technology had made the prices for these goods cheaper. However, the price for American manufactured goods had remained the same. This had to do in part due to the US dollar's fixed rate, at 33 dollars and ounce, to gold. Furthermore, the thirdworld had doubled its population at this time. The US foreign assistance program at this time was more or less swallowed up by corrupt regional elites who owed their power on the promise that they would maintain the geopolitical and economic status quo of the West. Furthermore, investments in third world countries only went to cash crops geared to export such as (coffee and cotton) and not staple foods. The result was violent swings in the economy due to demand fluctuations, and price manipulation leading to nationalist revolt.

Kennedy's response to the Latin American problem was the Alliance for Progress. This economic recovery was analagous to the Marshall plan with its emphasis in capital investment. However, Latin America lacked the administrative capabilities to implement those programs into production. Admittedly, colonialism had left Latin America in a retarded state of economic development. The only percieved way to bring about administrative stability was to establish a system of military Junta's in which the US core belief was stability in the western hemisphere as orginally spelled out by the Monroe Doctrine. Stephen Rabe suggests that the essential failure of the Alliance for progress lay in the fact that Kennedy, .."Underestimated the daunting nature of Latin America's socioeconomic problems...through its recognition policy, internal security initiaves, and military and economic programs the Administration demonstrably bolstered regimes and groups that were undemocratic, conservative and frequently repressive." (America in the World, 353)

During this time Kennedy decided to launch the Bay of Pigs uprising to overthrow Castro, a policy agenda left over from the Eisenhower administration. Allen Dulles the Brother of John Foster Dulles is the chief supporter of the operation. The 1500 pro-american Cuban forces recruited for this were supposed to have air cover but at the last minute Kennedy got cold feet and withdrew support, supposedly because he thought Krushchev would invade Berlin. The result was a major fiasco and prompted Castro to completely align himself with the Russians and the Chinese. Lafeber maintains that the purpose of this operation was grounded in the belief of the CIA's ability to install puppet regimes that would maintain the American hegemonic status quo: "The agency believed that a small invasion would trigger an uprising against Castro, just as the invasion of Guatemala in 1954 had triggered the overthrow of that government."(American Age, 589)

Kennedy like Eisenhower failed to understand that nationalism had many forms and although some were marxist in application, it was the only ideology that provided a discourse on land redistrubition and economic reform. In order for the Alliance for Progress to have been successful would have required a an overthrow of the old conquistador elite. In all the CIA would make dozens of unsuccesful attempts to kill Castro.


A number of Historians have advanced key reasons as to the failure of the Bay of Pigs. Arthur Schlesinger maintains that Kennedy supported the ill fated venture due to the administrative shambles in the CIA and the NSC and the lack of credible information in those agencies created in Joshua Sandman's description by his attempt to establish an agency more modeled after his program of flexible response. However, these do not account for the effect of ideology in the Cold War hampering reasoned and reflective decisionmaking. Historian Thomas Patterson notes the effect of this ideology on the Bay of Pigs: "An even more fundamental reason for the doomed operation was Kennedy's anti Castro fixation, which blinded him, to the moral and legal--as well as the logistical and military--questions involved in violently overthrowing a sovereign government." (America in the World, 337) The Bay of pigs would set the conditions in place for the Berlin blockade and the Cuban Missile crisis. If there were dominos the administration would seem to be creating the system that set such events into motion.

In Vietnam Kennedy continued the practice under Eisenhower of sending military advisors. He also relied on the notion of Indo China being vital to the Japanese economy, a theme inherited from the previous administrations. Furthermore the North Vietnamese nationalist movement was supplying guerilla incursions against Diem's South Vietnamese pro -western government, via the Ho Chi Minh trail that cut through the regions of Laos and Cambodia. The administration advanced the notion that the country Laos due to its placement near the Ho Chi Minh trail was essentially the gateway to Indo China. Laos was neutral during the conflict and yet in a geopolitical sense Kennedy certaintly provided the mechanism for LBJ's escalation. Inherently, Vietnam was locked in a fault line between the Soviet-Chinese power bloc and the Japanese-Western economic system.

Meanwhile in South Vietnam Diem's regime is plagued with mounting protest and corruption. A similar program of economic development as had been undertaken in Latin America, albeit land reform had ceased to be effective by 1960. The reason for the ineffectiveness of the Third World Asian Land reform movements stemmed from cold war economic antagonisms at the global supply side mode in so much as that regional elite funded nationalism stemmed more from the militarization of their economy while as hemispheric umpire the US allotted its foreign aid subsidies for appropriating military and pro-US business Asian elites.

Kennedy's administrative policies had to be viewed from the prisim of the Cold War itself. For Kennedy a Catholic, land redistrubition was essentially something only aethist communists did.If not individually ascertained by Kennedy, no doubt his intelligence agency heads, Dulles and Co., would have prevented any attempt by Kennedy to craft catholic ideals in the face of his own catholic positivist presidency.


Third world attempts to nationalize private industry netted quick response by US troops intervening under a doctrine called low intensity conflict.

kennedy nsa cables Suggested

Reading: 911, by Chomsky

pay attention to the US definition of low intensity conflict and the US army handbook's definition of "terrorisim."

Between the periods of 1962-63 a total of 13,000 troops were sent to Vietnam. The administration advanced the rationale for sending them was that Vietnam would become a puppet of Maoist China. Arthur Schlesinger suggests: "Kennedy's legacy in Vietnam was dual contradictory and that he left on the public record the impression of a major national stake in the defense of South Vietnam."(America in the World, 350)

The administration failed to acknowledge that Vietnam had historically resisted Sino Mongolian territorial encroachments throughout its history as a state. Rather it invested its hopes on the President of South Vietnam, Diem who was a Catholic. Diem was educated in the United States and upon returning to South Vietnam he proclaimed Catholicism as the official state religion of Vietnam, and began a government policy of exclusion aimed at native Buddhist traditions. Soon protests by Buddhist monks ensue and in the midst of one of the local protests a monk self immolated himself in disgust with the corruption of Diem's government. The effect of such an image when it was aired on American television was what first framed American popular conceptions toward protesting the war in Vietnam. Soon afterwards on November 1st, 1963 Diem was assasinated and two generals both sur-named Nguyen came into power.

In all of this the missile gap with the soviets was found to be nonexistent in the sense that America at this time had larger stockpiles of nuclear weapons than the Soviets. Kruschev's response to this was to move towards the blockade of Berlin. Kennedy responds by increasing the Defense budget by 3 billon dollars and "tripled draft quotas" (Lafeber, 596) On August 6th the Soviet Premiere commences the building of the Berlin wall to stem the tide of East German refugees. Kennedy did little other than decry the state of a divided city.


It was here where Kennedy developed his program of flexible response. This entailed the end of all out nuclear confrontation in the method espoused by deterrence and rather reliance on gradual missile proliferation supplemented by conventional force build up. This also entailed an increase in covert operations as well. Flexible response also provided for the Rearmament of Western Germany and the construction of a figurative trip wire euphemistically referred to as check point Charlie, a force of US - 30,000 soldiers between the two fortresses of communism and capitalism. In sum Kennedy's policy of flexible response kept the soviets out of the reconstruction of the western European economy. However, in Asia such flexible response when met by the soviets resulted in blind support for weapons proliferation throughout the third world and foreign intervention by Proxy characterized an enduring theme of all cold war interventions to come. In Asia the US relied on conventional troop deployments and the Soviets relied on conventional arms supply and military advisory roles.


Khrushchev's response to this was to deploy nuclear missiles to Cuba, some 90 miles from American shores. At this time there were 20,000 soviet military advisors in Cuba entailing a complicated spy network. To Kennedy this was a direct affront to American national security and in terms of foreign policy tenants the first direct challenge to America's Monroe Doctrine. Khrushchev's ideological response to this is to note that the US had the Soviets surrounded by military bases, i.e., NATO and nuclear missiles in Turkey and to such an extent he viewed his escalation was on even footing with American expansion. Castro had cabled Moscow fearing a US invasion of Cuba. Castro knowing that 60 years of American interventions in Cuba, stemmed from the US's exercise of the Platt Amendment at the behest of the sugar companies and mafia casino syndicates and subsequently Castro after being alerted to Operation Mongoose, provided Russia with the means for a Russian military sphere in Latin America. A US spy plane spots the Russian nuclear arsenal in Cuba and Kennedy responds by placing an economic embargo on Cuba and raised SAC's defcom status to level five. Kennedy faced with Soviet Atomic diplomacy scrambled for a diplomatic solution. He arrives at a no-invasion pledge to Cuba and the deactiviation of US nuclear Trident missiles in Turkey. The Soviet Premiere acquiesces and the Cuban Missile crisis officially ends 0ctober 29th 1962. Some theorists have advanced the notion that the longterm effects of the Cuban missile crisis were to play a part in the Assasination of Kennedy in Dallas on November 22nd 1963. A new President Lyndon Baines Johnson would take over where Kennedy idealism had failed.

It is difficult to know for certain what effect Kennedy's programs would have had on Vietnam or in the Third World in total entirety. What is known though is that the Kennedy Doctrine emphazised the importance of the Third World in traditional notions of geopolitical intrests being firmly locked and geared towards geoeconomic interests. Historian, William S. Borden maintains that Kennedy's committment to the Third World, "..was to launch an aggressive but ultimately futile defense of American hegemony." (Hogan, America in the World, 356) The Vietnam War was doomed to happen with or without Kennedy's approval. Just six months after Kennedy died the Gulf of Tonkin incident occured. Kennedy's assertion to withdraw US troops prior to his assasination would not have meant that the Vietnam war could have been stopped. Rather this apparent inconsistency of Kennedy reflected his idealisim and his motivation by ideology, which may have resulted in the power elite's decision to have Kennedy assasinated by patsy. To add a twist to the historical record, the soothsayer, Dean Rusk noted that, Kennedy never said,..."or hint to me that he was planning to withdraw from Vietnam."(America in the World, 350)

By again deploying the administrations of cold war containment under Truman coupled with Eisenhower's policies of massive deterrence, Kennedy had inherited a military industrial complex that would soon require the internationalization of the US economy, i.e., construction of a new economic order and the de linking of the US dollar from the Gold standard. For sake of historical continuity this paper will resume discussion of the US gold standard after the Administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson.


Lyndon Johnson viewed the status of Vietnam as paralleling that of Korea. He had been confounded by Truman's refusal to go after the Chinese. Johnson as a result of many years in Congress and in the Senate had developed a reputation as a consensus maker. In 1964 after the Gulf of Tonkin incident Johnson was able to declare a police action to protect American ships from alleged N. Vietnamese unwarranted acts of provocation. Initially, 400 million dollars was earmarked to fund the US's counter insurgency operation and the first substantial number of American troops begin to arrive in Vietnam. Most historians have ceased speculation as to whether their was an actual military attack on the USS Maddox. There in fact was no attack. The radio operator misidentified static as if it were gunfire.

Johnson was trapped between trying to implement his great society programs at home and geopolitical interests and power politicking in Vietnam. Johnson viewed the war in Vietnam as a way to appease his own coalitional corporate power base and to use the tide of patriotism to forge a consensus in the domestic arena for his social policies. In terms of military objectives in Vietnam, LBJ wanted to contain the spread of Chinese Communisim, and that with gradual escalation of the war Vietnam could be won absent international approval. He relied on the notion that a slow escalation of the war could keep the public from becoming interested in Vietnam. Gradual escalation would also keep the Soviets and the Chinese from declaring war on the US.

LBJ made a major miscalculation by choosing to escalate Vietnamese intervention. He poured tax dollars into a war that could not be won. Vietnam had always resisted china's hegemonic sphere. China at this time was politically unstable, and undergoing a cultural revolution designed to enshrine Mao as emperor of the Communist state. By 1967 the media images of the war in Vietnam began to have a polarizing effect on American public opinion. In 1968 at the Lunar Year of Tet the Viet Cong launched a major offensive to which although they were defeated served to remind and demonstrate to policymakers and the American public that little real, political, economic or strategic value had been gained as a result of 4 years of counter insurgency. LBJ in the face of mounting pressure decides not to seek reelection.

The Johnson Doctrine was used to preserve the status quo of the economic core, i.e., America's relationship to the third world as a subsumed peripheral client state. At this time it was perceived that the Soviets were cashing in on America's overall international economic woes and so Johnson was forced to assume that all peripherary states especially Latin America could fall if regional raw market economic supply centers were to fall under soviet hegemonic influence. Thus, Johnson relied on military interventions where he viewed political instability as a hindrance to economic investment such as active support for the Junta that controlled the government of Brazil during his term.

Russel D. Buhite in his essay, "From Kennedy to Nixon," notes that Kennedy was interested in primarily in preventing communist intervention in the third world-Latin America. Johnson shared the same worldview except that he had an ideological fetish for containing Soviet Power in Asia. "Johnson..Shared the world view of almost every policy maker of his generation seems abundantly clear: that appeasement did not pay; that America's primary military interest lay in containing the expansionist aspirations of the Soviet Union and the PRC, and in successfully competing for influence in the developing world."(American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, 132) Thus, he argues that Johnson's commitment to the third world had little to do with the economic and political development of these individual countries more so than maintaining the economic status quo under the guise of American strategic necessity. Essentially the US's economic bias was to view all forms of Third World social revolution as attempts by indigenous natives to nationalize private industry or any other such revolutions inclined towards soviet Marxist ideology as precipitating a soviet backdoor two step.

Johnson also relied on Robert McNamara, the head of the DOD, and Johnson's chief backer of military escalation in Vietnam. In the political crisis of 1963 prior to the assasination of the assasination of the S. Vietnamese President, Diem, McNamara as well as General Maxwell Taylor relying on the ideological wit of the domino theory, managed to persude President Kennedy to link the political crisis in Vietnam to the security interests of the United States. It was Kennedy who sent the intial 16,000 troops to vietnam. Johnson's role in all of this was that in seeing the apparatus in place for intervention he saw how vietnam could function as a double containment objective, i.e., contain china and contain the allies of the Soviet's and Vietnamese as well. China had demonstrated its expansionistic tendencies by its seizure of Tibet in 1959. This seizure of land increased its landmass by over one-third of its original size. Furthermore, the land seizure in Tibet was decried by official UN resolution. China had also manifested its desire for eventual reunification of Taiwan to the mainland. Historical appeasement could not be tolerated in Johnson's view. When Johnson retired from public office in 1968, he spent the rest of his life growing out his hair to better relate with a 60's generation that had scorned him.

The Rise and Fall of the US Gold Standard:

History of US currency speculation during the Cold War

All of the various doctrines and historical events, mentioned in this paper happened in the form of deterrence, containment, commitment to intervention and have been used to define how various government policies and attitudes took the form of ideological, historical confrontation. However, the maintenance of the balance of power also accorded the role of the 4th pillar of American foreign policy the facilitations of the international functions of liberal capitalism itself. The attempts at US management of the international monetary system can be classified into 5 periods. The first economic period was the period between 1945-47, representing the original Bretton Woods System. The second period could be described as US multilateral management of the international economy, comprising the period of 1947-1960. The Third period a period of crisis, could be descried as the multilateral management of the international economy under US control. The Fourth Period from 1971-1985 could be described as the post-Bretton Woods System. The final period 1985 - present could be described as a system of multilateral and regional management by emerging core-producing states.

Before and during the first period, International organizations that managed monetary policy relied on a system of fixed exchange rates. This was due to New Deal Keynesian economic theory stressing the need for free convertibility of currencies as well as his other general ideas on how to manage free trade. The IMF emerged as the institution to manage this and it maintained a weighted system, gold on deposit and gold fixed to the value of the US dollar. The principle of this system was that who ever had the largest gold reserves controlled IMF policy. The IMF provided loans for short-term liquidity in the Third World, and as of yet it was not prepared to implement total re-development in the post war-politically unstable third world. Essentially, this system provided loans only for short-term liquidity purposes when these various recipient countries were encountering trade deficits when the US was still a manufacturing economy. However, there was no provision in the IMF for the creation of new gold reserves, the rate of exchange being maintained on the existing supply of bullion. IMF also didn't have much individual power to enforce its loan terms. Thus, the World Bank was created to provide plans for long term development and economic stability of Germany and Japan fully resuscitated into the international system. This would prevent these countries from adopting historical imperial ambitions by developing their economic systems as interdependant with the economies of the West. Also these countries could in turn provide economic stability for Europe in Asia as a whole which would create an economic containment of Soviet Communisim.

Between 1945 and 1947 the US pressed for immediate implementation of the IMF and World Bank. The US also loaned money to England to enlist their support for the new international monetary system. However, by 1947 the IMF and the international economic system was on the verge of collapse. The reason was that the source of the loans were dependant upon US bond sales that suddenly americans had begun to cash in with the end of the War. Containment of the new economic system led the US to unilaterally manage the economic system by directly placing the US economy as the key supplier of foreign aid. This was how the economic surplus brought on by the war effort and the investing of private capital in Europe-albeit the Marshall plan came into effect. Also from this period and ending in 1947, gold and the pound were the traditional fixed currencies. From 1947-1971 the dollar replaced the pound and became directly linked to the gold standard at 33 dollars an ounce. Dollars in time were to be viewed more economically viable in application to monetary policy then gold as such gold as a commodity came to be devalued.

Now there was a huge shortage of dollars in Europe. Europeans had been buying American products to rebuild their economies however, they had no capacity for facilitating export trade. The Marshall plan moved to an infusion of American capital and cash into European economies. Between 1948-52 the US supplied 17 billion in grants to Europe alone. The US had become central banker of the world. The IMF was now in position to supply short term balance of payments to japan for example by tolerating trade protectionisim imposed by Japanese restrictions on imports. This allowed countries to limit convertibility of currencies in name of getting those countries involved in the international system of debt relief.

bullionBy 1960 there were serious problems with this system. For the Dollar to function as the international currency it had to have international confidence. The dollar still had to have the option for its value to be redeamed in gold bullion. Meanwhile declining confidence in the US dollar contributed to the massive outflow of US dollars into other countries. nThis problem of containing the US control of the dollar relative to its value in gold was also met by the Soviet's seeking to override the US's system of implementing economic hazard control. In the late 1950's there were large gold reserves in the US and large amounts of US currency overseas. Hence this created a currency shortage in the US. Also Europeans had claims to a large amount of the gold supply on hand. By 1959 US gold reserves had dwindled to 20 billion dollars. By 1960 Europeans had outstanding claims on US reserves in excess of 25 billion dollars. Speculators made a run on the Dollar. However, the US forced Europe to continue to back the dollar. However, the need had arisen for a system of collective multilateral economic management. The IMF and WB stepped in as the clearing house for short and long term loans for national development of third world countries. However, since the WB was under funded a system emerged in which the economic loans from the IMF were contingent on these countries buying US goods under their established economic recovery plan.

Thus 1960 was the year that the US strove to search for hegemonic order in perpetuating the the dollar as the international standard of monetary exchange. The chief institution behind this effort was the International Settlements office and it was charged with maintining and forestalling european speculator claims on the US dollar backed by the expansion of the US economy. The International Settlements Office had managed US currency problems since the 1930's and immediately set out to limit the number of claims on the dollar. Essentially this emerged as a banking system above the US central banking system and it guranteed the value of the dollar. ISO set up a private banking system comprised of various consortiums composed of 10 banking finance ministers from the 10 most industrialized countries in addition to the US, all playing a leading role. ISO immediately began to issue bonds to cover claims on the US dollar-gold standard.

In 1968 the IMF established a system of monetary 'special drawing rights', SDR, among the G10 nations which acted in lien of promissory notes on the US dollar and other currencies. The ideal of this new monetary policy was to create a system in which dollar liquidity and free cash flows could be maintained in international trade. SDR continued this currency system establishing the modern process for currency convertibility, liquidity, and adjustment. The G10 excercised a policy of Economic restraint in regards to this international monetary system by preventing countries with tradedeficits from cashing out their international credit reserves, i.e., US dollars= international currency, supplying capital for 3rd world imports, which in turn generated and european US supported export credits. The SDR ranking system established its hiearchical right of claims as based on those nations with the largest gold reserves. The US still had the largest gold reserves and as such they excercised SDR to their comparitive advantage. The US by creating new assets was able to forestall foreclosure on the dollar and maintain overall US appeareance of financial credibility in the international system.

This systemic overhaul of the international economic community marked the development of monetary independence and the rise of Transnational Banks. Money came to be viewed as a liquid asset. In 1965 foreign banks with overseas branches held assets in excess of 100 billion dollars. However, there were still problems in terms of liquidity and European claims on the US dollar. Between 1968-1971 the international monetary system became paralyzed. In early 1970 European claims on the US dollar rose to 1 trillon dollars. The US still continued to promote the dollar as the international currency standard of exchange.

The reason for the decline of the US dollar was the fact that the US was spending far beyond its means. Under the LBJ administration the US strove to fight three wars, the Cold War, The Vietnam War, and the War on Poverty. We had the economic power to win two out of three of these wars, but America moved ahead in charisteristic gung ho fashion. Inevitably, The US was forced to devalue its currency to fund all three programs by printing out more US dollars in effect to devalue the price of gold. Keynes theories of deficit spending for economic growth provided the US with two options. One private banks could carry the US deficit and float loans. The other option was to have the US devalue its currency. However, the intial US response dictated that the West Germans quid pro quo for American nuclear defense against the USSR, to back the US dollar. The US essentially exported its deficit momentarily to Germany. The Germans owed their industrial recovery to the US and so the dollar's demise was momentarily stalled. Since the US dollar was the international currency of exchange European futures were tied to the rise and fall of American dollars.

The new monetary system called for all currencies to maintain parity of + or - 1 with the US Dollar. If the world currencies failed to balance in this manner the entire international system would have collapsed. However, Europe at this time was not happy in being saddled with US currency debt, and being forced to back the US imposed international exchange value. Essentially, the US during the 1960's attempted to exercise unilateral monetary policy through the exercise of cold war containment, and attempted to export the cost of the Vietnam War to Europe. The outcome of these policies only stalled the realities of economic contrition. By 1971 US gold stock declined by 10 billion dollars. Foreign Banks at the same time held 80 billion dollars or 8 times the supply of US gold reserves. President Nixon then decided to de-link the dollar from the gold standard and ended the system of fixed monetary currency convertibility. In the same year as mentioned above the US implemented the Smithsonian Agreement which provided the monetary controls necessary to prevent the freefall of the Dollar potentially resultant from European credit claims and currency speculators. This agreement provided for a 10 percent devaluation of US currency as well.

With the end of the Bretton Woods system, Nixon was able to proceed with his Vietnamization program of gradual troop withdrawals from Vietnam, and yet he still attempted increase saturation bombing sorties as an attempt to leverage the North Vietnamese to negotiate at the diplomat table. By 1972 and 1973 after successive invasions of Laos and Cambodia, Nixon facing mounting anti war protest on the Domestic front, along with skyrocketing currency inflation brought on by the OPEC Embargo, was forced to end the US commitment to the war in Vietnam. He would later be impeached in 1974. --source: Caloss--

From Nixon to Bush:

The Failure of Detente & Carter, The Rise of Reagan-Bush Nationalism & The End of the Cold War

If a vocal minority, however fervent its cause, prevails over reason and the will of the majority, this Nation has no future as a free society.... And so tonight -- to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans -- I ask for your support. (Richard Nixon, Nov 3, 1969)

Nixon thinks, click on me for the   Nixon TapesNixon was elected President of the United States because he promised a quick end to the war in Vietnam. However, Nixon's platform of peace with honor and Vietnamization culminated into policy platforms that extended the war in Vietnam by another four years. "Peace with Honor" as a policy entailed the withdrawal of US troops and in increase in the saturation bombings in North Vietnam. Since China was in the midst of the Cultural Revolution it was internally weak and disunited due to the extent that it could not lend substantive numbers of troops to aid the Viet Cong. At this time Sino-Soviet relations had turned sour after 1960, when the soviets dropped their financial support for Mao's Great Leap Forward program, resulting in mass starvation and death, numbering just over 30 million. The Chinese turned to the US to counteract the soviet spheres of influence in Mongolia and Vietnam. In 1972 a process of normalization of relations between the US and China officially culminated in the inaugural visit of Nixon to China to toast Champaign with Mao and Zhou en Lai at a highly publicized state dinner. Nixon would later travel to Moscow in articulating the aims of his new foreign policy doctrine, triangular detente, between China and Russia. Detente as a policy intended to keep the two former communist allies now embittered enemies guessing as to whom would first sell out the other's interests to the Americans first. Russell D. Buhite describes the administration's use and objectives in using detente. "The purpose of this [diplomacy] was to create doubt in the minds of the leaders in each Communist state about each other's agreements with the United States: to use improved relations with the Chinese to make the Soviet's more manageable and use better relations with the Soviet's to make the Chinese more conciliatory."(American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, 139) Detente was also an attempt to make the soviet's dependant upon American wheat shipments. In 1972 The US exported 25% of its wheat crop to the USSR alone. The single most successful feature of Detente however, was an effort to limit nuclear arms proliferation that culminated with the Salt I Nuclear arms limitation treaty in the same year.

Nixon's prolongment of the war in Vietnam triggered a major public backlash in the domestic front. The invasion of Cambodia triggered massive protest demonstrations at Kent State and Jackson State precipitating the incidents of lethal retaliation by US National Guardsmen opening fire on US students. Nixon in his own stubbornness refused to be deterred by these incidents and increased the saturation bombing of Northern Vietnam. The end result of this increased escalation of air power and troop demobilization culminated in the loss of 15 B-52's and a stiffened Vietnamese resolve that the war would continue until the Americans had left Indo China. In 1973 Nixon in the midst of the Watergate scandal agrees to an unconditional troop withdrawal from Vietnam.

The Vietnam War could not have been won in the context of original US objectives in Indo China, in that the US did not largely envision that the outcome would have involved their need to maintain an occupying force at the expense of installing a functional US friendly regime that would support the geopolitical and geoeconomic status quo. America had tied its fortunes to Europe through the Marshall Plan, but the ideologies that breed undifferentiated interests in a world of limited means meant that in maintaining the 'status quo' in the third world, meant that the US generally supported regimes that professed anti-Communist rhetoric. Third world economies were linked in an exchange commodity mode of vertical inequality with the core g7 nations, in that their economies relied on import substitution, requiring foreign, and core investment, to industrialize their economies. Inherently, third world nations locked in this system lost a good deal of political and economic autonomy in public policy, in that third world debt acted as leverage to prevent further economic development and specialization beyond cash cropping, and light industrial manufacturing. The commercialization of third world agriculture, increased their dependence on US grain imports, subsides for US farmers that could undercut local and regional indigenous agricultural export zones.

The Vietnam War presented itself as a moral failing of the US government in the minds of its citizens. The American public through demonstrations had gradually forced Nixon to withdrawal troops, but the overall outcome was what became known as the 'Vietnam Syndrome' in which the US was forced to justify its later interventions into third world countries in the name of peace and stability and risk losing face or international prestige. The policy Consensus on poverty and security as envisioned by JFK failed to materialize throughout successive US administration involvement in Vietnam. The American public would become somewhat united in the informal view that politicians in general after Nixon were a Motley bunch of oligharical elitists, that dictated public policy through the 'silent majority.'

The main reason why Nixon withdrew troops from Vietnam was that the Europeans refused to continue to foot the cost of the war. The Vietnam War had caused massive inflation and the US was now faced with a trade imbalance and was now indebted to all of Europe and Japan. Walter Lafeber describes the process in which Nixon delinked the dollar from the gold standard an effort to forestall European claims on American currency. "First he understood that the United States was no longer strong enough economically to back the dollar, the only real international currency, with gold, as it had since 1945, because its gold supply was running out as the metal was used to pay debts overseas. Nixon instead announced that the dollar would float--that is, would be left to the whims of the marketplace where private business and other governments could directly influence its worth."(American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, 148)

Lafeber continues his analysis of Nixon's foreign policy aims, by noting that after Nixon withdrew from Vietnam in 1973, he tried to secure a balance of trade with Japan, and supported the Shah of Iran who continued to trade oil with the US during the OPEC embargo. By meeting with Soviet and Chinese leaders, Nixon's policies of detente hoped to play those two regional powers off of each other and that in lieu of America's diminished economic standing he could still accomplish containment, now that commitments in Vietnam could no longer be rationally supported, by consensus policies. Ultimately it was Nixon's paranoia that led to his own undoing.

In looking back at the Nixon administration, the view at the time was that this was a classical case of a breach or abuse of power on the pluralisim of American democracy. Nixon as a paranoid racist at times, could do little to relate with the Third world beyond his narrow economic security framework. An example of Nixon's infamous racial epetephs could be best described in the case of the Angola revolution which led to American intervention to support the porteguse colonial regime. The Soviet's had intervened on the side of the rebels and to to which Nixon surmised the nation of Angola as one big 'tar baby' that made their desires for self determination fatalisticlly doomed by Nixons own views of racial hiearchy. Since the Vietnam War had occured without congressional approval, Congress after Nixon passed the War Powers Act, limiting the actions of future presidents who had carved out considerable policy consensus through their use of interventionist foreign policy throughout the cold war. In all most historians extoll the early successes of Nixon's strategy of detente as begining the process of normalization of trade relations between the 1st and 2nd world. However, these same historians fault Nixon for being overly preoccupied with controlling domestic checks to his power such as Congress and the Democrat party, which in sum caused him to conduct what Stephen Ambrose defined a 'secret diplomacy.'

Nixon as did Kissinger, felt that american public opinion could never fully comprehend the real politic of the US cold war balance of power system. Rather American support was created through ideological policy platforms and that it was the ideology of fear that Nixon utilized as a rapid consensus builder for his foreign policy programs. "Kissinger argued that Americans, without the long historical experiences of Europeans did not appreciate the neccessity to follow complex balance of power policies that required subtlety, paitence, and direct confrontation with those, such as the Soviets and their communist satellites, who tried to upset the balance of power--a balance that after all was in favor of the US." (American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, 150) Thus Nixon and Kissinger percieved that there was a real need to go above the conventional contraints imposed by domestic opinion and at times the Constitution in pursuit of the 'greater good.'

See this link: the Pentagon papers, it's all about Vietnam War strategy, Nixon, Kissinger and others, a cabal, or a trend towards less conventional forms of warfare and the US's attempted accommodation to low intensity forms of conflict. Also check out this declassified document: Kissinger's cable to Ford in regards to the total evacuation of all US personnel in Vietnam, April 1975.

Gerald Ford becomes president after Nixon resigned in the midst of the Watergate Scandal. Upon assuming the presidency, Ford immediately pardoned Nixon while Kissinger remained Secretary of State. Ford and Kissinger attempted to negotiate arms reduction agreements with the Soviets in 1975 and yet Congress at this time distrustful of the potential for the unilateral abuse of the Executive office after Nixon, refused to ratify the treaty. Further attempts at détente were creating a heightening of Cold War escalation in which the Soviets began to produce huge hydrogen missiles and both super powers intensified their hegemonic energies towards the third world. The case of Vietnam had not stopped the US practice of intervention in the third world to maintain the economic status quo, rather it led to a proliferation of US led smaller scale counter insurgency campaigns and low intensity conflict doctrines which proliferated throughout the US military intelligentsia and on the battlefields of the third world as well. In general these new military conflicts were based on small scale regional civil wars between nationalist third world factions, and foreign sponsored puppet regimes, installed to facilitate the free flow of western capital investment.

Kissinger would maintain that the failure of détente had to do with a ‘weakened’ Ford Presidency; the power to negotiate had been frustrated by a distrustful congress. The Legislative branch had come to view the evolution of the increasing power of the executive branch as it had increased during the Cold War as a growing affront to the intentions of the framers of the constitution. Furthermore, Détente had actually led to an escalation of US involvement in Vietnam due to the increased bombings of North Vietnam, and Nixon had openly toyed with the idea to use nuclear weapons to end the war. Détente when combined with US foreign policy seemed to engender a volatile brood of amoral politics. Ultimately, Ford was unable to contend with stagflation, a factor that was residual to the earlier ‘Nixon era’ Arab OPEC embargo that led to his defeat in the 1976 presidential elections.

Jimmy Carter is elected in 1976 relying on his image as a Washington outsider. He advanced the nation that he was bringing the moral high ground back to US foreign policy. Essentially, Carter was planning to use human rights as diplomatic leverage with the USSR and as a prelude to intervention in the third world in support of anti-leftist regimes. Carter’s agenda often contradicted with his politico-moral stance which stands to reason why now he is a better diplomat then a former head state.

Yale Historian, Gaddis Smith argues that Carter was more interested in creating clear cut foreign policy agendas then focusing on a clear cut program for human rights. However, the moral implications of the real politic weighed heavily on Carter and so he would often waffle from his original policies of strict humanitarian interventionism, in favor of US military strategic goals. However, Carter did set an important precedent in US foreign policy one of US military’s role as the world’s humanitarian police man, an ideological agenda that would endear itself to in one form or another to the rhetoric of further Presidents to come.

Lafeber and James Bill describe how Carter continued to trade with the Shah of Iran despite the repeated human rights abuses by the Shah’s SAVAK, secret police. “"In the Middle East, as James Bill has argued, the Shah of Iran was one of the world’s worst offenders against human rights, but Carter ignored the Shah’s transgressions because he needed Iran’s oil and military cooperation.”"(American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, 152) Carter’s waffling wasn’t just confined to Iran it also extended its sway into Latin America. In 1979, when Salvadorian troops killed four American women he imposed some sanctions. When a leftist revolt happened in El Salvador in 1980, Carter supported the same anti-leftist regime with US military hardware to keep the new leftist faction from assuming power.

Carter with the urging of his NSC advisor, Zbigniew Brezinski check out Zbignew's book, "the grand chess board," ---here's  the link to amazon.comalso wanted to maintain a system of détente with the Chinese and the Russians. However, Cyrus Vance, his secretary of state maintained that there was little to be derived from Sino-American cooperation, in that such a proposal catered to Soviet paranoia of being engulfed by a Sino US alliance. In 1979, the US formally recognized the PRC and in the UN, China was formally admitted to its position on the UN security council. The motivating factor for Sino-American accommodation stemmed from Soviet attempts to exert spheres of influence in Ethiopia, which the US reciprocated by extending their influence into Somalia. The Conflict is resolved when the SALT II treaty is signed, in the same year. However, in this same year the Soviet’s began their version of the Vietnam War with the invasion of Afghanistan, a 10 year war that led to a stalemate and a Russian withdrawal. However, the SALT II treaty never accomplished its entire target goals on arms reduction and arms proliferation continued throughout the nineteen eighties. Lafeber notes that while Carter is pressing for more arms control with the Soviet’s he is singularly calling for,.."”the largest new US weapons program in 30 years.”"(American Age, 701)

The Failure of SALT II occurred before the ink had dried on the agreement when the Soviet’s invaded Afghanistan in efforts to establish a continuing theme of gaining a foothold in the oil rich middle east. America’s economy was beginning to falter as well at this time due to increased dependence on foreign energy supplies. Carter’s response to this is twofold. One he establishes a new cabinet level post, the department of Energy, and the other was his announcement of the Carter Doctrine, which closely resembled the Eisenhower doctrine, in the way regional stability was a means to an end, so as to prevent Soviet hegemonic control over Arab oil states, which would undoubtedly have affected oil prices in the US, and vicariously the rest of the US economy as well. Carter imposed economic sanctions against the soviet’s and tried to bind Europe and Japan to take America’s initiative and impose sanctions as well. These countries generally rebuffed such attempts, to forge trade solidarity after Vietnam had taxed their currencies, hence the US muffed under Carter when he attempted to lobby for liberal unilateralist monetarist policies. During this time he also had the CIA begin supplying the Afghan Mujahadin rebels with arms and munitions.

Carter also tried to implement a Trilateral Commission comprised of American, W. European, and Japanese businessman who would regionally act in concert to preserve the economic status quo. Lafaber describes the objectives of the trilateral Commission: “Itr aimed to bridge foreign policy differences among the three most powerful hubs in the world, and to work coordinated economic trade policies before trade wars erupted.”(American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, 155) However, Japan continued to rely on trade protectionism and its trade deficit with the US rose to 12 billion dollars by 1980.

The commission also ran into a number of pitfalls in its attempt to economically isolate the Middle East from the USSR, when Japan and Europe continued to trade with Moscow in defiance of US sanctions. Furthermore the Soviet’s began deploying 180 mobile SS-20 nuclear missiles that targeted all the major European cities. Europe’s leaders doubted that the US would sacrifice Chicago, for Bonn, Germany. Carter also approved the US military creation of the neutron bomb that registered low blast yields and high radiation levels designed to wipe out populations, but ostensibly designed to preserve material infrastructure.

In perhaps a bright moment of the Carter Presidency the Camp David Accords, brokered in March, 1979 managed to achieve a brief cease fire between Egypt and Israel as a result of their 1967 war in which Israel had secured portions of the Gaza strip and the West Bank as recompense for that earlier failed Egyptian offensive. The USSR is also pushing for a peace settlement and Carter managed to beat them to it bringing the Arabs to the American negotiating table first. However, to add a note of futility to the Carter Presidency, Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian President is assassinated by Arabs who see peace with Israel as the ultimate sellout to Arab identity.

Meanwhile during this time Iran is in the middle of a revolution. In 1979 the Shah is deposed by the Ayatollah and he pleads with the US for asylum and medical treatment for his terminal cancer. Carter allows him to enter the United States sparking mass riots in Tehran. This problem was exacerbated further by oil prices being ‘increased by 56% and to add further levity to the situation Iranian militants stormed the American embassy taking 76 hostages. This will cause Carter to lose the 1980 Presidential elections allowing Ronald Reagan to broker the hostage release upon assuming the Presidential office.

In all Carter failed to win domestic and international consensus for his foreign policy objectives. This was in part due to his being an outsider to Washington politics as well as his morals not being able to meet his politics, especially in his selective application of his human rights policy, often supporting the repressive status quo in the name of economic order and stability. Carter started out optimistic and then in the end as Gaddiss Smith notes, he then made the ‘return to militarism’ when his ideas failed him. He shifted back into the traditional Cold Warrior stance of confrontation and unknowingly cost himself the 1980 election. His increasing defense budget would set the tone for Reagan’s massive rearmament campaign as well as provide the bureaucratic impetus for Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, or SDI - Star Wars.

reagan: click on picture for declassified docs pertaining to his presidency.Ronald Reagan has been described as the great communicator. This was due to his ability to sell his administrative policies to Congress and the American people in simple terms. These initiatives were to emphasize military strength and at the same time provide for a reduction in taxes. Reagan’s policies came to be known as Reaganomics and while his administration was instrumental in the Soviet collapse under Bush, (--even though the CIA had failed to predict the demise of the USSR,) as a long term economic philosophy it ultimately failed to be solvent. In international affairs Reagan’s militarization platform increased arms proliferation among the Soviets with his SDI Star Wars proposal, however, this phantom program is credited with finally bankrupting the USSR.

Between 1981-1986, Reagan increased the military budget to 300 billion dollars annually. In part this was an effort to outspend the Soviet's whose economy had long since stagnated and declined since the 1970's. However, few noticed for In the 1970’s this problem did not appear as so acute, Communism was on the rise and indeed it was the West and the US that looked ineffectual after Vietnam. The communist party institutionalized its control over society replacing gulags with cronies of the party. In terms of the standard of living, the period between 1958-1971 saw soviet infant mortality rates halved from 40.6 to 22.9 deaths per 1000 infants. Indeed after WWII The Soviet Union economy grew at an average rate of 6% a year. However, after 1970 economic development began to stagnate and while the Soviet Union was committed to heavy industry while it could not begin the transition to an emerging high tech economy that had begun to evolve in the west. While the USSR attempted to increase production it lacked the means, i.e., spare parts and came to be increasingly dependant upon foreign trade in raw materials. USSR economic growth fell to 5.5% between 1971-1975, and then fell to 2.7% between 1976-1980, and then 1.9% from 1981-1985. Soviet manufacturing began to lose its foreign market demand and hence exports declined as well. "Perestrokia simply disrupted production and led to severe shortages of goods."(Goldstone, 264)

Reagan also tried to implement arms reduction talks and redefine the SALT II agreements which allowed the Soviet's to keep 300 large nuclear missiles. This as Lafeber maintains demonstrated Reagan's lack of knowledge concerning Soviet missile technology in that their conventional nuclear warheads maintained the same technology put in place by soviet nuclear engineers in the 1960's, and as such could not afford to implement the technological overhaul demanded by SALT II.

Reagan's SDI 'Star Wars' plan was envisioned as providing a laser shield in the event of a nuclear attack. It relied on the theory that satellites could be outfitted with lasers to shoot down soviet nuclear missiles. However, SDI had no practical applications outside the realm of academia. However, during 1983-1992 Congress earmarked a total of 30 billion dollars on Star Wars related research. Lafeber describes the psychological implications SDI had on American lawmakers. "During Reagan's term Star Wars seemed to be the answer to the problems that had become prominent during the 1970-1971 years: it promised to provide Americans with absolute security..."(American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, 158) Furthermore this view advanced the notion that SDI would decrease US dependance on the political whims of its European allies. The search for global security, unilateral action, and mortgaged debt were to typify the Reagan presidency.

In 1982 Reagan reasserted America's role as that of the world's policeman by intervening in Lebannon and later in Grenada. Reagan sent 1400 marines to intervene in the Syrian-Israeli conflict in Beirut of which the former was a client state of the USSR and the latter supported by the US. This action seemed ostensible at the time however, it provoked the terrorist bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut, October 23, 1983, resulting in the deaths of 239 soldiers.

To divert public opinion from this fiasco Reagan sent troops to Grenada ostensibly to depose the pro-Cuban government. The invasion plan was drawn in such haste that it relied on tourist maps. The limited success of this mission was more psychological in its effect rather than establishing clear cut military objectives in the Caribbean. Rather the overall effect of this intervention along with Desert Storm under Bush, was the permanent rest of the US's defeat in Vietnam and characterized what Lafeber described as the resurgence of 'militant patriotism' "Americans gloried in the episode as a sign that they were overcoming their Vietnam inspired fear of using military force."(American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, 158)

Between 1984-1985, Congress earmarked 1 trillon dollars to be spent on defense related programs. However, Americans had to contend with deficits unbeknownst to consumers at the time until the recession of 1989, in which that deficit was increasing by 100 billion dollars annually. The US economy, especially domestic manufacturing was faltering especially in the failing auto industry. The US attempted to compensate for this by providing Corporate Welfare as an incentive for US corporations to maintain production facilities on US soil. However, as a caveot emptor: the US spent a billion dollars to bail out the Chrysler Corporation only to lose Chrslyer to Germany's Daimler Benz in 1997. By 1985 the US was in debt to the rest of the world and by 1987 it had become the largest debtor nation. Even today it has struggled to pay its UN dues. However, the winds of change were coming to the USSR.

The decline in economic power by both superpowers was brought on by increased sacrifice of opportunity costs afforded by their mutually antagonisitic and anachronistic militarization programs. The Cold War ended because the two superpowers could not afford the costs associated with militarization, and while America won the propaganda war, it is still having to pay for its success in far excess of its intial strategic net gains as the following data demonstrates.

While the US was able to later claim victory in winning the cold war, the effect was more of a propaganda coup than an actual long term gain. According to Thomas G. Paterson, in his essay,  "Superpower Decline And Hegemonic Survival," "Alliance building, military expansion, clandestine operations and interventionisim spawning galloping defense budgets amounting to trillions of dollars over four decades. US military spending stood at 13.5 billion in 1949, averaged 40 billion a year in the 1950's, rose to 54 billion in 1960 and 90 billion in 1970 (largely because of the Vietnam War) and soared to 155 billion in 1980. By 1988...more than 300 billion...the defense department was spending an average of 28 million an hour..America's massive military spending chipped away at the nations infrastructre, contributing to the relative decline of the United States and stimulating the movement toward Soviet - American detente. Defense spending demanded capital, which the Federal government had to borrow, forcing up interest rates...federal debt, which stood at 257 billion in 1950, 286 billion in 1960, 371 billion in 1970 and 908 billion in 1980. By 1986 the debt had reached a staggering 2.1 trillion.

"The compelling point is that the Cold War was exceedingly costly. With finite resources the US government had to make choices. Money spent on the military and foreign interventions was not spent on building america at home..Defense spending became Keynesianisim on steroids..nations that spend heavily on armaments, such as the US and UK, have forfeited valuable gains in industrial productivity and economic growth..Measurable economic decline compelled American foreign policymakers, however, reluctantly at times, to take steps towards ending the Cold War."

('Major Problems In American Foreign Relations,' 4th edition, V2, pgs. 728-31)In 1986, 19% of the federal budget went to debt servicing, while 28% went to defense related expenditures, 11% went to Health, and only 3% of that budget was alloted to education.


"We in no way aspire to be the bearer of ultimate truth." -December 1988, Gorbachev to the General Assembly of the United Nations. This statement has been regarded as the first act of ideological surrender by the USSR, source: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "The CIA's Credibility," The National Interest (Winter 1995/96), p. 111. For the full text of Gorbachev's speech, see FBIS-SOV-99-236, 8 December 1988, pp. 11-19.

GorbachevIn 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev replaced Breznechev as the new soviet premiere. Unlike the Soviet leaders before him Gorbachev had a statesman education and was not ideologically driven to the hard line like his predecessors. These former Russian leaders had to contend with a longstanding feud between Tsarist-Bolshevik and European monarchs, that dictated thematic links between Russia's imperial phase of expansion and its cold war definition of security power blocs. Gorbachev had experience with western diplomatic negotiations and understood that the USSR could not keep with western 'high tech' industrialization and trade consolidation that was fast disentegrating traditional notions of territory and power blocs. Gorbachev's accomadation to change was to implement his twin policies of perestrokia and glasnost, i.e., economic liberalization and openess of disclosure in the market and in the government.

The Reagan Doctrine was directed primarily at keeping the Soviet's out of the Third world and dispatching troops or supporting coups and anti-communist movements in countries that had real or nominal soviet influence and support. The US would extend itself into the Angolan Civil War, support Afghanistan rebels in their 'Vietnam like war' with the Soviet's as well as implementing a scaled down version of flexible response in Cambodia, against Pol Pot's, Maoist Khmer Rouge. Reagan maintained that containment in this fashion could be done in a cost efficient manner via deficit spending and massive military spending on new technologies that could undercut Soviet troop strengths. The new American military machine was to act as a 'deterrence to unprovoked aggression' as Reagan's vice president, Bush would later state as justification for US intervention in Iraq in Desert Storm in 1991.

The Reagan doctrine in reality only worked in Afghanistan and it was to be developed in a wider context of limiting weapons proliferation among the two superpowers. Reagan and Gorbachev were able to conduct arms reduction summits in which both sides agreed to limit production of nuclear weapons culminating in a US brokered, Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988. Both the US and the USSR were severly hampered by deficits imposed by 50 years of vigilant military mobilization, and weapons proliferation. Politically, and economically this bipolar balance of power system could not maintain the free flow of international commerce through this framework of two competing global power blocs.

The worst failing of the Reagan doctrine happened in Latin America. The Iran-Contra affair and the ensuing scandal was key in bringing down key members of the administration as had Watergate had done for Nixon's administration. In 1981 the CIA began a system of covert ops to overthrow the Sandinista government which had come to power in 1979 after deposing a US-supported regime. In 1985 the CIA assembled a group of rebels known as the Contras who were to be supplied with weapons (and according to Gary Webb, possibly supply Crack Cocaine to LA) in their fight with the Leftist Sandinistas. However, the operation faced numerous pitfalls in organization and by no means did the contras enjoy popular support. With the Reagan Administration hardpressed to come up with additional funding, Lt. Col. Oliver North working for the NSC arrived at a plan in which funds could be derived from 'other sources.' The resulting plan culminated in the arms for hostages deal in which the administration sold weapons to Iran in return for hostages and diverted the profits to the Contras. Oliver North and his hidden superiors would later conceal or destroy documents when Congress began to delve into the sources of Contra Human rights violations. This scandal marked the end of the Reagan Presidency.

Reagan left the Bush administration with a huge deficit and a reccessionary economy. However, as John Gaddis maintains, he presided over the thawing of the Cold war and was instrumental in securing concessions from the USSR at a time where US Soviet relations exceededeven Nixon's detente strategies.

Enter George H.W. Bush as the new president in 1988. As a former director of the CIA under Ford and texas congressman, orginally from Conneticut, was somewhat the last of Cold War decommissars. However, when he assumed the Presidency the Cold War vanished, and the Soviet's now Russians, were full blown capitalist advocators. East Germany was given the right to democratize and the Berlin Wall itself, long an enduring image of a divided globe was torn down. In 1990 the two germany's were reunited after 45 years of seperation and Allied occupation. In 1991 a military coup led by Boris Yeltsin toppled Gorbachev and Soviet Communisim from power in Russia almost altogether, consiging once powerful hardliners to irrelevant positions in the Duma. The Cold War ended when the statues of Lenin and Stalin were torn asunder from their foundations.


In looking back at the Cold War the Four pillars of American Foreign policy, Deterrence, Containment, Commitment to intervention and establishment and maintenance of the international economic system, as used in practice, often eroded before their subsequent policy inspirations were dismantled. That is to say that these four pillars became obsolete in that they were never really pillars rather ideological constructs that represented traditional East- West confrontations, superimposed along a North South Axis of economic integration, laying the foundations for globalization. These historical processes of confrontation had long historical precedents in the historical global political economy that has been a part of history since the invasions of the Muslim hordes and the Khan's. This traditional ideology maintained a system of bipolar opposition and it consummated in the 20th century via the effect and dissolution of colonialism at which point these 1st and 2nd world superpowers competed for control of regional economic blocs via political and economic ideologies that centered on the notion of core and peripheral states. After relatively consolidating power in the W. European bloc American foreign policy leaders turned to the Third World in which various tests of resolve, often at the behest of corporate investment, were undertaken during various hotspots during the Cold War. It was through this vigorous application of Foreign policy, Foreign Intervention and management of the liberal international economic system that enabled US president's to acquire a great deal of power and yet a legacy of debt and trade imbalances. The Four pillars were in part to do with managing the geopolitical and economic system and yet they were also quasi theological tenants in how President's could build consensus in Congress and rubberstamp programs, an ideology of necessity that committed Americans and the World to a State of Clear and present Danger.





Works Cited

Berman, Larry. "Lyndon B. Johnson's Tragic decision to escalate," (555-564)

Cummings, Bruce. "Korea's Civil War & the roots of US intervention,"(383-405) Major Problems in American Foreign Relations.

Divine, Robert, "The Beauty of Eisenhower's Nuclear Strategy,"(438-448),Gordon Chiang, (448-457) Major Problems...

Lafeber, Walter. "The American Age, US Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad," V2, WW Norton & Co. NewYork 1994.

Hogan, Michael J. "America in the World: The Historiography of American Foreign Relations since 1941," Cambridge University Press 1995.

Leffler, Melvn P. "With a Preponderance of Power: America's Wise, Prudent, & Foolish Leaders," (296-312) Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, V2, DC Heath & Co. Massachusets, 1995.

Leffler, Melvyn P. "The Interpretive Wars over the Cold War," 1945-1960," American Foreign Relations Reconsidered (106-124), Routlege, NewYork, 1994.

Buhite, Russel D. "From Kennedy to Nixon: The end of Consensus," American Foreign Relations Reconsidered (125-144)

Lafeber, Walter. "From Detente to the Gulf," American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, (145-165).

Caloss, Dario. His. 188 Lectures, fall of 1998, Assistant director of the Humanities, UCSC.

"Revolutions: Theoretical, Comparative, and Historical Studies,"
by Jack A. Goldstone (Editor)

[1][1] Harry Dexter White was the architect of the International Monetary Fund. According to recently declassified NSA Venona decrypts and declassified KGB files he was identified as a Russian spy. For more info check out these links: & excerpt from the Columbia International Affairs Online University: "Harry Dexter White, assistant secretary of the Treasury, U.S. director of the IMF, senior adviser to the American delegation at the founding conference of the UN, who facilitated employment for Soviet sources in his department."


[2] (X [Kennan], Foreign Affairs, 1947). Online source:


[3] X {Kennan], Foreign Affairs, pg. 572, 1947)

[4] Check out this URL site posted by Gaddis which includes some Worthy discussion topics:


[5] Thomas G. Paterson and Dennis Merrill, eds, Major Problems in American Foreign Relations: Since 1914 : Documents and Essays, New York Houghton Mifflin, 1999.

6 Martel, ed., chap. 8: Russel Buhite, From Kennedy to Nixon: The End of Consensus