Gaddis The Cold War Thesis

Gaddis The Cold War Thesis-71
Driven by the need to sustain economic prosperity and democracy at home, policymakers sought to create a global, free-market economy and to impose American political values on the world.Those who would not accept the American view were not only wrong but "incapable of thinking correctly." Faced with this unrelenting pressure to open their markets and societies to western goods and ideas, the Soviets were left with "no real choice on key issues." Walter La Feber provides a readable revisionist interpretation in America, Russia, and the Cold War, 1945-1992.

Driven by the need to sustain economic prosperity and democracy at home, policymakers sought to create a global, free-market economy and to impose American political values on the world.

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In the words of historian Geir Lundestad, America's Cold War domain was an "empire by invitation." In Preponderance of Power, Melvyn Leffler offers his own post-revisionist interpretation by focusing on the concept of "national security." Leffler agrees with Williams that the United States should assume great responsibility for the onset of the Cold War.

However, he thinks that American policymakers were "prudent" in their course of action.

These steps inhered substantial short-term risk because the strategy would almost surely appear threatening and aggressive to the Soviet Union.

However, bolstered by a brief atomic monopoly, policymakers pursued the creation of a world order hospitable to America's values and interests.

Driven by this fear, the United States engaged in a strategy of preponderance.

It sought to integrate Western Europe, the western occupation zones of Germany, and Japan into the American orbit, and link this "industrial core" with the Third World "periphery" and its vital markets and raw materials.Louis Halle presents a more nuanced though generally traditional interpretation in The Cold War as History.While rooting his analysis in "realism" and refusing to find fault with either side, he nonetheless presents the Cold War as a "power contest in which one expanding power has threatened to make itself predominant, and in which other powers have banded together in a defensive coalition to frustrate it." In the late 1950s, a few scholars began to question the orthodoxy of American passivity and Communist aggression.In The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941-1947, Gaddis argues that the two nations' power positions in Europe after World War II meant that disagreements would inevitably arise; the Soviet quest for security, its ideology, and Stalin's leadership, combined with America's "illusion of omnipotence," built upon ideals, economic strength, and possession of the atomic bomb, ensured that the confrontation would be hostile.In a more recent book, We Now Know: Rethinking Cold War History, Gaddis shifts back toward a more traditional interpretation of the Cold War and restores Josef Stalin and the role of ideology to the center of his account; "as long as Stalin was running the Soviet Union," Gaddis concludes, "a cold war was unavoidable." He also suggests that great numbers of people, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, viewed the Cold War as a "contest of good and evil." While the United States did create a kind of Cold War empire, the civility, democratic tendencies, and humane behavior involved in its operation stood in sharp contrast to the coercive and repressive attributes of the Soviet sphere of influence.Thus, if the western powers acquiesced to Communist political power, the situation would have likely redounded to Moscow's long-term benefit as Communist countries aligned themselves with the Soviet Union.Over time, Soviet control of Eurasian resources could have threatened America's own security, economic prosperity, and democracy—as had been the case earlier with imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.Orthodox historians, many of whom were former Roosevelt or Truman administration officials, place primary responsibility for the Cold War on the Soviet Union.According to this view, Moscow's aggressive and expansionist tendencies stood in stark contrast to Washington's passive and defensive behavior.The United States faced "no greater weakness" in the battle for hearts and minds in the developing world than its domestic race problems, while Washington's determination to maintain stable anti-Communist governments at times slowed the pace of ending white rule in Africa.Over the long run, the Cold War "provided the context in American public life and in international affairs of the historic conflict between racial hierarchy and racial equality." While signs of Soviet-American tension were evident in the immediate aftermath of World War II (See VUS 12a), the "Cold War" did not clearly emerge until the United States had decided that cooperation with its erstwhile ally was no longer possible.


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