Who Won the Cold War Debate Essay
The era of the cold war is considered to be the period between 1945 and 1991 although some people argue that the war ended in 1990. The cold war was majorly a conflict between two popular superpowers of the time, the Soviet Union and the United States. The war was basically triggered by different attitudes towards military, political and ideological interests between the superpowers. This conflict also affected the allies of the two states globally. There has however been a great political debate on who won the war if anyone did. Many people share in the belief that the United States won the war owing to the fact that it led to the ultimate collapse of their competitor. However, others strongly believe that neither the Soviet Union nor the United States won the war. This is based on the argument that the cold war was not ended by Ronald Reagan, but he rather prolonged it. To them, the interventions made by the foreign policies led to the end of the war.It would be a bit unrealistic to argue that no one won the war. I do not think that the USSR and the US were both losers. The two nations had some interests that led to the staging of the war. The Soviet Union wanted to stem out the growing capitalism, guarantee security, develop their economy and gain power (Sykes, 2010). The United States, on the other hand, desired to block communism which was rapidly spreading throughout the world. These goals by both nations were aimed to avoid a third world war. Ideally, America demonstrated a great deal of dramatic improvement and prosperity on both the economic perspective and the living standards (Westad, 2017). This is believed to have given the state a higher status of power domination in the international arena. This essay will examine whether the US really won the war citing relevant evidence. Also, the essay will evaluate the contributions of the United States economic supremacy against those of the foreign policies on the United States victory.
John Gaddis in 1948 fore saw that the United States had higher chances of 78 percent of taking a lead peacefully against Russia in the cold war (Sykes, 2010). This forecast was based on the initial status of the two states using the only information that was available at the time. This implies that the prediction was a reflection of the United States’ economic status that the state was experiencing then. Even during the period of the cold war, the country still enjoyed her advantageous economic state. Simply, the US was destined for victory from the onset of the war and this went on throughout the journey (Deudney & Ikenberry, 2010, p. 128). Nevertheless, the prime theories of international relations, liberalism and realism depict contrasting ideas on how the war proceeded. The theories also put forward various tactics proposed by the foreign policy that the United States applied towards restoring peace.
The liberal school of thought argues for the position of economic supremacy. Some liberals such as Francis Fukuyama believe that the US actually won the cold war which they attribute to the superior liberal democratic structure of the country (Deudney & Ikenberry, 2010, p. 130). They further stated that capitalism was envied by the impoverished and the oppressed people living in the Soviet Union. This weakened the legitimacy and the authority of the communist administration that could hardly ensure similar liberties to those protected by the liberal democratic governments. The liberals state that the capitalist system was more efficient in generating sufficient wealth. This wealth was more than necessary for sustaining the nation’s investment in technology, weaponry and international operations (Deudney & Ikenberry, 2010, p. 131).The USSR would hardly measure up to the standards set by the US owing to the extreme poverty cultivated by the poor, evil administration system that intruded into the business of the citizens (Deudney & Ikenberry, 2010, p. 132). Many liberals propose that if people around the world were left alone with limited supervision, they would form generate devices and interconnections chiefly on trade creating a more peaceful environment. The main setback to this is majorly the nation state. This is clearly evident on the failure of the foreign policies on the cold war as this is the case.
The neo-conservative approach share in many of the principles proposed by the liberals but was more inclined to the foreign policy point of view. They interpret the world to be like a composition of nations, people and ideologies which are either bad or excellent (Norquist, 2011, p. 48). Communism is often perceived to be persistent with the expansionistic views and extreme denial of the human rights. Communism was identified by the domino theory as a threat. It was capable of spreading in the states facing political and economic crisis and later prompt a rebellion against the state (Norquist, 2011, p. 50). Essentially, the Soviet Union had its main objective as global domination. This stirred the belief in Truman’s Doctrine which urged the United States to back up the governments against the communist perspective to prevent them from falling into communism (Norquist, 2011, p. 52).
Based on this perspective, the US had to curb the spreading of communism in order to emerge victors in the cold war. The domino theory was of crucial importance to not only to the US but also the Soviet Union. The theory provided lots of guidance to the US in implementing foreign policies. Communism was thought to be the ideal way of life for the minorities. The capitalistic US discouraged it on the basis of oppression and denial of rights to the press. The United States gave incentives to other states and even bribed them to adopt capitalism.
There is much evidence cited to support the view that the USSR collapsed majorly due to economic inferiority. The Soviet economy was inarguably in a critical position in the 1980s. The major weakness in the structure of the economy was in the fact that it had an inherent rigid command that overlooked the productivity sector and rather rewarded the gross output (Hayward, 2010, p. 1964). The administration also hindered innovation in production and management. This deterred the USSR from modernizing at the same rate as the US. The defective planning in the industrial and the agricultural sector crippled the nation’s production making the economy more vulnerable to economic breakdowns (Hayward, 2010, p. 1968). The USSR economic inferiority to a great extent contributed to its inability to put up with its military and defense funds requirements. The stagnations in the monetary sector meant that the Soviet Union would lag behind the US in terms of weapon technology (Hayward, 2010, p. 1972).Particularly, the Russians would hardly equal the US in the technological grounds such as tracking, target acquisition computer software and hardware and sensors. These were key advantages behind the United States Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) which closely rendered the Soviet’s prior weaponry and military technology obsolete. In order to catch up with the US and also to retain the privilege of being a world superpower, the USSR would need much investment. However, due to the economic stagnations millions of people in the Soviet had to go without even the most basic commodities such as food and shelter (Hayward, 2010, p. 1980).
The realists tend to take a middle ground when it comes to the subject of how the cold war ended. The realist explanation is neither inclined to the belief that the foreign policies played a greater role nor in that the economic forces were more influential in terminating the war (Herring, 2011, p. 106). Unlike the liberals, the realists argued that the Soviet Union was a cautious and but a dangerous opponent. The USSR had the skills to counter the US and also the grossly inefficient economy. Essentially, the Soviet Union was opportunistically an expansionist nation that would only seek expansion at the rise of an opportunity (Herring, 2011, p. 106). Therefore, the realists put it across that the resolution of the war was partially as a result of the United States’ economic superiority and partly due to the cautious use of power by Ronald Reagan which was spearheaded by negotiations and interventions from the international arena.
The period of cold war in the US was characterized by crisis prevention and a controlled and cautious application of the foreign policies. According to the realists, the United States’ success of the arms race was of fundamental importance to their win in the cold war. More particularly, the initiation of the idea of SDI in 1983 set the US in an advantageous position compared to the USSR (Herring, 2011, p. 109). The Soviet arsenal was rendered useless by the missile shield. The Soviet’s economy was practically weak and the nation lagged behind in developments in the computer systems and research on satellite technology. This clearly indicated that the USSR would never be able to support such sectors. If this was made possible, then the Soviet’s citizens were to suffer even greater deprivations.
Thus the US was able to coerce the USSR to change its standpoint towards the arms-control. Possibly, Gorbachev bought this idea and settled to adopt a more western friendly move of letting fall of the iron curtain (Herring, 2011, p. 112). Reagan got the power to bargain from a more gainful position. The realists, thus, view the conquest of the war as a blend of the United States’ capitalization and the foreign policy. The United States’ strengths such as technological superiority and economic dominance partnered with the international policies to bring the cold war into a permanent close. The realists argue that although there is much evidence that the economic and technological superiority were the key factors that led to the resolution of the war, we cannot fully overlook the role played by the foreign policy. It played a crucial role in the instigation of negotiations between the two nations. The view that the resolution of the cold war was solely due to foreign policy is faulty and deceptive. The missions that were undertaken by the US in relation to the domino theory and the Truman doctrine threatened the position of the US in the war (Phipps, 2013, p. 8). As a matter of fact, this extended the term of the war rather than stemming its longevity. The myth that the war was resolved on the basis of foreign policy disregards the effect of the disparity of the economic status between the US and the USSR.
The inefficiency of the communist regime became a fact that could hardly be covered. More importantly, when the cold war was resolved, Gorbachev opted to embark on serious governmental reforms to save the failing nation. This involved the launching of perestroika, an economic reform aimed to enhance market-oriented systems in order to resurrect the economy, the social and the political status of the state (Sykes, 2010). These changes are believed to have been made possible by Glasnost. The Glasnost in simpler terms ‘openness’ sanctioned the creation of the awareness about the USSR which consequently led to the removal of restrictions leveled against the press media enabling the media to report and critically debate on the state of the systems (Sykes, 2010). The heightening press freedom increased the citizen’s knowledge and they were able to carry out a contrastive analysis of their state and the west. Thus, the local government was unable to keep its failures off the sight of its people. These and many more fractures in the Soviet Union triggered most of the unwilling members attached to the Soviet empire to claim their independence from Moscow (Phipps, 2013, p. 13). This was followed by a series of mass demonstrations in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Lithuania, Georgia and Armenia.
Apparently, many people argue that there has never been a straightforward solution to the question whether the United States’ financial superiority was of higher importance compared to the international policy in the resolution of the cold war. However, the argument that the foreign policy played a greater role is marred by many counter-productive interventions pursued by the United States (Phipps, 2013, p. 13). Those who argue that the resolution of the cold war was solely due to the United States’ economic strength are for the argument that the US emerged victorious in the war. Those who are for the realist position state that both the economic superiority of the US and the foreign policy played a role in the resolution of the war. This implies that no state won in the war.
Therefore, when talking about who won the cold war; we are only left with two choices. The Soviet Union acted like a runner who withdraws from the running way. For me, withdrawal implies the fear of a foreseen defeat. It is either that The United States won the war or simply there is no state that won the war. However, saying that neither of the nations emerged a winner would be unrealistic. Basically, wars are believed to be political tools that nations use to acquire the desired outcomes. Some people may argue that the United States did not emerge as a winner as much as the Soviet Union lost in the war. Wars have never been zero-games and they shall never be. If one side loses, the other side automatically becomes the victor. This implies that the other side is much better than the losing side.If one country lost, then the opponent is definitely the winner. The USSR already believe that they lost in the war. As a matter of fact, the USSR ran short of the necessary resources to propel further the war leading to their surrender. Since the Americans are always repeating the statement that the USSR were losers, the Russians believed in the myth that Bush and Reagan tricked Gorbachev to surrender the store and since then the US has always overlooked their opponents for supplying them with raw materials and cheap energy (Phipps, 2013, p. 16). The dismantling of the Soviet Union after the cold war was as a result of burning through too much of the capital in financing the war.
The US was definitely the winner. The US citizens viewed the collapse of the Soviet Union as a military conquest. They felt powerful, gained the spirit of triumphalism. Above all, the US enjoyed the privilege of being the only superpower ‘omnipotent.’ The Soviet Union disintegrated and ceased to exist. The Soviet Union satellite states and republics relinquished communism and embraced democracies. Furthermore, the US attained their desired outcome which was to tear into pieces the communist USSR. They were able to withstand the fighting costs much better compared to the Soviet Union and thus they were the victors of the war.
Ideally, once an entity is a winner, it will always be a winner. The United States was a winner even at the before the staging of the war. They already surpassed the Soviet Union in many aspects. In the course of the war, she kept on winning the battles both the military and the economic. Even at the end of the war, the US, unlike the USSR, did not change their stand on capitalism. The nation kept its ideologies and still denounced communism as an evil system. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, copied the United States. Perhaps they realized they had always been on the wrong side. This was a clear indication of defeat and followed by a plain acknowledgment.