Faraz Khan

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How did
the Cold War shape the American economy, society and politics from 1945 to



The Cold War
between the United States and the Soviet Union emerged and developed after
World War II, though its origins go back in history to the Bolshevik Revolution
in 1917. The Cold War was an ideological, economic, political and military
confrontation, but it never actually was fought between these two nations on a
battlefield. It was a war of tensions and hostilities where the belligerents
engaged each other around the world but avoided direct conflict because of the
dire consequences of such actions. As the Cold War progressed until the
collapse of the Soviet Union, it had significant impact on the American
society, economy, and politics.


The Cold War prompted strong anti-communism
within the American society. The hatred towards Communism was so great that it
eventually led to McCarthyism. During McCarthyism, Americans were obsessed with
the process of identifying the Communists and removing those Communists from
American society. The purpose of organizations such as the Federal Bureau of
Investigation and the House Un-American Activities(HUAC) became the ‘removal of Communists’ and laws such as the Communist
Control Act were passed to identify, capture and remove Communists. The
McCarran Act was also introduced, which forced all Communist organizations to
be registered within the US government and banned Communists from carrying US
passports and working in the defense industry. Many were questioned without
having done anything wrong, many lost their jobs and some even lost their
lives. This red scare, which was  the
fear of communist rebellion, continued to lead American society up until the
late 1950s. The Cold War also made many Americans fearful of war. This fear of
war was prompted by the arms race. One example is the Cuban Missile Crisis,
which caused high tension within the USA. It was a 13-day confrontation between
the United States and the Soviet Union involving American ballistic missile
deployment in Italy and Turkey with resulting Soviet ballistic missile
deployment in Cuba. Nikita
Khrushchev began to ship ballistic
missiles to Cuba and technicians to operate them. After discussing with his
foreign policy and military advisers, Kennedy blockaded Cuba on October 22,
1962. The two sides stood on the edge of nuclear war, but Khrushchev
surrendered six days later and the missiles were dismantled. In return, Kennedy
dispersed its own missile sites in Turkey 1. Apart from Cuban missile crisis,
Americans lived in constant fear as the Cold War could turn into a hot war at
any time. The Cold War affected many
aspects of American social and cultural life, from the civil rights movement to
survivalism, from Hollywood to American universities.


The Cold War also had an impact on the American
people economically. The United States used to adopt isolationism previously,
meaning that the USA did not intervene in any other foreign matters to only
concentrate on the internal issues. As the USA decided to interfere in foreign
matters, Americans had to pay more taxes to support the USA’s actions. These
actions, including the arms race and other wars, required large amounts of

For instance, the Vietnam War was one of
the factors that used up massive amount of capital. American involvement in
Vietnam dated back to the end of World War II, when Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese
nationalist, asked for American support for Vietnam’s independence. The US snubbed
the Vietnamese leader at that time and went on during the late 1940s and early
1950s to provide military aid to the French government to reassert its
authority over Vietnam, which it had colonized almost a hundred years earlier
1. After the Cold War, Americans
bought consumer goods to help the economy grow resulting in the U.S. becoming
the world’s leading economic power. In the 1980s, President Reagan helped
stimulate massive economic growth with his tax cuts and deregulation.


The cold war changed the political climate of
the United States. Politicians used anti-communist campaigns while accusing the
current administration of softness to improve their support. American foreign policy became one of
containment as it reacted to the Cold War. Containment policy was a foreign
policy doctrine adopted by the Harry S. Truman administration in 1947,
operating on the principle that communist governments will eventually fall
apart if they are barred from expanding their influence 1. The United States
supported corrupt and anti-democratic governments, but friendly to America and
the Soviets backed groups favorable to their own interests.

What makes the Cold War so fascinating is that
it’s very different from past wars. Most wars had been “hot” wars
where there’s direct armed conflict between different countries. However, the
Cold War was a fight between the Americans and the Soviets to determine which
of their economic and ideological systems would rule world affairs. Not only
was it a war of diversity, but a war of great length that lasted about fifty
years (1945-1992) 1.



1 Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: an American History.
W.W. Norton, 2017.