The Cold War

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What is containment? List and define three examples of containment.

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Containment was America's strategy for the Cold War. The plan was to oppose Soviet expansionism and stop communism from spreading throughout the globe. It was primarily a defensive strategy, and America and its Western allies did not seek to liberate areas already taken over by Moscow. For instance, there would be no attempt to free Poland from the Soviet domination imposed on it after World War II. The strategy of containment was developed by George F. Kennan. Kennan outlined his ideas in his "Long Telegram" from Moscow and in his article in Foreign Affairs. Although the Soviet Union ultimately disintegrated in 1991, containment was not always successful.

By 1947, cooperation with Moscow in Europe had broken down, so Washington took steps to buttress its position on that continent and protect it from communism. This effort involved a number of steps. First, the Truman Doctrine dispatched aid to Turkey and Greece to keep those two nations out of the Soviet orbit. Second, the Marshall Plan sent $13 billion in aid to rebuild war-torn Europe. Finally, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was established.

In Asia, the US fought in the Korean War (1950–1953) to protect it from communist North Korea. Communist China fought with North Korea, and the United Nations was allied to the Americans and South Koreans. Communism was "contained" and South Korea eventually became a prosperous trading partner of the US.

A second "hot" war in Vietnam was not successful. The Vietnam War (1965–1973) was a major setback for the United States. Vietnam, like Laos and Cambodia, had been a part of French-Indochina. However, communism did not spread from the former French-Indochina to other regions.

America applied its containment strategy to Europe, Korea, and Vietnam. In the end, the US "won" the Cold War.

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As both the United States and the USSR had atomic weapons, a direct military confrontation between the two super powers was out of the question. So to prevent the spread of Communism, the United States developed the indirect strategy of containment, which would avoid any military conflict with the Soviets. Communism could not be eradicated entirely, but it could be prevented by a number of means from spreading too far beyond the borders of the Soviet Union.

Here are three examples of containment in action:

  1. The Marshall Plan. The Truman Administration realized that Communism tended to thrive in conditions of extreme economic hardship. After World War II, the European economy lay in ruins, providing a fertile ground for the spread of Communism. The Marshall Plan, a package of substantial economic and military aid to the shattered counties of Western Europe, was designed to get the Continent back on its feet, thus making it more difficult for Communist ideology to take root.
  2. The United States armed and funded a variety of unsavory right-wing dictatorships in the developing world, especially in South America, as a way of cracking down on left-wing insurgents. This policy proved brutally effective in preventing the spread of Communism in strategically-important parts of the world, though it came at considerable cost to the United States' reputation as a beacon of freedom and democracy.
  3. By the same token, successive American governments also armed and funded right-wing insurgent groups such as the Contras in Nicaragua, who fought a long and bitter civil war against the left-wing Sandinista government, which espoused the same Marxist-Leninist ideology as the Soviet Union.
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Containment refers to the policy of the United States to limit the spread of communism and influence of the Soviet Union after World War II and during the Cold War. It was first suggested by Soviet affairs advisor George F. Kennan in 1947.

The first application of the containment policy was the Truman Doctrine. President Truman argued that the United States had to provide economic aid to Greece and Turkey or they risked falling into the Soviet sphere of influence. In Turkey, the Soviets were displaying a show of force when Turkey refused to grant the USSR free access to its sea routes. Greece was being threatened by a civil war. The United States determined that giving aid to both these countries would help them resist the Soviet Union better.

The Vietnam War was perhaps the biggest and most costly use of the containment policy. The United States supported South Vietnam both militarily and economically to prevent communist North Vietnam from taking over the country. The conflict essentially lasted from 1955 until 1975. In the end, the policy of containment proved unsuccessful in Vietnam as it was too costly in terms of money and lives for the United States to continue.

One more example of containment was the war in Afghanistan. Throughout the 1980s the Soviet Union attempted to annex Afghanistan. To counter this the United States provided financial and technical support to the Afghans. The CIA also conducted some clandestine operations on behalf of the Afghan fighters. In the end, the Soviet forces were forced to withdraw from Afghanistan.

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Containment was our policy after World War II to stop communism from spreading. This policy was based on the Long Telegram that was issued by George Keenan. The Long Telegram suggested that communism was a flawed system that would fail. Keenan believed we needed to prevent communism from spreading.

There were several examples where we worked to prevent communism from spreading. One was in West Berlin. The Soviet Union wanted to force the Allies out of West Berlin so they could make the entire city a communist city. The Soviet Union cut off all land routes into West Berlin in an event that is known as the Berlin Blockade. We refused to leave West Berlin, and we organized the Berlin Airlift to get supplies into West Berlin. Eventually, the Soviet Union backed down and ended the Berlin Blockade.

Another example where we opposed the spread of Communism was in South Korea. When North Korea invaded South Korea to make Korea a communist country, we worked with the United Nations to remove North Korea from South Korea. Under the leadership of General Douglas MacArthur, we were able to keep South Korea from becoming a communist country.

A third example of containment was the European Recovery Program, known as the Marshall Plan. We offered aid to countries that were resisting the spread of communism. For example, Greece and Turkey were two countries that were offered aid. Both countries didn’t become communist.

The goal of containment was designed to stop the spread of communism. This policy was successful in many places.

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