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Perspectives on the Cold War

  • 06 Pages
  • Published On: 20-12-2023


In the post Word War-II era, when the world was apparently at peace and no war to be pursued on behalf of the big powers of the world, the Cold War era approached. From 1945 to 1991, the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective ally countries were tied in an indirect war or geopolitical tension that included the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. While no large-scale fighting was taken place during this time period, both of these big powers were involved in different small range wars of different countries which is termed as the proxy war therein.

In this essay, we shall attempt at dissecting the several speeches of the great United State’s leaders and politicians and derive how they viewed the construction of the Cold War and whether they tagged Cold War as an offensive conflict which could have been avoided during the post World War-II era or a defensive conflict which was essential for the security of the country as a whole.


Thesis Statement

Cold War is termed and considered as the geopolitical tension between the big powers of the world during 1945 to 1991 and this state of action by both the countries can be termed as the era of Nuclear Weapon Development as well. During this era of Cold War, the world has witnessed several proxy wars such as the Vietnam War, Korean War, Cuban Revolution and in each of the events, US and Soviet Union had played an indirect role to influence and inspire the figures who are involved in the war.

The same version of indirect involvement can be derived from the speeches of the several historical figures namely George Kennan, Richard Nixon, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy and Kwame Nkrumah. Hence, in this thesis statement, it is hereby stated that these historical figures, through their speeches and their notions towards the Cold War conflict, essentially termed and tagged Cold War as a defensive conflict which was essential for maintaining security of the homeland and save the world from the ideology of communism.

Is Cold War an Offensive Conflict or a Defensive Conflict

In order to understand whether Cold War is essentially an offensive conflict or a defensive conflict, it would be necessary to understand and conclude the abovementioned speeches of the historical figures as have been mentioned under the thesis statement section and critically assess whether they viewed Cold War as a defensive conflict or an offensive conflict and why so.

Even though the starting and ending points of Cold War is not conclusive, it is conclusive that with the initiation of the Truman Doctrine during the 1947, the Cold War began against the USSR and the two biggest powers of the world essentially involved themselves into the proxy wars of different countries and the division of alliance of different countries towards these two big super powers were visible. Also, the Nuclear Arsenal Development is one of the important military developments of this era which essentially defined the scope and perimeter of Cold War as well.

Arguments – whether the historical figures conceived Cold War as an offensive conflict or a defensive conflict

George F. Kenna, one of the famous American diplomat and Historian of the cold War era, has been taken as the first figure to evaluate the nature of the Cold War herein. From the excerpt of the speech as provided by George F. Kenan, it can be seen that he has both the elements of offensive and defensive approach in his speech.

“… is clear that the main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.”

“To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.”

From the abovementioned excerpt of the speeches of George F. Kennan, it can be seen and argued that he was a diplomat and historian who was in favour of the active containment of Russia and the vigilant containment of Russia should be done through several state policy and he was of the view that counter-force is necessary in case of containment of USSR. However, George F. Kennan also stated and was of the view that even though the Russian power might act weak and communist approach of Russia shall not be able to contain the world at large, United States must keep their large-scale measures under a check and he was of the opinion that US should be warned before using any kind of large-scale war measures as weaker the Russian communist force might be, it would be impossible for US alone to take it down.

However, if we critically dissect and deduct the speech and ideology of Richard Nixon, it can be seen that Nixon doctrine was proposed by this 37th US president of 1969 who was of the view that Cold War is essentially a defensive conflict and the same approach can be derived from his approach towards Nixon Doctrine that officially stated that ‘Peace Through Partnership’. According to his valuable doctrine, he was essentially influenced by the ideal of keeping the national interest of US intact and not live-in isolation in the world and hence, Nixon essentially approached the ideal of having a construct relationship with the allied countries therein. Hence, in carefully deriving the Nixon approach, it can be stated that he was in favor of defensive approach and he viewed the Cold War conflict as a defensive conflict.

In contradiction to the Nixon doctrine thereof, the ideals of Dwight D. Eisenhower essentially inclined towards having an active role in the proxy wars and during his tenure of being a President of the United Stated on 1953, he actively involved in several Gulf Wars and he personally attacked many of the dictators of the Gulf area and announced war on them. From the speech of Dwight D. Eisenhower, it can be seen that he was in favor of keeping an active form of military development and his approach was towards developing stronger nuclear weapons in order to keep the USSR at their edge of their seats. Hence, from the abovementioned speech by Dwight D. Eisenhower, it can be stated that even though the ideals and ideologies of Eisenhower was to engage into an offensive conflict, he essentially took the defensive approach and tagged the Cold War as a defensive conflict where strong military development should be made, not for the purpose of attacking but for the defense of the national security.

The 36th president of the United States, Allen Dules, essentially held an offensive view towards the ongoing Cold War and he believed in the concept of containment of the enemy force through active attacks therein. From the speech by Mr. Dules, it can be seen that he actively took part in the ongoing Vietnam war and he believed in the policy of containment of the Russian force or the communist parties of the East and during his tenure as a president of US, he actively engaged himself and increased the US military presence in escalating the Vietnam war to a more serious degree. In the speech, he also talks about how the Vietnam war needs to be actively controlled by the US and the objective behind the Vietnam war has been mentioned under the speech of Mr. Dules, which essentially states that according to his approach, Mr. Dules concluded Cold War as an offensive conflict.

However, the speech of John F. Kennedy, who served as the 35th president of the US and the speech of Kwame Nkrumah, it can be seen that both of these historical figures derived and held Cold War to be a defensive conflict that needs to meet with cooperative alliance between the former colonies and the imperial powers and to aim at a peaceful coexistent of both. According to John F. Kennedy, who escalated the nuclear weapon development in US as a defense strategy and handled the Berlin Crisis, Cold War was an essentially a conclusive defensive conflict and the suppression of power by the threat of the nuclear weapons development was essentially necessary during this age. Also, speech of Kwame Nkrumah states that the cooperation is the best policy towards having a peaceful regime and even after the incident of the Little Rock Nine in the USA, African countries wanted to propose and have a peaceful cooperative relationship with the US.

Hence, from the abovementioned speeches of the historical figures, it can be argued that even though the super powers of the Cold War actively engaged themselves into the proxy wars of Vietnam and Korea and caused a great damage, it can be also noticed that none of the powers essentially involved into any direct conflict or large scale war where they would have to engage into a nuclear warfare and from the Cuban development, it is to be seen that USA approached the defensive method in dealing with the Cold War situation herein. While, it is to be argued and stated that the proxy wars of the 1945 to 1991 cost the lives of million of people, both of the super powers resisted themselves from engaging into a direct conflict that would cost both of the countries a fortune and the lives of billion people and eventually turned into World War – III. Also, after the nuclear destruction of Japan at the end of the World War- II, US became extremely conclusive and defensive in approaching a direct conflict with the any of the powers of the world. Thus, while it is true that many of the US president was of the view of an offensive conflict and many of them wanted to engage into a full-fledged war during the Cold War era, it is the collective will of the USA that resisted the Cold War to fluctuated to the greatest war of the history. Hence it can be stated and argued from the speeches provided by the eminent historical figures herein, Cold War is essentially a defensive conflict.

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In concluding thereof, it can eb stated that the abovementioned thesis statement has been rightly supported and proved by the different approaches derived from the speeches of the several historical figures who commented on the ideals and ideology of the Cold War and it can be concluded that Cold War is essentially a defensive conflict.

Works Cited

Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American People,” January 17, 1961

George F. Kennan, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” Foreign Affairs 25 (July 1947): 566–78, 580–82

GRAEBNER, NORMAN A. “The Cold War: An American View.” International Journal, vol. 15, no. 2, [Sage Publications, Ltd., Canadian International Council], 1960, pp. 95–112

Hoff, Joan. “How the United States Sold Its Soul to Win the Cold War (And Now Cannot Develop a Coherent Post-Cold War Foreign Policy).” International Journal, vol. 56, no. 3, [Sage Publications, Ltd., Canadian International Council], 2001, pp. 373–92

Jervis, Robert. “Was the Cold War a Security Dilemma?” Journal of Cold War Studies, vol. 3, no. 1, The MIT Press, 2001, pp. 36–60

John F. Kennedy, “Radio and Television Report to the American People in the Soviet Arms Buildup in Cuba,” in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, John F. Kennedy, 1962 (Washington, DC: United States General Printing Office, 1963), 806–809

Nkrumah Speech on the United States and the Third World at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, 1958. (in Jussi Hanhimäki and Odd Arne Westad, eds., The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 354-356

Richard Nixon, “First Annual Report to the Congress on United States Foreign Policy for the 1970‘s,” February 18, 1970

Tudda, Chris. “‘Reenacting the Story of Tantalus’: Eisenhower, Dulles, and the Failed Rhetoric of Liberation.” Journal of Cold War Studies, vol. 7, no. 4, The MIT Press, 2005, pp. 3–35

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