How the Cold War Shaped America as a Global Superpower
The Cold War was a time in history when there was a great political and military turmoil between the United States and the Soviet Union. These two powers were on the opposite ends of the economic and political spectrum – the United States being the capitalist state, while the Soviet Union the Marxist-Lenin socialist state. Though there was no direct large-scale war between the two states, there was always the threat that could have triggered a full-blown world war. The Cold War lasted about 45 years and it changed the global political and economic landscape. This essay looks into some of the key lessons of the Cold War and discusses how the war established America into a global superpower.
The effects of the Cold War continue to be felt decades after it had ended. Though the war is largely a clash of ideology, the effects encompass economic, cultural, political, and social aspects of the American society. (Brzezinski, 1992). Perhaps one of the enduring lessons of the Cold War is the emphasis on the importance of allies (Edwards, 2014). The great alliance that the United States led proved to be too strong for the Soviet Union and its own alliance in the Eastern bloc. The United States brought together a real alliance consisting of countries that share a common goal, whereas the Soviet Union commanded a group united only by the fact that they are captive nationalities unified by the Red Army (Edwards, 2014).
The long years of tension tested the resolve of leaders from both sides. The success of the United States in the Cold War era can be attributed to the brilliant minds and leadership skills of Presidents Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. The strategies they used were relevant to the different periods of the Cold War. Containment worked at the start, wherein the United States and its allies prevented further expansion of the Soviet Union’s power in Europe (Foner, 2009). The United States recognized the weakened economic condition in the Soviet Union towards the end of the Cold War and took advantage of it. It was at this time that the United States demonstrated how its superior economic power can be used as a tool to bring down the Soviet Union, who was then experiencing economic instability.
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The massive economic growth in the 1980s, as a result of President Reagan’s tax cuts and deregulation, enabled a huge military funding that extended to the United States’ allies. This pressured the Soviet Union to funnel funding to its own army, but it eventually succumbed to bankruptcy. As a last ditch effort to save a crumbling empire, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev introduced reforms and openness (also known as perestroika and glasnost). Although the new reforms spread throughout the Eastern bloc, it was a case of “too little too late”, and within six years, the Soviet empire collapsed. Soon after, the Cold War ended and the United States and its allies emerged as victors.
Evidently, the world changed considerably after the Cold War ended in 1945, but the lessons of the war continue to be relevant in the current political and economic landscape. The Cold War set the stage for the United States to exercise its power to lead nations through strategic alliances. It rose up to the challenge of the era and devised exceptional economic, political, and military strategies to take down the Soviet Union.
The country’s actions during that period became the foundation of the United States’ future foreign and domestic policy decisions. Clearly, it can be concluded that the events of the Cold War catapulted the United States to superpower status with global influence like no other.