For more than four decades, world politics revolved around the Cold War. The foreign policy of both the United States and Soviet Union was dominated by the Cold War with far reaching social, political, economic and military consequences. The domestic politics and foreign policy of other nations around the world was also shaped by the Cold War. Very few countries escaped its influence. Since the distinctive features of the Cold War era was shaped in the years that immediately followed the Second World War, an analysis of its origin is important in understanding international history in the second half of the twentieth century.
There are various conflicting interpretations of the origin of the Cold War. These interpretations are often based in deep philosophical and ideological differences. A great majority of these interpretations were themselves structured by the ongoing Cold War. The end of the Cold War together with the release of important information over the past years has provided an opportunity to reassess its origins. The earlier controversies concerning the responsibility of the Cold War can now be transcended in an attempt to understand what happened and why.
New questions concerning the origins of the Cold War can now be asked. In this paper, I will focus on the international system and the events in the United States as recounted by Kissinger. Kissinger analyzes geopolitics and the perception of threat, ideology and social reconstruction, and strategy and technology. He examines how the American perceptions of national security interests were influenced by global distribution of power and deeply ingrained ideological predispositions. He also demonstrates how the need for hegemony helped shape the political conditions of other nations.
There are two dominant views concerning the outbreak of the Cold War. The first is the view that the Soviet Union was mainly responsible for the outbreak. This view pictures the Soviet Union as persistently expansionist and being motivated ideologically. According to this perception, the United States authority wanted to get along with the Soviets. However, they realized that accommodation was not possible since the Soviet authorities quested for world domination. The second view is that the policies of the United States were also expansionist and therefore contributed to the beginning of the Cold War.
The idea points towards the long history of American expansionism and argues that United States policies were shaped by ideological beliefs and economic interests to a large extent. It is this second idea that I wish to explore in the writing of Kissinger. The American foreign policy until the early into the twentieth century was characterized by isolationist tendency. According to Kissinger (29), the rapidly expanding power of the United States and the gradual collapse of international system that was previously centered in Europe projected the United States into world affairs.
There was wide recognition by the United States administrations during this era that America had an important role to play in world affairs. The international balance of power could not be conceived by American leaders without the role of the United States. There was a deep philosophy that underlay this idea; America had an obligation to spread its principles throughout the world (Kissinger 30). The rise of new powers had been vehemently fought by European powers. The United States was however confident that they could resist any challenge.
The American foreign policy was crafted on the conviction that the constant wars that were being fought in Europe were consequences of Europe’s cynical methods of statecraft (Kissinger 32). Ingrained in the American thought was the idea that peace depended on the promotion of democratic institutions. America saw it her responsibility to spread this idea. A great majority of American leaders were convinced that the United States had a special responsibility to spread its values in order to foster world peace.
American foreign policy was radically transformed by Roosevelt who strongly believed that America was a great power. He also believed that in a world regulated by power, the natural order of things was reflected in the concept of spheres of influence (Kissinger 40). He was committed to engaging America to reestablish the equilibrium. He saw Germany and Russia as posing a threat to United States dominance in Europe and Asia respectively. He particularly saw Russia as holding in her hands the fate of the coming years. It is during this era that the United States begun seeing Russia as a possible threat to her interests.
Weakening of Russia thus became a major issue. The United States saw itself as solely responsible for the security of the entire mankind. This perception foreshadowed its containment policy that was later developed after the Second World War. These sentiments obviously rubbed any nation that desired dominance the wrong way, invariably resulting ion conflict. With the Soviet Union having its own philosophy, the result would not have been anything apart from the Cold War. Work Cited Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy. Simon and Schuster.