Study Guide New Conflagrations: World War II and the Cold War



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Study Guide - New Conflagrations: World War II and the Cold War
Bentley, Chapter 36 Part II 


  1. What is the Cold War? The confrontation between Soviets and Americans – an almost “pathological” distrust of one another. Tensions ratcheted up just to the “brink” of nuclear war – The American policy was called “mutually assured destruction.” The Cold War was really a matter of ideology that took advantage of the changing technology, allowing an arms race that escalated along political lines. The original cause was the breakdown of relations between the USSR and the Western Allies in the wake of World War II. During wartime, the fundamentally incompatible political philosophies of communism and capitalism were set aside to fight Hitler; the fight took on an ideological slant as communism fought to prove its viability and to fight against the opposite, fascism. Once the war was over and the alliance ended, the USSR could proceed with plans to extend communism throughout the world, a process that was opposed by Western nations. Churchill warned of this in discussing the threat of the “iron curtain” as the USSR annexed satellite states in central and eastern Europe as a “buffer zone” against renewed hostilities. As the military-industrial complex developed more advanced war machines, each side stocked weapons, particularly nuclear bombs but also long-distance missiles, improved aircraft, and finally, most alarming to the West, space ships. The United Nations provided a diplomatic forum to explore these ideological differences, but the formation of NATO and its counterpart in the East, the Warsaw Pact, reflected continuing Cold War rivalry. The Cold War escalated with the arms buildup and also through proxy wars, with the USSR supporting emerging decolonized nations that leaned toward communism, and the West trying to support noncommunist governments, particularly in Asia. The Cold War overshadowed decolonization primarily because it involved industrialized nations (principally the United States and the USSR) with the technology to destroy the globe.

2. What is the United Nations? The structure of the United Nations is important – Who set it up? The structure includes the “Security Council” – The Security Council has 15 members, ten of which rotate but five are “permanent”: US, USSR, China, France, Britain – each of the five has the “veto” power

3. What is the Atlantic Charter? What are the key principles of the Charter? This can be traced back to August of 1941. Roosevelt and Churchill discussed what a post war world might look like – out of this meeting came the broad war aims or goals of the Allies – the key pronouncement was “self-determination for all peoples”

4. Why did the U.S. train and support Ho Chi Minh’s Vietminh guerrillas during WWII? During WWII the United States OSS (Office of Strategic Services – a forerunner of the CIA) – During the war the OSS was helping to arm and train the communist Vietminh guerrillas. Japanese demonstrations of European weaknesses during World War II played an important role in Southeast Asian nation building. Many nations won their independence in the years immediately following the war. For example, British India became independent in 1947. Mainly because of regional and religious differences, the Indian colony achieved independence as two separate nations—India and Pakistan. Bangladesh split from Pakistan in 1974, revealing further divisions. The British colonies of Burma and the Malay Federation became independent in 1948, followed by Singapore in 1950. In Indonesia, Sukarno fought Dutch attempts to reassert control after World War II, and Indonesia became independent in 1949. France also struggled in vain to keep its colony of French Indochina. Opposition to the French was led by Ho Chi Minh, who controlled the Communist Party in Vietnam. French attempts to retain the colony ended in failure at Dienbienphu in 1954, eventually drawing the United States into the conflict.
5. What did Ho Chi Minh expect for Vietnam following WWII (in light of the Atlantic Charter)? Ho Chi Minh expects American support for Vietnamese independence

6. Why did the U.S. support the return of the French to Vietnam? The Truman administration decided to back the French desire to maintain colonial control over Vietnam – As a result of hardball, military politics (geopolitics) – in the formation of NATO


7. Which country occupied Japan after WWII? Why is this significant? --- The United States occupied Japan and helped to write the Japanese constitution. The Soviets were locked out of the post war reconstruction of Japan. Japan became the lynchpin of American interests in East Asia (Japan itself is now occupied) This allows the Americans to “grant sovereignty” to the Philippines (but keep a major naval base and air base)

8. Since the 1930s, both the “Communists” and the “Nationalists” were resisting the Japanese occupation of China. Which side did the U.S. support in China following the defeat of Japan? Why? The American supported the Nationalists. This policy failed. Back in America, the Republican opposition to the Truman administration blamed the Democrats for “losing China” – This caused Truman to prove he was “tough” on American communists. It was Truman who began the American “red scare” after WWII – not Joseph McCarthy


9. Which faction was more popular in China, the Communists (Mao Zedong) or the Nationalists (Chiang Kai Shek)? Why? The Communists had broad popular support among the Chinese peasantry. The Communists were promising land reform and an end to corruption. The Communists were in fact, less corrupt than the Nationalists. This is why the Communists, using guerrilla tactics with support from the Soviets, ultimately prevailed.
10. Which country gained the most from WWII? Why? The United States gained the most. The American industrial plant grew by almost three times. Pent up savings were spent on consumer goods, housing etc leading to the American “long boom.” The United States was the only nation to not suffer any destruction of its national infrastructure. The United States emerged from WWII the only nation in the world with significant amounts of investment capital.
11. What was the Marshall Plan? Why were the Soviets denied Marshall Plan loans? Stalin applied for Marshall Plan loans – Stalin wanted loans with no strings attached but the Americans drove a hard bargain and so Stalin refused the loans – So how did the Soviets rebuild their country then?

12. Why were the Communists popular in post-war France and Italy?

13. What was the Truman Doctrine? What is “containment” 1947 – President Truman asked for funding to aid both Greece and Turkey in their efforts to stop communist uprisings – This policy of “containment” (which, it is now known, was based on a false premise), became the basis of American foreign policy from Harry Truman to George Bush I (this is a bipartisan consensus)

14. What is NATO? North Atlantic Treaty Organization – it is a military alliance of Western European (eventually includes Turkey), but led by United States (1947)

15. When was the Warsaw Pact concluded? This is the eastern European alliance system led by the Soviets to check NATO (1955) Warsaw Pact was formed after West Germany joined

16. What was the Berlin Airlift? (1948) --

17. How did the Chinese Communist victory (1949) impact US policy?
18. Why was Korea divided after WWII? Korea was divided along the 38th parallel

19. When did North Korea invade the South? The trigger for the Northern aggression against the South was the Chinese communist victory in 1949 – IN early 1950 the North Korean communists crossed the 38th and headed South

20. Why was the Korean War considered a “UN police action”?
21. Why did the Chinese become involved in the Korean War
22. What was the Korean War settlement? It ended right where it started at the 38th parallel

23. What was US policy toward the Middle East after WWII? The Arab struggle with Israel was the foundation for many decisions and activities in the Middle East. Originally encouraged by the Balfour Declaration decades before, Jewish settlement in Palestine greatly increased after World War II and the Holocaust. Both Israel and the Arab states participated in the independence movements that swept the world after World War II. Nations that had been nominally independent but were actually under British, French, or American control became autonomous in those years as well. Many of those new nations rallied around the Palestinian people displaced by Israel, which became independent in 1948. Still, the Arab-Israeli conflict would have remained a regional issue if it had not been for the presence of oil. The region's huge oil reserves were not effectively exploited until after World War II, when there were new demands for petroleum. Later, oil-producing nations won greater control and profits from Western oil companies by threatening to nationalize the oil fields. In 1960, they created OPEC as a political and economic instrument to further their interests. The continuing conflicts between the Arabs and Israelis complicated these matters enormously. After the oil crisis in 1974, prices spiraled upward, bringing great wealth and power to oil-producing nations. During the war itself a “special relationship” was forged between the United States and Saudi Arabia – American foreign policy in the region as a whole is about stability and the “low of commerce”

24. Why did the CIA help overthrow from power the elected leader of Iran in 1954? Mohammad Mossadegh – prime minister of Iran who dared to suggest that Iran nationalize its oil industry – The number one oil company in Iran is British Petroleum (BP) -- The British want to go to war against Iran but the Eisenhower administration forces them to back down and opt for a “covert action” – this was a “success” -- the plan knocked out Mossadegh and brought to power the infamous dictatorship led by the “Shah” of Iran (1954-1979) – This gave rise to a reaction, what the CIA calls, a “blowback” (unintended consequence of a foreign policy decision)

25. What did President Eisenhower mean when he warned of the “military-industrial complex’? The intersection of corporate power, Congress and the military establishment. This was a “revolving door,” warned Eisenhower, that would absorb more and more of the national treasure while eroding America’s democratic institutions. Eisenhower should know, he had been a five star general in the American Army.

26. What was President Kennedy’s plan for military expenditures? Kennedy ran for office claiming that the Soviets had gained the advantage in terms of bomber technology and numbers (untrue but a good political device used against Nixon). Once in office Kennedy, despite Eisenhower’s warning, actually oversaw in increase in the American military budget – Kennedy was very much in the tradition of the Truman Doctrine and “containment”

27. Why did the CIA sponsor a military coup d’etat against the democratically elected government in Guatemala (1956)? Still under Eisenhower, the administration flush with a sense of victory over their Iran policy decided to have the CIA overthrow another democratically elected government but this time in Central America. Guatemala’s president, Jababo Arbenz, proposed a modest land reform program for the peasants of Guatemala. Over 80% of the nation’s arable land base was owned by an American multinational corporation called the United Fruit Company. The Arbenz administration proposed to purchase fallow land from UFC in order to redistribute it. This was too much for the Eisenhower administration. The Eisenhower administration included to anti-communist brothers, Alan and John Foster Dulles (head of CIA and State department respectively). They planned and successfully carried out the coup in Guatemala. The man they brought to power was colonel named Castillo Armas

28. What were the roots of the Vietnam war? First, the independence movement in Vietnam was similar to other anticolonialism and independence movements around the world in the decade after World War II. Second, United States intervention in Vietnam clearly illustrates the bipolarity of the Cold War. Students should trace the beginnings of United States involvement to the Eisenhower administration's decision not to support the French colonial administration in 1954. The French were driven out of Vietnam by a nationalist movement seeking Vietnamese independence. The Eisenhower convinced congress to pick up 80% of the French war costs in Vietnam (citing “domino theory”). After the Geneva accord, the Americans supported a corrupt South Vietnamese dictatorship under Ngo Dien Diem. President Kennedy continued support for the corrupt and unpopular South Vietnamese government as a bulwark against the expansion of communism from the north. The Gulf of Tonkin incident provided an excuse to deploy many thousands of additional U.S. troops, and the war escalated throughout the 1960s. The 1973 treaty ending the fighting between the United States and Vietnam was prompted by a powerful antiwar movement in the United States. The antiwar movement, economic problems created by the war, and the unpopularity of the conflict itself ensured that the United States would not engage directly in other Cold War conflicts. Future interventions involved military support rather than the use of U.S. troops.

29. What became US policy toward Vietnam following the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu (1954)? The Vietminh drove the French out of Vietnam -- When did the United States become directly involved in the Vietnam War? – You would have to trace this back to WWII when the American OSS supported Ho Chi Minh against the Japanese. The Americans then indirectly supported the war against the Vietminh through the 1950s and then supported the Diem regime through November, 1962. – The American presence in Vietnam increased dramatically after the fall of both Diem and Kennedy and the rise of President Lyndon Johnson – By 1964 the Johnson adm created a pretext to land troops directly in Vietnam


30. Who was Ngo Dien Diem? -- This man was living in New Jersey at the time of the French withdraw from Vietnam. He was a Catholic priest studying in an American monastery. Vietnam had been divided by agreement at the 17th parallel – The first president of the Republic of South Vietnam was Diem. From the cancelled elections forward, the United States backed the Diem regime and Communists in the North set about to reunify their country


31. Why did the US support the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista? This man, it turned out, was to be the last military dictator of Cuba who was a client of the United States

32. When did the Cuban Revolution take place? What was the US response? – The peasant based rebellion was led by a Cuban wealthy intellectual, and lawyer (son of a white Cuban plantation owning family), Fidel Castro. Castro was joined by an Argentine medical doctor named Ernesto “Che” Guevara. They finally toppled the Batista regime on January 1, 1959.

33. Why did the CIA sponsor an invasion of Cuba in 1961? (Bay of Pigs) – This plan was originated by the Eisenhower administration. Kennedy inherited this. Kennedy decided to go forward with the invasion.



34. What was the cause of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962? How was the crisis resolved? The Castro government negotiated a secret deal with the Soviets to install medium range nuclear missiles in Cuba. – Kennedy demands that the missiles be removed – the situation escalate in October 1962 (Thirteen Days)

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