U.S. Anti-Communism During the Cold War and its Impact on Foreign Policy

During the Cold War era anti-communism emerged in the U.S. as an ideology that formed the basis for making sense of a complex international community and its contrast with U.S. socio-economic and political conventions.  Communism was perceived by US policymakers as a threat primarily because it could not be distinguished from the USSRs thriving power.  Communism was perceived as a broader threat to the ideology of open and free markets and protection of private properties, political traditions that the U.S. cultivated and supported.  In this regard, during the Cold War, anti-communism emerged as a guiding principle for not only US domestic policies, but also a signature strategy in US foreign policy (Painter 1999, 19).  This research examines the ideology of anti-Communism in the US and its consequences for foreign policy during the Cold War.

US Anti-Communism During the Cold War
Anti-communism in the US was not a new phenomena during the Cold War era.  Prior to the Cold War era and prior to the Second World War, anti-communism was very much on the minds of Americas (Boyle 2001, 324).  Anti-communism however, was always somehow associated with the USSR rather than on the ills of domestic communism (Boyle 2001, 324).  There was however some focus on domestic communism during the depression era of the 1930s which resulted in a hearing before the Congressional committee after the publication of I Confess The Truth about American Communism by Benjamin Gitlows in 1939.  The Congressional hearing was an investigation of what it characterized as an un-American activity (Boyle 2001, 235).

In general, anti-communism was a relatively minimum policy or fear in the American political and social psyche and did not catch on to a greater extent during the Second World War.  The Grand Alliance between the U.S., the U.K. and the USSR function to constrain any real anti-communist themes in the U.S. government policies both at home and abroad.  Consequently, the US came out of the Second World War relatively ambivalent toward the threat of communism.  As Boyle (2001) explains
the American public emerged from the war neither overly cautious towards anti-communism appeals nor obsessed with the Communist threat (325).

The Cold War emanated from the close of the Second World War in 1945 and gained momentum in the ensuing years, finally coming to an end by 1990.  The Cold War involved almost every member of the international community but was spurred and driven by a power struggle between the U.S. and the USSR (Kort 2000, 3).  At its core, the Cold War was an exercise in promoting conflicting political ideologies to the extent that both the U.S. and the USSR viewed the others social, political and economic systems as a threat.  These two conflicting ideologies was the Soviets communism and the U.S.s democracy (Kort 2000, 4).

From the U.S. perspective, the USSR was pursuing an expansionist vision in which it attempted to spread Communism as far and as wide as possible.  Therefore the U.S. assumed a containment policy which commenced with the introduction of the Truman Doctrine (Bardes, Shalley and Schmidt 2007, 529).  Anti-communism took its place during the Cold War as the U.S.s most formidable political ideology and one that gave MaCarths failing political aspirations a second chance when he took the podium as an advocate against communism.  The fact is, ever since the introduction of the Truman Doctrine, the dangers of communism occupied virtually every mind in the U.S. administration (Li and Hong 1997, 86).

U.S. Foreign Policy During the Cold War Era
The Truman Doctrine
The U.S. containment policy which characterized much of the U.S. anti-communism policies in its approach to foreign affairs was essentially introduced by U.S. President Harry Truman on March 12, 1947 when he addressed a joint session of Congress (Paterson 1991, 449).  Truman was addressing Congress on the Greek civil war which was a conflict in which a communist group of insurgents attempted to oust what was characterized as a pro-Western government (Murrin, Johnson, McPherson and Gerstle 2008, 701-702).

Greece was under the influence of the British who eventually pulled out of the conflict maintaining that it was impossible to sustain its previous strong presence in Greece and all of the Middle East as well (Murrin, Johnson, McPherson and Gerstle 2008, 702).  Truman was advised however, that the insurgents victory in Greece could spill over into Turkey, its neighbor and this would comport with the USSRs expansion strategies.  Truman responded by lobbying Congress for US aid to Greece and Turkey.  According to Truman, the fate of the worlds free people were in jeopardy which was directly relevant to the U.S.s national security interests.  Truman told Congress that if the U.S. did not lend aid to nations that were resisting attempted subversion by armed minorities or by outside pressures, there was an increased danger that communism would penetrate the entire world and this was a direct threat to the U.S. (Murrin, Johnson, McPherson and Gerstle 2008, 702).

Despite some skepticism, Truman was successful in his plea to Congress and was rewarded with approval for US400 million primarily for military aid to Greece and Turkey.  This approval was a manifestation of bipartisan support for national security policy which eventually took the name containment (Murrin, Johnson, McPherson and Gerstle 2008, 702).  The term containment however was coined by George Kennan who was the Soviet expert in the U.S. Department of State.  Kennan used the term in an article he wrote anonymously in the Foreign Affairs journal in 1947 in which Kennan wrote that the primary factor for U.S. policy both at home and abroad must be that of a long term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies (Kennan, 1957, 566).

Containment therefore became the all-encompassing rational for both domestic and foreign policy security policies.  It was popularly believed that containment as a policy connected all left wing insurgencies regardless of where it occurred to a totalitarian movement which was influenced and controlled by the USSR and was in turn a direct threat to the US security interest (Murrin, Johnson, McPherson and Gerstle 2008, 702). 

The Truman Doctrine which gave birth to the containment policy had profound consequences for anti-communism approaches to domestic policies both at home and abroad.  Truman introduced a Loyalty Program which was designed to identify and oust from public employment any person suspected of having communist ideology and connections.  On a foreign level, policies were implemented by virtue of the National Security Act 1947 and the Marshall Plan which came in response to the Berlin crisis.  There were several bureaucracies emerging under this new anti-communism regime that would have significant influences on U.S. foreign policy.  These political instruments would create the National Security Council who had a broad discretion for the planning and implementation of U.S. foreign policy. One of its most important accomplishments was the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who would use funds provided secretly to encourage anticommunist activities around the globe (Murrin, Johnson, McPherson and Gerstle 2008, 703). 

The CIA would create and cultivate ties in Eastern Europe to circumvent the success of communists movements.  The CIA would also facilitate campaigns to disrupt the Italian Communist Party coming to power via general election in 1948.  The CIA was ultimately responsible for anti-communists movements in many parts of the world including France and Japan (Murrin, Johnson, McPherson and Gerstle 2008, 702). 

In furtherance of its anti-communism containment policy on a foreign level, Truman turned his attention to the economic situation in Western Europe.  Believing that the declining economic situation in that region would only bolster communist sentiments,  George Marshall, Trumans Secretary of State took steps to address the economic situation in Western Europe.  Under the auspices of the Marshall Plan which was enacted in 1948 funds were therefore directed to Western European nations and amounted to approximately US13 billion by 1951  (Murrin, Johnson, McPherson and Gerstle 2008, 703). 

US Containment and Anti-Communism in Foreign Policy Strategies Following the Truman Era
Bostdorff (2008) explains that the undertones of national security and containment would become a recurring theme in US foreign policy long after Truman vacated office (147).  These foreign policies which were rooted in the anti-communist containment strategies were manifested by the Korean War which started during Trumans presidency and carried on through the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower the Vietnam War under  successive US Presidents, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard and Gerald Ford (from 1959-1975) Cuban Missile Crisis under President John F. Kennedy  the 1984 Grenada invasion under Ronald Reagan among other similar conflicts (Bostdorff 2008, 148).

Lyndon Johnsons 1965 administrations foreign policy during the Cold War era was characterized by the concept that that U.S. would not permit the implementation of another communist government in the Americas.  The Nixon administration in 1969 demonstrated a somewhat reluctant commitment to containment, perhaps borne out of exasperation with the ongoing Vietnamese War and announced that the U.S. was trying to extract itself from Vietnam and that the US would offer aid to other countries by virtue of economic and military assistance rather than with American troops (Kort 2000, 115). 

President James Carter in 1980, a bit more reluctant than Nixon, but still committed somewhat to the anti-communist rhetoric promised that the US would use force to defend the Persian Gulf from a Soviet takeover.   The final Cold War president, Ronald Reagan in 1985, declared that the US would offer its support to anti-communist freedom fighters who took steps to overthrow communist regimes in the Third World (Kort 2000, 115). 

By the 1970s, the tensions between the US and the USSR had intensified to such an extent that there was a period of dtente (Shabad 1976,  96).  Dtente was characteristic of relaxations in East-West relations following intense periods of conflict, a pattern which marked the consequences of the U.S.s anti-communism and the apparent USSRs expansionism policies (Schlotter 1983, 213). For example, in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s U.S. President Kennedy and USSR leader Krushchev commenced a period of dtente which was short-lived as a result of Kennedys assassination and a Kremlin power change which vacated Kruschchevs office in 1964.  Leonid Brezhnevs rise to power in the USSR saw a renewal of the Soviet expansionist ideology when the Soviets Red Army invaded Czechoslovakia and as a result, the U.S. renewal of its containment policies (Bryne 2004, 74).
While Lyndon Johnson, Kennedys successor made no progress with respect to dtente, Nixon with the aid of Henry Kissinger made significant progress.  This renewed approach to dtente came as a result of Nixons commitment to ensure Washingtons leadership in the West.  Europe in particular had become disenchanted with U.S. foreign policy following the US War with a former French Colony, Indochina.  Frances President Charles De Gualle responded by withdrawing from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and went to Moscow in 1966 to meet with Brezhnev in 1966. Moreover, West Berlin was introducing a Eastern Policy known as Ostpolitik in which it took steps to improve its relations with communist East Germany (Taubman 2004, 396).

In any event, each of these stalemates and crises that brought the conflicting ideologies between the U.S and the USSR into direct contact with one another, the U.S. was able to somehow claim globalization of its containment policies (Harrell, Gaustad and Boles 2005, 1011).  In an ironic way, the struggle for world domination via the U.S. containment policies and the USSRs expansion policies between the two super powers prevented mass destruction, something both sides were more than capable of accomplishing. 

The Korean War for example, although very much a by-product of the US anti-communist rhetoric during the Cold War era, also function to offer proof of the consequences of the balance of fear perpetuated by two competing ideologies that drove foreign policies in Moscow and Washington.  The Korean War with all its potential to lead to a Third World War and the end of humanity was a limited war because it had the potential to destroy the world (Harrell, Gaustad and Boles 2005, 1011).

The conflict in Korea was demonstrative of all the complex consequences for world peace as a direct result of U.S. foreign policy under the auspices of anti-communism and the USSRs expansionism strategies.  Both countries had equal nuclear powers, none more formidable than the other.  Although the U.S. could have used its nuclear arsenal against North Korea and China it dared not for fear of Soviet nuclear retaliation (Harrell, Gaustad and Boles 2005, 1011).  This kind of nuclear stalemate would characterize all of the containment and expansionism foreign policies arising out of the Cold War era.  It limited the USs reach in terms of spreading its anti-communism strategies and it limited the USSRs ability to expand.

The fall of the Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany and the first Persia Gulf War during 1989-1991 had a profound impact on U.S. anti-communism sentiments and therefore changed the geopolitical alignments upon which anticommunism and American national identity rested for the duration of the Cold War (Zeskind 2009, 219).  Nationalism in the form of ethnic and political identities in the U.S. were founded on new principles that were far removed from anti-communist rhetoric. 
The U.S. attention is currently turned to its recent declaration of war against international terrorism following the September 11 terror attacks in the US.  Even so, there is a sufficient connection between these anti-terrorism policies and anti-communism foreign policies to substantiate an argument that U.S. foreign policies are always vested in national security.  The underlying goal of both of these foreign policies are essentially provide a sound national security framework.  Whether or not it means securing its borders or its political ideology, the U.S. ultimately seeks to secure for the US the concepts of democracy.  In this regard, the Cold War anti-communism foreign policies are just as relevant to that goal as the current declaration of war against international terrorism.


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