Saturday, June 13, 2009

Further Information All Should Know

From Voices of Leadership in the 20th Century

The Cold War Years

The Cold War lasted from 1946-47 through 1989-90. Several characteristics mark these years.

The Cold War was total war, but cold. It infused itself throughout the consciousness of the people. It was the society's central commitment. It diverted the resources of the nation into its service. For example, the following table indicates the rise of the Cold War:

Military Budget of US Government
Percent of total Budget
1945
$83 Billion
89 percent
1946
$43 Billion
78 percent
1947
$12 Billion
35 percent
1948
$9 Billion
30 percent
1950
$15 Billion
37.5 percent
1955
$40 Billion
64.5 percent

This chart also reflects that the distortions of the economy were less total than during World War II, but significantly diminished the nonmilitary uses of resources.

At the same time, actual military action was sporadic rather than constant. The total commitment spawned national confrontations and military diplomacy, but left periods when military deaths were insignificant overall.

The period was marked by episodic hot wars and proxy wars. The Korean War and the Vietnam War killed nearly a 100,000 Americans. Fought in the service of containment, these wars ended in stalemate and loss for the United States. The better strategy was proxy wars in which the United States and the Soviet Union sponsored sides in wars that devastated particular nations but did not involve significant military losses by the two superpowers. Examples were the Greek Civil War, the Chinese Civil War, the Indochinese War (precursor to the Vietnam War), the Angolan Civil War.

The period was marked by the terror of nuclear war. MAD rationalized the threat of nuclear war as essential to peace. The thick record of nuclear devastation documented at Hiroshima was generally suppressed, but the vision of nuclear devastation that took its place lay over everyone's day-to-day life.

The period left a heavily ordered society. The two-valued and polemic nature of the Cold War meant that there was a strong pressure toward conformity. At the same time, the motivational power of this conformity was strong. The interstate highway system was built as the "National Defense Highway Act" with provisions in the law giving priority to military traffic and assuring exits at military installations. After the Soviets placed the satellite Sputnik in orbit in 1957, the "National Defense Education Act" provided low interest loans to students to compete with Soviet technological knowledge and advancement.

The fight against Communism attained nearly the status in the American consciousness that the settlement of the West had had as a dominant motivational structure in the 1800s.
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But, the american consciousness quicky forgets And now the Cold War is less than a memory
and seems destined to be written out of history.

We can not, we must not let that happen. The American Cold War Veterans continue to bring
articles and happenings to the public to remind everyone why and how the Cold War was fought.
Attempting to shine light on some of the secrets, that even today can not be told.

Jerald Terwilliger
Vice Chairman
American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
"We Remember"