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It was called a "cold" war because the two sides never directly engaged in war with each other, instead using diplomacy, deterrence, money, ideology, subversion, propaganda and proxies to try to best each other. The main reason this happened, as opposed to eventual direct armed confrontation, was due to each of the "superpowers" possessing nuclear weapons, which, to most sane people, made the idea of a "hot" war unthinkable. (In fact, both sides worked to make a nuclear war an impossibility, referred to as Mutually Assured Destruction.)
Most of the events of the time period were related to the Cold War in some way. One of the superpowers usually took sides in almost every conflict, usually provoking a response from the other. Even minor things like the movement of a well-known ballet star from one country to the other could be seen as part of the Cold War.
There is a recurring battle among Western historians over who "started" the Cold War, with traditionalists blaming Joseph Stalin and revisionists blaming Truman. Most current scholars believe that between the mutual suspicion and the strongly differing plans for the post-war system, the question is really moot. However, the fact that the Soviet Union was already spying on the US before the end of WWII while the US was instead concentrating on Germany provides evidence that the USSR bears more blame than the US. Which is nice and convenient, since they're not around to complain about getting dumped with the blame. Anyway, the winners get to write history, or end it.
There is also debate today over who ended the Cold War. One conservative party claims that
Jesus Saint Reagan singlehandedly ended the Cold War with a speech in front of a wall. However, it is mostly accepted that it was a combination of internal difficulties in the USSR (namely a large military budget, ethnic tensions and the fact that command economies really suck), Gorbachev's attempts at reforms, a Pope, and pressure from various US presidents. It is an oft-forgotten (and inconvenient) truth that the Soviet Union's downfall was a surprise for all parties.
Defeating the Soviets required the clandestine takeover of dozens of countries and acquiring full control over "The Grand Chessboard" of Asia, home to more than 2/3 of the world’s energy reserves. Pretty much every war of the past fifty years has been runoff of this goal. Many political scientists have declared that the bipolar system that accompanied the Cold War was a very stable system, and many fear that the current unipolar world could end up more war-prone than before; however, many also believe that the data so far suggests otherwise. The number of countries possessing nuclear weapons has steadily increased over two decades, so it's not all sunshine and roses though.
Effect on United States culture
“”Thus were two generations of Americans treated by their overlords until, in the end, at the word 'communism' there is an orgasmic Pavlovian reflex just as the brain goes dead.
The Cold War had a profound effect on the culture and attitudes of the United States, and the lingering effects of these changes are still present in the average American's worldview today. The Cold War spawned McCarthyism and the fear of communists everywhere, accompanied by a slew of anti-leftist propaganda. Though McCarthy and his compatriots were eventually dismissed as demagogues and fear-mongers, they did manage to significantly affect the American psyche, instilling a knee-jerk hysteria of socialism and communism into many Americans. These undertones can still be seen today in the actions of anti-Obama protestors, many of whom are most concerned about Barack Obama's supposed "socialist" sympathies. Americans. The Cold War also influenced cinema and popular culture, and many of the films produced during this era are based upon the concepts of MAD, the bipolar state of world politics, or the Cold War culture.
The upside of the Cold War is huge technological advancements. Well, that's an upside and a downside. The upside is that the internet, long distance calling, computer programming languages, many modern computer technologies, satellites, various other advancements in computing, lasers, and supersonic flight all resulting from the Cold War. Imagine living without those. That means no live TV, no satellite TV, no GPS, no online gaming, you have to leave the house for your job, no internet, and at this point offline PCs would likely be new technology. While these probably still would've emerged, technological progress drastically sped up in this 45-year-long pissing contest. The downside is major advancements in nuclear weaponry (the most powerful, the Tsar Bomba, had a blast equal to 50 megatons of TNT, or about 1,570 times the power of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined), the horrors of Agent Orange, and the fact that this shows how much more motivation comes from hatred than cooperation. Also, neither RationalWiki nor our bigoted rival Conservapedia would likely exist, and you wouldn't have a source for uncredited facts or mild acquaintances online you consider friends due to your lack of them in real life.
Other Cold Wars
Second Cold War
Used to refer to the renewed tensions between Russia and the West, with Russia once again trying to rebuild its former empire. Unlike the First Cold War, in which the leading powers were the United States and the Soviet Union, this time it seems to mainly be the European Union fighting just Russia. Like the First Cold War, proxy wars are commonplace, such as in Syria. However, at this point, it's pretty much been proven that neither Assad nor the Rebels have any chance of winning, Putin and the United States both respectively continue to back them instead of the only democratic side. How this will end is unknown.
Middle Eastern Cold War
In a continuation of the centuries-old Sunni-Shi'a conflict, the Middle Eastern Cold War is led by the conflict between the Sunni absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia and the pseudo-democratic Shi'a theocracy of Iran. A bunch of smaller countries in the Middle East have joined both sides, to the degree that Yemen descended into a civil war over it, which obviously almost immediately become a proxy conflict. The US has intervened heavily on the side of the Saudis due to it having the most
Indian Cold War
The Indian Cold War is a decades-old conflict between India and Pakistan, with Bangladesh to a certain extent backing India. This mostly consists of border disputes over Kashmir Valley, a mostly Muslim region under Indian control, and has turned to actual warfare four times. As in the major Cold War, both sides have a shit-ton of nukes simply to deter each other. Both sides still feel resentment for the genocidal riots resulting from the Indian partition.
Korean Cold War
The Korean Cold War is between North and South Korea. If you don't know which side is better, this is not the website for you. China is pretty much the only country that backs North Korea, and this had lead to controversy. Tensions started at a little border skirmish called the Korean War. Both were dictatorships until the 80s, when the South democratized. Contradictory to its southern neighbor, the North has become increasingly authoritarian since they lost their Soviet backing, and this cold war can only end badly, possibly even in World War III.
- What we almost brought upon ourselves
- Dr. Strangelove, one of the most chilling (or hilarious) movies to come out of the Cold War.
- War on terror - Folks, make sure to trade in your old, outdated Communism for the new and improved Terrorism! Features include: excuses to bomb any country, and starting wars without declaring them! No fuss, no muss! And don't forget folks that with Terrorism™ you can keep your wars going forever! It's sure to be a hit with all of your defense contractor friends!
- Even the Olympic Games were a symbolic battleground between the countries associated with each side.
- Centre Stage in the Cold War, Torontoist
- The Cold War's Unexpected Ending, Willson Center
- The Ghosts of ’91, Slate
- For example, the libertarian Cato Institute
- Dreaming War, 2002 (originally published in Vanity Fair, 1999)
- An in-depth article and discussion of Red Scare propaganda at UPenn
- See Wikipedia for a comprehensive list
- Top Ten Technologies We Have Because of the Cold War
- Some Obscure Website on the Tsar Bomba