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Cold War

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The good ol' days.
Under the four oceans and the seven seas, American and Soviet submarines fight a near-war every day of the year. Relentlessly, they search for one another, trailing an adversary when they can and trying to evade one when detected. They make every move of a real war, except shoot. The submarines operate in what Adm. James D. Watkins, the former Chief of Naval Operations, has called "an era of violent peace".
—Richard Halloran, New York Times, 1986.[1]
It doesn't stop
at the water's edge

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As usual
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The Cold War was a prolonged period of geopolitical conflict between the United States (and her allies) and the Soviet Union (and her allies). 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.[2] 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. 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 became part of the superpower dick-measuring contest.[3]

Due to the nature of the conflict, it's difficult to really pin down either a start or an end date. The classical start date for the Cold War is 1946 after the publication of the "Long Telegram" by a US diplomat in Moscow, which convinced the US government that the Soviets were a hostile force that needed to be forcibly contained.[4][5] That being said, it's also quite reasonable to place the start of the Cold War at the Yalta Conference during World War Two, when Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin diplomatically grappled with each other as to what a post-Nazi Europe would look like.[6][7] Or perhaps it began even earlier, in 1943, with the US discovery of widespread Soviet industrial espionage and their subsequent retaliations.[8] The end date, meanwhile, is usually taken to be either the fall of the Berlin Wall or else the dissolution of the Soviet empire.

There is a recurring battle among historians over who "started" the Cold War, with traditionalists blaming Stalin and revisionists blaming Truman.[9] Most current scholars believe that between the mutual suspicion and the strongly differing plans for the post-war system, the question is really moot. When the Soviets were around, they claimed the struggle started when a US-UK coalition invaded Russia during their civil war[10] and tried to assassinate Lenin (some revisionists still rock this look).[11] Anyway, the winners get to write history, or end it.

There is also debate today over who ended the Cold War. A certain American 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 in the reality-based community that it was a combination of internal difficulties in the USSR (namely a large military budget, ethnic tensions and the fact that command economies are stupid), 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.[12][13]

Defeating the Soviets involved the clandestine takeover of dozens of countries and attempting to control "The Grand ChessboardWikipedia's W.svg" 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 great power system that accompanied the Cold War was very stable, 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.[14] 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[edit]

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.
Gore Vidal[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

Effect on technology[edit]

Thanks to the Cold War, there has been tremendous advances in technology.[18] Many things people today take for granted, such as the Internet, long distance calling, various computer programming languages, satellites, lasers, and supersonic flight, all resulted from the Cold War. While these probably still would've emerged, technological progress drastically sped up in this 45-year-long competition. The downside is major advancements in nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. But these are used with relative rarity.

Other cold wars[edit]

"The First Cold War"[edit]

As noted above, the pre-WWII era is often seen as a prequel to the Truman-Stalin drama, particularly where Woodrow Wilson and Lenin are concerned.[19][20] Indeed, 1918, much like 1950, was a year with more "hot" war than cold as US and Red Army troops shed blood on opposing sides in the Russian Civil War.

Cold War II[edit]

Used to refer to the renewed tensions between Russia and the West, with Russia once again trying to rebuild its former empire. Unlike Cold War I, which was between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, this time NATO seems to be mainly fighting just Russia. Like Cold War I, 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, Russia 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[edit]

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 Shi'a theodemocracy of Iran. Various 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 oil.[note 1]

Indian Cold War[edit]

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.[21] 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[edit]

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 even they do so with reluctance, and this has lead to controversy. Tensions started at a little border skirmish called the Korean War. Both were dictatorships until the 80s, when the South democratized. When the Cold War ended, the South Korean economy entered the developed world, and North Korea's four decades of growth fell to a sharp decline. Contrary 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.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Today, an alliance with Saudi Arabia to ensure the flow of oil becomes less necessary thanks to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling, both of which have enabled drillers to exploit deposits previously inaccessible, and the renewable energy boom.


  1. A Silent Battle Surfaces Richard Halloran. New York Times. DEC. 7, 1986
  2. Even the Olympic Games were a symbolic battleground between the countries associated with each side.
  3. Centre Stage in the Cold War, Torontoist
  4. The Long Telegram Wikisource.
  5. The Long Telegram Teaching American History.
  6. The Yalta Conference University of Luxembourg.
  7. Start of the Cold War - The Yalta Conference and containment Khan Academy.
  8. Red Spies in America: Stolen Secrets and the Dawn of the Cold War Katherine A.S. Sibley. University of Kansas. Review.
  9. Who started the Cold War? U.S. and Russian historians clash Russia Beyond.
  10. "David S. Foglesong, America's Secret War Against Bolshevism: U.S. Intervention in the Russian Civil War, University of North Carolina Press, 1996," Reviewed by Michael J. Carley. Published on H-Russia (June, 1996)
  11. Martin Sixsmith, "Fanny Kaplan's Attempt to Kill Lenin" in Was Revolution Inevitable?: Turning Points of the Russian Revolution, edited by Tony Brenton (Oxford University Press, 2017 ), p.185-192
  12. The Cold War's Unexpected Ending, Willson Center
  13. The Ghosts of ’91, Slate
  14. For example, the libertarian Cato Institute
  15. Dreaming War, 2002 (originally published in Vanity Fair, 1999)
  16. An in-depth article and discussion of Red Scare propaganda at UPenn
  17. See Wikipedia for a comprehensive listWikipedia's W.svg
  18. Top Ten Technologies We Have Because of the Cold War
  19. Wilson Center, Kennan Institute "The First Cold War: The Legacy of Woodrow Wilson in U.S.-Soviet Relations, by Eugene Trani"