America's Foreign Policy

The continued tension and suspicion between the U. S. and U. S. S. R. over shadowed every victory against the "Red Menace". Examples of failures in the diplomatic arena during the Cold War can also be found in the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. Although President Eisenhower made a critical leap in foreign diplomacy when he met with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to discuss the possibility of a conference that would focus on German reunification and nuclear disarmament, he later irrevocably damaged relations with the U. S. S. R. during the U-2 incident. ( Sullivan)

When the American U-2 spy plane was shot down over Russian air space, Khrushchev's "demands for an apology and an end to the spy flights" (Vance, p.884) went unheard by the president. Eisenhower's refusal to give in to Khrushchev's terms subsequently led to the death of any possibility of a summit between the United States and U. S. S. R. for many years to come. President John Kennedy faired no better in his policies with the government of the Soviet Union and communist containment. Kennedy's failure to over throw the communist government of Cuba during the Bay of Pigs and the subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear devastation. Despite preventing an all out nuclear attack on the United States, Kennedy's actions lead to the Soviet's engaging "in the largest weapons buildup in their history." (Vance, p.893) After the crisis, Kennedy realized the future of the world depended upon "a rethinking of cold war diplomacy" (Vance, p.893) and set up a hot-line between Washington and Moscow as well as signed the Limited Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty but these actions were in vain. The foreign policy of almost all presidential administrations after Kennedy's would dramatically strain foreign relations and escalate the arms race between the U. S. and Russia. Decades later it would be the economic collapse of the Soviet Union not diplomatic measures that would bring an end to the Cold War. The United States' policy of communist containment not only impacted the way in which the federal government interacted with foreign nations it also influenced policies on how it would treat its citizens. The federal government greatly expanded its powers and created an atmosphere of paranoia and fear through propaganda campaigns, the Red Scare, and McCarthyism. The government utilized the Cold War "as the rationale for a massive reordering of governmental power". (Appleby) examples of legislature that expanded federal authority are the National Security Act of 1947, which established agencies such as the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The United States government took on a "Big Brother" mentality in the name of national security and extended its realm of influence into the daily lives of American citizens. During the Cold War the men, women, and children of the United States were so fearful of a nuclear war that they built backyard bomb shelters and participated in "duck and cover" air raid drills in anticipation of an atomic attack by the enemy. These feelings of paranoia, a direct result of a federal propaganda campaign against communism, "signaled a wide-spread anxiety about life in postwar American communities." (Sullivan) The Red Scare that occurred in Hollywood further demonstrates the effects of fears of communist activity in the United States. Beginning in 1945 the House Un-American Activities Committee began to wage a very public war on communist sympathizers in the entertainment industry. The HUAC conducted dramatic hearings and "had the power to subpoena witnesses and to compel them to answer all questions or face contempt of Congress charges." (Sullivan) The committee never found adequate evidence of a communist conspiracy in Hollywood but it did manage to ruin the careers of countless actors, actresses, writers, directors, and producers. Politicians played on communist fears in their campaigns for office and to justify the large increase in military spending initiated by the Cold War. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy managed to convince Americans that communism was "nothing less than a demonic force capable of undermining basic values." (Nordlinger, p. 56) McCarthy made wild accusations of communist conspiracies in the State Department but was never able to produce evidence to support his claims. ...

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