Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Cold Wars

Conner Lewis, World History 4                                                                                      2/8/15
Thoughts and Reflections On: The Two Thousand Years' War
Article by Walter Karp
Published By Harper's Magazine
Publishing Date: January, 1981
The Cold Wars

The Cold War was a time from 1945 to 1990 during which two ideologies, and two primary nations which each supported their own side, faced off during a time not of war, but instead of heavy political tension. The two ideologies which faced off were communism, backed by the Soviet Union, and capitalism, backed by the United States of America. Communism is an economic and political system which developed from Marxism, a government and ideology developed by Karl Marx, and which focuses around the idea of complete governmental control over the economy and the government's people. The government regulates both what products and supply the people receive, theoretically attempting to make everyone in the nation equal in pay, wealth, and goods. The government runs an economy which is not for profit, and merely for providing the resources which the populace needs. In direct opposition, capitalism is a form of government in which the government takes a laid back approach towards the economy, allowing it to run independently, where business' are owned by private business owners that are primarily focused on gaining a profit, and for self gain. The wealth is not evenly distributed in this form of economical philosophy, and instead is rather open and even encourages the formation of the upper, middle, and lower class income workers, as each works as a rung in the process of the market. The Cold War was mainly a conflict between these two
ideologies, each being advocated by their supporting nation, during which each side attempted to "convert" as many nations and governments as possible to their ideology, thus making more allies and a stronger alliance in total, while at the same time preventing the opposing ideology from spreading too much. In this way the Cold War was a grab for allies, as each side scrambled to scoop up as much of the world as it could in their philosophy. The idea of containment stated that regimes fall in a domino effect, and that unless it is stopped at the source, more and more nations will change to that ideology. This idea lead to ruthless and rash assaults on nations attempting to change, in an effort to stop the growth before it started. The Cold War was also the first war during which humanity had the ability to destroy itself via nuclear warfare, and this lead to the idea of mutually assured destruction. This was the main reason that all out warfare did not occur, as both sides had a large enough nuclear arsenal to destroy the opposing side. This meant any open conflict would lead to mutual destruction, thus stopping both sides from performing open conflict. The Cold War ended in 1990 as the Soviet Union began to open up as well as it began to grow more and more bankrupt. The Cold War bears many striking similarities to the Peloponnesian War. Both wars were fought between two major super powers, in this case Athens and Sparta, each with their own strengths which prevented them from destroying each other. The Athenian navy was simply better than the Spartan one, while the Spartan army was dominant of the Athenian army. This lead to a stand off, similar to what Mutually Assured Destruction caused in the Cold War, during which neither side could destroy the other. This lead both wars to be fought over allies, as the Athenians and Spartans both struggled for Greek allies to give them the upper hand. The two sides were also opposing each other in their ideologies in both wars. The Athenians were ardent supporters of democracy, while the Spartans fought for the oligarchical governments. This is similar to the communist versus capitalist conflict of the Cold War. The different sides also bear surprising resemblance as well, the democratic Athenians with their urban life style are very similar to the USA during the Cold War, while the totalitarian, large, and agricultural nation of Sparta bears remarkable resemblance to the Soviet Union. This similarity is something which Thucydides, author of The History of the Peloponnesian
War,
alluded to, as he often states that he writes for future generations to learn from the mistakes of the past. The USA and Soviet Union could have learned a lot through reading the writings of Thucydides. They could have learned that during times of strife such as war, humanity will often be driven to its most base level, which was very evident through the development of McCarthyism during the Cold War, which was the belief that many spies existed in the US at the time, and that they could and should be arrested with little to no factual evidence. They also could have foreseen that even great nations can fall, as war parties gain control and the morals and principles which once made that nation great are discarded as the war becomes the most important aspect of life. It is very important to to make the same mistakes as others in the past, as it is the only way to move forward and not be stuck in a cycle of ferocity and barbarity. History can help people achieve this by showing them what occurred in the past, and leaving a road map which clearly marks how to avoid the same crisis as those who came before did. History allows for the clear analysis of past mistakes, which can lead to more thought through and tactical choices in the future.

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