Containment and the Cold War: Reexaming the Doctrine of Containment as a Grand Strategy Driving US Cold War Interventions
With the post-war international balance of power gradually shifting towards a bipolar ideological world, the US as the new policeman of the newly emerging liberal world order was suddenly confronted with communist partisan conflicts in Greece and Italy. The American reaction, the Truman doctrine in 1947, was to lay the basis for the policy of containment of global communism, the Grand Strategy that should henceforth guide and inform US foreign policy. Even though there is scholarly disagreement over the origins of the Cold War, with the orthodox perspective ascribing the origins of the Cold War to an expansionist Soviet power, and the revisionist angle blaming an expansionist and politico-economic imperial US foreign policy, ‘containment’ undoubtedly became the politico-ideological justification for future US interventions to uphold and defend US spheres of influence and to protect its economic and political interests (prevent a creeping ‘Sovietization’, in official parlance).
With the outbreak of the Korean War and the subsequent militarization of containment, the freezing into two mutually opposed ideological blocs was cemented. Subsequently, the US intervened militarily in world regions where US strategic interests had to be safeguarded against communist revolutionary tendencies that would threaten to politically overturn US regional proxies and spill over into the wider region (domino effect). In this context, US intervention in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa became a logical spin-off of the overarching strategy of Soviet containment: Containing Soviet power would mean ensuring that US-friendly governments stayed in place in crucially strategic positions (regional proxy arrangements). But when the Vietnam War turned into a wearing war of attrition, US domestic support waned and gradually called into question the whole idea of Soviet containment by means of regional proxy wars in remote world regions.
Together with a period of Cold War détente, the openly confrontational containment policy of the early Cold War years was thus increasingly rendered inappropriate. US foreign policy thereafter sought more subtle ways to pursue a policy of Soviet containment. In this context, the support of dictatorial regimes and assassination plots against leaders of sovereign governments by means of infamous CIA covert operations remains a moral eyesore of US foreign policy during the Cold War period. American foreign policy strategically had sought to uphold (ideological, political, economic, societal) spheres of influence and a global network of regional proxies in a wider context of containment of Soviet influence as the prevalent Grand Strategy of foreign policy discourse.
Acharya, Amitav (1997): The Periphery as the Core: ‘The Third World and Security Studies’, in Krause, Keith and Williams, Michael C. (eds.), Critical Security Studies: Concepts and Cases, UCL Press, London.
Alperovitz, Gar (1965): Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam, Simon and Schuster, New York.
Bacevich, Andrew J. (2002): American Empire. The Realities & Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge/London.
Bailey, Thomas A. (1950): America Faces Russia, Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Barnes, Trevor (1981): ‘The Secret Cold War: The C.I.A. and American Foreign Policy in Europe, 1945-1956. Part I’, The Historical Journal, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 399-415
Bromley, Simon (2004): ‘American power and the future of international order’, in Brown, William, Bromley, Simon and Athreye, Suma (eds.), A world of Whose Making? Ordering the International: History, Change and Transformation, Pluto Press, London.
Chomsky, Noam (1992): ‘A View from Below’, in Hogan, Michael J. (ed.), The End of the Cold War. Its Meaning and Implications, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Crockatt, Richard (1995): the fifty years war: the United States and the Soviet Union in world politics, 1941-1991, Routledge, London.
Cullather, Nick (1999): Secret History: The CIA's classified account of its operations in Guatemala, 1952-1954. Stanford University Press, Stanford.
Doyle, Kate (2003): ‘The United States and Guatemala: Counterinsurgency and Genocide, 1954-1999’, Paper presented to US Department of State, May 15, 2003. Proquest Information and Learning and The National Security Archive, 2003
Freedman, Lawrence (1986): ‘The First Two Generations of Nuclear Strategists’, in Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, Paret, Peter (ed.), Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Gaddis, John Lewis (1978): ‘The Strategy of Containment’, in Containment: Documents on American Policy and Strategy, 1945-1950, Etzold, Thomas H. and Gaddis, John Lewis (eds.), Columbia University Press, New York.
-------------------------. (1997): We Now Know. Rethinking Cold War History. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Gibbs, David N. (2000): ‘The United Nations, international peacekeeping and the question of “impartiality”: revisiting the Congo operation of 1960’, in: The Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 359-382
Haig, Alexander M (1992): Inner Circles. How America Changed The World. A memoir. Warner Books, New York.
Horowitz, David (1971): The Free World Colossus: a critique of American foreign policy in the cold war, Hill & Wang, New York.
Jervis, Robert (1976): Perception and Misperception in International Relations. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Johnson, L.B. (1964): The Tonkin Gulf Incident. 5 August, Department of State Bulletin, viewed 10 February 2011, http://usa.usembassy.de/etexts/speeches/rhetoric/lbjgulf.htm
Johnson, Loch K. (2004): ‘Congressional Supervision of America’s Secret Agencies: The Experience and Legacy of the Church Committee’, in: Public Administration Review, vol. 64, no. 1, pp. 3-14.
Kennan, George (1946): ‘Cable: Basic Features of post-war Soviet outlook, as put forward by official propaganda machine. February 22, 1946. From: Foreign Relations of the United States: 1946, Vol. VI Eastern Europe; the Soviet Union. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969’, in The Truman Presidency. The origins of the imperial presidency and the National Security State, Theoharis, Athan G. (ed.), 1979, Heyden & Son, Ltd., London, pp. 696-709.
Kennan, George (1946): The Long Telegram. Available at: http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/documents/episode-1/kennan.htm
Kirkpatrick, Jeane (1979): ‘Dictatorships and Double Standards: Rationalism and Reason in Politics’, in: Commentary (New York), vol. 68, no. 5, pp. 34-45.
Kissinger, Henry A. (1957): Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, Harper & Brothers, New York.
-------------------------. (1994): Diplomacy, Simon & Schuster Ltd., New York.
Klare, Michael T. (1989): ‘Subterranean Alliances: America’s Global Proxy Network’, in: Journal of International Affairs, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 97-118.
Kolko, Gabriel (1968): the politics of war: the world and United States foreign policy, 1943-1945, Random House, New York.
------------------. (1988): Confronting the Third World. United States Foreign Policy 1945-1980, Pantheon Books, New York.
Kolko, Gabriel and Kolko, Joyce (1972): The Limits of Power: The World and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1945-1954, Harper & Row Publishers, New York.
LaFeber, Walter (1972): America, Russia, and the Cold War, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York.
Lebow, Richard Ned (1994): We all lost the Cold War, Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Lev, Daniel S. (1966): ‘Indonesia 1965: The Year of the Coup’, in: Asian Survey, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 103-110.
Litwak, Robert S. (1984): Détente and the Nixon Doctrine. American Foreign Policy and the Pursuit of Stability, 1969-1976, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Lorell, Mark & Kelley, Charles (1985): Casualties, Public Opinion, and Presidential Policy During the Vietnam War. A Project AIR FORCE Report. Santa Monica: The Rand Corporation, viewed 11 February 2011, http://www.rand.org/pubs/reports/2007/R3060.pdf
McClintock, Michael (2001): The United States and Operation Condor. Military Doctrine in an Unconventional War. Prepared for delivery at the 2001 meeting of the Latin American Studies Association, Washington DC, September 6-8, 2001
McClintock, Michael (2002): Instruments of Statecraft: US Guerilla Warfare, Counterinsurgency, and Counter-terrorism, 1940-1990, viewed on 11 February, http://www.statecraft.org/
Morgenthau, Hans Joachim (1951): In Defense of the National Interest, Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Nitze, Paul H (1989): From Hiroshima to Glasnost. At the Center of Decision. A memoir, Grove Weidenfeld, New York.
Nixon, R.M. (1969): ‘Vietnamization. 3 November, repr.’, in Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1969, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1971.
NSC 7 (1948): ‘The Position of the United States with Respect to Soviet-Directed World Communism. March 30, 1948’, in Containment: Documents on American Policy and Strategy, 1945-1950, Etzold, Thomas H. and Gaddis, John Lewis (eds.), Columbia University Press, New York.
NSC 68 (1950): United States Objectives and Programs for National Security, April 14, 1950, viewed on 12 February, http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/nsc-hst/nsc-68.htm
Painter, David (1995): ‘Explaining US Relations with the Third World’, in: Diplomatic History vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 525-48.
Palmer, Gregory (1978): The McNamara Strategy and the Vietnam War. Program budgeting in the Pentagon, 1960-1968. Greenwood Press, London.
Patman, Robert G. (2008): ‘US foreign policy in Africa’, in US Foreign Policy, Cox, Michael & Stokes, Doug (eds.), Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Policy Planning Staff (PPS) (1947): ‘Policy with Respect to American Aid to Western Europe. May 23, 1947’, in Containment: Documents on American Policy and Strategy, 1945-1950, Etzold, Thomas H. and Gaddis, John Lewis (eds.), Columbia University Press, New York.
Rowley, Christina and Weldes, Jutta (2008): ‘Identities and US foreign policy’, in US Foreign Policy, Cox, Michael & Stokes, Doug (eds.), Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Saull, Richard (2007): the Cold War and after: capitalism, revolution and superpower politics, Pluto Press, London.
------------------. (2008): ‘American Foreign Policy during the Cold War’, in US Foreign Policy, Cox, Michael & Stokes, Doug (eds.), Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Stokes, Doug (2005): America’s Other War. Terrorizing Colombia, Zed Books, London/ New York.
Talbott, Strobe (1988): Paul Nitze and the Nuclear Peace. The Master of the Game, Vintage Books, New York.
Truman, Harry (1947): Address before a joint session of Congress, March 12, 1947, viewed on 12 February, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/trudoc.asp
------------------. (1950): ‘Radio and Television Report to the American People on the Situation in Korea, 1 September, repr.’, in Public Papers of the Presidents: Harry S. Truman, 1950, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1965.
Williams, William Appleman (1959): The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, W.W. Norton, New York.
1.) Counterinsurgency, cf. logistical and financial assistance to the Nicaraguan Contras and other regional proxies against the Sandinista government; to the Mujahedeen rebels fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan or US military aid to the Colombian FARC