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Foreign Policy of the United State Coursework

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Explain the development of containment after World War ll and the reasons for conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union

After World War II ended, the United States policymakers were faced with the task of ensuring that the world was made safe by democracy, a fete that would be achieved by collective security and widespread prosperity. This vision of a postwar world by the United States was however challenged by the Soviet Union. The American policymakers responded to this challenge by building a set of international institutions that embodied both democratic and free-market principles, a situation that guaranteed a leadership position for the United States within these institutions (Jillson, 2008).

To contain the Soviet Union menace, United States strategists came up with ways to strengthen links with their potential allies while at the same time weakening their potential enemies. This created an international system organized around two dominant powers, a situation referred to as a bipolar vision. The bipolar vision saw the formulation of the Marshall plan in 1947 and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949.

According to United States history (2010), the Marshall Plan which was developed by Secretary of State George C. Marshall provided Europe with $15 billion in economic aid to help in its recovery program. This was done by the United States so that Europe would be a strong and wealthy continent that would help balance Soviet power and provide a market for U.S. goods. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which was formed in 1949 was a collective security pact between the United States, Canada, and Western Europe to oppose any further expansion and aggression by the Soviet Union on Europe. The Soviet Union responded to NATO by forming its alliance composed of the communist states of Eastern Europe which were known as the Warsaw Pact (Jillson, 2008, p.421).

Both NATO and Warsaw were pursuing a policy of deterrence which was a military doctrine and strategy that sought to amass sufficient power in the form of nuclear and conventional weapons to be able to deter an opponent or enemy from resorting to force. The Soviet Union eventually collapsed and the Cold War ended (Jillson, 2008)

What happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis and why is it an important case of Cold War confrontation?

The Cuban missile crisis was seen by historians as the closest thing to nuclear destruction in the world. For six days, from the time President John F. Kennedy informed the country of the Soviet missile build-up in Cuba to the pulling back of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, the American people lived under the constant threat of a nuclear disaster. The genesis of the Cuban Crisis happened shortly after a visit to Moscow by Raul Castro, Cuba’s defense minister, and the brother to Cuba’s president Fidel Castro, in July 1962 (Divine, 1988).

The Soviet Union began sending military personnel and weapons to Cuba after the defeat of Cuban exiles by the Americans at the Bay of Pigs. The Russians explained the weapons and personnel were meant to give Fidel Castro the power to defend his regime against any future attacks by the United States. However, Republican politicians raised the alarm at the size of the Soviet Union’s build-up of missiles so close to the United States. They put pressure on Kennedy’s administration to take action which resulted in American U-2 planes performing surveillance and taking photographs of Cuba that revealed the construction of a surface-to-air missile site (Divine, 1988).

Further aerial surveillance showed that the Soviet Union was in the process of building launching sites for both 1,000 and 2,200-mile range missiles. This intelligence information saw the armed forces move their position from a defense condition to a war alert. Submarines that had Polaris armed nuclear weapons took up their stations at sea within range of the Soviet Union while B-47 bombers were stationed in civilian airfields around the United States. The B-52 bombers that had nuclear weapons were left airborne in the event of an assault. The planes together with 105 short-range missiles in Europe and 156 intercontinental missiles in the U.S. were ready to attack the Soviet Union at the command of President Kennedy. This was seen as a Cold War confrontation case because of the Soviet Union’s involvement in the Cuban missile crisis and also because of the confrontation with the U.S. after World War II (Divine, 1988).

Explain how the United States got into a conflict in Vietnam and how did the U.S. end its role in Indochina?

The Vietnam War was the longest conflict fought by the United States against another country. The conflict between the two countries began when a destroyer vessel belonging to the US was attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats on international waters off the Gulf of Tonkin while it was on a reconnaissance mission. The US destroyer responded to the attack by firing at one of the Vietnamese’s torpedo boats while at the same time damaging two other’s with air assistance from the USS Ticonderoga carrier (United States history, 2010)

President Lyndon Johnson reacted to the Gulf of Tonkin attacks by sending 3,500 marines in March 1965 to South Vietnam to protect the U.S. military bases stationed there. The escalation of troops from America began in July with fighting reaching a full scale in 1966. The year 1967 saw both the U.S. and Vietnam increase its military forces, a situation that saw a large number of war casualties.

The United States involvement in the Indochina War began in 1945 at the Potsdam Conference and went on for many years culminating in a final withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975. The Indochina War was caused by an outbreak of fighting between Viet Minh soldiers and the French. The Viet Minh soldiers violated the ceasefire agreement which required them to leave Haiphong. The fighting that broke out saw 1,000 Vietnamese being killed by the French. The U.S. was the main financier of France’s control in Indochina. The War in Indochina was ended by the Geneva Accords signed in 1954 which effectively terminated French control and the U.S. support of War (United States history, 2010).

Power discusses several issues of human rights since the 1970s. Select one of these issues-Cambodia, Rwanda, or Bosnia and explain what policies the United States pursued and the limitations of American and other outside actions.

Cambodia is a country that was mostly characterized by complex political regimes, tragedy, death, and excessive violence. The United States bombing campaigns in the year 1969 to 1975 played a major role in the country’s destabilization. The Khmer Rouge which assumed power from 1975 to 1978 was viewed as a radical communist regime under which 1.5 to 2 million Cambodian people lost their lives. The invasion of Cambodia by American troops and a coup by General Lon Nol strengthened Cambodian support for the insurgent by Khmer Rouge guerrillas. The Khmer Rouge was characterized by forced massive relocations of the urban population, forced labor, executions, mass murders, and arbitrary violence in the form of brutal beatings and rape (Robertson, 1997).

As Merill & Patterson (2009) indicates, the United States claimed it adopted a policy of providing the non-communist coalition with the assistance that was deemed to be nonlethal. Critics viewed the United States’ claim that it was not supporting the war to be either untrue or the alliance America had with the Coalition Government in Cambodia rendered the policy to have no meaning. The Paris Peace Accords which was signed in 1991 to end the war in Cambodia saw the creation of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) that was charged to end the Khmer Rouge Regime and restore order in Cambodia (Robertson, 1997).

While UNTAC was able to restore order in Cambodia, the authority did not succeed in dealing with the unstable power-sharing arrangement between the two Prime Ministers; Prince Norodom Ranariddh of the Royalist Party and Hun Sen of the Cambodia People’s Party.

What were the major issues of American foreign policy in the 1950s? Justify your response by addressing the significance of each.

A major problem that emerged in the 1950s with regards to foreign policy was when President Truman decided not to extend diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic of China and regardless of the number of opportunities he had to do so. Truman’s decision was seen as controversial because it highlighted the question of what criteria the president considered in extending diplomatic recognition beyond the standards established by international laws. Another reason for the decision was that President Truman had become involved in a partisan debate that was initiated by the Republicans and the China lobby which criticized him for losing China to the Communists (Drachman & Shank, 1997).


Divine, R.A. (1988). The Cuban missile crisis. New York: Markus Weiner Publishing.

Drachman, E.R. & Shank, A. (1997). Presidents and foreign policy: countdown to ten controversial decisions. Albany, New York: Sate University of New York.

Jillson, C. (2008). American Government: political change and institutional development. 4th Edition. New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group. Pp 420-421.

Merill, D. & Patterson, T.G. (Eds.) (2009). Major problems in American foreign relations volume I: to 1920. Boston, U.S.: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Robertson, P. (1997). Web.

United States history (2010). Web.

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