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Civilisation Américaine : Histoire des Etats-Unis des années 1930 à la période contemporaine

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Civilisation américaine



  • Orale en TD (coeff.1) 30 JANVIER
  • DST 2h (Commentaire ou dissertation)
  • DST 3h (Commentaire ou dissertation)

THE COLD WAR – 23/01/2017

1945 - 1960

The cold war is the conflict between the communist nations let by the Soviet Union and the democratic nations led by USA, after WWII.

Was fought by all means, a lot of propaganda. Was also an economic war, diplomatic haggling and occasional military clashes. Fought in all places across the war, also in neutral states, in newly independent nations and even in outer space.

The USA and USSR found themselves in a new military and diplomatic rivalry even before the end of the war (final surrender Germany). The managed one last act of cooperation: in the founding of the UN (San Francisco, CA – 1945, June 26). It was positive but immediately after the USA and USSR realized that they could veto each other proposals, so each of them would have to go outside the UN if they wanted smth to happen.

  • 2001 Bush knows the UN won’t give permission to attack Iraq so he acted outside the UN.

Historians so far have not been able to reach any agreement on the exact time in which the cold war really began. However it is probably safe to say that since Pr. Truman declared an anti-communist policy the Cold War began (it is reasonable to think so) – March 12, 1947.

American fears of communism

Britain declared on Feb 24th 1947 that he could not give financial and military aid to Greek government. And they absolutely needed it, because Greece at that time was in danger of being overthrown by Turkey Guerillas.

Another important country at the time was Turkey, he was threaten as well and this was frightening for the USA because they knew that if Turkey and Greece fall under control of the Soviets, the USSR would have a tremendous power.

So Truman (democratic president, 33rd) -> TRUMAN DOCTRINE: “it must be the policy of the united states to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures”. This was clearly anti-communist, was somehow a declaration of war to USSR.

The speech was followed by massive military and financial aid to Greece and Turkey and the communist guerillas were defeated by the American troops in both countries.


Advisor, diplomat, political scientist and historian, he is best known as the father of containment. This was the American policy to prevent the spread of communism abroad -> Key figure in the emergence of Cold War.

He inspired the Truman doctrine and behind the policy of containing” the USSR, that gave him a key role in the Cold War.

  • The Long Telegram (1946, Feb. 22)
  • July 1947 Article on Foreign Affairs “The Sources of Soviet Conduct”

Both argued that the soviet regime was inherently expansionist and they had to be contained especially in areas strategically important for the US. Send from the US embassy in Moscow to Washington DC. The telegram was prompted by American investigations about soviet behaviors, especially with the regard of their refusal to join the newly IMF and the World Bank.

In the telegram Kennan outlined soviets activities and he proposed the containment policy. The name “long” telegram comes from the fact that it was 8000 words long.

The second document began as a private report prepared for the secretary of defense James Forrestal. It was not supposed to be public but on the urge of H. F. Armstrong, editor of Foreign Affairs, he obtained permission to publish it under the pseudonym “X”. It was not intended to be a statement (not official position) but very soon a lot of people realized that “X” was actually Kennan, so it became “official”. It became another foundation text of the Cold War and expressed the Truman admin.

Kennan played a leading role in the development of many Cold War policies.


In 1947, under this anti-communist hysteria Truman ordered to draw a list of possible subversives in the government. The federal government could dismiss anyone “if reasonable grounds exist for belief that the person involved is disloyal”. Truman associated communism with fascism and Nazism, and for him c. was probably the worst of the three.


American is accustomed to viewing the Cold War as a determined and heroic response by the US to communist aggression orchestrated by the USSR. This image was carefully constructed by presidents and their advisors. This view was also incorporated in some of the first academic works of the cold war, but that was later rebutted by a wide variety of revisionist historians in Moscow as well as in Washington.

  • John L. GADDIS “We now know: rethinking Cold War history”, 1997. Arguably the most important historian of the Cold War and he said that the Cold War was a struggle of the good vs. evil (Bush uses this too) of wise and democratic leaders in the west reacting to the crimes and inhumanities of J. Stalin “the brutal dictator”. Now this interpretation places the Cold War into an ideological frame. It is one way to understand American foreign policy between the end of the WWII and the breakup of the USSR in 1991.

For quite some time now many economists, historians, political scientists have been studying the cold war in a much larger global context. They do so thx to new documents even from Russia and USSR as well as other documents from the US and its allies. The documents show that Stalin actually conducted a more complex and inconsistent foreign policy than previously imagined by Americans.

The documents also revealed that American officials initially did not regarded Stalin as an unacceptable partner. They could have collaborated with him to reconstruct the global … even if they know he was a dictator.

Stalin had no master plan to spread revolution and conquer the world (he had the intention but not the plan). He was determined to establish a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe but at the same time wanted to get along with his wartime allies to control the rebirth of Germany and Japan. As a consequence even Stalin cautioned communist followers in Europe against provocative actions. Within his own country Stalin was cruel, almost genocidal – double faced personality.

American and British officials were initially eager to work with him.


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