|What part did one or more of the following play in US foreign policy: The Berlin Blockade; Korea; and Cuba?
The outcome of World War Two resulted in the emergence of two superpowers, the USA and the USSR. The different political outlooks of both superpowers led to the cold war that lasted until the collapse of communism in 1989. In response to what the USA regarded as the threat of the spread of communism, President Truman adopted a policy of containment, resisting any efforts to spread communism by the USSR. From 1945-1989 a series of crises in international affairs heightened the cold war and brought the two superpowers to the brink of direct military conflict on several occasions.
Following World War Two the Allies divided Germany into four separate zones administered separately by USA, Britain, France and the USSR. Berlin resided in the USSR zone and was also divided into four sections. The Western powers wished to bring together the four zones in Germany into one unified state. However, the USSR resisted these moves as it regarded Germany as a threat and wanted it to remain weak and divided. In an effort to prevent social unrest similar to what Europe had experienced after World War One, the USA implemented the Marshall Plan. This plan provided massive economic aid to Western Europe to rebuild its shattered economies. In 1949 the USA, France and Britain introduced a new currency into the zones they controlled, the Deutschmark. Stalin regarded this as a threat and responded by blockading Berlin in an effort to force the western powers to withdraw from the city. This posed a direct challenge to USA foreign policy.
In response to the blockade the USA launched Operation Vittles, a large scale airlift of supplies to Berlin. The USA demonstrated a determination to resist efforts by Stalin to gain control over all of Berlin and after 320 days the blockade was lifted. The USA were successful in resisting efforts by the USSR to drive the western powers out of Berlin. The crisis led to the establishment of NATO, a military alliance of western European countries and the USA to resist Soviet expansion. The breaking of the Berlin Blockade and the subsequent establishment of NATO were major successes for US foreign policy and Truman’s policy of containment.
Just as the crisis over the Berlin blockade was being resolved a further crisis emerged in Korea. In the aftermath of World War Two Korea was also divided into zones with the USSR administering the Northern zone and the USA administering the Southern zone. Both superpowers established puppet regimes to represent their interests. In June 1950 North Korea invaded the South in an attempt to establish a unified communist state in Korea. This sparked a further crisis in the cold war as it was a direct challenge to the US policy of containment.
Following initial successes by the North Korean army, the US intervened under the mandate of the United Nations and forced the North Korean army into a retreat almost to the border with China. The newly established communist regime in China regarded this as a direct threat and invaded North Korea driving back the American troops. After this the war became a stalemate with neither side able to gain the upper hand. US General McArthur considered using nuclear weapons to defeat the communist forces but the American government regarded this as likely to provoke a response from the USSR who had just developed their own nuclear bombs and could result in a full-scale war between the USA and the USSR. Eventually a peace treaty was agreed which re-established the border between North and South Korea and the crisis dissipated. The US policy of containment was maintained and South Korea remained under US control.
The Cuban Missile Crisis resulted in the most significant crisis between the USA and the USSR during the cold war and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. An American backed dictator in Cuba, Batista, was overthrown by a rebellion led by Fidel Castro in 1958. After being rejected by the USA, Castro went to the USSR for assistance. A failed invasion attempt by Cuban exiles backed by the American government further reinforced links between Cuba and the USSR. Along with financial aid the USSR began placing nuclear missiles in Cuba within easy reach of most US cities. When the US discovered that the missiles were being placed in Cuba they blockaded the island. This led to the most severe crisis for US foreign policy and it policy of containment.
The crisis lasted nearly two weeks before the USSR agreed to withdraw its missiles from Cuba in return for a guarantee that the USA would not invade Cuba and would withdraw missiles from Turkey. On several occasions during the crisis both superpowers almost plunged the world into nuclear war. The outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis is seen as a success for US foreign policy because they forced the withdrawal of Russian missiles. However, the communist regime of Castro continued in power and as a result it could be argued that the US policy of containment failed in relation to Cuba.
The Berlin Blockade, the Korean War and the Cuban Missile Crisis all proved to be periods of tension between the world superpowers and a test of the US approach to foreign policy. The USA followed the Truman doctrine and the policy of containment during this period with relative success. The USA prevented a communist takeover of Berlin and South Korea and, while it failed to prevent communism in Cuba, the US did succeed in forcing the USSR to withdraw nuclear missiles from Cuba. However, just as the Cuban Missile Crisis was ending the USA was already getting embroiled in a major war in Vietnam as they attempted to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam. The Vietnam War was to prove a disaster for US foreign policy as the US military suffered a major defeat at the hands of communist rebels and this undermined the ability of the US government to use its military power to implement its foreign policy objectives in the future.