“Behind much of the US foreign policy in the first two decades of the Cold War lay the memory of appeasement. The generation of politicians and officials who designed the containment strategy had come of age in the shadow of Munich, the conference in 1938 at which the Western democracies had appeased Hitler by giving him part of Czechoslovakia, paving the road to WWII. Applying the lessons of Munich, American presidents believed that appeasing Stain (and subsequent Soviet leaders) would have the same result. Thus in . . . Korea, . . . Vietnam, [etc.] the US staunchly resisted the Soviets—or what it perceived as Soviet influence[,] drawing Americans into armed conflicts—and convinced them to support repressive, right wing regimes—that compromised, as much as supported stated American principles.”
“There is, still today, a fundamental misunderstanding about why the United States entered the Cold War. There is no doubt that the Soviets imposed repressive, and when challenged, brutal dictatorships on Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, East Germany, and Czechoslovakia. But it is equally clear that the Soviets were initially willing to accept governments friendly to them in these countries until the United States began to make threatening moves on both their ideology and their security. During this post-war period, it was the United States with its atomic monopoly, its creation of NATO, its hyper-spending on defense, and its paranoia, which bears the lion’s share of responsibility for starting the Cold War. In all these matters after liberating Western Europe after WWII, the United States was now signaling fear and aggression. Why this fear? We are separated from the rest of the world by two enormous oceans and are still susceptible to fear Is it necessary to exaggerate the fear of persecution from abroad? We are the most heavily armed nation in the world; but when any nation goes to an extreme degree to protect itself, it’s inevitable that even this amount of protection will never seem psychologically to be enough. It is also often true that the image of the enemy will grow proportionate to the size of the defense, resulting in an overreaction and accelerated spending of energies in a futile attempt to liquidate that fear which never seems to erode. In hindsight, US leaders had exaggerated the threat from an enemy THEY felt THEY needed, wanting to frame the world as an existential clash between two antagonistic social systems.”
Summarize the key argument from each historian. Compare the two statements. What notable similarities do you see between Henretta and Kuznick? Differences?
Have these authors presented a plausible argument that the United States’ actions are mainly to blame for the origin/rise of tensions between itself and the USSR in the early decades of the Cold War? If you agree, explain how the evidence proves this statement. If you disagree, present evidence to the contrary in your response.