The Cold War was a period of time during which the United States and the Soviet Union competed was did not actually engage in a war. In order to defeat the Soviet Union during this time, the United States engaged in a policy of containment. The purpose of containment was to hold the Soviets within their own borders so that they would not expand and would eventually collapse because of flaws in their communist system. Some methods of containment required the United States to help other nations in resisting the Soviets. The Marshall Plan was one example. In it, the US gave economic aid to rebuilding European countries in order to lessen the Soviet’s appeal. A similar method, the Truman Doctrine pledged economic and military support to any country that was resisting Soviet aggression. More direct methods featured bringing material support during the Berlin Blockade to help overcome a Soviet Blockade and offering actual military aid to South Korea during the invasion of the Korean War. This combination of direct and indirect assistance was designed to keep the Soviet Union within its own borders.
In addition to these methods of containment, the United States also increased their own military presence in order to deter Soviet Aggression. By building up our military during the Arms Race with the USSR, we hoped to dissuade them from starting a direct conflict. This was similar to our strategy with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO was an alliance where member nations pledged to defend each other in case of an attack. Both methods sought to discourage the Soviet Union from aggression by promising massive retaliation.
Overall, containment represented a comprehensive strategy by the United States designed to halt Soviet expansion. Through direct and indirect means, the US accomplished this goal during the Cold War Era.
The Cold War was a time of great international tension. While that tension played out on the international stage, domestic life in the United States was altered to a great extent both through fear and prosperity. During this era, American fears of communism gave rise to Joe McCarthy. His approach to politics, dubbed McCarthyism featured a stream of unfounded accusations designed to discredit his opponents. This was possible only because of the fear Americans felt. These same fears lead to the growth of the House un-American Activities Committee. They were tasked with rooting out communist influences in the United States. One of their main weapons was the blacklist where people of suspect loyalty saw their names published. It became difficult if not impossible for these people to find employment. A favorite target of HUAC was the entertainment industry where many saw their careers ruined. The fear of the Cold War made these types of situation possible; Americans were so frightened of communism that they were willing to give authority to anyone who promised a solution.
While cold war fears grew, so did the American economy. The 1950s saw the election of Dwight Eisenhower, a candidate who promised a moderate approach to American government. Through programs like the American Highway Act, Eisenhower helped bring prosperity to America. This prosperity contributed to materialism as newly rich citizens focused on money, rather than spirituality or other intangible pursuits. In addition, this economic growth did not enrich all people. Poverty, or the lack of essential things, became a growing phenomenon as some Americans did not make gains. The materialism also allowed for culture shocks as television and rock and roll became a part of life. The media helped to both shape and reflect American life.
Overall, the Cold War brought a period of massive change to the United States. It was a time of fear that lead to bad choices, but also a time of prosperity that helped propel Americans forward.