Cold War and International Relations
The last half of the 20th century was characterized by prolonged war. In fact, there was an evidence of war during the entire half of the century. In order to effectively understand the context of the war during the second half of the twentieth century, there is a need to understand at least the preceding two world wars. The First World War (1914-1918) and the Second World War (1939 to 1945) were precursors of the Cold War. The fact that the Cold War overlapped with World War II demonstrates their interdependency. Since these wars were brought about between nations, the question of international relations arises as a significant thematic issue which is worth investigation. This essay seeks to discuss ways in which international relations were affected by war from 1945 to 1989. In general terms, the Cold War intensified tension between nations in such a way that trade and foreign policies were negatively affected.
Generally the Cold War is a post-World War II period that was characterized by intense political and economic tension between the nations around the world. This tension was mainly built on two sides: the Allied forces and the Axis. The latter, for instance, consisted of Germany while the former consisted of the UK as one of the participants. In other words, the Cold War was highly fuelled by the great powers of the world at the time. According to Dler (1997), the Cold War was mainly considered to be a way of preventing the spread of communism across the world. This mode of political and economic arrangements was put forth by the then Soviet Union. Since the U.S. and other allies were aware that communism could have a negative effect on world economies, the war was inevitable. There were also other forces such as the Nazi Germany and others. The Cold War greatly affected peoples understanding of international relations among nations, as it is hereby outlined.
From the various instances of the Cold War, it became clear that the relations between nations are always vested on specific interests. If such interests cease to exist, the relationship may as well be cut off. This will be demonstrated using two examples. The first one is considered to have been among the very first occurrences of the Cold War between the U.S. and Vietnam (Sutch & Elias 1997). In this case, the U.S. moved into the Southern part of Vietnam in order to prevent the Soviet occupation of the entire country in a bid to continue spreading communism ideas. Notably, the U.S. does not just protect a country that does not possess some form of natural resources such as gas and oil. In the second example, Germany had defeated France and planned to colonize Western Europe. Hitler wanted France to be a part of the Fortress Europe block. In all these two instances, war was fanned because of the alliances that came to help the countries at war to defeat each other. For instance, with regard to the latter example, the U.S., Canada and the UK came to the rescue of France by staging a surprise attack on Germans.
The Cold War led to the realization that the concept of a world central government cannot work. The UN was formed to perform a regulatory role, among other things. During the last decades of the Cold War, the UN did not effectively do its work to avert the war. One of the main reasons was the fact that it was highly funded by the U.S. Therefore, it could not act against the wishes of the U.S.
In international relations, most nations do not want to take the first step in striking. In other words, nations do not want to be accused of having initiated war against the others, or been an aggressor. The best example was the role played by the U.S. during the First and the Second World Wars. During the First World War, the U.S. took a passive role. It never fought directly. The same case was extended to the Second World War. However, for the U.S. to actively participate in the Second World War and later the Cold War, it had to be attacked by Japan. This unexpected attack at the Pearl Harbor in 1941 was one of the most deadly attacks in the history of the U.S. invasion. Following this attack, the Congress declared war against Japan. With refinement of global peace today, it is difficult or almost impossible for nations to go on war. Moreover, the underlying assumption in international relations is that the first nation to attack is the one that is wrong. As a result, sanctions could be leveled against it.
It appears that the main reason as to why nations continuously fought was the fact that they wanted to demonstrate their might (Griffiths, OCallaghan & Roach 2008). This might was mostly evident in the way the UN was used by the powerful nations to perpetrate war or push for their gains. After the episodes of the Second World War, the UN was to oversee the entrenchment of global peace and security. Having been established to manage global peace, the UN membership of the Security Council has always been tempered with. Among all the 15 members of the Security, 5 of them hold veto power. This if the kind of power that renders any resolution null and void if one of the 5 permanent members does not vote for the resolution. The permanent members are the leading powers of the world. During times of the political tensions, the permanent members would always use the veto power to their advantage. Specifically, the permanent members are known to have nuclear weapons thus any decisions on war-related issues would always be polarized to their advantage.
In international relations, the Cold War has strong elements of the East-West dichotomy (Sutch & Elias 1997). It appears as if the East is ideologically opposed to the West. This is on the basis of economic principles as well as political approaches. While the West is capitalistic, a greater part of the East, such as China, is still communistic. Moreover, both sides are directly opposite in terms of ideas, recent developments have made us learn that both economic ideologies, capitalism and communism or socialism, can work as good as economic management.
The Cold War is known to have polarized the nations a great deal. For instance, Eastern Europe was in the axis alliance that was led by the Soviet while the Western part of Europe was with the U.S. and allied forces. According to Jackson and Srensen (2007), after the Cold War, there were efforts to extend North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to Eastern Europe as a way to establish the relation with them in terms of trade. It appears as if international relations or democracy has evolved over time from a time of war to periods of relative peace. Today, it is not envisaged that any other World War would be fought. This is due to the fact that nations are afraid of the massive damages that are likely to result from the modern war.
The role of the U.S. is very important in the post Cold War era. Since it is still the power, the country has a responsibility of averting but not encouraging any form of war. President Obama appears to be committed to this course. Moreover, having established that international relations are driven by self-interest, the U.S. uses the same strategies it used during the Cold War: containment policies. Today, this aspect is still present in the international relations. In most cases, the developing countries have fallen prey of this policy. In this policy, the U.S. threatens with sanctions if a particular nation does not do or does something that is contrary to the interests of the U.S. The same applies to the UK with regard to less powerful countries.
The Cold War was one of the most iconic times in the history of world politics. This is due to the fact that nations did not confront each other in the Cold War, existed in a state of political tension for almost half a century. The main reason for this tension was an attempt by the Soviet Union to spread communism across the world. This led to great oppositions as well as support from other nations. There were two main blocks: the axis and the allied forces. Since alliances were made on the basis of calculated interests, this leaves a lot to be learnt about international relations. The write up has succeeded in demonstrating that indeed, international relations are based on individual country interests; which are mostly economic. Between 1945 and 1989, international relations were also established on this basis. There were two main blocks to join, either the U.S. front or the Soviet side. Moreover, the tense relations of the time, although may have spilt over to today, should be avoided at all costs.
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