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Cold War: Total War?

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A period of severe tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Cold War proved to be a pivotal period in world history. Lasting from the mid 1940s to the early 1990s, the Cold War shaped the world in many ways. Through numerous conflicts arising from the spread of communist ideals, both the US and Soviet Union engaged in several tactics and activities to negatively affect the other nation's ability to engage in war, or what is more important in this case, the other nation's spread of influence. I believe the Cold War was indeed a form of Total War as there are several examples that serve as evidence. These include the proxy wars that took place around the world, the arms race and nuclear standoff, and the extensive foreign aid distributed by the rivaling countries to impede the spread of communist and democratic ideals.

Though the Soviet Union and United States never directly engaged in military combat, both felt the repercussions for their support of other countries in conflict. The Vietnam War serves as an appropriate example. During the Cold War Europe and Asia were volatile regions teeming with governments adopting communist policies. As the United States intervened to protect the southern portion of Vietnam, the Soviet Union mobilized a limited number of troops and provided equipment for the northern region, which was fighting for a unified communist Vietnam.

Another example of the ongoing conflict between the rivaling nations was that of the Korean War. During this conflict, the Soviets trained and equipped the North Korean Army and supplied weapons to the Chinese People's Volunteer Army. The US became involved when they joined the Korean War, supporting the South Koreans.

Ongoing tensions peaked with the arrival of nuclear weaponry. Both nations became technological superpowers with the development of weapons with nuclear capability. The arms race itself brought severe concerns to the US mainland when in 1962; Russia installs missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles away from Florida. Fidel Castro's Cuban government feared an imminent invasion from the US and had Russia install missiles to deter them from doing so. This led to an American blockade of the waters in the region, impeding continued Soviet deliveries to Cuba. Fearing a nuclear confrontation, rhetoric regarding the use of nuclear weapons evolved into talks of defensive measures, namely that of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). According to MAD, nuclear nations had first strike or second strike capabilities. A nation with first strike capability would be able to destroy the entire nuclear arsenal of another nation and avoid any reprisal. Second strike capability meant that a nation could respond to an attack with enough damage to make a first attack highly detrimental. By the 1950s, both sides had enough weaponry to destroy the opposer and had contested that they could launch an attack even after experiencing an attack from the other side. The prospect of Nuclear War eased actions the opposing side would consider a threat. This minimized form of detente helped ensure that nuclear weapons would not be used. The development of nuclear weapons led to breakthroughs in missile guidance technology and several different sophistications in military strategy. This increase in knowledge represents the level of concern and apprehension felt by



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