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With victory in World War II, the American people had two paramount objectives. One was national security - an end to war and the threat of war. The other was personal security - an end to the uncertain employment and deprivations of the recent Great Depression. Frustration in achieving the former goal and satisfaction in approaching the latter informed the culture and politics of the postwar period.

National security at first seemed assured by the military strength of the United States and its apparent monopoly of the atomic bomb. But pressure for a speedy demobilization led to a sharp reduction in American armed forces. At the same time, the Soviet Union's intentions in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea area were becoming of increasing concern to the United States. Those objectives threatened Western Europe, still devastated in the aftermath of war and therefore vulnerable to communism. Instead of an easy peace, Americans found themselves in a dangerous and expensive Cold War with the Soviet Union, and soon, with China, which fell in 1949 to communist revolutionaries. More shockingly, the American public discovered that Soviet agents had penetrated the federal government, most seriously the Manhattan Project, the program that had produced the atomic bomb. The containment of Soviet influence became the first priority of American foreign policy and led to involvement in the Korean War (1950-53), and a series of war-like crises during the course of the decade.

At home, rising anxiety about communist espionage permitted ambitious politicians to advance their careers by engaging in indiscriminate searches for supposedly disloyal citizens. That tactic became known as "McCarthyism" after Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, its most unscrupulous practitioner. Both the tactic and the anxiety it exploited fostered political and cultural conformity.

Conformity to traditional norms grew, too, with the growing



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