Academic journal article American Educational History Journal

Private Higher Education in a Cold War World: Central America

Academic journal article American Educational History Journal

Private Higher Education in a Cold War World: Central America

Article excerpt

The world in the 1960s was immersed in the Cold War. Since 1945 the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union had spread from Germany throughout Europe. The Soviet occupation and gradual takeover of Eastern European governments, the communist civil war in Greece, attempts to destabilize Turkey, and the rising tide of communist parties in Western Europe led to the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe. Confrontations over Berlin in 1948 and the increased evidence of a Stalinist plan to advance world communism was contained by a network of alliances: first the Rio Pact in 1947, and then NATO in 1949. The civil war in China and the eventual victory of the Communists made the spread of Communism a global concern. (1)

Developments during the 1950s further intensified the conflict despite the death of Stalin in 1953. The Korean War and the Chinese threat led to deployment of US troops in Asia and the use of the 7th fleet as a buffer between Taiwan and mainland China. The development of nuclear weapons by the Soviets and Chinese, the defeat of France in Indo-China and subsequent United States assumption of the French role, and the growing number of small-scale revolutions, as in Malaya, led to the creation of the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954. In the Middle East, Arab nationalism was identified as a target of Soviet influence following the revolt in Egypt which brought Nasser to power. The Baghdad Pact, also in 1954, attempted to stabilize the region, although the agreement was challenged by the British-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt following the nationalization of the Suez Canal.

Unsuccessful worker revolts in East Germany in 1953 were followed in 1956 by uprisings in Poland and Hungary, and western hopes for the disintegration of Communist East Europe helped define the Cold War. The attempt to contain the threat had developed into a policy to roll back communism through brinksmanship under President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles.

The Eisenhower administration chose to confront communism, not just hold it in check. The United States saw movements for independence by colonial states, and the emergence of Red China as a force in Asia and Africa, as negative results of the containment doctrine. Communications and agreements by these states with the Soviet or Chinese communists were defeats for containment and thus democracy. Leaders such as Nasser in Egypt and Mossadegh in Iran became targets of the Western Alliance. Nasser's leadership of Arab nationalism survived the period with United States assistance in the face of a British and French attempt to take over the Suez Canal. Mossadegh's oil negotiations with the Soviets, however, led to his overthrow in 1954. The Eisenhower Doctrine was added to confront the threat of internal communist subversion. As a result, U.S. troops were sent to Lebanon and British troops to Jordan to stabilize the region in 1958. (2)

The 1960s began with an election in the United States that was replete with Cold War rhetoric and events. The U-2 affair, Sputnik, and Lunik were continuing issues in a domestic U.S. debate that were directly the result of Cold War competition with the Soviet Union. National health issues included the question of radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear testing conducted by the U.S., Soviets, and the Chinese. In 1961 the Berlin Wall was constructed.


Latin America became one of the battlegrounds of the Cold War as a part of the then-recently-developed concept of the Third World. The issue of nationalization of foreign and domestic industry and an evolving state capitalism were issues in Mexico as early as the 1930s. Government acquisition of the foreign-owned oil industry, originating in the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920s, strained relationships with US and European corporations and governments. Similar threats and actions continued during the Cold War era in Peru and Chile, adding to a generally unsettled Andean region. …

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