Expanding the Frontiers: Superpower Intervention in the Cold War

By Karen A. Feste | Go to book overview

SEVEN
Rivalry, Interests, and Intervention: An Appraisal

SUPERPOWER RIVALRY

With pretensions to world leadership coupled with substantial global responsibilities and ideological beliefs that confirmed their sense of mission, the superpowers pursued interveritionary policies throughout the Cold War era. If the Cold War meant simply an ideological struggle between communism and anticommunism, the rivalry continued as long as the United States and Soviet Union believed these opposing belief systems were important. If the Cold War can be described as a power struggle between the two superpowers over the allegiance of the world -- which began over the countries of Europe but later expanded to the frontiers -- that struggle has diminished, and a relatively stable power balance had been achieved by the end of this era. What remained were lingering commitments to ideology and a political vocabulary formed during an earlier stage, for symbol and myth have played a predominant role in the relations between the superpowers during the entire period.

From the U.S. perspective, the whole focus of dealing with domestic instability in states switched from the containment of communism as the major driving factor for intervention to the problems of development brought about by the sudden transition from colonialism to independence in theThird World, which was often accompanied by nationalism and civil disorder. The geographic focal points changed over the last four decades but the obsession of Cold War pacts continued to some extent. This was because communism as a social ideology was in part confused with communism as a form of Soviet imperialism, and the U.S. government, operating under zero-sum principles, assumed that an advance of communism meant an automatic gain for the Soviet Union. Combating communism in any region of the globe as though

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