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  • Hi I’m John Green; this is Crash Course U.S. history and today were gonna talk

  • about the Cold War. The Cold War is calledColdbecause

  • it supposedly never heated up into actual armed conflict, which means, you know, that

  • it wasn’t a war. Mr. Green, Mr. Green, but if the War on Christmas

  • is a war and the War on Drugs is a warYoure not going to hear me say this often

  • in your life, Me from the Past, but that was a good point. At least the Cold War was not

  • an attempt to make war on a noun, which almost never works, because nouns are so resilient.

  • And to be fair, the Cold War did involve quite a lot of actual war, from Korea to Afghanistan,

  • as the world’s two superpowers, the United States and the U.S.S.R., sought ideological

  • and strategic influence throughout the world. So perhaps it’s best to think of the Cold

  • War as an era, lasting roughly from 1945 to 1990.

  • Discussions of the Cold War tend to center on international and political history and

  • those are very important, which is why weve talked about them in the past. This, however,

  • is United States history, so let us heroically gaze--as Americans so often do--at our own

  • navel. (Libertage.)

  • Stan, why did you turn the globe to the Green Parts of Not-America? I mean, I guess to be

  • fair, we were a little bit obsessed with this guy.

  • So, the Cold War gave us great spy novels, independence movements, an arms race, cool

  • movies like Dr. Strangelove and War Games, one of the most evil mustaches in history.

  • But it also gave us a growing awareness that the greatest existential threat to human beings

  • is ourselves. It changed the way we imagine the world and humanity’s role in it.

  • In his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, William Faulkner famously said, “Our tragedy today

  • is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear

  • it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be

  • blown up?” So, today were gonna look at how that came

  • to be the dominant question of human existence, and whether we can ever get past it.

  • intro So after WWII the U.S. and the USSR were the

  • only two nations with any power left. The United States was a lot strongerwe had

  • atomic weapons, for starters, and also the Soviets had lost 20 million people in the

  • war and they were led by a sociopathic mustachioed Joseph Stalin.

  • But the U.S. still had worries: we needed a strong, free-market-oriented Europe (and

  • to a lesser extent Asia) so that all the goods we were making could find happy homes.

  • The Soviets, meanwhile, were concerned with something more immediate, a powerful Germany

  • invading them. Again. Germany--and please do not take this personally, Germans--was

  • very, very slow to learn the central lesson of world history: Do not invade Russia. Unless

  • youre the Mongols. (Mongoltage.)

  • So at the end of World War II, the USSRencouragedthe creation of pro-communist governments

  • in Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland--which was a relatively easy thing to encourage, because

  • those nations were occupied by Soviet troops. The idea for the Soviets was to create a communist

  • buffer between them and Germany, but to the U.S. it looked like communism might just keep

  • expanding, and that would be really bad for us, because who would buy all of our sweet,

  • sweet industrial goods? So America responded with the policy of containment,

  • as introduced in diplomat George F. Kennan’s famous Long Telegram. Communism could stay

  • where it was, but it would not be allowed to spread.

  • And ultimately this is why we fought very real wars in both Korea and Vietnam.

  • As a government report from 1950 put it the goals of containment were:

  • 1. Block further expansion of Soviet power 2. Expose the falsities of soviet pretensions

  • 3. Induce a retraction of the Kremlin’s control and influence, and

  • 4. In general, foster the seeds of destruction within the Soviet system.

  • Harry Truman, who as youll recall, became President in 1945 after Franklin Delano Prez

  • 4 Life Roosevelt died, was a big fan of containment, and the first real test of it came in Greece

  • and Turkey in 1947. This was a very strategically valuable region

  • because it was near the Middle East, and I don’t know if youve noticed this, but

  • the United States has been just, like, a smidge interested in the Middle East the last several

  • decades because of oil glorious oil. Right, so Truman announced the so-called Truman

  • Doctrine, because you know why not name a doctrine after yourself, in which he pledged

  • to supportfreedom-loving peoplesagainst communist threats, which is all fine and good.

  • But who will protect us againstpeoples,” the pluralization of an already plural noun?

  • Anyway, we eventually sent $400 million in aid to Greece and Turkey, and we were off

  • to the Cold War races. The Truman Doctrine created the language through

  • which Americans would view the world with America as free and communists as tyrannical.

  • According to our old friend Eric Foner, “The speech set a precedent for American assistance

  • to anticommunist regimes throughout the world, no matter how undemocratic, and for the creation

  • of a set of global military alliances directed against the Soviet Union.”[1]

  • It also led to the creation of a new security apparatusthe National Security Council,

  • the Central Intelligence Agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, all of which were somewhat

  • immune from government oversight and definitely not democratically elected.

  • And the containment policy and the Truman Doctrine also laid the foundations for a military

  • build-upan arms racewhich would become a key feature of the Cold War.

  • But it wasn’t all about the military, at least at first. Like, the Marshall Plan was

  • first introduced at Harvard’s Commencement address in June 1947 by, get this, George

  • Marshall, in what turned out to be, like, the second most important commencement address

  • in all of American history. Yes, yes, Stan, okay. It was a great speech, thank you for

  • noticing. Alright, let’s go to the Thought Bubble.

  • The Marshall Plan was a response to economic chaos in Europe brought on by a particularly

  • harsh winter that strengthened support for communism in France and Italy.

  • The plan sought to use US Aid to combat the economic instability that provided fertile

  • fields for communism. As Marshall saidour policy is not directed against any country

  • or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.” [2] Basically it

  • was a New Deal for Europe, and it worked; Western Europe was rebuilt so that by 1950

  • production levels in industry had eclipsed pre-war levels and Europe was on its way to

  • becoming a U.S. style-capitalist-mass-consumer society. Which it still is, kind of.

  • Japan, although not technically part of the Marshall Plan, was also rebuilt. General Douglas

  • MacArthur was basically the dictator there, forcing Japan to adopt a new constitution,

  • giving women the vote, and pledging that Japan would foreswear war, in exchange for which

  • the United States effectively became Japan’s defense force. This allowed Japan to spend

  • its money on other things, like industry, which worked out really well for them.

  • Meanwhile Germany was experiencing the first Berlin crisis. At the end of the war, Germany

  • was divided into East and West, and even though the capital, Berlin, was entirely in the east,

  • it was also divided into east and west. This meant that West Berlin was dependent on shipments

  • of goods from West Germany through East Germany. And then, in 1948, Stalin cut off the roads

  • to West Berlin. So, the Americans responded with an 11-month-long airlift of supplies

  • that eventually led to Stalin lifting the blockade in 1948 and building the Berlin Wall,

  • which stood until 1991, when Kool Aid Guy--no, wait, wait, wait, wait, that wasn’t when

  • the Berlin Wall was built. That was in 1961. I just wanted to give Thought Bubble the opportunity

  • to make that joke. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So right, the Wall

  • wasn’t built until 1961, but 1949 did see Germany officially split into two nations,

  • and also the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb, and NATO was established, AND

  • the Chinese Revolution ended in communist victory.

  • So, by the end of 1950, the contours of the Cold War had been established, West versus

  • East, Capitalist Freedom versus Communist totalitarianism.

  • At least from where I’m sitting. Although now apparently I’m going to change where

  • I’m sitting because it’s time for the Mystery Document. The rules here are simple.

  • I guess the author of the Mystery Document and about 55% of the time I get shocked by

  • the shock pen. “We must organize and enlist the energies

  • and resources of the free world in a positive program for peace which will frustrate the

  • Kremlin design for world domination by creating a situation in the free world to which the

  • Kremlin will be compelled to adjust. Without such a cooperative effort, led by the United

  • States, we will have to make gradual withdrawals under pressure until we discover one day that

  • we have sacrificed positions of vital interest. It is imperative that this trend be reversed

  • by a much more rapid and concerted build-up of the actual strength of both the United

  • States and the other nations of the free world.” I mean all I can say about it is that it sounds

  • American and, like, it was written in, like, 1951 and it seems kind of like a policy paper

  • or something really boring so I...I mean... Yeah, I’m just going to have to take the

  • shock. AH! National Security Council report NSC-68? Are

  • you kidding me, Stan? Not-not 64? Or 81? 68? This is ridiculous! I call injustice.

  • Anyway, as the apparently wildly famous NSC-68 shows, the U.S. government cast the Cold War

  • as a rather epic struggle between freedom and tyranny, and that led to remarkable political

  • consensus--both democrats and republicans supported most aspects of cold war policy,

  • especially the military build-up part. Now, of course, there were some critics, like

  • Walter Lippmann who worried that casting foreign policy in such stark ideological terms would

  • result in the U.S. getting on the wrong side of many conflicts, especially as former colonies

  • sought to remove the bonds of empire and become independent nations. But yeah, no, nothing

  • like that ever happened. Yeah, I mean, it’s not like that happened

  • in Iran or Nicaragua or Argentina or Brazil or Guatemala or Stan are you really going

  • to make me list all of them? Fine. Or Haiti or Paraguay or the Philippines or Chile or

  • Iraq or Indonesia or Zaire or, I’m sorry, THERE WERE A LOT OF THEM, OKAY?

  • But these interventions were viewed as necessary to prevent the spread of communism, which

  • was genuinely terrifying to people and it’s important to understand that.

  • Like, national security agencies pushed Hollywood to produce anticommunist movies likeThe

  • Red Menace,” which scared people. And the CIA funded magazines, news broadcasts, concerts,

  • art exhibitions, that gave examples of American freedom. It even supported painters like Jackson

  • Pollack and the Museum of Modern Art in New York because American expressionism was the

  • vanguard of artistic freedom and the exact opposite of Soviet socialist realism.

  • I mean, have you seen Soviet paintings? Look at the hearty ankles on these socialist comrade

  • peasants. Also because the Soviets were atheists, at

  • least in theory, Congress in 1954 added the wordsunder Godto the pledge of allegiance

  • as a sign of America’s resistance to communism. The Cold War also shaped domestic policy--anti-communist

  • sentiment, for instance, prevented Truman from extending the social policies of the

  • New Deal. The program that he dubbed the Fair Deal would

  • have increased the minimum wage, extended national health insurance and increased public

  • housing, Social Security and aid to education. But the American Medical Association lobbied

  • against Truman’s plan for national health insurance by calling itsocializedmedicine,

  • and Congress was in no mood to pay money for socialized anything.

  • That problem goes away. But the government did make some domestic

  • investments as a result of the Cold War--in the name of national security the government

  • spent money on education, research in science, technology like computers, and transportation

  • infrastructure. In fact we largely have the Cold War to thank for our marvelous interstate

  • highway system, although part of the reason Congress approved it was to set up speedy

  • evacuation routes in the event of nuclear war.

  • And, speaking of nuclear war, it’s worth noting that a big part of the reason the Soviets

  • were able to develop nuclear weapons so quickly was thanks to espionage, like for instance

  • by physicist and spy Klaus Fuchs. I think I’m pronouncing that right.

  • Fuchs worked on the Manhattan Project and leaked information to the Soviets and then