How did American Foreign Policy Change after World War 2

Last Updated: 26 Jan 2021
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This essay will explain, describe, and outline factors, events and speeches that show how the cold war transformed American Foreign policy. To fully understand the cold war we must to travel to the past, even before the second wold war. America was the first democratic country in the world, with a private enterprise ideology, which can be called of capitalism. In contrast with URSS, which after the Bolshevik revolution, under Lenin controls adapted, a communist regime, where the state represents the people and owns everything.

These two ideologies communism (authoritarianism) and capitalism (democracy) are the opposite, like water and wine; they do not go together, which made of these two countries natural enemies. Even before the Great War, URSS had strong intentions to expand the communism, and US were the most powerful economic country, an example for the world, however the great depression outlined that there is no perfect system and for the eyes of the world communism was a valid option. Although both countries had massive differences, a major event made these two natural enemies became allies. The world war against Nazi camouflaged all issues behind. It brought two different ideologies under the table and formed a powerful alliance, alongside with UK and others allies countries.

American position before the Great War

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US did not want to get into the world war 2, it was a massive issue inside the country, Franklin Roosevelt was elected with a promise of do not send any troops to fight a war overseas, as his remarkable speech describes “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars” (Roosevelt, 1940).2 America was reluctant to get into the war mainly because they were focus in sort out the domestic issues left by the great depression. Firstly, US found ways to help the allies without a direct involvement, however in order to protect economic ties, other several factors, the Japanese attack and Hitler declaration War, pushed US to the war. (History Channel)

End of the World War 2

The direct involvement of US into the war was a decisive factor to defeat Hitler that attacked from all sides had no changes or whatsoever of winning. As the war ends in Europe, only one enemy remained, the empire of Japan, and URSS were willing to help , however it was not necessary as US displayed the new sensation, that would change and shake the world, the most powerful weapon the world as ever seen, the Atomic Bomb. US came out of the war as one of the top nations on the earth, without any internal infrastructure damage, almost full employment, and the economic was on edge, the country was happier and wealthier and the great depression became a ghost of past.

In contrast with URSS, that was completely destroyed, all major reforms to the industry made by Stalin were destroyed, with almost 27 million deaths. Despite all losses and destruction, URSS came off as a super power nation leaded by Stalin as a great leader with huge desire to expand, control and spread the communism in all central Europe and thereafter to the world.


After the war Europe was divided by URSS and the allies (western powers). Despite massive losses URS controlled all central Europe based on terror policy and heavy policies. However it was no enough for Stalin, his famous speech suggested that he wanted to dominate the world under the statement that is only to protect URSS from being invaded again, and that a war against capitalism is inevitable, therefore US knew that they should be prepared and start gaining position in order to stop or impede the communism and URSS influences to spread out.

URSS controlled central Europe and US had strong influence in Europe. American created and formed an alliance Nato3 and in response Soviets formed the Warsaw pact4 with Eastern European Allies. UN was also a world organization that begun under the aegis of the U.S.

Fig 1 Nato organisation VS Warsaw Pact

Truman Dourine and NSC Plan

One of the moments that marked a change in American foreign policy was a speech of Truman on the congress where he announced that United States would advance against communism everywhere in the world, and due to the decline of Britain and withdraw of their influences on the Mediterranean, US had to advance as quickly as possible, essentially the declaration of the cold war. The Truman doctrine and the NSC plan (National Council Report 68) expressed the fear of America and it was the turning point of American foreign policy from passive to active introducing the first steps of containment and thereafter followed by the marshal plan. US started growing up its influences, firstly by rescuing Greece and Turkey and, then the head to head regarding Iran issue that can be said under UN, US won as UN denied URSS troops in Iran.

Marshal Plan

Due to the economic struggles, war losses and bombings, all Europe was destroyed, lack of houses, industries or whatsoever. The URSS pretended seize this opportunity by spreading communism, which caused a generalized fear and US responded with the Marshal Plan to rebuild Europe.5

Firstly US helped some countries such as Greece and Turkey with loans to secure western influences over communism; however the main response came through General Marshal 6with the Marshal plan. It was approved on congress with a huge bill and it was open to everyone including URSS however as imaginable URSS refused saying that this plan had intentions to divide Europe. According with historians it was a fake hand of US to URSS to improve US image in Europe.

The plan was signed by sixteen making an accentuated of the cold war lines as the fig 2 describes. The plan consisted in 20% of loans and 80% of gross (food, fertilizers, and machines to improve agriculture). This plan was extremely beneficial for US as it established strong alliances; more congenial environment for American investment, and domestic gave an industrial and economy boom. The marshal plan is the vital turning point in American foreign policy as it was the beginning of what we call economic globalization; it was the beginning of economic integration.

Fig 1.Western Europe Recovery
Foreign Policy and Atomic Age
US strived to avoid communism in all senses, from economic to political all over the world, therefore they had to get involved also in countries election. Italy elections described these efforts made by US to secure western influences. The Italy elections were vital to secure position on western therefore US created CIA to deal with these types of actions and support democracy parties. CIA had an essential role on the cold war against the rival KGB undertaking thousands of under-operations.

The church also expressed refusal against communism, and it was beneficial to US and it created a generalized idea that communism is a work of devil and everyone that supports communism is against Christ. It emphases the flag that US want to free the world, and legitimated a lot of US actions.8 At that time America was one step ahead, it was the only country with atomic bombs, which originated a race to the atomic bomb and arms, however in 1949 URSS also detonated the first nuclear bomb. It was the official statement that the world is divided by two superpowers countries. The atomic bomb had a dual role it instigate the race to the arms but also prevent these two superpowers countries to get into a direct war as it could destroy both.

Fig.3 Atomic Bomb
1.5 From Clash to Clash

The descolonialization by European countries and Japan of the third world countries left an emptiness of power around the word. As America could not do anything regarding Central Europe they truly strived and sought to influence new governments on these countries under democracy flag. The first major clash was the Korea War, as the Japanese abandoned the country, North Korea attacked to the south equipped with URSS army and thereafter the south responded alongside with US and Allies (UN). It was the first time UN came involved directly with designated army force to fight against North Invasion, although the army was mainly compost by US troop’s it was under UN flag.

There were no winners as both alliances North and China that joined the war and South and UN came to a cease fire.9 The construction of the Berlin wall by the Soviets raised dramatically the tensions and it outlined the lines between both. The Cuba missile crisis was one of the closest moments that these two could face directly each other’s has American felt extremely vulnerable. It was under JFK presidential period, one of the cold warriors that totally expressed that the country should stop communism as it is a national threat. 10 Vietnam was the first direct involvement of US on its own, as it was essential to secure the Asia opposition because if Vietnam tumbled it would originated a domino fall and give strength to URSS and its biggest allied China.

The Space war was also changed American foreign policy. It was basically propaganda of superiority to show to the world, which is the stronger or has more capabilities. Despite this entire propaganda what was most important was the development of rockets used in the space. These rockets to the space could be used or were similar to intercontinental missiles with atomic warhead. 11 There were several battlegrounds all over the world and Africa was including, countries like Mozambique, Angola, Congo, Chad, Nigeria and etc suffered the cold war impact. US made such effort in its ideals of self-determination that they support even dictators as long as they were no communists.

End of Cold War

The cold war came to an End in 1989 with the fall of Berlin wall, and it mainly ended not due to military power but the monetary power. American economy was great whereas URSS stagnated. URSS could not maintain the vital technology and military updates to continue the war. Therefore under Gorbachev leadership, URSS opened up and begun to build relations with US. The cold war impacted America in all views, and it required a massive propaganda tool, and it changed American civilians and also stimulated the American to be proud and patriotism. The massive propaganda tool as it gave patriotism, also demanded more and more foreign policy, to spread the American ideology of democracy and prosperity. 13 Fig.4 Fall of Berlin wall

As described on previous topics, the Cold War changed American foreign policy drastically, if before America would only be focus in trade and economic matters with the world. The Cold war influenced the heavy machinery that America is today. Communism represented such treat to America and American Dream (lifestyle) that the only alternative way, was to grow influences all over the word and impede the spread of communism. In order to do it, America invested huge amounts of money not only military but by healing the big wound left by the world war destruction.

Therefore much of American spending went to strategic defence initiative, military aid, infrastructure recovery and most important propaganda of the America lifestyle and ideology. The containment policy can be described as the key policy that changed America foreign Policy. Foreign policy changed so drastically that after the cold war, America became the world police, the leaders of the free world, as they like to be characterized. Iraq and Panama invasion are prove that after the cold war America did not stop, only substituted the name by calling it the fight against injustice.

To conclude Cold War was an Ideology, Political, Economic, indirect and Spy war, where almost lead the world to destruction and created a generalized fear. Despite all, it made US became the Leader of the free world, spreading American ideology (capitalism and democracy) all over the world. American foreign policy is what it is today, due to the consequences of cold war; it woke a sleeping giant, that today controls all major events in the world and that even without authorisation of UN can attack and invade countries.

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How did American Foreign Policy Change after World War 2. (2016, Jul 26). Retrieved from

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