Outlining: Cold War Foreign Policy Cold War Domestic Politics?

The puzzle here is figuring out how to reconcile two facts: (1) all of the examples of how Americans experienced the Cold War at home (bomb shelters, Mertle the A-Bomb turtle, McCarthyism, cultural manifestations); and (2) the myriad ways in which Americans went about their lives outside of Cold War tensions, particularly in terms of expanding middle-class affluence, racial tensions, and a confident liberal consensus.  The solution, I’d argue, is to understand American middle-class affluence, racial tensions, and liberalism as both the result of and justification for the Cold War abroad and at home.

–    Standard narrative: Cold War deeply affected Americans at home
o    Anti-Communism

  • Against former real communists (Schrecker)
  • Against homosexuals and un-manly men, alleged to be more susceptible to communist infiltration (Johnson and Dean)

o    Communist threat abroad

  • Soviet demonstrations of atomic capacity (Winkler)
  • Early and potentially escalating incidents: Turkey, Greece, Korea, Suz Canal, Cuban Revolution, etc.

o    Pop culture

  • Atomic language (Winkler)
  • Anti-communist pop movies and books (Whitfield)

–    Counter narrative: No, it wasn’t
o    Middle-class affluence

  • Growth of suburbia
  • Access to all sorts of consumer goods and entertainment distractions

o    Race relations

  • Continued growth in African-American presence in urban areas
  • Growing calls for civil rights, and immediate conflict close to home (closer than Korea, anyway)

o    American liberalism carrying the day

  • Democrats control Congress and Presidency most of the time
  • Truman’s sometimes-successful (although often limited) expansions of Social Security, minimum wage through Fair Deal
  • Eisenhower won’t touch Social Security, etc.

–    Bring it together
o    Affluence as product and justification for Cold War

  • Suburbia as product of federal cold war investment (Federal Aid Highway Act, defense spending-see Lisa McGirr)
  • Suburbs as gendered refuge from the problems of the world (May)
  • Justify: American standard of living proves superiority of American system (Nixon’s kitchen debate with Khruschev)
  • Means by which Cold War is brought home: affluence and access to entertainment (Whitfield)

o    Race relations

  • Need to prove quality of human-rights liberalism abroad drives publicity and sometimes policy (Dudziak and Borstelmann)
  • Racial hierarchy shaping foreign policy approach to third world (Borstelmann)

o    American liberalism

  • Constantly on guard against conservative accusations of communism (Dean, Johnson, Schrecker)
  • Cold War taking time, energy, money away from domestic liberal efforts (JFK’s focus as a Cold Warrior; LBJ’s Vietnam robbing him of Great Society)
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