The Cold War became a global conflict after 1949 due to both

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THESIS: The Cold War became a global
conflict after 1949 due to both superpowers’
ideologies and political ambitions, prompted
by the accelerated process of decolonization
and post-WWII power vacuum.
Point 1: Ideology
• Wilsonian foreign policy: morally obliged to
project American values around the world
• Communist foreign policy: compelled to ‘export’
the revolution, liberate others from imperialism
Point 2: Post-WWII Power Vacuum
• European powers (Britain, France, Germany)
look inwards as they reconstruct economies
• Japan also crippled, turns to pacifism
• US and USSR superpowers emerge, fill void
Point 3: Accelerated Decolonization
• European colonies seized by Japanese or
relinquished due to inward looking policies
– National liberation struggles last until the 1970’s;
Portugal’s hasty withdrawal from Angola, etc.
– Southeast Asian power vacuum (French out of
Vietnam, Dutch out of Indonesia)
Point 4: Superpower Politics
• Partly dragged into intervening, trying to prevent
the spread of the other superpower’s influence
• Partly out of own initiative, satisfying political
ambition on the largest, global stage
Conclusion: ideology, politics, context
• Three factors combined to spread Cold War:
• Ideology heightened tensions alongside the
superpowers’ political ambitions
• Both allowed to spread in wake of a mix of
circumstances: post-WWII, decolonization
• This globalization of the international system
led to a globalization of war itself
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