View Full Version : Cold War Competition

Bill Moore
03-28-2019, 08:11 AM
Since our National Security Security focuses on great power competition, I thought it useful to start a thread discussing a relatively recent great power competition that played out as the Cold War. There were other great power competitions prior to this that I may start threads for over time.

One recently discovered research resource is the Internet Archive.


The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, the print disabled, and the general public. Our mission is to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge.

We began in 1996 by archiving the Internet itself, a medium that was just beginning to grow in use. Like newspapers, the content published on the web was ephemeral - but unlike newspapers, no one was saving it. Today we have 20+ years of web history accessible through the Wayback Machine and we work with 450+ library and other partners through our Archive-It program to identify important web pages.

The first post below will provide an example from this site.

Bill Moore
03-28-2019, 08:26 AM

The Challenge of Ideas

This is a 26 minute or so long Cold War propaganda video produced to explain the ideological competition between the USSR and free nations, the importance for our service members to understand the nature of this competition, and the imperative to represent our values overseas. The first 15 or so minutes is overly propagandistic and will come across as simple, but still entertaining from a historical aspect of how our nation viewed itself. You have to love the fact that most of the commentators are smoking a cigarette while they speak to the audience, clearly a different era.

Somewhere around the 12:30-minute mark the discussion starts about the character of the Cold War, and discusses how the USSR seeks world conquest via actions short of war via actions that are economic, political, and economic. Sound familiar?

On the webpage there are a number of comments below the video, of course those on the left jumped in criticizing the film for both legitimate and illegitimate reasons, but I was partial to the comment that the video didn't go far enough, because there was no discussion on the massive atrocities committed by Stalin and Mao who both murdered millions of their own countrymen. We are not without sin, but we don't come close to the evil the communist regimes represented.

If this video upsets you, and you need to clear your mind, then a 30sec musical excerpt, also from this resource site might help you forget everything for a brief moment in time.


Bill Moore
03-28-2019, 08:30 AM
Reposting a book review I posted elsewhere because it is more relevant here.

Total Cold War: Eisenhower's Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad by Kenneth Osgood

As the author points out, Ike was remembered primarily for the first off-set strategy, where he attempted to achieve nuclear weapon dominance over the USSR as a cost-effective means of deterring Soviet military aggression. This interpretation of history misses the fact that Ike saw the great power competition with the USSR as primarily ideological in character. He didn't think the U.S. and USSR would ever engage in a direct military conflict.

His New Look strategy was based on his views that the Cold War would be an enduring competition, that the U.S. must remain strong economically and militarily, and the brunt of the effort should be focused on beating the Soviets in the political and psychological domains. He saw that the USSR was employing psychological, political, and economic measures designed to weaken and divide Free World opinion to a point that effective opposition to the USSR would no longer be obtainable. Counter-intuitively he was the post-Stalin era as more threatening because it was easy to paint Stalin as a villain. Khrushchev's softer rhetoric put the U.S. on the defensive, it would prove more challenging to keep Free Nation alliance united against the persistent threat of Soviet infiltration and subversion that would ultimately pose an existential threat to democracy and freedom. Developing propaganda themes to sustain unity while avoiding overstepping and pushing partners who away who did not want to be manipulated by the U.S. This required the U.S. to conceal its propaganda through various means. It should be noted that the term propaganda in Ike's time just meant information, it did not always have a derogative meaning like it does today.

Ike viewed the Cold War as total war that was waged by all means. In response, the entire country must be mobilized to counter it. In his farewell address, he urged the American people to prepare for a protracted Cold War. "We face a hostile ideology--global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. It called for us to wage it steadily without complaint, not the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis.

The book went into considerable detail on the various propaganda campaigns (Ike believed everything we did had a propaganda effect, it was propaganda by deed as much as by word) to include the Atoms for Peace, Every American an Ambassador, Facts about the U.S. (to dispel USSR lies); books, leveraging foreign media, covert operations, etc.

The three biggest challenges the U.S. had to contend with during this competition was Sputnik (a huge propaganda victory by the USSR internationally, domestically, and within the U.S.); the Little Rock incident that exposed America's racism; and the nuclear testing debate which undermined the Atoms for Peace narrative. How the U.S. government responded to each of these challenges is interesting, to say the least.

Bill Moore
03-30-2019, 07:00 PM


This study explores factors behind the development of a covert political warfare capability by the United States government from 1945-1950. Specifically, it examines the place of political warfare within U.S. policy and bureaucracy towards Europe and the Soviet Union. Political warfare was defined expansively to comprise psychological, political, economic and paramilitary actions.

The central hypothesis is that disorder prevailed over design as a political warfare programme was developed against the Soviet bloc. Institutional conflicts overshadowed a unified national approach, while coordination between departments and agencies hampered effective implementation. Furthermore, the position of political warfare within broader U.S. foreign policy remained ambiguous and problematic. Washington failed to formulate a workable, unified strategy towards the east integrating political warfare. This undermined the fundamental American objective in the early Cold War to retract Soviet power peacefully from Eastern Europe. A legacy of strategic incoherence beyond 1950 resulted.

No surprise to anyone working national security issues over the past 50 plus years that disorder prevailed over design. While we often lament our whole of government approach/synergy, I often think that ironically it may provide a competitive advantage in the realm of great power competition. Our adversaries think we have a coordinated whole of government approach, and in response to this belief a couple of Chinese officers wrote Unrestricted Warfare and GEN Gerasimov wrote about how the West was waging war using the Arab Spring as an illustration of gray zone competition. Our adversaries believe we innovated a new form of warfare and we believe they did. You have to love the finger pointing, but regardless of who is right, this form of competition/warfare isn't new, but like any other form of war its character evolves.

The document contains quite a bit of the history of bureaucratic infighting over what agency should own psychological during peacetime, especially State's effort to keep the CIA and the Military out of this arena. Kenan made an argument that still resonates today, which is the formation of new organizations do little more than result in educating those in the organization in a particular skill, and these new organizations tend to focus more on shaping policy than implementing existing policy. Much of what we do and struggle with today seems brand new to many, but it closely rhymes with the echos from the past.