THE ROOT CAUSES OF WAR
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Diplomatic and military confrontation between the U.S. and USSR were used to justify the Cold War and establishment of NATO, but the underlying issues were economic. As pointed out by historians Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, "The question of foreign economic policy was not the containment of Communism, but rather more directly the extension and expansion of American capitalism according to its new economic power and needs."
In addition to the new problem of shrinking world markets, there remained the problem of cyclical depressions. Although unemployment was not bad in 1946 because industry was producing to meet the accumulated needs of the war-deprived American people, the specter of another depression was very much a factor in the Cold War. As the Kolkos point out, "The deeply etched memory of the decade-long depression of 1929 hung over all American plans for the postwar era....In extending its power throughout the globe the United States hoped to save itself as well from a return of the misery of prewar experience."
The Vietnam War was a continuation of the Cold War, as the United States tried to prevent further shrinkage of the world capitalist economic system. The U.S. had already fought a similar war in Korea. In his chapter, "The U.S. in Vietnam, 1944-66: Origins and Objectives," Gabriel Kolko calls the intervention of the United States in Vietnam, "the most important single embodiment of the power and purposes of American foreign policy since the Second World War." Elsewhere in his book, Kolko goes into detail about the economic basis of American imperialism: access to raw materials, access to markets for American products, and investment opportunities for American capital. The Vietnam War, he explains, was not a conspiracy or simply a military decision. It was the natural result of "American power and interest in the modern world."
Finally we come to the question of what has caused the massive escalation of the arms buildup under Presidents Carter and Reagan (and more recently under Bush, father and son). To some extent, it is a response to the old problem of cyclical depressions. Since World War II, each recession has been deeper than the last, until by 1981 unemployment reached double digits for the first time since the Thirties. Government spending was needed to put people back to work. Would the government spend the money for military weapons or for civilian needs? A long line of Presidential candidates, standing for the military solution, have been supported in their campaigns by the military-industrial complex against other candidates who were unable to wage a serious campaign for civilian spending instead of military spending.
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