Self-Determination - The cold war

Yet throughout these years the United States continued to face the dilemma of which it became aware during and immediately following World War II. On the one hand, it hesitated to antagonize western European countries whose cooperation was needed in the postwar world. On the other hand, American idealists continued to express their deep-rooted sympathy with any people aspiring to freedom. The problem, however, was exacerbated by the onset of the Cold War and the American adoption of a policy of containment. Actually, the rationale for the policy developed in the Truman Doctrine drew heavily upon American ideological support of the principle of self-determination. However, the new interpretation changed America's early historic role of merely expressing sympathy to one of active and official economic and military support of the self-determination of "free peoples" who were "resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures. " For the first time, President Harry S. Truman officially endorsed the necessity of actually assisting "free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way." From this point on, official American policy held that international communism violated the principle of self-determination and was irreconcilable with the right of each state to develop its own political, economic, and cultural life. Nevertheless, Washington supported the efforts of Marshal Josip Broz Tito to hold together a unified federal Yugoslavia as an effective counterweight to the influence of the Soviet Union.

On the other hand, while the United States paid homage to independence for the Baltic republics of the Soviet Union and provided token support for Tibetan nationalism in its claims against the People's Republic of China, because of the need to minimize the possibility of war or political crisis with the Soviet Union or the Sino-Soviet bloc, the United States did nothing to buttress these causes. The United States also sought to preserve existing states. It feared that the breakup of a state into its ethnic components would increase the risk of armed conflict and destabilize other multi-ethnic states. The United States not only favored the preservation of existing states, it also favored the integration of a number of states into multilateral groupings, such as the European community. Thus, the United States encouraged states of some ethnic diversity to join together and support one another in larger integrated communities.

The official pursuit of anticommunism raised pertinent questions concerning the nature and use of America's commitment to self-determination. For example, in the Western Hemisphere the Monroe Doctrine had been used by the United States to bar undesirable outside influence while securing the dominance of its own influence. Within ten years after World War II, the Monroe Doctrine—extended, supplemented, and reinterpreted by the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) in 1947 and the Declaration of Caracas in 1954—gave the United States a claim to keep communism, now clearly accepted as incompatible with the concept of self-determination, out of the American states. In furtherance of this policy the United States intervened in Guatemala in 1954 to unseat the incumbent government. The invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 was an abortive attempt to unseat the socialist and populist government of Fidel Castro. When disturbances broke out in the Dominican Republic in 1965, the United States occupied the capital, Santo Domingo. President Lyndon Johnson justified this action in May 1965 by asserting that what had begun as a popular revolution committed to democracy and social justice had fallen into "the hands of a band of communist conspirators."

In Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, the United States adopted a somewhat similar stance. The triumph of communism in China, the Korean War, McCarthyism at home, and the moral principles enunciated by John Foster Dulles, Dwight D. Eisenhower's secretary of state, enormously enhanced this position. Thus, the recognition that communism itself was a basic threat to the self-determination of virtually any nation, as well as a threat to the American way of life, led the United States to support almost any anticommunist regime or to associate itself with traditional authoritarian regimes whose days were numbered because they had alienated mass support: Bao Dai and Ngo Dinh Diem in Indochina and King Faisal II in Iraq were only three such examples. The fact that their governments were pro-American and anticommunist qualified them in American eyes as democratic, or at least potentially so; by the same token, the United States opposed internal movements to overthrow them and condemned these as communist or procommunist. Moreover, such policies were implemented and elaborated by the formation of pacts like the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954 and proposals like the Eisenhower Doctrine in 1957. Such a response was typical of the apparent inability of the United States to understand the unique social and political nature of the struggles for self-determination of Asia and the Middle East. In the attempt to contain communism and thus maintain its new concept of self-determination, the United States became committed to the domestic, social, and political status quo throughout the world.

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