Spies. The Space Race. The Cuban Missile Crisis. The Iron Curtain. These are all aspects that the general public closely associate with the era of the Cold War. Save for the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, people do not immediately associate the conflict between capitalist United States and communist Soviet Union with hostilities in the Middle East, Latin America, or South Asia. However, in his article, “The Superpower Quest for Empire: The Cold War and Soviet Support for ‘Wars of National Liberation,’” Roger Kanet focuses strictly on the affect the Cold War had on the developing countries in these regions. Kanet argues that the superpowers, America and the Soviet Union, drew their attentions away from Europe and towards the developing world after the mid-late 1950s in an effort to establish their economic and political dominance.
He supports his main argument through an analysis of the increase in Soviet involvement in support of “progressive forces” across developing nations in their campaigns against Israeli and American imperialism. He also explores the United States’ response to these efforts by providing its own support to countries in the Third World against Soviet expansion. All of which led to military conflicts spread out throughout West Asia, Africa, and Central America. Kanet cites various treaties made during the Cold War to illustrate the new alliances that formed during this period between Third World countries and either the United States or Soviet Union. However, he relies heavily on secondary sources with few primary texts mostly in the form of memoirs of American political leaders such as Henry Kissinger. The lack of primary documents detailing either superpower’s decisions to enter into conflicts in the Third World as a way of attacking the other’s authority and power is surprising. Even with their biases, one would expect to see newspaper articles mentioned throughout the essay or even in the bibliography. Certainly, government documents should be included in a discussion regarding a nation’s military campaigns.
Regardless, the narrative Kanet presents in his article is one that few Americans know or understand. Americans generally associate the conflicts in Korea, Egypt, or the Middle East during this period as individual isolated occurrences not as the larger Cold War. Therefore, Kanet’s article is important to furthering the United States’ understanding of the Cold War.