The Superpower Quest for Empire: The Cold War and Soviet Support for ‘Wars of National Liberation’

The thesis for this article is how the superpowers proxy wars and conflicts fought in Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America continue to flourish and shape the world in these countries 30 years later ((Roger Kanet, The Superpower Quest for Empire: The Cold War and Soviet Support for ‘Wars of National Liberation’) Cold War History 6 no. 3, (2006), p. 331))).

Kanet sources are primarily from academia, with institutions in the United States. One very prominent reference source is himself. It seems reasonable if you are an expert on a subject then it is appropriate to use yourself as a key source in your article ((Roger Kanet, The Superpower Quest for Empire: The Cold War and Soviet Support for ‘Wars of National Liberation’) Cold War History 6 no. 3, (2006), pp. 349-352)))..

This article is in line with my previous understanding of the cold war. As someone that came of age during the 1980s and saw the fall of communism this subject was a source of discussion while going to school. From reading and having teachers that often spoke about the cold war the idea of the US and the USSR in a proxy war was a common theme. The view of the US as always being king of the hill is a modern phenomenon. The author brought out nicely the effects of the Vietnam War and the whole Nixon affair and the toll this had on the psyche of the US population ((Roger Kanet, The Superpower Quest for Empire: The Cold War and Soviet Support for ‘Wars of National Liberation’) Cold War History 6 no. 3, (2006), p. 338))). During the 1980s, the news constantly dealt with the US involvement in these struggles in aiding various factions. They at times backfired such as the Ollie North mess. The cold war was real to me growing up. One was constantly aware of the doomsday clock. This article only highlighted or reminded me of how different the world is today.

A personal observation deals with the point the author makes of the continuing effects from this involvement in these third world countries. It reminds me of the years I lived in Zimbabwe, a communist country. As a nation, they are extremely poor. Most people do not have indoor plumbing or electric, let alone televisions or cellphones. They did however have a large army with modern weaponry. The effects to these third-world countries may have a bearing on them for many more years to come.

Finally, I would disagree with the author in stating the nuclear superiority of the USSR. Both sides possessed enough missiles to destroy the world over many times. Therefore, any seeming nuclear superiority is an irrelevant topic.

The Cold War and the Third World

The Cold War was the result of growing political and military tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Many are taught the Cold War was a nuclear stalemate between the two super powers, and that it caused the alliance that fought against Nazi Germany in World War II to end. And while all this is correct a major part of the Cold War that is often overlooked it the involvement of The United States and Soviet Union in the Third World. Roger Kanet’s essay “The Superpower Quest for Empire: The Cold War and Soviet Support for ‘Wars of National Liberation,’” focus on the Third World conflicts between the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War. “In this essay we examine the ways in which the superpowers expand their initially European based conflict thought the developing world.”[1]

Kent’s essay focuses on why the two countries become involved in a war over developing countries. Both countries wanted to spread their beliefs on what the correct on political and economic practices were, and neither country wanted the others ideas to spread. Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan were three of the countries affected by this conflict. Many people do not realize that the United States involvement in these countries is a result of the Cold War.

Another aspect of the cold war that has been overlooked, according to Kent, is the lasting impact it had on the world. Kanet points out that the conflict has “faded into the historical background” and the lasting effects it had on the Third World are ignored. Kanet explains that the Third World is still suffering form the Cold War today and we should not overlook this.

Thought his essay Kanet uses treaties made during the conflict and plans by political leaders such as The Regan Doctrine and Gorbachev’s New Thinking to give a reliable take on the conflict. Kanet’s essay gives important insight to aspects of the Cold War many people do not know about and his ideas should be shared to give people more knowledge on their history and its impact on the world they live in today.

[1] Kanet, Roger E. “The Superpower Quest for Empire: The Cold War and Soviet Support for ‘Wars of National Liberation’”. Cold War History. Routledge August 2006. 331-352.

A New Cold War Narrative: The Superpower Quest for Empire

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.