Blog Exercise #3 – Political Geography Posted on October 13, 2014 by saorsa2014 Usual rules – 500 words by Sunday night… Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related
9 thoughts on “Blog Exercise #3 – Political Geography”
After the Second World War, the Soviets and most of Western Europe, including the United States, showed hostility toward each other, leading up to the Cold War. The Berlin blockade intensified the Cold War. The Soviet Union detained Berlin in order to make the United States give up West Berlin from 1948 to 1949. Western forces were against the Berlin blockade by rendering airborne operations. The incident became the founding impetus for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
The two forces was at conflict through military alliance, strategic placement of the army, nuclear weapons, arms race, information warfare, proxy war, and propaganda. Notably, propaganda had been used in various quarters. The movie “The Red Dawn” is a perfect example. The film is set in an alternative reality in the 1980s in which the United States is invaded by the Soviet Union and its Cuban and Nicaraguan allies. The story follows a group of American high school students who resist the occupation with guerrilla warfare, calling themselves Wolverines, after their high school mascot.
The tensions of the cold war Cold War relaxed for a while. President Nixon visited Beijing in 1971. Afterwards, he went to the Soviet Union and forged a detente with the Soviet leaders. This made a framework for peaceful coexistence. However, the detente did not last long. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. This raised the tension between the two forces again. In the United States, Ronald Reagan who pledged to increase military spending and to compete with the Soviet Union was elected President. The arms race with the Soviet Union brought apprehension to the international society. However, the economy of Soviet Union was sluggish throughout the 1980s. Consequently, Gorbachev implemented the Glasnost policy which increased openness and transparency to solve this problem. As a result, The Soviet Union was dismantled in 1991.
After the Soviet Union dismantled in 1991, the Cold War ended. Nonetheless, remnants of the Cold War era still remain. A divided system within the Korean Peninsula is one of the residues from the Cold War era. The Korean Peninsula remains fragmented because of the confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States. North and South Korea continues this hostility towards each other through military tensions. Tension like this acts as an obstacle that triggers unhealthy political debates in South Korea. This is a reminiscent of McCarthyism in the United States during the Cold War.
North Korea was used as a topic to criticize candidates and influence the polls in the presidential election of 2012. Currently, the tensions in the Korean Peninsula are leading to an unnecessary arms race. In addition, political instability from this adversely affects the economy. Therefore, opposing candidates argued that efforts to negotiate with North Korea should be made to build a peaceful Korean Peninsula. Correspondingly, the incumbent indicted that the opposing candidates had been supporting the North Korean government. These Political censures were irrational, but they were effective. This was due to the red complex that has traumatized the elderly people, who have experienced the Korean War, to become repugnant to communism. Unfortunately, the Cold War has continued in the Korea peninsula 23 years after the end of the Cold War.
The Cold War was undoubtedly a very important part of the 20th century. Some could even argue that the years following World War II up to and including the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 hold more significance than any previous period in human history. The Cold War was centered on an ideological debate: Communism versus Liberal Democracy. Never before has there been such an intense rivalry between states which had the power and capacity of mutually assured destruction should one side choose to attack.
The images this week are quite interesting, especially the comical Ronald Reagan’s view of the world. One might begin to wonder how Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 to its dissolution, would view the world as well. There are always two ways to view something. By the time American students make it to college they will have surely been drilled into the mindset that democracy is good and communism is bad, but this is a very dangerous mindset because it is an opinion and not a fact. This is exactly why the Cold War was so important for mankind. Rather than a battle for economic or territorial power as was so common in the centuries before, ideology was the dividing line. The winner would essentially decide the ideological soul of future generations.
Communist and democratic ideologies were not constrained to a single territory, as one can see from the spheres of influence. As we see in the satirical world view, there is the “us” and “them,” but there is a third party not mentioned. One of the main facets of the Cold War is the use of spheres of influence. This tactic was widely used in developing countries and created a kind of indirect war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Middle East, for example, was a prime target for both U.S. and Soviet aid. Because the Soviet Union and U.S. were not actively engaged in combat with each other, it was much easier for both sides to use detente, a lessening of tension. Indeed, the Soviet Union needed this detente as its internal economic structure was falling apart and could not continue to fund its Cold War campaign against the United States.
Could the Soviets have overtaken United States? Well, history is quite clear. But the threat was very real during the Cold War. Dystopian theorists have explored what might have happened if the Soviets were able to aggressively attack the U.S. with movies such as Red Dawn starring Patrick Swayze. While purely fictional, the idea is fascinating to ponder. Propaganda material such as the one in the lower left of the collage depicts what might happen if the U.S. had fallen into Soviet control. The fact is, however, the U.S. did eventually overcome the Soviet Union, but perhaps not in the way it expected. Gorbachev surely did not come into office expecting to be the last Soviet leader, but his policies of Glasnost and Perestroika were incredible reforms which ultimately spread and became too much for the communist party to control.
During the Cold War starting in 1945, at the end of World War II until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the United States used propaganda to get and keep out citizens afraid of the USSR. The red bear of the Soviet Union surrounding the city of Berlin represents the victor allies dividing Berlin, which was the capital of Nazi Germany, into four sectors. However, soon thereafter, the three western sectors controlled by the United States, England and France merged to become West Berlin. The Soviet Union Sector became known as East Berlin. Eventually the Soviets built the Berlin Wall to keep East Germans from escaping to West Berlin and to freedom. It was strange because the entire West Berlin was completed surrounded by East Germany, which was still controlled by the Communists.
It is interesting to note that the bear has been a symbol for the country of Russia throughout its history. Starting with the 1600s until 1916 the bear was a symbol of Tzar Russia. Then from 1916 until 1986 the Communists who over through the tzars continued to use the bear as their symbol during there 70 year reign. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union the United Russia party has continued to use the bear.
Moving clockwise, the next item is the world according to Ronald Regan and is a satirical look at the world map through the perspective of the President, who ran for president in 1980 and 1984 on an anti-Soviet Union foreign policy platform. It shows half of the United States as California, his home state, with Hollywood and Disneyland as prominent locations, which were key cities in his life. It is interesting to note how the colors representing major political parties have changed. Back in the 80’s since red was the color for the Communists then blue stood for good American Republicans. That is a major change from this century, which now equates red states as republicans and blue states as Democratic. On the map California is republican blue and the red and white stripes stand for the Midwest and South. Regan was also against welfare recipients’ and lumped them together with Northeastern Liberal Democrats and Pinkos.
The third item is a poster from the 1984 movies Red Dawn in which a group of high school kids join together to stop Soviet Union forces from invading the United States. This was an imaginary World War III, which never occurred because it was “cold” war that never occurred. The last two items are comic books that were written for Catholic School children. The fourth item called the Red Iceberg was published in 1960 and warned its readers of the dangers that lie ahead. The United States was portrayed by Uncle Sam piloting a boat in which he tried to steer clear of the “red iceberg”, which stood for the Soviet Union in its communist “block” of countries. Hence, the double meaning of “block of ice.” The last item entitled “Is this Tomorrow, America Under Communism” was another cartoon published in 1947 by the same Catholic organization. It was also designed to teach Americans about the evils of communist infiltration.
In conclusion, each of these items were examples of how the United States used propaganda to stem the tide of the Red Minus of Communism for over 45 years during the Cold War.
The Red Iceberg drew me in first, and I learned that it was a comic book cover – published in 1960 by Impact publishers for the Catholic Catechetical Guild Educational Society as part of a bi-weekly publication called the Treasure Chest which was distributed in Catholic schools across the country for decades. The Society was founded in 1942 by Father Louis Gale according to another blogger. (http://conelrad.blogspot.com/2010/12/is-this-tomorrow-america-under.html) Supposedly it was Gale’s idea to use the medium of comic books to spread anti-Communist propaganda. Another site – http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Catechetical_Guild.html – cited a Mike Benton (1989) for the fact that the Catechetical Guild existed from 1942-1972 under producer George A. Pflaum and that among many other pieces distributed to Catholic school children there was a 1963 serial, “This Godless Communism.” Another image in this post, “Is this tomorrow?” piece was the cover for another of the Society’s creations in 1947. I found the entire book of “Is this tomorrow?” at https://www.flickr.com/photos/57391637@N05/sets/72157625660722718/ if you’re interested! The cover image includes three distinct pairs. The far left is an assault on a black American, the middle shows a white American woman being choked and the third appear to be a pair in uniform.
Similarly, the Red Dawn movie appealed to the youth of America when it came out in 1984. The movie’s title referred to the dawn of World War III, in which Communist forces invade the United States and come to the small-town Calumet, Colorado where high school boys form the heart of the resistance. The movie ends with no end to the war in sight. Apparently, at the time it was considered by many to be the most violent movie ever made (http://www.nytimes.com/1984/09/04/arts/red-dawn-condemned-as-rife-with-violence.html) though I am sure the industry has surpassed it since. (It was the first to earn a PG-13 rating!) The use of the movie title for the 2003 operation to capture Saddam Hussein was a decision made by a 29 year old Army Captain. He loved the movie, and figures everyone in the military had seen it, but apparently the dawn that morning in Iraq was also red. The Captain was 10 when he saw the film. (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/movies/2003-12-17-red-dawn_x.htm) According to a critic of liberal critics of the movie, the producer told the Los Angeles Times that the soldiers who found Hussein “are Wolverines who have grown up and gone to Iraq.” (http://www.heymiller.com/2012/11/red-dawn/#sthash.RLIfVBHE.dpuf) Which, depending on your perspective, is totally awesome or totally not.
Part of me wants to be surprised at the extent to which the Cold War propaganda was specifically geared toward children. The power of movies and video games in the hearts and minds of young men is in and of itself a topic worthy of deep study. The use of video games for training and the nearly indistinguishable drone attacks that our government utilizes is deeply troubling to me. I appreciate the humor in the approach taken by the creator of The World According to Ronald Reagan…but my laughter is hollow and a little forced. I seriously think too many of our fellow citizens share a pretty similar view.
The powers in the East (i.e. Russia and its allies) and the powers in the West (i.e. U.S. and its allies) went through a period of politico – military pressure after World War II. The cold war was wrought with psychological warfare, espionage, propaganda and technological competition. Through the development of a nuclear arsenal, both sides played with mutually assured destruction as a military strategy. The use of this type of communication was meant to get the population to view a cause, position, or event in a certain way. Propaganda is biased information spread with the motive to further a particular agenda, often through selective representation of the facts.
Propaganda used in the Cold war, such as the bottom three pictures depict, were used in many forms of communications ranging from literature to movies to art, etc. and displayed anti – USSR or anti – communist images. Red Dawn was released in 1984 and tells of a communist force invading America in which regular teenagers, played by high profile actors, defend the country. The movie instills a sense of patriotism and anti – communist ideals and was able to amass a large number of views due to some degree the high profile cast. The Red Iceberg is a comic – book cover that portrays communist ideology as a threat that the U.S. may be vulnerable to. The gravestones depict countries that have already fallen to communism and are buried together on the same distant island. The U.S. is depicted as an innocent, happy, and care – free country, with Uncle Sam steering the boat, which is about to be entangled turmoil due to the threat of communism.
Berlin was a key city in the Cold War. At the end of World War II, the city was divided into four sectors. Nikita Khrushchev wanted to place all of Berlin under East German control and said that if the West resisted, there would be war. This was said out of desperation as East Berlin suffered under communist rule and West Berlin, in comparison, thrived as it was not subjected to communist rule. The West called his bluff. The West eventually emerged victorious from the Cold War. This was largely due to outspending the East, but also due to superior use of propaganda and better trained espionage agents supplying information to the West.
“The World According to Ronald Reagan”, shows a map of the world according to how Ronald Reagan may have imagined it to be. This map may have also been drawn by one of more leftist ideology wanting to spread misleading propaganda against Ronald Reagan, in which case the map is a representation of how the maker thought Ronald Reagan viewed the world. The world is divided into “us” (the U.S. and its allies) vs. “them” (Russia and its allies). This is evidenced by the direction key in the center of the map.
In summary, propaganda can help win wars by inspiring a sense of patriotism in one’s country by making the cause of the opposition seem immoral and evil in comparison to that of the home country.
This week’s images are very interesting in a variety of ways. I am not sure of the respective dates of the propaganda in specific, but it is interesting to look at the images and imagine a sort of progression of public opinion in regard to the Cold War during the duration of the event. The image of Berlin obviously illuminates the near-total stranglehold the Soviets possessed on the valuable city, and was probably very relevant around the time of the Berlin Airlift, when the threat of the imposition of Soviet will on the Western Powers became a reality.
It is interesting to note that in many of these images, where the Soviets are represented not as an inanimate object, the threat is identified as the Soviet military, given the distinctive clothing worn by both the bear and the abusers in the “Is This Tomorrow” poster, along with the fact that the chief antagonists in “Red Dawn” consist of members of the Soviet military as they attack the mainland United States. This runs contrary to the notion that the Cold War was not just a matter of military competition; I feel that in fact the true divide between the countries ran ideologically, and that many of these propaganda discount this in order to focus on the more understandable, and thus likely more effective subject matter of being invaded or abused or trapped by communist forces.
Moving on with the attempt to analyze these propaganda by virtue of their time period, I cannot help but notice certain levity associated in particular with the post of “The World According to Ronald Reagan”. It seems to me that if as a society and as proponents of the capitalist/democratic ideology reached a point where poking fun at the commander and chief of our armed forces and the leader of the Western world and the most powerful man on the planet in such fashion became acceptable, then it is obvious that the threat of the Soviets in everyone’s minds was at this point in all likelihood beginning to dissipate to some extent. Fresh off our own experience in Vietnam, we could look at the Soviets being bogged down in Afghanistan and hope that it would cripple them as it almost had us. Also, by this point, despite the almost constant threat of mutually assured destruction, as a society by this point surely the American public was beginning to become inured to the notion that they could all be wiped out at any moment, as such an adaptation would be almost mandatory in order to maintain a functional group psychology.
In the end, these propaganda posters clearly show the progression of the American ideological shepherds’ attempts to strengthen and divide the gap between the ideologies of both sides of the Cold War and their subsequent diminishing-over-time but still significant attempts to do so through fear; not of becoming a communist yourself, but rather the fear that at any time one could be under siege by communists in person and that there is a need for each citizen to maintain a constant and relentless state of vigilance.
The five images presented all pertain to propaganda, mostly in favor of the west, and against communism.
The first image is of a bear in Soviet style clothing attempting to blockade Berlin around June of 1948. Germany was a source of major conflict between the Soviets and the U.S. The Yalta Conference in 1947 agreed to divide Germany and Berlin into occupation zones and Berlin was in the middle of the Soviet occupied territory. The agreement did not include any provision for access to the Western held half of Berlin. The Soviets wanted Germany to be weak, and thus would not be a threat to the USSR and the U.S. wanted to rebuild the German economy as this was seen as a way to limit Soviet expansion. In 1947, the US and Great Britain merged in Berlin to form a new zone known as Bizonia. Stalin believed this would become a new West Germany. The area had approximately 75% of the German population and almost all of its industry. When France threw in with the US and Great Britain, creating Trizonia and added a new currency, Stalin ordered all transport links with West Berlin cut off. He hoped to starve the West into submission; Truman would either have to give up West Berlin or go to war. The response of the West was a massive airlift of food and fuel (operation vittles). It also included, interestingly, a second type of airlift (operation little vittles) that dropped chocolate and other candy for the German children. The blockade was the first major conflict of the cold war and intensified hostilities between the Soviet Union and the US.
The second image is a map that is supposed to be the mindset of the Republican Reagan, but in actuality ended up showing the bias of the Democrats towards what they thought Reagan and the Republicans thought. Probably produced around 1983, it demonstrates the “us vs them” mentality. Republicans are seen as identifying enemies of democracy, and the Democrats as mocking the fears of the Republicans as paranoia.
The third image is a comic book published by the Catechetical Guild Education Society, a Catholic publishing company, published in 1947 and distributed to Catholic school children. The comic showed the Soviet Union (and possibly China) infiltrating the US and its institutions, allowing the Soviets to brainwash US citizens and indoctrinating them in communism. A second publication by the same society showed the USSR as a partially concealed ice berg, having already “killed” countries such as Poland and China, and lying in wait to destroy the innocent and peaceful US.
The final image is a poster advertising the movie “Red Dawn” produced in 1984 and telling the story of the invasion of the US by Russia (presumably during a third world war), and the US being defended by high school students using guerrilla warfare.
Propaganda is defined as information that is not impartial and that is used mostly to further an agenda and an audience. It’s used to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to whatever the author is presenting. Since its use seems to intensify during times of conflict, it might mistakenly be thought of as something modern. Propaganda can be traced as far back as ancient Greece. Since radio, television, newspapers, etc. did not exist, Greek citizens used things such as games, the theater, law courts and religious festivals to mold attitudes and opinions. Theater was used for social and moral teachings as well as imparting political beliefs. Another method that the Greeks excelled at was oral storytelling. Although the printing press was not in use, books were handwritten and passed out in order to control and shape peoples’ opinions. The late 16th century saw use of propaganda, as Spain covered its losses during the Armada. The term itself seems to have come into use in Europe as a result of the activities of the Catholic church, when Pope Gregory XV created a committee to spread the faith and called it the Congregation for the Propaganda of the faith. In its origins, the word was honorable. It was much later that it became synonymous with something basically dishonest.
Being the “slightly older” non-traditional student gives me a distinct advantage on the subject of the Cold War and the images depicted for this blog because I lived through this time period of the Cold War and of being in fear of the Russians and their communism. I can honestly say while growing up during this time, I didn’t fully understand how it all started. I don’t recall my family sitting around the dinner table talking about why the Cold War existed. It was just there. Fear of being bombed with a nuclear weapon by the Russians on a daily basis. We had bomb drills at school and were told to get underneath our desks as if that would protect us from a nuclear attack by the Russians. We knew that if a nuclear attach were to occur, we would need to be underground, not under a desk. I remember thinking about nuclear war a lot growing up and thinking how strangely alone I would feel if we were to survive after being underground; coming out of the underground shelter to find only a few in the United States had survived.
Another thing I remember about the Cold War and the United States’ defense against the Russians and their possible invasion or bombing of America was the missile silos. All across the heartland of America were huge missiles buried in very large holes in the ground, roughly three stories deep, and all ready to fire on Russia at a moments’ notice. We had several of these in Arkansas. The most notorious missile silo in Arkansas was the one located in Damascus as there was an accident at that location in 1980 and a serviceman was killed and several others were injured. Just another memory from the days of the Cold War. Just one of the many casualties of this war.
In my opinion, communism is something to be feared. It strips people of freedom. Freedom to make choices. I believe that God gives all humans the right to be free and it is not for governments to take that right away. Communism claims that all wars and strife come from class struggles, yet hypocritically enforces the class and power struggle as there must always be a group of people in charge. Its only success is that it eliminates the middle class while deeply solidifying the upper class as the “in charge” group, pitting them against everyone else (the lower class). The ideology behind communism is beyond flawed in so many ways.
The Red Iceberg poster with the headstones’ marking graves is haunting. Communist rule may be directly blamed for the deaths of at least eighty-five million people in the twentieth century. Stalin alone murdered about twenty million, although other estimates range from fifty-three million to eighty million. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia, and set out to establish a Communist utopia. They immediately committed genocide on their own people. At least two million were executed by brutally primitive methods in keeping with the Khmer Rouge’s anti-technology stance; many of the victims were murdered merely for wearing glasses. Intelligence was deemed a direct and serious threat to the Khmer Rouge. And let’s not forget Chairman Mao. He may not have been as evil as Stalin, but he was the very definition of indifference towards humanity. His “Great Leap Forward” caused the deaths by starvation of forty-five million Chinese civilians.
Yes, communism should be feared. I am thankful that America took the stance it did during the Cold War to protect our freedoms. Given the memories I have of my childhood living during this time, I realize those fears were nothing compared to actually living under a communist regime.
The Cold War perpetuated the idea of the “fight against good and evil”. This mostly philosophical and ideological war began the mid to late 1900’s with a push to contain communism with in the USSR and not let it spread to the rest of the world. This would tie up many smaller countries that resided on the outskirts of the USSR would find themselves right in the middle of this ideological battle. The Cold War was not thought of the same way all around the world because of that reason, these smaller nations would be forced or coerced by money from more powerful governments to wage war in their territory in order to keep it out of the U.S. or USSR. Which was a smart strategy for both super powers but would cause very deadly wars starting with the Korean War in which the world saw North Korea fall to a communist lead regime, and these types of wars would continue through the Vietnam War, and some battles in what we today call the “Middle East”.
Many of the conflicts through out the late 20th century would be rooted in the Cold War and many nations intentions to keep it out of nations susceptible of falling to it. But many would argue had it not been for the meddling in the Middle East and many other nations through out Europe, Asia, and Africa would be because of what the United States or Russia was trying to prevent at that time whether it be moving missiles or supplies even to where they didn’t belong as in Cuba. Some countries like Germany were divided by cities that were supported by either the United States or the Soviets which ended up causing a massive campaign called the Berlin Air Lift in which supplies were flown into a divided Berlin in order to support the non-communist population that was residing there.
Overall while looking back and talking about the Cold War in class, many of these conflicts seem like they could have been prevented if it hadn’t had been for a few arrogant leaders that were in charge at the time. I am no supporter of Ronald Reagan’s policies on the home front, but how he dealt with the Soviets and ended the crisis in Berlin was his crowing achievement that couldn’t or just was’t done by other Presidents during the Cold War era. The main thing that really drove the whole Cold War was the fear that any one nation was more powerful that the United States but ultimately we found a participant, and they had the same ultimate goal to be the most powerful nation on earth, it is just only that the means in which each one got to the end goal was very different. As I stated before, many of these conflicts could have been avoided if there hadn’t had been so many secrets and the two would have just come together and talked. Maybe I am just too optimistic looking back to think that they could get along just by talking it out.