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The Korean War and the Cold War


After World War II, the United States and other European countries had economic booms, and everything was going seemingly well. However, the U.S. and the USSR were ideological foes but had collaborated against Hitler. In 1945, the tension between the two superpowers exploded. A fight started due to Truman’s hatred of Stalin, and the USSR president had reservations about capitalism and the need to spread communism. Five years later, war ensued between the two Korean nations after North Korea invaded South Korea. Practically, this was another instance of the cold war; it was a way for America to fight communism without engaging directly with USSR. There are many similarities and differences between the Korean War and the Cold War in terms of Truman’s response, how they ended, and their lasting impact.

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Since the Korean War was part of the Cold War, one cannot discuss one without the other. Those wars started because Truman and the U.S. intended to extinguish communism from spreading to other areas worldwide. Initially, Truman never wanted to cause a cold war, considering how great things were going, but the pressure became too much to handle. On the other hand, as soon as North Korea invaded South Korea, Truman intervened almost immediately to help South Korea. In the beginning, the U.S. secretary of state had declared that America lacked interest in Korea considering its geopolitical location. The USSR interpreted these moments as allowing North Korea to attack South Korea. Apart from them being allies, North Korea was a communist country, and by helping South Korea beat them, the U.S. inadvertently was fighting with the USSR. To perform the plan, Truman sent General Douglas MacArthur.

When the war started, later in 1947, Truman was not pleased with how containment was working. Therefore, he created the Truman Doctrine by drawing inspiration from George F. Kennan. Before this, the USSR refused to stop trying to spread communism, and the U.S. realized that Germany would continue to stay separated. Truman realized that the United States military needed to expand. The NSC-68 outlined that the United States will not continue to depend on other nations’ efforts to end communism. By the time the Korean War began, the United States had realized that the United States needed not to worry because things had gone beyond the NSC-68 concerning the use of containment as a form of liberation. Additionally, he established the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) on April 3, 1948, by legalizing the Marshall Plan to manage it. Along with the United States, at least eighteen other countries assisted in these efforts.

From the outset, the Soviet Union was invited to participate, but it failed to attend negotiations, resulting in them receiving unfavorable terms. The USSR rejected them, and in a show of mighty, they instructed all other Eastern Bloc countries not to join. Stalin saw this effort as a way the United States was using to stop the spread of communism; he was correct in this assumption.

Moreover, the USSR’s nonappearance in the U.N.’s Security Council benefited Truman because he persuaded other nations that North Korea was the one that attacked the South. The Security Council invited all countries to help establish peace after the vote of consistent endorsement. Consequently, both the U.S. and USSR shared the Korean Peninsula’s control, which was previously ruled by the Japanese since the beginning of the century. At the 38th Parallel, they divided Korea, with the U.S. controlling the South and the USSR the North. Additionally, they equipped and formed new legislatures that fitted each superpower.

As a result of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, the European world ended well. Not only did the U.S. and its allies recover, but the markets that were established favored American businesses. This was good for America, even while the European countries and their citizens had the most significant gains. Improvements to infrastructure and finances relaxed the region to some extent, allowing self-serving states to start working together. Negotiations began about integration, whereas the individual European countries would seek to become more unified. While this started well, it never became much more than economic friendliness. Later, the efforts of the European Coal and Steel Community grew into the European Union. Communism also began to be seen as less appealing, and the communist parties’ no longer played a major role in politics. The effects of the Marshall plan were much more extensive than anyone initially expected.

After Truman’s realization that China, which he had tried avoiding battling with got involved, Truman negotiated for a lasting solution. The only problem was that MacArthur did not think the Military should have restrictions. He publicly criticized Truman’s idea leading to the famous “Truman MacArthur Controversy”; the president later fired MacArthur. Nevertheless, the U.S.’s and the USSR’s powerful politics, Military, financial, and ideological challenges forced two enemies to mediate the Korean War. The USSR and its ally, China, helped the north while the U.S., with its newly formed coalition under the U.N., assisted the South.

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Truman changed the containment policy after discovering they had failed in the propaganda war. He did this by creating new military plans and realized that he needed a better army. Korean Warfare was always referred to as the forgotten battle because it gets overshadowed by WWII, but it was a massive deal in context with the Cold War because it brought new doctrines and policies. When the conflict was ending, the Truman era was over, and Eisenhower had taken over the leadership, he left the army to work on its own. The United States was attempting to take the world into another war, which they succeeded through Truman’s leadership and foreign policies.


Conclusively, under the Truman regime and the USSR led by Stalin, the U.S. battled against each other in Korea. However, Truman changed the war aims by firing the U.S. troops’ commander, General MacArthur, and pushing for an armistice to end Korea’s confrontation. Truman took this political risk to avert World War III’s inception because if China were bombed as MacArthur had planned. This would force the Soviet Union to join the combat with its allies. It was escalating the conflict further with the use of nuclear weapons. This would also undermine the U.S.’s foreign containment policy for going into war with another nation. As a result, Truman helped avert another combat and stop the current one.


Boose, Donald. “MacArthur’s Korean War Generals.” Parameters 47, no. 2 (2017): 135-137. Web.

Brazinsky, Gregg. Winning the Third World: Sino-American Rivalry during the Cold War. UNC Press Books, 2017.

Choi, Deokhyo. “Fighting the Korean War in pacifist Japan: Korean and Japanese leftist solidarity and American Cold War containment.” Critical Asian Studies 49, no. 4 (2017): 546-568. Web.

Foot, Rosemary. The Wrong War: American Policy and the Dimensions of the Korean Conflict, 1950-1953. Cornell University Press, 2019.

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