Read the following three articles, summarize them briefly, and give your opinion on the following question: “Do you think that ‘soft power’ — from Hollywood propaganda and James Bond films to the spread of liberal ideas — was an important weapon during the Cold War against the Soviet Union, or do you think other factors were more important in ending the Cold War?”
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14 April 2015.
In the first article, Dominic Sandbrookargues that the decisive weapon during the Cold was popular culture and not the atomic bomb. Specifically, the article singles out the role of James Bond, a character around which the storyline of several movies that were immensely popular during the Cold War revolved. The main argument is that James Bond played a bigger role in the Cold War than many people think. According to the article, Bond played this role by portraying the materialistic existence of certain magical elements that constituted a compelling representation of the capitalist countries’ advance towards prosperity, something that could never be achieved by communist economies. On this basis, Bond is said to have made a remarkable difference in the ideological war. His role is said to be part of a wider strategy by the West to use not just cinema but also modern art to portray creativity and freedom as integral elements of the capitalist system.
The second article is by Frances Saunders, and it describes how the Central Intelligence Agency secretly exerted political pressure on American modern artists with a view to using their works as a weapon during the Cold War. The author claims that the CIA decided to support ex-communist artists simply because this was a propaganda war, and they could easily be presented as proof that the United States was the more superior of the two superpowers in terms of intellectual freedom, creativity, and cultural power.
In the third article, Joseph Nye explores the possible reasons why the Cold War ended. To begin with, it considers arguments regarding the dominant role of Ronald Reagan, former U.S. President, in this phenomenon as misleading. Gorbachev’s democratization strategy and failure to use force to halt demonstrations is viewed as one of the causes of the war’s end but not the main one. According to the article, the main reason why the Cold War Ended was the decline of Communism and the concurrent use of soft power and economic power by capitalism.
The article also explains how the Soviet Union government under Mikhail Gorbachev struggled under the weight of a massive defense budget that with time started to impact negatively on society. The author views this as a sign of the decline of the communist ideology, which ultimately caused the end of the Cold War. The Soviet Union’s struggles were a culmination of decades of repressive measures that successive regimes perpetuated throughout the Cold War, causing many people lose faith in the communist system.
Based on the ideas expressed in these three articles, I think that ‘soft power’ was an important weapon during the Cold War against the Soviet Union. This is because the war was first and foremost about ideology, hence the need to win over the hearts and minds of billions of people around the world. Western capitalism succeeded in doing precisely that, and one indispensable tool that it relied on was soft power. Pop culture was promoted in a manner that portrayed the creativity and materialism of the West in a positive light. However, I also feel that other factors such as military power and economic power were instrumental in giving the United States a competitive edge in the battle of global supremacy that it ultimately won, leading to the end of the Cold War.
Nye, Joseph. Who Caused the End of the Cold War? Huffington Post, 18 March 2010. Online
Sandbrook, Dominic. How pop culture helped win the Cold War. Telegraph Group Media Limited, 12 November 2013. Online. Saunders, Frances. Modern art was CIA ‘weapon’. The Independent, 22 October 1995. Online
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