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Encyclopedia > Containment

Containment refers to the foreign policy strategy of the United States in the early years of the Cold War. Its policy was to stop what is called the domino effect of nations moving politically towards Soviet Union-based communism, rather than European-American-based capitalism. Containment has several distinct meanings: For containment in mathematics, see Set. ... A countrys foreign policy is a set of political goals that seeks to outline how that particular country will interact with other countries of the world and, to a lesser extent, non-state actors. ... A strategy is a long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal, most often winning. Strategy is differentiated from tactics or immediate actions with resources at hand by its nature of being extensively premeditated, and often practically rehearsed. ... For other uses, see Cold War (disambiguation). ... The domino theory was a mid-20th century foreign policy theory, promoted by the government of the United States, that speculated that if one land in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect. ... This article is about the form of society and political movement. ... For other uses, see Europe (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Capitalism (disambiguation). ...


Containment Policy

The whole point of the Containment Policy was for the United States to keep communism from spreading during the Cold War. Also if the United States failed, then the domino effect would occur with more and more countries falling into the hands of communism. This is one of the reasons the United States fought in the Vietnam, and Korean Wars.


Containment springs up from the idea that isolation will lead to stagnation. In earlier times, containment was followed as a tactic, rather than a strategy or a policy. Laying a passive siege to a castle where a powerful or influential lord resided and cutting off the supply lines was a form of containment. This made the lord helpless since his tactical ability was limited with only a few soldiers at his command. Another way to maximize the damage done by containment was, after creating a situation of relative isolation, to subvert the enemy. In practice, this is achieved using espionage and sabotage. The anticipated result is that any subversion introduced will have a high cost to the enemy and will take a long time to rectify if left alone, or will consume resources (particularly in the form of security measures) to avoid. This serves the purpose of maintaining a strategic upper hand. Eventually, the United States hoped containment would cause the fall of the Soviet Union and its satellite nations. A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by force or attrition, often accompanied by an assault. ... For the version control system, see Subversion (software). ... Spy and Secret agent redirect here. ...

Later developments

U.S. containment policy developed into a principled opposition to the Soviet ratcheting of its sphere of influence. However, the policy suffered setbacks, and after the U.S. pullout from the Vietnam conflict, the policy of containment was somewhat discredited. U.S. politicians advanced new theories of “détente” and “peaceful co-existence”. Détente is a French term, meaning a relaxing or easing; the term has been used in international politics since the early 1970s. ...

At the end of the 1970s—believed by some to be an ineffective decade for U.S. foreign policy—the U.S. elected Ronald Reagan for what became an 8-year term. Reagan took a more aggressive approach to dealings with the USSR, believing that détente was misguided and peaceful co-existence was tantamount to surrender. Reagan believed the policy of containment did not go far enough. His policies were highly controversial and unpopular in many countries. They included new missile systems in Europe, and significantly, plans for a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), or "Star Wars",would render the U.S. immune to a first strike. Later on, Reagan's actions were interpreted as being aimed at defeating the Soviets by the use of an expensive arms race the Soviets could not match. There is no contemporary evidence, however,this was indeed a planned strategy. It was never formulated as a strategy by anyone within the Reagan government. Reagan also pursued the comprehensive disarmament initiative START I, which would have been completely at odds with a strategy of bankrupting the USSR through an arms race. Reagan redirects here. ... Peaceful coexistence was a theory developed during the Cold War among Communist states that they could peacefully coexist with capitalist states. ... The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was a proposal by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983[1] to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. ... START (for Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. ...

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. This marked the official end of U.S. containment policy, though it kept its bases in the areas around the former Soviet Union, such as ones in Iceland, Germany, and Turkey. (The Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland was closed in September 2006.) As of 2005, the U.S. had at least 700 military bases around the world. Some estimates suggest the real number is much higher. The Soviet Unions collapse into independent nations began in earnest in 1985. ... Naval Air Station Keflavik is the host Command for the NATO Base in Keflavík, Iceland. ... 2005 is a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ...


A containment policy, was also applied by the U.S. to Iraq from 1991 to 2003. When Saddam Hussein was not ousted from power after the Gulf War the U.S. adopted containment towards Iraq via severe sanctions, U.N. weapons inspections, basing of troops in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, patrol of the Iraq no-fly zones, and periodic airstrikes. By 2000, these elements of containment were fraying because Iraq was able to smuggle many prohibited items via Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. The Oil for Food which began in 1996 was also corrupted, and the U.N. withdrew their inspectors in 1998 because of Iraqi non-cooperation and were unable to verify whether or not Iraq's prescribed weapons programs were destroyed. The U.N. was divided. Meanwhile, Arab public opinion in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere became increasingly hostile to the U.S. military presence in their nations because of renewed violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After 1998 Iraq began to fire on allied aircraft in the no-fly zones and thus suffered from retaliation via bombing, but such strikes did not threaten Saddam's grip on power. Containment was abandoned by the George W. Bush administration which opted for regime change via military action in 2003. Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti (28 April 1937 – 30 December 2006) was the fifth President of Iraq and Chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council from 1979 until his overthrow by US forces in 2003. ... For other uses, see Iraq war (disambiguation). ... United Nations sanctions against Iraq were imposed by the United Nations in 1990 following Iraqs invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and continued until the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. ... The Oil-for-Food Programme was established by the United Nations in 1996 to allow Iraq to sell oil on the world market in exchange for food, medicine and the like. ... Year 1998 (MCMXCVIII) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will display full 1998 Gregorian calendar). ... Israel, with the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an ongoing dispute between the State of Israel and Arab Palestinians. ... George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is the forty-third and current President of the United States of America, originally inaugurated on January 20, 2001. ...


In the post-Cold War world, scholars have debated the extent to which containment—or some variant of that strategy—continues to animate U.S. diplomacy, particularly vis-a-vis China. At a speech to Tokyo's Sophia University in March 2005, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid abundant tribute to Kennan and his intellectual legacy and then elaborated on the logic of the new alliances Washington was building in Asia: "[As] we look to China's life... I really do believe the U.S.-Japan relationship, the U.S.-South Korean relationship, the U.S.-Indian relationship, all are important in creating an environment in which China is more likely to play a positive role than a negative role. These alliances are not against China; they are alliances that are devoted to a stable security and political and economic and, indeed, values-based relationships put China in the context of those relationships, and a different path to development than if China were simply untethered, simply operating without strategic context." Condoleezza Rice (born November 14, 1954) is the 66th United States Secretary of State, and the second in the administration of President George W. Bush to hold the office. ...

Further reading

  • Kennan, George F., American Diplomacy, The University of Chicago Press. 1984. ISBN 0-226-43147-9
  • Wright, Steven. The United States and Persian Gulf Security: The Foundations of the War on Terror, Ithaca Press, 2007 ISBN 978-0863723216

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