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The Origins of the Cold War: U.S. Choices after World War II
Sixth edition. February 2011.
After World War II, some hoped that the United States could shape events and promote U.S. values throughout the world. Instead the United States soon found itself locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union. Understanding the origins of the Cold War gives students a foundation for understanding the history of the four decades that followed. Readings, simulations, and primary sources examine the emerging challenge posed by the Soviet Union. The materials prepare students to simulate the process faced by U.S. decision makers as they decided how to respond.
The reading places students in the context of late 1946 as they prepare to consider the debate surrounding U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. Primary sources, such as speeches, newspaper articles and editorials, and political cartoons from the mid-1940s, are used extensively in the unit. Students begin with the U.S. entry into World War II and review the course of U.S.-Soviet relations during the fighting. They then examine the key issues on the postwar U.S.-Soviet agenda.
The Choices Role Play
The four distinct policy options at the core of the unit reconstruct the debate that took place among U.S. policymakers in late 1946. Each is grounded in a clearly defined philosophy about the U.S. role in the world, Soviet ambitions in Europe, and the future of international relations. By exploring a broad spectrum of alternatives, students gain a deeper understanding of the competing values and assumptions that framed the debate on U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. Ultimately, the intent is to help students clarify their thoughts on U.S. Cold War strategy, articulate their own views on U.S. policy, both past and present, and apply the lessons of history to the challenges facing the U.S. today.
Understanding the Postwar World
By examining political cartoons, newspaper articles, and speeches from 1945-1946, students trace the events that contributed to a change in U.S.-Soviet relations and recognize areas of conflict between the two nations.
Security Concerns of the Big Four
Through role play, students identify and articulate the chief security concerns of the Soviet Union, the United States, Great Britain, and France in 1946.
Role-Playing the Four Options
Working cooperatively to advocate for one of the four options facing the United States in 1946, students draw upon primary sources to recreate this critical moment in history.
Coping with Crisis
Students develop a classroom consensus on U.S. policy and discuss the goals and underlying values of the Truman Doctrine.