Following World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union entered a 46 year period of tension between the two countries known as the Cold War. It began with the failure of the Soviet Union to allow free elections in Eastern Europe (following the end of WWII) and the establishment of communist countries prompted the United States to engage in a policy of containment based on the domino theory. It continued as communism spread to Asia, causing the U.S. to become engaged in extended conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. The Vietnam War was fought with widespread exposure through television, which would divide the United States as those at home could see first-hand the casualties of war. An anti-war movement would emerge and engulf the 1960s in a period of protest and change. The Cold War eventually came to an end with the collapse of the Soviet Union’s economy.
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The nation’s involvement in Vietnam drew attention away from Johnson’s Great Society programs for social reform and civil rights. The unpopularity of the war with many Americans also took a toll on Johnson personally, so much so that he eventually decided not to seek re-election as President in 1968. As time passed, doubts arose as to whether or not the North Vietnamese had launched an attack on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin or at least whether the Johnson administration had exaggerated or inflated what had happened.
The major reason behind the creation of NATO was to unify and strengthen any response that might be necessary to counter the Soviet Union and later its Warsaw Pact allies. The Warsaw Pact was created in 1955 during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and seven other Central and Eastern European socialist nations to attempt to balance power with the nations in the NATO alliance. Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact illustrated the political tension present during the Cold War.
Over the last part of the 20th century, the Soviet Union and the U.S. signed treaties attempting to control the number of nuclear weapons each possessed. It is believed that the race to build the costly nuclear arsenal led to the Soviet Union to end the Cold War and eventually break apart. However, the nuclear arsenal previously held by the Soviet Union was now in the hands of Russia.
At home, the American public realized that the ground war was not going as well as the U.S. commanders claimed due to television and news feed of the Tet Offensive.