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Pattern of US Cold War interventions

Comparing the patterns of Korea, Cuba and Vietnam. Created by Sal Khan.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user marmar1116
    In World War 2, the U.S and Russia (Soviet Union) were allies?

    What made them turn against each other in the Cold War?
    (150 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user phoenixtrilobite
      They were in fact allies; two allied countries don't necessarily have to like each other, they simply have to have goals in common that they work together to achieve. Defeating Hitler's Germany was such a goal.

      Relations between the two countries did improve in real terms in the period around World War II (Franklin Roosevelt had been the first president to recognize the USSR as legitimate, and he and Stalin had a working relationship). However, the two countries did have serious mistrust with one another throughout their whole history. Stalin's alliance with Hitler didn't make him very popular in the U.S., and when Hitler betrayed Stalin a lot of Americans thought it would be best to let the two destroy each other.

      So when Hitler was finally defeated, and without Roosevelt around to suggest otherwise, the predominant mood in America was that the Russians were not to be trusted; the Russians felt the same. Neither was particularly thrilled with how the other side had conducted itself in the war: in Russia, it was believed that the Americans had deliberately allowed more casualties on the Eastern front by proceeding slowly, while in America they tended to believe that Stalin intended to pick up where Hitler's imperial plans had left off. The alliance was simply not built to last.
      (225 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user millerj
    Can any of the 'bad' behaviors of the Korean, Cuban, and Vietnamese leaders be substantiated with at least one fact?
    Would anyone care to speculate at to why the communists based governments mentioned here had to resort to totalitatarian measures in order to maintain power (as opposed to the will or concensus of the people)?
    (46 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Cameron.Addis
      In this case of Vietnam, the communists wanted elections (in fact elections had been promised as part of the Geneva Agreement in 1954) but the U.S. and the regime it installed in South Vietnam would not allow them because they knew Ho Chi Minh would win. And there are other instances where capitalist forces overthrew democracies, as in Iran, Chile, and Greece. Having said that, democracy as a whole was better served by the U.S. winning the Cold War, since the harder line communist countries inevitably tend toward totalitarianism.
      (39 votes)
  • mr pants teal style avatar for user Ryan Slater
    Why did the U.S. spend so much money, time and resources trying to stop the spread of Communism?
    (14 votes)
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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Christian O. Knudsen
    At , Sal says "... many capitalists in the United States, who, for their own selfish reasons, were afraid of Capitalism spreading to the United States, because maybe..."
    I imagine that was supposed to have been: "... many capitalists in the United States, who, for their own selfish reasons, were afraid of *Communism* spreading to the United States, because maybe..."?
    (11 votes)
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  • leaf blue style avatar for user GeniusBrain1000
    What happened to communism in the Soviet Union after the Cold War? Since it broke up, did the communists lose power or what?
    (7 votes)
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    • leaf blue style avatar for user thomasfleming
      Stalin's death, in 1953, brought about no sudden or drastic change in the situation. Stalinism, as a governing system, was by now far too deeply planted in Russian life to be removed or basically changed in any short space of time. There was no organized alternative to it, and no organized opposition. It took four more years before Khrushchev and his associates succeeded in removing from power even those in the leadership who had been most closely associated with Stalin in the worst excesses of his rule and who would have preferred to carry on in much the same manner.

      But Khrushchev himself did not last very long thereafter, and in the ensuing years, down to the mid-1980s, the country was ruled by a number of mediocre men (Yuri Andropov, Mikhail Gorbachev's patron, was an exception). While they had no taste for the pathological excesses of Stalinist rule (which, as they correctly saw, had endangered everyone, themselves included), these men were heirs to the system that had made these excesses possible, and they saw no reason to change it. It represented, in their eyes,. it was all they had and all they knew. The sort of systemic changes Gorbachev would eventually endeavor to bring about would have surpassed the reaches of their imaginations. And after all, from their standpoint, the system appeared to work.
      (7 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Benny Hoang
    im just confused with what you mean about "good people" & "bad people". Doesn't it depends on the point of view?
    (6 votes)
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    • leafers seedling style avatar for user japples
      I definitely believe it depends on your point of view. We can take that a step further though. Through discussion and seeking the truth in history we can evaluate the actions and intentions of the "good" and "bad" people. If there is overwhelming evidence for someone being good or bad, then I believe we should make that judgement.

      By judging the people and events of the past we can learn from history and apply it to the present. Morality, despite its differences from person to person, is a fundamental part of who we are. Of course we shouldn't jump to conclusions on who or what is bad or good, but we shouldn't shy away from making that judgement either.
      (7 votes)
  • leaf blue style avatar for user Luis Cano
    Was Communism the only solution to the subjugated subjects? Why doesn't democracy work in redistributing wealth?
    (2 votes)
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    • purple pi purple style avatar for user Mario.vs.Sonic.101
      Yes and no. Capitalism does not always come with democracy (example: Jordan) and Communism CAN come with democracy. Sadly, everybody with a Communist government has been corrupt. So to answer your question, yes, it is but we can have democracy and Communism. But Communism is the only way to redistribute wealth, but with it we can still have democracy.
      (8 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user HardChild
    What is the real reason behind Cold War?
    It seems ridiculous that whole nations make war just for not to spread communism.

    I mean theoretically communism is not working that well. So it does ruin the economy.
    So why to make war in the first place to stop spreading communism while the countries under communism would collapse anyway.

    Cold War is just camouflaged imperialism. I bet it is not over yet. It will never stop.
    (3 votes)
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    • leaf red style avatar for user Noble Mushtak
      1.) The USA was simply paranoid about Communism because it was anti-Capitalist. That's all there is to it. They wanted to stop spreading Communism because they thought that it wasn't democratic even though that's not necessarily true.

      2.) They wanted to stop the spread of Communism so more countries under the Soviet Union's influence wouldn't fall. However, even after the Soviet's fall. Some Communist countries still stand, like North Korea, China, and Cuba.

      2.5 .) Communism doesn't destroy the economy and it was about distributing wealth from the rich to the poor and government-controlled market. The first concept is great because it creates a classless society where everyone has the same amount of money and poverty is exterminated. The second concept is good, but not unambiguously good, because while the government can easily stop suspicious activity within an industry such as monopolies or illegal business practices, there is no longer a free market where people can freely run their business. In practice, the government didn't always represent the people like it was supposed to, though, because there were no checks on the government. Sometimes Communist revolutions brought on better governments than the last, like in Cuba and the revolution by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara against the dictator Batista.

      3.) While the Cold War is over, I agree that it was just camouflaged imperialism. It wasn't imperialism of a country, but rather imperialism of economic systems and the clash between these two imperialist opposite economic systems.

      I hope this helps!
      (6 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Gymgal24577@gmail.com
    Why did the USA influence the country of Cuba?
    Aren't we a noble country?
    (3 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Piotr Dzialak
    Isn't it a bit naïve to be so little critical about the Cubans who escaped from the island after the Cuban Revolution? Wasn't their main point to actually come back to their privilege lives no matter how badly the conditions of the most of the society? Weren't they actually in the big majority the traitors looking for a strong protector to maintain capitalism who was highly favoring them and making the state de facto feudal?
    (3 votes)
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Video transcript

Now that we've done a series of videos on America's interventions during the Cold War in Korea, and Cuba, and Vietnam, I thought it would be fun just to think a little bit about whether there are any patterns here. And once again, in all of these history videos, you have to take anything I say-- or really anything anyone says about history-- with a grain of salt even when it comes to the facts. Obviously, the facts can only be written by the people who survive. Who knows what might have gone on behind scenes that never got documented by the historians. So you have to take everything with a grain of salt. And even in this video, I'll talk about, maybe, some patterns, or some themes, that I've seen, don't take that as just the truth. Think about it for yourself, if it makes sense, it makes sense. If it doesn't, try to look into it more, and try to come up with your own themes, or your patterns, or things that you can learn from. So the general pattern across all of these, is that before the US got involved, and before a communist-leaning regime got involved, these were all, in some ways, subjugated populations. In Korea, it was subjugated by the Japanese. It was a Japanese colony. In Cuba, it was subjugated by the Batista government. And this was a dictatorship, a corrupt dictatorship, and it was heavily influenced by the United States. You could almost view it as United States influence, a United States colony, they had so much influence with Batista. And in the case of Vietnam, it was a French colony. So you can imagine, in all of these situations the existing rulers were not that popular. People were looking for rulers who could liberate them from the messes they were in inside of that. On top of that-- and this comes to the whole discussion of capitalism versus communism-- you can imagine that when you are colonized, or when you are in a corrupt regime, you do have people accruing wealth. So there are people accruing wealth, some of whom will get it without being that legitimate. And so these circles are the size of different people's wealth. So you can imagine, in Korea under Japanese rule, maybe there were a few people who were successful by being legitimate entrepreneurs, but there were probably a whole bunch of people who were successful by just, kind of, sucking up to the colonial powers, in the case of a corrupt regime, doing things that were corrupt with the regime, using the regime it to get undue power in a certain market, and it's always a combination. In any of these countries, there were probably some entrepreneurs and some other people who got wealth, maybe, with good means, and then some other people, who under these regimes got wealth under questionable means, maybe because they sucked up to the corrupt regime. Or maybe, they even did outright criminal activity, which was probably the case in the Batista regime. You probably did have people who were just outright criminals doing very well for themselves. Same thing in Vietnam. Some of the Vietnamese who really were aligned with the French, probably got extra favors, and so their wealth wasn't necessarily due to innovation or competence, but really just where they fit into the political order. Maybe some other people did have legitimate wealth. So you imagine, when any of these type of situations start to emerge from subjugation-- so you start having independence movements in all of these situations. You could imagine it's a very popular notion to run on, and depending on how true it is. But it's a very popular notion to run on, to tell people, look, you've seen all of these people who've gotten questionable wealth, and maybe, some of these people who got questionable wealth got it by being aligned with our subjugators, by being, to some degree, traitors to our people. And once again, maybe not all the people, but you could see how it's a popular line for someone coming to power when you're emerging from independent-- or emerging into independence-- to say, why don't we redistribute wealth? Why don't we take the wealth from this person right here, who got it in questionable means, and redistribute it to the rest of the society? Why don't we take it from this person over here and redistribute it to the rest of society? Why don't we do that with this person here and redistribute that wealth to the rest of society? And if you're looking for a political ideology that seems to fit with this idea of trying to correct things that maybe looked wrong during the colonial or the subjugated rule, communism seems to fit that. It's kind of a redistributing of wealth, or maybe the state takes over all wealth, or maybe it's something in between where it's socialist, where the state is redistributing wealth fairly aggressively, but you still have, kind of, the underpinnings of capitalism. And so you could imagine that communism-- especially to a population where you have many, many, many poor people, the wealth concentrated in a few people, many of them who are aligned with the old regimes-- communism at least seems like a popular notion. And you have people who ride this nationalistic communistic feeling. In the case of Cuba, you have people like Fidel Castro. In Vietnam you have people like Ho Chi Minh. And then Korea is a little bit different, because you did have a communist nationalist independence movement, but Kim Il-Sung wasn't necessarily the leader of that movement. The Soviets actually didn't want any of those people in charge, any of the nationalist communists, the leaders of those movements. They kind of marginalized them, and installed Kim Il-Sung probably because he was more aligned with them, but he was communist. Now the reality is, these guys come in under these very egalitarian, equality for all, let's get retribution for the wrongs that were done to us before, but probably all of them start to not just redistribute wealth from people who might have gotten it in bad ways, but they're also just redistributing wealth generally, maybe because it's just a popular thing to do, or maybe because these people didn't give them proper support. So they're getting retribution on their political enemies, as opposed to just kind of doing it for social good. So they might do it from people who have legitimate wealth, and so those people aren't too happy about it. And they ride this kind of communist egalitarian movement to install themselves. And instead of just being a purely Marxist state, they want to be more Marxist-Leninist, where you have this Communist Party that has this continuous revolution, which is a justification for them to never hold real elections and always stay in power. So by no means is this a rationale why these people are legitimate. But what happened in every one of these cases is that the United States was in the middle of the Cold War, they feared the spread of communism. Communism tended to correlate with a non-free state. It doesn't have to be that way, but every time communism was implemented, it also was these kind of authoritarian rule, no democracy. And you could also imagine, there were many capitalists in the United States, who for their own selfish reasons, were afraid of capitalism spreading to the United States, because maybe their wealth would be redistributed. But regardless of what the justification, whether it was a more noble wanting people to have freedom of expression, freedom to own property, or whether it was the more selfish, that hey, we don't want our own wealth to be somehow taken away, or it just might have been a balance of power between the US and the Soviet Union, that every time a country fell to communism it's somehow the US losing some power in the world. Regardless of the US's rationale, they always say, OK, these guys are communist, we're going to take the other side of the equation. So the US ends up supporting Syngman Rhee in South Korea, who we know was not the best character in the world. They end up supporting Diem in South Vietnam, who we also know was not necessarily the most savory person in the world. In the case of Cuba, the US, at least-- they did support Batista while he was in power, but we saw in that video that Kennedy later came out and said, you know Batista was a pretty bad dude, and it was probably a big mistake for the US to support him. But the US goes on the other side, and they support the exiles against Fidel Castro. And here, the Cuban exiles they're not-- they are definitely not in the category of Syngman Rhee or Diem, and they probably favor democracy, and overall, good people. But what they probably did feed Kennedy is a story that Fidel Castro wasn't as popular as he actually was. And he probably was more popular especially after the revolution, because he had this egalitarian-- people were getting over Batista, anybody but Batista they would be happy about. Fidel Castro was this charismatic leader who was kind of working for the poor, at least it looked like he was working for the poor. So at least in the get go, especially the Kennedy administration might have been fed an overly optimistic view that got them involved in the Bay of Pigs Invasion and all of that. But this is just the general pattern that happened every time. And every time, it ended up in either a US defeat or a stalemate. Take whatever lessons there are from this, but it is a kind of an interesting pattern that had happened multiple times, pretty much every engagement that we had during the Cold War.