Monday, October 29, 2012

The unseen positive effects of the Cold War

The Cold War is a term used to describe the war that had never been directly fought between the U.S and the Soviet Union from the mid 1940s to the early 1990s. The traumatized Europe had become unprecedentedly weak due to the post World War II effects. The Soviet Union saw this as an opportunity to advocate and expand communism in Europe. Determined to stop Stalin’s rapidly expanding empire, U.S.President Harry Truman issued the Truman Doctrine, which stated that the U.S. would support Greece and Turkey in order to prevent them from falling to the Soviet Union. After fifty years of indirectly engaging each other politically and militarily, the Soviet Union finally fell apart and the U.S. became the single dominant power in the world. While the Cold War led to massive military spending and brought catastrophic events to Vietnam and Korea, the positive effects can not be forgotten. 

The speed of technological development during the Cold War was unprecedented. Both sides utilized thousands of scientists and spent millions of dollars developing new technologies. The development of nuclear power and microchips were the most significant developments of the time.

Ironically, nuclear power was the number one clean source energy on earth, but was also used for destruction. The first nuclear plant was built during the Cold War in Soviet Union, called the Obninsk Atomic Energy Station. Though it was too small to have any commercial value, it became the prototype of more powerful reactors. There are 435 nuclear power plants throughout the word, providing 14% of the world’s electricity.
Just a few days ago, Apple announced its next generation iPad, the iPad mini. People are amazed by its size and all the apps it can process. However, they do not realize that if it weren’t for the development of microchips during the Cold War, we wouldn’t be able to carry any electronics around. These microchips were developed solely for the purpose of military use. Missiles were less expensive, while being able to aim more accurately. Only after Harvey Cragon built the first computer made entirely from integrated circuits combined by numerous microchips did people began to realize the potential of these little silicon chips. By the first year of the twenty-first century, new memory chips were able to store 256 million bits of information. The average personal computers that are seen on the market today are armed with memory cards that can store 34,359,738,368 bits of information but cost less than 40 dollars. 

Besides the development of technologies, the Cold War also had a significant influence on advancing the Civil Rights Movement. Even though slavery was long gone after, blacks were still facing social discrimination and suffered from racial injustice. Politicians used the Cold War as the perfect medium to promote civil rights because they wanted the US to look good in front of the whole world. President Truman said, “If the United States were to offer the ‘people of the world’ a ‘choice of freedom or enslavement’ it must ‘correct remaining imperfections in our practice of democracy”. Richard Nixon also endorsed Civil Rights in one of his ads when he was still an Republican candidate. 

In 1964, president Johnson put an end to the discrimination in public and many private places by helping pass The Civil Rights Act

The rivalry between Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War forced both sides to advance and progress in every field possible in order to establish their role as supreme power. Without their aggressive competition, we wouldn't be able to enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy, compact electronics, and other commodities that we rely on today. 


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