America’s policymakers assumed that the invasion of Korea foreshadowed Communist action elsewhere. Consequently, the United States militarized its foreign policy, an action that was provocative to the Soviets.
The United States was evolving into a national security state, characterized by such activities as the introduction of loyalty programs designed to ferret out security risks in the federal government.
The US increased the defense budget from $13 billion to over $60 billion in a two year period, doubled its draft quota, tripled the size of the US Air Force in Great Britain, stockpiled strategic materials, stepped up aid to Southeast Asia, and initiated an agreement with Japan providing for the location of US bases.
This was a time of pact-building for the West, involving the establishment of a chain of military alliances bordering the Soviet Union and China intended to contain Soviet expansion.
For example, in 1950, the shah of Iran signed a Mutual Defense Agreement with the United States, reflecting joint concern over perceived Soviet expansionism.
Because the Soviet Union was concerned with internal affairs, Western powers held a monopoly on all foreign assistance.
Military aid was offered to strategically located nations willing to enter the American sphere of influence, and the US was able to exact conditions on aid recipients.
Terms included the following:
- a recipient country must contribute as much as possible to the defense of the free world
- it must take all reasonable measures to develop further defense capabilities
- it must ensure the effective utilization of any economic and military assistance provided
- it must be a member of a military alliance firmly committed to the Western camp
- it must fulfill all military obligations assumed as a result of associated treaties or agreements.
Soon, though, other Cold War strategies began to dominate as the US discovered that the problems of the newly emerging areas required increasing amounts of attention.
According to Walter LaFeber, Eisenhower and Dulles understood and sympathized with much of the new nationalism, and Eisenhower wanted to push out the European colonial powers. But the Americans never seemed to move fast enough.
Revolutionaries in Iran, Indochina, and Guatemala gained ground.
Eisenhower devised a package of tactics for dealing with unwanted revolutionaries centering on the CIA.
The administration’s covert strategy was first applied in Iran where the stability of the shah’s regime continued to acquire expanded significance from a national security perspective. You can read about the 1953 coup in Iran here.
Below are six more confirmed cases of the CIA’s global campaign of coups:
Guatemala 1954: After Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz attempted a series of land reforms that threatened the holdings of the US owned United Fruit Company, he was forced from power. A succession of juntas followed. Classified details of the CIA’s involvement in his ouster came to light in 1999.
Congo 1960: Even though he was pushed out of office, Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Congo (later the Democratic Republic of Congo), remained a strong opponent of Belgian intervention in his country. After approaching the Soviet Union for supplies, he was targeted by the CIA which attempted to assassinate him with a poisoned handkerchief. He was captured in late 1960 and killed in January of the following year.
Dominican Republic 1961: According to an article in Foreign Policy
The brutal dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, which included the ethnic cleansing of thousands of Haitians in the Dominican Republic and the attempted assassination of the president of Venezuela, ended when he was ambushed and killed by armed political dissidents.
The gunman had the support of the CIA.
South Vietnam 1963: According to the Pentagon Papers, South Vietnamese generals plotting a coup contacted US officials about their plan. The generals seized and killed the country’s leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, on November 1, 1963. They had US support. You can stream The Pentagon Papers (full movie) on YouTube.
Brazil 1964: The US backed a 1964 coup in Brazil, fearing that Brazil could become “the China of the 1960s.” Prior to the coup, the CIA encouraged street rallies against the government, and provided fuel as well as “arms of non-US origin.” If you’re interested in later guerrilla opposition to the military government, you might want to watch the film Four Days in September. I’m watching it now on YouTube.
Chile 1973: Instead of reading about events in Chile, why not watch the film by the Chilean Patricio Guzman. When I last checked, Part one was available on Amazon. Parts two and three were available on YouTube. Here’s the YouTube blurb:
The Battle of Chile is a documentary film directed by the Chilean Patricio Guzman, in three parts: The Insurrection of the Bourgeoisie (1975), The Coup d’état (1976), Popular Power (1979). It is a chronicle of the political tension in Chile in 1973 and of the violent counter revolution against the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende. It won the Grand Prix in 1975 and 1976 at the Grenoble International Film Festival.
For even more background take a look at the Cold War Studies’ post title Cold War Chile.