The cold war was a sustained state of political, economic and military tensions between the powers in the Eastern Bloc, dominated by the USSR, and the powers in the Western Bloc that mainly composed of the USA and its NATO allies. Westad indicates that the cold war was a conflict over European modernity and in which the third world countries were involved since the end of 1960. Cold war was not meant to be fought in Geneva, Moscow nor Washington. It was a war that was fought within the minds and hearts of the third world, where authentically conflicting ideologies and competing allegiances was waged and an international supremacy war raged. Rather than using weapons such as the atomic bomb, the use of intervention whether political, military or economic provided the means to coerce friends and enemies alike into conforming to a model particular to each superpower. This war was taken to the Third World by the superpowers.
According to Orne Westard, the term Third World refers to the former colonial or semi-colonial countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America that were subjected European domination economically and politically. In other words, this was a group that was referred to in pre-revolutionary France as being determined to assert itself and find justice. Fresh from colonialism, these countries were viewed to be the ideal battle ground for the two superpowers to exercise their ideologies. Given that Third World leaders had emerged from several years of European exploitation, they were hoping to shade off the remaining shackles of colonialism and, then try to build their own stable states. Each of the parties, i.e. USA and the USSR, believed that its particular ideological values, as well as its model of development would be conducive to the perceived progress of these third world countries. Each country believed that its ideology is the right one for the third world countries and modernization of Europe.
Westad goes on to suggest that both the USSR and the USA saw the Third World as a crucial battleground even as the ideology of both powers claimed to be anti-imperialist. Westad records that the most important aspects of the cold war were not military, strategic or even European centered, but, they had a strong connection to social and political development in the activities of the Third World. The recording demonstrates a long chain of abuses at the hands of the Soviet and American policy makers, demonstrating how much their sense of lack of security left the Third World in total ruins and the First World facing ugly prospects.
It is argued by Westad that the beliefs of the USA in individual liberty, free market economies and the idea of progress led to intervention based policies in East Asia, Africa and Latin America. These policies predetermined the cold war but, it became easy to justify once the threat in communism was portrayed as a threat. The Evolution of American attitudes was in the actual sense not smooth due the existence of the slave trade in America until the civil war, the creation of US colonies, notably the Philippines, and the virtual destruction of the Native Americas. But, paternalistic notions of liberating and guiding third world or otherwise referred as colored nations merely served as a reinforcement to its post war agendas of the so-called development comprising of nation building in the third world. As for USSR, it developed its own belief in the agenda of progress and modernization. While its anti-capitalist, anti-religious and collectivist belief system was very much distinct from that of the US, the Soviet communism too resulted from the enlightenment molded by a sense of exceptionalism and its post-1917 historical experience into its objective of shaping the outside world in its own image.
The counteraction of the communist threat was the main driving force in the increasing US involvement in the third world. Westad emphasizes that the role of the market in the foreign policy was a key component of its comprehensive ideology. Besides, in page 30 of his book, Westad supposes that the United States was a reluctant economic imperialist during the cold war, and its investing in the third world did not yield much profit. At the same time, the United States, being the leading superpower in terms of the global economy, strove to assume responsibility for the development of the world economy, including the very new independent states that would most likely follow the American pattern. As a result, along with the rapid expansion of democracy, this factor must have made a contribution towards a containment of communism in the third world countries.
Within the context of American reaction to develop the economies of third world countries, Westad criticizes the point of available in historiography which holds that all revolutionary movements in Asia and Latin American countries were inspired by the USSR. He argues that the revolutionary processes were not a product of soviet involvement, but rather a cause of it (P. 332). Basing his argument in the studies of abundant concrete materials concerning events in Cuba, Ethiopia, Angola, South Africa, South East Asia and others, Westad demonstrates the large influence of region-based factors. These factors are related to the process of decolonization, the formation of new independent states, the struggle of national elites for power and the aggravation of ethnic issues. These factors served as the initiation point for revolutionary changes and ultimate envisioning of civil wars in the third world.
USA did much in the process of creating the Third World as the stable entity through its interventions aimed at abolishing radicalization in Iran and Guatemala. It also intervened in the Congo in the early 1960s, and gave support for Israel and laissez-faire system of the economy that helped in keeping much of the third world in poverty. These factors together served to estrange those parties that had supported the non-aligned movement agenda.
However, Westad indicates that the ideology witnessed in the revolution that took place in Iranian and in the Afghan resistance towards the soviet intervention arose from the sudden realization that concessions to Euro-American ideas resulted in little economic benefit and massive loss of cultural sovereignty. The resultant emergency of political nativist ideology in the Middle East opted to reject the ideology of modernization and resolved to return to conservative values as found in the practice of Islam. In Africa, Southern Africa, Angola and Congo provide the setting for the greatest military conflicts due to direct conflict with USA and soviet over ideology, economics, raw materials, valuable resources of the continent and its strategic geography.
Westad, Odd Arne. The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of our Times. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, n.d.