- Editor’s Note
This issue begins with an article by Hubert Zimmermann on the deployment of U.S troops in Western Europe during the Cold War. When World War II ended, few if any U.S officials and legislators anticipated that the stationing of U.S soldiers in Europe would become permanent. Domestic pressure for withdrawal was strong in the late 1940s, especially in Congress. But the outbreak of the Korean War changed the situation, as the United States began building up its forces in Europe in case the Soviet Union was using the conflict in Korea as a diversion while preparing for an attack in Europe. After the ceasefire in Korea in 1953, some U.S. officials and members of Congress again hoped that American forces could soon be pulled out of Europe. These proposals, however, never gained much traction. Even in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the controversy surrounding the Vietnam War spurred some members of Congress, led by Senator Mike Mansfield, to seek the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Europe as well as Southeast Asia, only very modest reductions were actually carried out. Not until after the Cold War ended did the number of U.S. military personnel stationed in Europe decline significantly. Zimmermann highlights the domestic political context of the troop deployment issue in explaining why the number of U.S. troops based in Europe remained at a high level (never dropping below 240,000 in Germany alone) from 1952 through 1991.
The second article, by Mervyn O’Driscoll, examines the diplomatic complications that arose for Great Britain and the United States in 1959 and 1960 when an allied country, France, was on the verge of conducting its first nuclear weapons tests. France’s plans to carry out the explosions in the Sahara region of what was then the French colony of Algeria provoked strong opposition among newly independent African and Asian countries. Neither the British nor the Americans wanted to risk alienating these countries by vocally supporting France’s right to proceed with the nuclear tests, but they also did not want to cause undue tension with French President Charles de Gaulle. Britain, which hoped to gain French support for British entry into the European Economic Community, went further than the United States in trying to help France minimize the adverse diplomatic repercussions at the United Nations from the nuclear tests. O’Driscoll’s article shows how the process of decolonization and the emergence of dozens of new states in the 1950s and 1960s could create dilemmas for Western leaders as they tried to maintain the cohesion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the larger East-West standoff.
The third article, by Lorenz Lüthi, traces the complex interactions between North Vietnam, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Soviet Union, and the United States in 1971–1973. The Sino-American rapprochement and the advent of U.S.-Soviet détente in the early 1970s complicated the situation for North Vietnamese [End Page 1] leaders, who constantly feared that one or both of their Communist great-power patrons would forge an agreement with the United States at the expense of North Vietnam. Because U.S. public and congressional support for the war by this point had diminished so sharply, North Vietnamese leaders were confident of achieving military victory unless either China or the Soviet Union interfered. Even though Chinese and Soviet leaders did urge the North Vietnamese authorities to scale back their maximalist demands and accept a negotiated settlement on very favorable terms, they did not go further than that and exert more concrete pressure. In the absence of such pressure, officials in Hanoi were determined to push ahead with what they believed was their justly deserved victory. Their plans for outright victory were foiled not because of intervention from Moscow and Beijing, but because the North Vietnamese army fared badly during its 1972 Easter Offensive and because leaders in Hanoi misjudged the U.S. domestic political scene. The result was a costly and unnecessary prolongation of the Vietnam War.
The fourth article, by Vojtech Mastny, reassesses a much-hyped incident in the Cold War historiography, the Able Archer...