Essay: Was the Cold War a Hegemonic War

Sample Essay

The term Cold War refers to the era after the Second World War, which was highlighted by several events intense tensions and relative calm between the then superpowers. It was a period in which the state of political conflict, military tension, and economic competition continued even after the end of Second World War, primarily between the Soviet Union and its satellite states and the dominating powers present in the Western world, including America. Though these power never engaged themselves in the war directly, they made their point of view felt through forging military coalitions, strategic deployment of conventional force, carrying out espionage activities, proxy wars, propaganda and competing in technological races, such as piling up a nuclear arsenal and as well as space technology.

The core conflict between the powers was the configuration of the post-Second World War world with each power wanting to create a new map, which would greatly serve its own interest.[1] Some historians have even equated the Cold War with hegemonic war as each power wanted to create its own hegemony in the world, where it could suffice its own political and economic interests. The purpose of this essay is to present an argument that Cold War was indeed a hegemonic war and that it satisfy the theory of hegemonic war.

In order to understand that the Cold War was indeed a hegemonic war, we need to consider the theory of hegemonic war, gain an understanding of the factors that lead to a hegemonic war and its result and then make a comparison between the circumstances and the events of the Cold War and the hegemonic war. The concept of hegemonic war was defined by Thucydides who was a Greek historian and author of the History of the Peloponnesian War. According to Thucydides, a hegemonic war can basically be defined as a war that takes place between two major powers of the time and results in a totally new system of power hierarchy[2].

The Cold War indeed satisfies this basic definition of hegemonic war. It took place between the Soviet Union and the United States, the two major super powers at the end of Second World War, and its end, resulted in the cease of existence of the Soviet Union as a global power with a number of states previously under its influence gaining independence and realigning their policies. Also as defined by Thucydides, Hegemonic war starts as a result of untoward events and diplomatic crises in an unstable system and result in the establishment of new international structure in terms of distribution of power and alignment of the states. The period that led to the beginning of the cold war was the end of Second World War which had signified the position of several countries as possible super powers. The defeat of Axis powers undermined the position of Germany as a dominating power and left a gap in the European continent which was attempted to be filled in by these countries. The result was a clash of interest between them, particularly America and the Soviet Union. In accordance with the theory, the second war resulted in the erosion of international hierarchy which was also made possible through change economical, technological and other changes[3].


[1] Radio Free Europe, Soviet Leaders Recall ‘Inevitable’ Breakup Of Soviet Union,  8 December 2006, Retrieved 20 November 2009, < http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1073305.html>

[2] Gilpin, R., The Theory of Hegemonic War,  Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 1988, pp. 591-613

[3] Global Security, Cold War, 11  November 2009, Retrieved  20 November 2009 <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/cold_war.htm

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