The first event that may have influenced the initiation of the Cold War according to Mee is when Russian Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav M. Molotov visited Washington to formally greet the new US President, Harry Truman. In this convention, President Truman purportedly astounded Molotov by talking in a blunt way regarding Russians’ behavior in Poland. When Molotov told Truman that never in his life anyone had talked to him in this manner then Truman retorted back: “Carry out your agreements and you won’t get talked to like that” (Mee 2). The second event in this series concerns Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain when he ordered his officer of not destroying the German planes, instead kept detaining German troops to use against Russia. The third mention is of Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, who planted his troops throughout eastern Europe and violated agreements by ending democracy in “Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Yugoslavia, and Finland” (Mee 6).In this way, Truman, Churchill, and Stalin had contributed to the commencement of the Cold War by either their actions or their statements. Mee maintains that the war was inevitable since none of the involved parties had the intent of peace and it was only the matter of time that who will take the first move. He claims that contrary to the common misconception that President Truman is exclusively responsible for starting the Cold War; the intentions of Churchill and Stalin were also not different.
The reason behind this misconception, according to Mee, is because America declare the war first. Otherwise, all the three countries were equally involved in one way or the other. In order to elucidate the reasons why all the three countries were inclined towards the Cold War, Mee describes their positions in the political sphere before the commencement of the Cold War. Russia’s inclination towards war was owing to the dread of outside invasions and an aim to fortify the borders in Europe. These reasons had historical foundation since because of having no protection of natural frontiers the vast land of Russia had experienced many invasions. Mee quotes Louis Halle to describe the vulnerability of Russia in words: “Lying defenseless on the plain, they were slaughtered and subjugated and humiliated by the invaders time and again” (10).
Hence, to seek the security of Russian borders and ending chaos for his people after an exhausting war was the prime motive of Stalin behind the Cold War. Likewise, Churchill was concerned for the loss of colonies, irreparable debts, and potential bankruptcy of his empire after the World War II. His aim was not just to save but reinvent the British Empire by establishing an economic union of Europe that would be led by Great Britain. In contrast to the state of Russia and Great Britain, America was in better position and Truman was leading a progressively stronger nation that was moving towards the American Century. Hence, maintaining a status quo was in favor of America in order to increase its economy and expand its influence in the world by taking the leading position. Before the signs of the Cold War started to emerge, a practice of negotiation was established by mutual respect for each other’s crucial interests and readiness to put up with each other’s needs. In this reference, Mee mentions Churchill’s casual agreement with Stalin about percentage split of Greece, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Hungary in order to maintain Post World War II peace (18).
However, this tradition did not last for long and since none of the three were in need of each other’s help either against Hitler or Japan. In this time, the issue of Poland materialized between Russia and America in which America was asking a democratic government in a free Poland. Stalin, on the other hand, considered Poland central to Russia’s security and was suspicious that America is interfering with Soviet policy in Poland on account of some ulterior motives. In due course, “Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary, all became bones of contention” and the reason of contention was the spheres of influence (Mee 28). This war for the spheres of influence persisted over many lands and all three powers were trying to keep an upper hand. In one such arrangement, the big three agreed on having a “politically united” yet “economically divided” Germany that would never be “perpetually at war with itself” with two conflicting patrons (Mee 43). In the way, the post-war arrangement for Germany with the formation of Western and Eastern Germany was a post-war diplomatic feat. A very important chapter of the history is America’s bombing of Japan that has been discussed in detail in the article. It has been clearly stated that contrary to what was claimed, the bombing was not militarily necessary to save a million American lives.
To begin with, Japan was already trying to negotiate peace and were hoping that Russians will help in negotiation since Russia had not yet declared a War against Japan. Secondly, many other options were proposed to Truman even by his own people who believed that atomic bombing is entirely unnecessary. However, Truman had made up his mind and the real objective behind his decision was “to make Russia more manageable in Europe” as said by James Byrnes (Mee 47). This particular event is the highlight of this article since it makes it clear the bombing of Japan that causes the death of so many people was in a sense a war crime. The opponent was already ready to surrender yet it was used for the mere purpose of exercising power. Admiral William Leahy’s explanation that the bomb was needlessly used because “the vast sums that had been spent on the project” makes this action even more inhuman (Mee 46). Amongst all this, Stalin was strategically told about the bomb in a casual way since both Churchill and Truman wanted him as an ally but wanted to share the victory of Japan with him. This was the start of the nuclear arms race and distrust of America’s purposes and motives that entails many other factors that lead to the Cold War. Mee concludes the article by stating that America has paid a heavy price for the Cold War. This is the reason, according to Mee, owing to which, a sophisticated man like George Washington advised American to refrain from foreign entanglements and this is the reason due to which American became peace-loving people.
Mee’s article A Good Way to Pick a Fight explores many historical events that became the foundation of the Cold War. The article describes that Post World War II, the three big powers, America, Russia, and Germany were allies and ready to consider each other’s interests. However, later their differences increased and haughtiness of leaders led to the Cold War. In this regard, the atomic power of America and the way it was misused is a big factor that increases suspicion of motives and distrust. The basic purpose of the article is that a little considerable and flexible approach of leaders could avoid the Cold War but the way they were behaving, the Cold War was inevitable.