argument top image

Should the Cold War be considered a war?
Back to question

The Cold War was a war because of its many Proxy Wars

Many proxy wars occurred during the Cold War. These stood in for actual conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. These wars were another tool through which the Soviet Union and the United States could exercise their sphere of influence while resisting the opposite superpower.


In 1945, the term "Cold War" was first coined with its modern connotation in the essay "You and the Atom Bomb." He believed that no two powerful countries would engage in direct battle with each other again.[1]

The Argument

Although there was never any direct conflict on American or Soviet land throughout the Cold War, it did involve a series of wars around the world that were propped up and made more violent by the two world powers. The two sides each gave billions of dollars worth of weapons and resources as well as their military troops to different sides of the Korean and Vietnam War. During the period from the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the two sides had either supported or directly funded rebellions, political assassinations, and even proxy governments across Asia, Africa, Central America, and the Middle East.[2] Not counting the smaller skirmishes of the Cold War, the Vietnam and Korean Wars combined took a total of 340,104 American lives, making the two wars some of the deadliest in American history.[3] The Encyclopedia Britannica defines war as "a conflict between political groups involving hostilities of considerable duration and magnitude."[4] Every proxy war that was part of the Cold War involved conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States and the death count alone should prove the magnitude of this conflict. The basis for war shouldn't be whether direct fighting existed on a country's soil because then American or British participation in WWII wouldn't count them as part of the war either. Instead, war should be measured by the consistency of the conflict, both in terms of the actors and ideology. The common pattern of Communism vs. Capitalism, the Soviet Union vs. America, existed through every proxy war of the Cold War. Therefore, it must count as a war.

Counter arguments

A war requires direct conflict, not the funding of another government. Right now, many different governments all over the world favor certain sides in conflicts outside of their land and have chosen to give resources to the group that they support. France, for example, is not "at war" with Turkey right now simply because they are funding different sides of a war in Libya. People agree that America fought in the Korean War and the Vietnam war because soldiers died in both wars. However, they mostly did not die at the hands of Soviet soldiers engaged in a separate "Cold War." America and the Soviet Union were both involved in many proxy wars during that period, as most superpowers tend to do, but simply because they had policy disagreements does not mean that they were fighting. Additionally, a war should be made up of individual battles and offensives. If the Cold War was truly a war, does that make all of the proxy wars its battles? What does that then make all of the proxy wars' own battles? A war cannot be made up of smaller wars, it must consist of deliberate plans of attack against the enemy, and the Cold War never had that.



[P1] The Cold War involved sustained, impactful hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union. [P2] Wars are simply about how one country views another country, and whether they see each other as enemies, not about the practical technicalities that occur.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] There were casualties, but those casualties only counted for individual wars and not some overarching conflict. [Rejecting P2] Wars are about the technicalities and what occurs in them. Many countries hate each other, that doesn't make them at war.


This page was last edited on Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 13:55 UTC

Explore related arguments