Post WWII American isolationism
I’ve decided to speculate on a world where there never was a “Cold War” because the US adopted a mainly isolationist stance after World War II, as it had after previous wars.
There are only 2 parameters that I set for this scenario– 1) the USA remains basically isolationist, with brief and partial exceptions, and 2) The Soviets never directly invade either western Europe or the United States.
POD – Wallace remains as FDRs running mate in 1944. Germany and Japan are defeated in 1945, as in OTL. (Note: I believe that atomic weapons would have been used against Japan even by Wallace – there was nothing else that would induce the Japanese government to surrender. I don’t agree with some revisionist historians that the main purpose of the bombings was to intimidate the Soviets.)
Much of the US military is quickly demobilized. Wallace takes a generally conciliatory line towards the Soviets. There is no support for anti-communist forces in Greece or Turkey. Greece becomes Communist-governed, while Turkey is gradually forced into becoming practically a satellite of the Soviet Union.
In 1948, the Republicans nominate hardline anti-communist Robert Taft. Taft is a little too hard-line for many Americans, though, and Wallace scores points by predicting that a Taft administration could involve the US in a series future wars in various countries, something that few Americans find palatable. Wallace wins by a fairly narrow margin. In Wallace’s 2nd term, a booming economy leads many in the US to turn attention away from developments outside the US. In 1950, North Korea invades and annexes South Korea. Over the next 15 years, somewhere between 700,000 and 1,000,000 people will be executed or die in Korean labor camps.
In 1952, Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower is elected. He supports building up the military, but public opinion is turning even further away from foreign affairs, and the buildup is fairly modest. The US test detonates a hydrogen bomb in 1957, 2 years after the Soviet Union.
Also in 1952, the socialist-dominated government of France gives up attempts to defeat resistance in its colonies of Indochina. Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia are set up as independent nations. In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh’s communists cooperate at first with other groups, but in the mid 50s a series of purges begins. Over the next 20 years or so, at least 1 million (most conservative estimate - possibly closer to 2 million)“enemies of socialism” will be killed – merchants and small business owners, Christians, Buddhists, ethnic and tribal minorities, and others who don’t like the new socialist order. Laos becomes thoroughly controlled by a communist government in 1960, with widespread persecution and killing of economic and ethnic minorities.
In 1957, the USSR launches the first artificial satellite into orbit.
In 1958, France’s government recognizes the independence of Algeria. Revolts by some army units are crushed with considerable brutality, and De Gaulle is imprisoned for 2 years after he makes a speech condemning the government’s foreign and domestic policy. The French colonists in Algeria are left to fend for themselves – some flee to France or other countries, while others fight a guerilla war against the Algerian government in a sort of reversal of the previous conflict.
Also by 1960, communist or closely allied governments have taken control of Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. France and Italy both have governments of socialist/communist coalitions. The government of the UK is generally suspicious of the Soviets and uneasy about the spread of communist power, but doesn’t have the resources to do more than put down a communist insurgency in Malaya and try to give limited support to non-communist forces elsewhere.
“Decolonization” is mostly complete in Africa by 1961. Most of the newly formed nations are unstable, however, and fighting immediately breaks out between different tribes, leaders, and political factions.
Israel established itself and managed to defeat Arab attacks in 1948, as in OTL. With no support from the US, however, and surrounded by enemies getting a LOT of support from the Soviet Union, the position of Israel becomes more and more precarious in the early 1960s.
In 1964 Israel is attacked and defeated by an alliance of Arab nations supplied and advised by the Soviets. Large massacres of Israelis, around 1 million killed in what is some refer to as “the second Holocaust”. Many survivors flee to the United States. Many Israeli POWs are secretly sent to the Soviet Union. By the late 1960’s, almost all Middle Eastern and North African countries between Iran in the east and Algeria in the west are staunch allies of the Soviet Union.
In the US, growing racial tension has been somewhat lessened by a series of Congressional acts and Supreme court rulings which push school integration and an unobstructed right for blacks to vote. The US adopts a very open immigration policy as the economy continues to expand. Extensive welfare programs are instituted, including a national healthcare system (more extensive than OTL was – taxes are at a similar level or slightly higher, military spending is much lower). The US receives growing numbers of immigrants, both poor and well-off, from various parts of the world where they were driven out by war, political or religious persecution, or punitive taxation.
Fear of the effects of an oil embargo by Arab nations, all friendly to the USSR, encourages drilling in Alaska and offshore areas. This isn’t enough in the 1971 Oil Embargo, which hurts the US economy badly. The US surprises the rest of the world, though, by coming back from this recession by the mid 1970s. Any and all possible sources of oil within the US are explored and drilled. At the same time, there is an increase in the use of public transportation, and the introduction of electrically-powered road vehicles (almost all buses in the early years – the system is too bulky for smaller vehicles until the mid 1980s). The use of other sources of power, especially ones that don’t depend on limited natural resources, is explored by a number of companies and attracts much investment in a world where imports of resources from overseas seems precarious. In other areas of technology, the first personal computers, cable television, and VCRs are introduced in 1972-1975. The first US satellites, launched in the mid 1960s, are for communications and weather forecasting purposes. The US government places a limited number of spy satellites in orbit as well.
By the mid 1970s, the majority of countries in Central and South America either have Marxist governments or are friendly to the USSR. The US has little political clout in the region. Western European countries all have socialist governments that have essentially come to terms with the USSR. In 1976 West and East Germany are unified as one country, on the condition that the new Germany give favorable trade terms to the Soviet bloc and allies. Even the UK has a left-leaning government that is very cool towards the US. The only major overseas power that is a staunch ally of the US is, ironically enough, Japan. Japan’s economy is booming, and it is increasing the size of its military forces out of fear of the Communist giants nearby.
In 1976, war breaks out between India (friendly to the Soviet Union) and Pakistan (friendly to the Peoples’ Republic of China). It is quickly apparent that Pakistan will lose the war without help, so China sends large forces against India. The Soviet Union warns China to withdraw, which is ignored. The Soviet Union and China go to war. In the war that follows, India uses 2 nuclear weapons against Pakistan, the Soviet Union uses about a dozen against China, while China uses 4 against the Soviets. The Indian/Soviet alliance is victorious. Pakistan ceases to exist, partitioned between India and Soviet allies Iran and Afghanistan. Manchuria and large parts of northern and western China are annexed by the Soviets and formed into new “Soviet Socialist Republics”. The rest of China is ruled by a communist government willing to follow the Soviet lead after Mao and his principal supporters are overthrown and executed. As the horrors of this war are shown on television networks, the overwhelming sentiment in the US is “thank God we’re not involved with the rest of the world!”
Politically and militarily, the late 1970s saw the Soviet Union and its allies apparently at the summit of their power. Most countries in the world apart from the United States are either dominated by, friendly to, or cowed by the Soviet Union. In many other ways, though, powerful new forces were attacking the very foundations of this soviet bloc.
There is growing unrest in many Middle Eastern countries as a rising Islamic fundamentalist movement challenges the pro-Soviet governments of countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Egypt. Secularization and anti-religious measures promoted by these governments are generating a tremendous backlash against secular rulers. In the Americas, countries like Nicaragua, Guatamala, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, and Chile which have adopted communist or socialist governments see economic stagnation at best, disaster at worst. Now the leftist governments of these nations are challenged by a wide variety of opposition movements, ranging from conservative Catholic groups to ethnic minorities to members of the lower middle class in cities and towns to converts to Pentecostal and Baptist and other conservative Protestant movements. There is a growing flight of people with money, ambition, and talent to countries with greater economic freedom, particularly the United States and Brazil. Western Europe is politically dominated by the left, but it too is experiencing prolonged economic stagnation brought on by punitive taxation and other government policies hostile to private enterprise. There is a growing flight of wealth and talent from western Europe to the United States as well. France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and other countries all pass laws declaring all assets of citizens liable to taxation, even if they are held in other countries. This prompts many to abandon citizenship in their native countries and become US Citizens.