The Cold War is easy enough to explain: communism vs. capitalism. The USSR, China and their communist allies were united as one glorious super-pact prepared for communist war with the capitalist West. Like a U.S. election, you had the red and blue districts competing for dominance. Everything else was beside the point. This belief was so pervasive in the media that they invented the phrase "third-world country" to refer to any country that wasn't firmly in either the commie or capitalism camp.
This was the belief that underlined all U.S. foreign policy -- as demonstrated by Kennedy's domino theory. While we might not believe that theory to be true anymore, as far as our history books are concerned, this is how Soviet and American leaders viewed the world ...
Anything red was fair game.
Why It's Bullshit:
That might have been how America viewed the world. Like with the missile gap, they had to make their enemy look like a big, strong, unified force to justify all that bomb-building. From the "second world" perspective, things were far less clear-cut.
For instance, sharing a 3,000-mile border did not make the Chinese and the Soviets all that friendly with each other, especially after that whole Genghis Khan thing. Throughout nearly the entire Cold War, the Soviets and the Chinese were actually engaged in a second Cold War with each other.
Wait, this is Genghis Khan? The guy who carried out the Mongol invasions looks like an overdone pastry.
While things started off pretty well between Stalin and Mao as far as odd couples go, things soured following the Sino-Soviet split of the late 1950s, which went so bad that it wasn't uncommon to see the Chinese burn Stalin in effigy. The situation eventually escalated into a seven-month-long Sino-Soviet border conflict, which doesn't get brought up in Western history books since it sort of screws with history teachers' ability to use Star Wars as a teaching tool.
"And then the two of them found out they were brother and sister and everyone felt horribly uncomfortable."
Even more confusing to the version of history learned in Western classrooms, the decade after the Vietnam War we're all familiar with brought the Sino-Vietnamese War, which cost tens of thousands of lives on both sides over the course of just 28 days.
America never had to openly fight their capitalist allies in Europe, but the allies were mostly motivated by trying to keep the U.S. and USSR from going crazy and shooting hydrogen bombs at each other. This is part of the reason why the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament started in the U.K. and not the United States. English philosopher Bertrand Russell suggested that Europeans should all convert to communism at once if it ever looked like World War III was imminent.
That seems like a reasonable idea, badass pipe guy.
So basically, the Cold War boils down to a bunch of military and industrial people pulling off one of the most profitable cons ever, and the rest of the world being terrified of the deadly results for 40 years.
Jacopo is a history nerd who was recently interviewed by Ripley's Believe It or Not! about the great Andrew Jackson Cheese Party of 1837. He also has a new book coming out called The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy and he is on Twitter.
For more bullshit, check out 6 Bullshit Facts About Psychology That Everyone Believes and 6 Subtle Ways The News Media Disguises Bullshit As Fact.
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