Cold War – Importance of Communication Ethics During the Conflict


The following discussion aims to illustrate the importance of communication ethics with reference to Cold War that is an important historical event. In this regard, the paper presents an overview of origin of cold war and its major impacts upon the society and world politics and analyze the event with respect to the issues related with the communication ethics that were observed during this time period.

Cold War – Origins and Impact

The origins of the Cold War can be rooted from the post World War I relationship of the two main superpowers of the world; United Stated and Soviet Union (Yergin and Daniel, p99). Their relationship led them towards the Cold War that affected the entire region as well as the world politics for almost half of the century and world politics continued to witness its effects even many years after. There were several incidents and events that can be blamed for providing a base for the cold war. Different events preceding the WWI and Russian revolution of 1917 are among these responsible factors however mainly the cold war began due to the tension between the two superpowers of the world (Braunthal, p242).

There was an ideological conflict between communism and capitalism that actually began in 1917 and led towards the Russian Revolution after which the relationship between US and Russia was significantly affected. Historians also believe that cold war began as a result of the legacy of different heritages of empire building between the Russia and America. Both of these powers had the intention to build their empire through these two powers used to be totally different from each other with respect to the economic base. The USA mainly focuses on the trade and commerce development whereas Russia used to a bureaucratic and land-based power. Furthermore there was also tension between the UK and Russia due to imperial rivalry (Yergin and Daniel, p97).

In the nineteenth century, the Great Britain was significantly progressing towards expansion of maritime and on the other hand Russia despite having large territory was unable to make use of sea cost because big portion of their sea cost used to be freeze though out the year, thus Tsar decided to improve the maritime access of Russia. The completion of the Suez Canal in 1869 was a great concern for Great Britain because it added to the strength of Russia. Some political and territorial expansion policies of Russia were also adding to the worries on the regarding the safety of the frontier areas due to the fear of Russian expansion (Porter and Bernard, p84).

Along with the clash of ideologies and maritime expansion issues, USA and Russia had conflicts with each other on several grounds. There had been limited trade and diplomatic relationships between these two countries even before the cold wartime. US took part in the efforts of crush Bolshevism from 1918 to 1920 that was dislike by Russia. USA was against the Russian efforts for the promotion and spread of communism across its own borders (Braunthal, p242). Till 1933, US did not recognize USSR regard the Soviet system as a threat. All these disputes and conflicting issues prepare the background for the cold war. (Porter and Bernard, p84)

Cold War drew some major changes in the global scene especially on the European countries. Till the end of the cold war Europe emphasized on the disarmament issues. The signing of INF (Intermediate-range nuclear forces) between United States and the USSR in 1987 was one of the great accomplishments that the Europe gets after the cold war. Later the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE1), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) further paved the way for the disarmaments and the European objectives were successfully met through these treaties. (Joffe, p7) The demise of USSR is one of the major achievements of Europe that became possible after the cold war. Moreover the establishment of European Union further strengthened the economic and political conditions of Europe and the European countries appeared as more powerful nations of the world after the cold war. Thus there were some many significant changes occurred in the global political and geographical conditions that mainly contributed towards the stability and strength of the European countries.

Cold War and Communication Ethics

The analysis of any historical event to illustrate the importance of communication ethics is basically an attempt to combine the theory with the actual events. It can also be refereed as judgments of theories and ideologies after applying them to the real life dilemmas. There are many historical events occurred throughout the world history that have some positive or negative reflection of communication ethics. Either the related people and countries follow the communication ethics or they violate with to attain their objectives. Among all the events, the event of “Cold War” can be sought as an important example to illustrate the importance of communication ethics because after cold a strong wave of realization about the communication ethics was evolved among the leaders.

During the time period of cold war, many evolutional developments took place in the field of communication like the development of communication satellites in 1960s. This advancement in communication technology paved certain new ways of communication between the countries and their leaders. The politics also took new turn after such developments in technology because global communication got new meanings from this development. Furthermore, the economic globalization also emerged when the businesses and the economies of different countries become able to interact with each other with the help of new ways of communication.

As the name shows itself “Cold War” was a cold war because the parties involved in the war were against fighting with each other directly because they were well aware of the fact that the involvement and use of nuclear weapons will make the war destructive and serious in nature (Porter and Bernard, p84). The war is great example of diplomacy because without using mass destruction weapons, USA won the war and attained the position of the alone superpower of the world. Instead, USA took full advantage of the communication technology development and use media for the propagation of ideas.

USA decided to establish a satellite communication system that was intended to compete with the soviet countries in the field of communication. USA shows the intention of showing the communication technology advancements for gaining political gains. In order to meet this requirements the first global satellite communication system, Intelsat (the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization) came in to existence. Furthermore, the US government also worked for the establishment of a single world system and as a result of all such steps, the concept of international communications emerges with the support of technology driven interconnectivity between the organizations.

Though these steps were meant to attain advancements in the communication technology field but at the same time, USA attempted to gain superiority on the other nations by using the communication tools as weapons so that it can stand alone as the number one superpower of the world. The communication ethics and ideologies pursue that tools of communication must be utilized with good intentions (Christians and Clifford, p13. The social responsibility theory of media meant that the communication must be done for an overall good of the humanity and not to gain one sided objectives and to exploit someone. However the development of the communication satellite and other networks were basically meant to gain superiority over the competing countries. This development can be regarded as violation of the communication ethics because the time period of 1960s saw much advancement in communication technology that was meant to make weak countries weaker and strong countries stronger. (Cavanaugh and William, p347)

Not only the post war developments in the technology field can be regarded as the violation of the communication ethics but the strategies and politician plans adopted by both of the counties also neglect the essence of social responsibility that is supposed to be the main theme of all mass campaigns (Cavanaugh and William, p347). The leaders of both the side adopted the strategies of propagating false information against each other. They concentrated less on dialogues and more on propaganda due to which media took over the role of weapon. In cold war, the countries never involved in cold attacks with each other and so, media was the greatest options available in front of them through which they attack on each other and in doing so, and they often violated the communication ethics.

Cold war was based on the clash of ideologies of capitalism and communism held by US and USSR respectively. In order to resolve this conflicting issue, both of these countries also took help of the dialogues. The culture of dialogues is regarded a fundamental component in international ethics because through dialogues, countries or parties can settle down their issues quite peacefully. During the cold was also, both the parties remain engaged in dialogues with each other and these dialogues resulted in form of different treaties including “The Treaty of Rapallo and the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact” (Joffe, p7). Thus these signing of these treaties can be taken as a good example of communication ethics because the communication ethics also ask the parties to discuss different issues in details with each other so that after knowing each other’s perspective, they can come towards a final decision.

The analysis of communication process between the countries and the leaders during the cold war cannot be exactly regarded as the violation of the communication ethics because when it comes to politics, the ethics of communications are taken with some changed meanings because politics and diplomacy have its own boundaries and regulations. Thus the politicians and the leaders of different country use communication tools for attaining their specific purpose and often they give les care to the ideologies of communications. During the time period of Cold War as well, the politicians and leaders of both the countries take help from propaganda as a tool of war and in the end USA won the war with the help of propaganda and other communication tactics.

Thus, the Cold War can be sought as an example that changes the traditional ethics of communication because the war was fought on different pattern rather than direct clashes, the technology, propaganda, communication tools, industrial advancements were used as weapons by both of the involved parties. In any other case, like in any traditional war, one can expect the traditional role of communication and can expect the leaders and the politicians to follow the communication ethical standards but when communication itself becomes a tool, then it is to over expect that the leaders and countries will remain strictly in the boundaries of the communication ethics during the war period. Due to this reason, the history of the world has witnessed many violations of the communication ethics during the Cold War. Though both of the countries involved in the Cold War; US and USSR violated the communication ethics on several grounds but in the end USA attained its objective to become superpower of the world and other European countries also received several important advantages as a result of the cold war. Thus it can be concluded that the major countries of the world, attained their objectives successfully during and after the Cold War but in this entire effort they overlook the communication ethics and rather use communication as a weapon to won the battle. This use of communication is itself a violation of communication ethics.

Work Cited

Cavanaugh, William T. (2001). “Balthazar, Globalization, and the Problem of the One and the Many.” Communio: International Catholic Review, Summer, pp. 324-47.

Christians, Clifford (2003). “The Media and Moral Literacy.” Ethical Space: International Journal of Communication Ethics. 1(1), pp. 13-19.

Christians, Clifford (1997). “The Ethics of Being in a Communications Context.” In C. Christians and M. Traber, eds., Communication Ethics and Universal Values. Thousand

Julius Braunthal, History of the International Politics (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1967), Vol. 1, p. 242 Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 3-23.

Josef Joffe (1999), “The Western Alliance: For Love or Convenience,” in Does “The West” Still Exist? A Conference of the Committee for the Free World, (New York: Orwell) p. 7.

Porter, Bernard. The Lion’s Share: A Short History of British Imperialism 1850-1995, Longman, 1996. pp. 84-89.

Yergin, Daniel (1977), Shattered Peace: The Origins of the Cold War and the National Security State, Houghton Mifflin.

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