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Most historians within and beyond the United States are very critical of the actions of US foreign policymakers when it comes to developing nations during the Cold War era. However, even these critics point out that US aid was often generously bestowed for humanitarian reasons, while US intervention was sometimes directed against an oppressive regime, regardless of how it might affect the Cold War. In most cases, however, historians agree that the leading concern behind America’s major foreign policy decisions was the containment or elimination of Communism. The same American officials who authorized humanitarian aid could also display callous indifference to the conditions faced by the people of other nations when concerns about the spread of Communism were involved.
While leaders in Washington exerted tremendous resources aimed at promoting global stability by fighting Communism, their inclination to view developing nations as pawns in a geopolitical chessboard destroyed the goodwill of their humanitarian efforts and alienated the people of many nations. Critics of US foreign policy believe that the failure of US officials to consider the perspectives of developing nations may have thwarted their own efforts to prevent the spread of Communism more effectively than any action taken in Moscow.
The global Cold War affected the domestic civil rights movement in two important ways that often worked against one another. First, it prodded the federal government to end segregation as a means of improving America’s global image. Second, the Cold War led to the creation of a political environment that was suspicious of all dissident groups. Anti-Communist witch hunts spread beyond differences of opinions regarding political and economic systems. As a result, civil rights leaders were among those charged with disloyalty. McCarthyism and hysteria rose and fell, but over time fewer Americans were taken in by demagogues who sought to harness fear for their own political gain.
A similar phenomenon occurred in the fight for civil rights, as groups such as the White Citizens Council found fewer adherents after their methods were exposed. Photographs showing violence against activists led to growing support of the civil rights movement, while grassroots campaigns led to both local and national victories against segregation. But as the Albany Movement showed, public support for civil rights might not be forthcoming without patent evidence showing violent injustice. As activists celebrated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, a growing number of white Americans were beginning to believe that the problem of race in America had been solved.