The Cold War Struggle (1): Capitalist Atrocities

Alex J. Bellamy

in Massacres and Morality

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199288427
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745430 | DOI:
The Cold War Struggle (1): Capitalist Atrocities

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This chapter is the first of two on the Cold War. The post-Second World War period saw the gradual transformation of civilian immunity from shared moral norm to international legal rule. While both sides of the emerging Cold War divide committed themselves to the new rules, countervailing beliefs, assumptions and interests pulled governments and militaries away from compliance. For the West and its allies, the norm of civilian immunity sometimes stood in tension with the grave necessity of preventing communist expansion. Very few actors in the West were prepared to reject civilian immunity out of hand, but neither were military and political leaders prepared to forgo the utility associated with the deliberate killing of civilians in certain circumstances. As a result, atrocities were used, supported, excused or tolerated in many different settings but never justified as such. This chapter focuses on the Cold War's two major ‘hot wars’ in Korea and Indochina before examining two quite different cases from the Cold War's margins — the Indonesian killings of 1965–66 and the counter-insurgency in El Salvador. The story that unfolds is one of an uneven but positive shift in the centrality of civilian immunity to judgments about the legitimacy of violence.

Keywords: Cold War; West; atrocities; Korea; Indochina; Indonesia; El Salvador; civilian immunity

Chapter.  29885 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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