The Third Party in the Cold War’s Binary Logic: Analyzing American Perceptions of Germany

My research topic pertains to the American perception of Germany since the end of World War II: I will be analyzing the binary rationale used to make sense of German-American relations and to craft often ambiguous narratives of Germany. This is particularly relevant because these narratives have profoundly impacted U.S. domestic and foreign policy since the Cold War.

Numerous scholars have analyzed the role of U.S. foreign policy in increasing the divide between West and East Germany during the Cold War. American policies in West Germany and West Berlin served to contain the expansion of the Soviet Union and to provide a direct comparison between the ideals of the Western and the Eastern blocs. To do so,  U.S. policy had to economically and politically tie West Germany into the alliance against the Soviet Union. However, rallying support for the German cause was not easy during the Cold War, as Germany had been cast as the enemy in both World Wars. Therefore, the U.S. government humanized Germans by presenting the ideological battle in Europe as a continuation of what America had been fighting for. This led to the creation of often conflicting narratives of Germans – at times “heroes” and at times “enemies.” Through my research, I want to show how ambiguities in the primarily strategic relationship between the U.S. and Germany persisted throughout the Cold War, until today. Specifically, I will be looking at the attitudes pertaining to West Germany supported by the U.S. government. In addition, I will try to show that the German-American relationship is still very much confined to the binary rationale in which it was conceived and that this concept of either “with us” or “against us” has framed U.S. foreign policy over the past century.

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