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United States Modern History

After the Second World War, the United States consolidated its role as the world's most powerful nation. The Americans helped the war-torn countries of Western Europe with reconstruction and promised political support. The purpose was to stop the Soviet Union from extending its communist influence. This power struggle - the Cold War - was expressed in, among others, the Korean War, the Cuba crisis, the Vietnam War and the nuclear superpower of both superpowers. Only with the fall of Communism and the Soviet Union in 1989 - 1991 did the conditions change. Following the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, President George W Bush launched a new global war, the war on terrorism.

When World War II was over, Europe was in ruins and the United States was the world's leading economic and political superpower. In the new role, the United States assumed a great responsibility for the reconstruction of the war-torn countries.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing United States. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The UN was founded in 1945 with the goal of securing a lasting peace. The Marshall Aid was a comprehensive US relief program for reconstruction in Europe. The United States also dominated new global lending institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which became important instruments to facilitate a recovery. The free trade agreement Gatt came to promote a freer world trade (and was later transformed into the World Trade Organization, WTO). Through the Truman Doctrine, the United States promised financial and political assistance to countries in Europe that felt threatened by the Soviet Union. In order to strengthen Europe's future security, in 1949 the Atlantic Pact (NATO) was formed, in which the member states promised to rescue each other in the event of an external attack.

Contemporary History of United StatesHarry Truman, who took over the presidency after Roosevelt's death in April 1945, continued the representative's reform work in the economic and social field. The 1952 presidential election was won by Republican war hero Dwight Eisenhower, who pursued a more conservative policy without tearing down the social safety net.

In the 1950-1953 Korean War, the United States participated in South Korea's side against Communist North Korea. The war and the growing confrontation between the Western countries and the Soviet Union reinforced anti-communist sentiments in the United States. In the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy led investigations that degenerated into pure witch-hunting for dissent. A number of politicians, trade union leaders, and cultural personalities were often alleged to be communist sympathizers. Some ended up in prison and many more lost their jobs.

Generational change with Kennedy

A political generation shift came when 43-year-old Democrat John F Kennedy won the 1960 presidential election. Kennedy pledged new social reforms under the New Frontier colloquial name and cautiously supported the black civil rights movement that had begun to emerge during the 1950s as racial oppositions hardened.

Kennedy was quickly thrown into several foreign policy conflicts. He gave his support in 1961 to the "Pig Bay Invasion," a group of exile Cubans' unsuccessful attempts to invade Cuba to overthrow Communist leader Fidel Castro. The following year, the so-called Cuba crisis was close to causing a major war with the Soviet Union. The crisis was triggered when the United States discovered that the Soviet Union was in the process of building nuclear weapons launching ramparts in Cuba. After 13 days of war on the war, Moscow agreed to the dismantling of the ramps and the removal of the nuclear weapons robots. The United States secretly promised to remove deployed robots at Turkey's border with the Soviet Union.

The Vietnam War is escalating

Under Kennedy, the US involvement in the Vietnam War, which began in the 1950s, increased. The motive for US intervention was to curb the progress of communism in Asia. The United States increased the number of military advisers to the South Vietnamese regime in its war against the FNL guerrillas, which were supported by North Vietnam, China and the Soviet Union.

In the arms race with the Soviet Union, Kennedy took a tough stance and he succeeded in instilling an increased faith in the future among Americans. To this was contributed the great investment in the US space program. His stated goal that the United States would be the first to send people to the moon was realized on the first lunar landing in 1969. However,

Kennedy himself was assassinated in November 1963, during a visit to Dallas, Texas. According to the official story, he was shot to death by a lone killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, but since the shots fell, conspiracy theories have circulated.

Lyndon Johnson takes over

Kennedy was succeeded by his Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. With his social reform program Great Society, Johnson declared "the war on poverty" and enforced strengthened civil rights laws introduced by Kennedy. Still, Johnson is most remembered for his escalation of the Vietnam War that led to national divide and one of America's most serious domestic political crises. Student protests and demonstrations combined with violent racial riots helped Johnson not run for re-election in 1968, the tumultuous year of riots when both the civil rights movement's Martin Luther King and Democratic presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, John Kennedy's younger brother, were shot dead.

Winning the presidential election was Republican Richard Nixon, who lost the election against Kennedy in a marginal way in 1960. Nixon claimed he had a plan to reach peace in Vietnam, but instead intensified the US warfare that also extended to Cambodia and Laos. At the same time, Nixon and his Foreign Minister Henry Kissinger conducted successful diplomacy that led to relaxation and improved relations with the Soviet Union and China.

The Watergate scandal shakes the United States

Negotiations with Moscow in 1972 resulted in an agreement to limit the number of long-range nuclear weapons, an agreement called Salt 1 (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks). In the same year, Nixon made a historic visit to Beijing that opened the door to China that had been closed since the communist revolution in 1949. After the October war between Israel and the Arab states in 1973, efforts also began to establish a dialogue with Israel's Arab neighbors.

Nixon was re-elected in 1972 in a landslide victory even though the so-called Watergate scandal had started to roll up. The deal began in June 1972 when police arrested five men who, on behalf of Nixon's campaign committee, broke into the Democrats' party headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington. Then came a series of revelations of how Nixon tried to blackmail the White House's role in the scandal. The many irregularities that came to light led Congress to initiate a judicial process against the president. Faced with the threat of being deposed, Nixon chose to resign, in August 1974. The Watergate scandal, like the Vietnam War, left stinging wounds on American society.

Peacemaking in the Middle East

Nixon was succeeded by Vice President Gerald Ford, who pardoned his representative and oversaw America's humiliating departure from Vietnam in 1975. Ford became just a bracket on the presidential post as he lost the 1976 election to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Carter introduced what he called a more moral foreign policy that would promote democracy and human rights. He celebrated his greatest foreign policy triumph in 1978 when he got Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egypt's President Anwar Sadat to the negotiating table. This led to the Camp David agreement and peace between Egypt and Israel.

At the end of 1979, the staff of the US embassy in Tehran was taken into custody by Iranian students. The hostage drama that followed lasted for over a year. That, along with financial difficulties after the 1970s oil crises, contributed to Carter losing the 1980 presidential election against Republican Ronald Reagan.

Reaganomics is deregulating the economy

The deeply conservative Reagan succeeded in restoring the optimism of the future with its economic program aimed at reducing taxes and regulations, as well as increasing appropriations for the defense and at the same time reducing other federal spending ("Reaganomics"). But the idea that it would be possible to combine tax cuts and an investment in the military with a fiscal restraint did not hold. Instead, the budget deficit was pushed up to record levels.

In foreign policy, Reagan led a tough anti-communist line. To prevent the spread of communism, the United States invaded the small Caribbean island state of Grenada in 1983. The left-wing regime in Nicaragua was isolated by trade embargo and the mining of its ports. The United States actively supported Nicaragua's anti-communist guerrilla, contras, with both money and advice.

At the same time, the attitude towards the Soviet Union hardened. Nuclear talks were interrupted and new medium-range nuclear weapons began to be deployed in Western Europe as part of US armaments. However, relations improved between the superpowers after Reagan was re-elected by a large majority in 1984 and Michail Gorbachev took over as new president of the Soviet Union in 1985. The disarmament negotiations were resumed and in 1987 an agreement was signed aimed at reducing the number of nuclear weapons (the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty). The agreement took on a symbolic significance, even though only a small part of the total nuclear arsenal was included.

During Reagan's last two years in power, the White House was hit by several scandals. The most serious was the Iran-contras raft where employees of the White House secretly sold weapons to Iran via Israel. In exchange, Iran would persuade pro-Iranian groups to release Americans held hostage in Lebanon. Part of the proceeds from the arms sales were used to support the Contras guerrillas in Nicaragua.

George Bush and the Kuwait War

Reagan was succeeded by his Vice President George Bush (or George H W Bush, to separate him from his son who later became President) who won the election in 1988. Bush began his tenure in trying to reduce the budget deficit raised during the Reagan era. While working to get the legal side on the budget, Bush broke an important election promise not to raise any taxes. That promise of failure came to haunt him throughout his time in the White House.

Bush soon had reason to concentrate on foreign policy. When the Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989, relations with Moscow improved further and the United States, along with other industrialized countries, offered financial assistance to the Soviet Union. Bush and Gorbachev signed the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty to reduce the arsenal of long-range nuclear weapons. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union later that year, an era of cooperation took place instead of confrontation between Washington and Moscow, although mutual disbelief persisted on many levels.

When Iraq occupied neighboring Kuwait in the summer of 1990, President Bush took the initiative to send a US-led multinational force with UN approval to the Persian Gulf. Following massive aerial and missile attacks against Iraqi targets in early 1991, the regime in Baghdad was forced to join a ceasefire in March of that year. The success of "Operation Desert Storm," as the military intervention was called, lifted Bush's popularity to record highs in the United States and his reelection seemed assured.

Bill Clinton popular despite scandal

However, when the election movement approached in 1992, the US economy had weakened. It helped Bush lose the election to Bill Clinton, a formerly little known Democratic governor from Arkansas.

During Clinton's eight years as president, the United States experienced the longest boom to date in the nation's history. More than 20 million new jobs were added. It helped keep his popularity figures up despite political hardships and scandals. The most attention was aroused by the Monica Lewinsky scandal that broke out in 1998. Clinton's sexual relationship with the young intern at the White House and his denials of the affair led to him being brought before state law, which only happened to another sitting president in US history (Nixon resigned before he was brought before national law). After a series of tear-jerking trips, Clinton managed to be dismissed and the process was partly a setback for the Republican Party.

George W Bush wins after HD rash

The 2000 presidential election ended extremely smoothly. Only five dramatic weeks after Election Day, Republican George W Bush, son of former President George Bush, was declared victorious. It happened when the United States Supreme Court stopped an initial recalculation of ballots in several Florida electoral districts. The court ruling meant that Bush won the electoral college victory (see Political system) with the least possible overweight, despite his opponent, the outgoing Vice President Al Gore, having received just over half a million more votes in total. It was the first time since the 19th century that the winning presidential candidate had not received the most votes.

Terrorist acts 2001

On September 11, 2001, the United States was hit by the worst terrorist acts in its history. A group of Islamist terrorists flew with hijacked aircraft into two skyscrapers at the World Trade Center in New York City, causing them to collapse. A third hijacked plane flew into the Pentagon Defense Headquarters in Washington, where the devastation also grew. A fourth plane crash landed in Pennsylvania after passengers overpowered the hijackers. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the worst attack on the United States since Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

In the crisis that ensued, Americans from virtually all political camps closed behind President Bush. Congress gave him free hands. Bush tightened US terrorist laws (see Democracy and Rights)) and launched an international campaign to crush terrorism. In October, the United States and Britain attacked Afghanistan. The country's ruling Taliban (ultra-Orthodox Islamists) were accused of providing a haven for those responsible for the terrorist attacks, that is, Saudi Usama bin Ladin and his terror network al-Qaeda. In a resolution, the UN Security Council had recognized "the United States' right to self-defense," which was interpreted by many as a clear sign of US military action in defense of terrorism. While US aircraft fired and bombed from the air, Taliban hostile Afghan forces advanced to the ground and eventually conquered virtually all of Afghanistan from the Taliban.

The war on terrorism

The cost of Bush's war on terrorism, combined with tax cuts, helped turn the former federal budget surplus into large deficits. The economic problems weakened Bush's position, as did domestic political disputes.

In his fight against terrorism, President Bush wanted to rally the outside world to a joint front against Iraq to overthrow leader Saddam Hussein, who was accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction. When it became clear that the UN Security Council would not support an invasion (unlike 1991), the United States went on an attack on its own, with the support of Britain and a number of "willing nations". The Iraqis unexpectedly offered weak resistance. Baghdad was inaugurated in April 2003 and after just a month Bush declared that the war was essentially over. But US troops remained in the country to provide security, contribute to reconstruction and establish a democratic regime.

No weapons of mass destruction

The Iraq war and clear signals that the United States was prepared to act militarily on its own to avert terror threats contributed to more tense relations with many European countries and anti-American sentiment was strengthened, especially in the Arab world. The war on Iraq also divided US opinion, especially as the military presence waned at the same time as the number of killed American soldiers shot up. Also, no weapons of mass destruction were found.

Nevertheless, many regarded Bush as an effective leader in the fight against terrorism. He was re-elected in 2004 when he defeated Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry.

However, as the security situation in Iraq worsened, support for the president declined. The discontent deepened when Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 caused severe flooding in New Orleans, Louisiana. Over 1,200 people lost their lives and property damage was estimated at over $ 100 billion. The Bush administration was criticized for lack of preparedness and slow federal relief efforts.

In the 2006 congressional elections, Democrats regained control of Congress after twelve years of Republican domination in both chambers. The majority of Democrats made it harder for the president to pursue his politics.

Obama elected during crisis autumn

In the autumn of 2008, a growing economic crisis underwent an acute situation that led many to fear a financial meltdown. Bush presented a rescue package passed by Congress, supported by more Democrats than Republicans. Many conservatives had difficulty accepting government intervention in the economy.

The package was adopted one month before the November presidential election. The situation favored Democratic candidate Barack Obama, Senator from Illinios. Obama, of mixed American and Kenyan descent, had already enthused many with his message of "change" and managed to reach out to Americans who had previously not bothered to vote. He won a clear victory over Republican candidate John McCain, with, among other things, 95 percent of the black vote and the support of a majority of young people and Latinos. Many considered it an historic victory over racism in the United States that an African American was elected president.

The congressional election was also a great success for the Democrats, who strengthened their majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

One of the new president's first steps was to present a comprehensive stimulus package to bring life into the crippled economy. Congress approved the package in February 2009. Obama received little support from Republicans, though by including tax cuts in the crisis package he sought to establish a cooperation between the party blocs. A new law was also adopted with fundamental changes to the banking and finance regulations. According to the president, the lack of clear rules lay behind the financial crisis.

Contested health insurance reform

One of Obama's most important election promises was a health insurance reform. This had been discussed for decades, to address the fact that many Americans lacked health insurance - while health care accounted for a larger portion of the economy in the United States than in any other country. After intensive lobbying and a certain triumph in Congress, Obama and the Democrats succeeded in pushing the reform in port, without the support of a single Republican. In March 2010, the President signed the new law that came to be called "Obamacare" (see Social Conditions).

The government's success was clouded by an oil spill that occurred when a drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April. Only after three months was the leak sealed and the oil disaster was considered the worst in the seas that ever occurred. The Obama administration has been criticized for not acting fast enough and for lack of control of oil drilling companies.

Impact on the Tea Party movement

The crisis-hit economy, combined with President Obama's declining popularity with voters, led to a staggering defeat of Democrats in the 2010 House of Representatives election. to stop Obama's policies and prevent him from being re-elected. In the Senate, where only a third of the seats were at stake, the Democrats managed to retain a scarce majority.

The new balance of power in Congress meant that Obama's ability to push through his policies drastically decreased. The remaining two years of his first presidential term were characterized by political paralysis. The polarization between Democrats and Republicans grew deeper.

Obama re-elected

At the beginning of autumn 2012, a slight improvement in the economy was noticed, among other things, unemployment decreased. The turnaround helped Obama get re-elected in November when he defeated Republican counterpart Mitt Romney, who went to election with promises to get the "disastrous economy" in order. In Congress, Republicans retained their majority in the House of Representatives while Democrats continued to take over in the Senate. The political stalemate continued and effectively put an end to new legislation in important areas.

When it comes to climate policy, Obama chose to act outside Congress. In the summer of 2013, he presented a climate plan with several new directives to the Environmental Protection Agency, decisions that did not require congressional approval (see Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment).

Trouble about the federal budget

Political disagreement was noticeable not least in terms of the economy and how the budget deficit would be kept in check. In a couple of rounds, Congress kept the entire world economy on the sidewalk because of disagreement over the terms for raising the ceiling for government debt, which is normally routinely approved. Settlements were approved several times at the last moment, before the state was forced to suspend its payments. But in October 2013, the lockout became total, since Republicans demanded that Obamacare be stopped. As a result, parts of the federal state apparatus were shut down and hundreds of thousands of federal employees were allowed to stay at home without pay for just over two weeks. At the last moment, before the US payments abroad could also be suspended, an agreement was reached that opened the federal administration and extended the state's ability to borrow.

Still, the Washington paralysis continued in 2014. In the congressional election, Republicans also took control of the Senate. That meant that during the last two years of his presidency, Obama became even more committed than before.

The shooting death of a black teenager in August 2014 in Ferguson outside Saint Louis, Missouri became the starting point for widespread protests against police violence against blacks and other minorities. The activist movement Black Lives Matter (BLM) that emerged the year before, following a case when a man was freed from the murder of a black teenager in Florida, gathered people across the country in protest against police violence and racism, and became a factor in the upcoming election movement.

Trump is elected president

When the primary elections for the 2016 presidential election kicked off at the beginning of the year, as many as twelve people were in the Republican starting field. Among them, many saw the controversial real estate billionaire and reality TV star Donald Trump as an unlikely candidate. But he soon took the lead and in May it was clear that Trump secured the nomination. The Democrat's leading candidate was Hillary Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State during Obama's first term in office. M a Clinton got more than expected for the nomination against Bernie Sanders, senator from Vermont who, with an establishment-critical left message, was especially enthusiastic about young voters. Only in June was Clinton's nomination completed.

The election movement became unusually "dirty". Trump argued, among other things, that Hillary Clinton should sit in jail because of her negligence in handling email when she was foreign minister, and in the election debates he discussed Bill Clinton's infidelity dealings. Hillary Clinton criticized Trump for sexist and racist statements and warned of his lack of knowledge of foreign policy. Prominent Republicans went out during the election debate and declared that they did not intend to vote for Trump, and some even said they intended to support Clinton instead.

Opinion polls indicated a takeover for Clinton, but on election day in November, it was clear that Trump had won, despite nearly 3 million more voters voting for Clinton. This could happen when Trump, by a small margin, took home several of the important wave master states, such as Florida and Pennsylvania (see further Calendar). Republicans backed somewhat in the congressional elections but retained their majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

 
 

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