U. S. Domestic affairs since 1945 Introduction

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1. Introduction:

Following WWII the US emerged as a superpower, as Henry Luce put it in a Time magazine article, it was the “American Century.”

US = superpower, a chance to realize its mission (democracy)

2. Background:

-economic crisis -> New Deal as a solution+ real solution offered by the war: war economy -> way out

-US entry into the war and victory (saved Europe again)

-a tri-polar world to a BIPOLAR one -> confidence restored: the U.S. is a major player in world affairs

FDR died in office, so his Vice-President Henry S TRUMAN became the president of the US
3. 1945-52: the Truman years

Henry S TRUMAN: 1945-1948-1952
QUESTION: whether to revert to peacetime economy and risk another 1929 or stay on the international scene and play Cold War games

ANSWER: Truman: offered the FAIR DEAL: a New Deal-type sweeping reform program to sort out the most urgent issues and to revert to peacetime economy, has four cornerstones: support to farmers; housing and urban development; federal aid to education; national health care legislation, but gets none of it, it did not work

During his administration important measures related to RACE RELATIONS:

1. Truman desegregates the U.S. Armed Forces

2. Jackie Robinson becomes the first Afro-American player in a white team, the first Afro-American professional baseball player in the NLB at the Brooklyn Dodgers: first league sports desegregated ;

3. one of the presidential candidates, Henry Wallace (Progressive), in the 1948 presidential elections runs with the slogan: "Jim Crow Must Go!" the Civil Rights Movement is coming!

4. The 1950s: in general designated as the "good old days" of Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower: made his fame as a soldier (Korea), first Secretary of the NATO, Republican president (1953-1956-61), put an end to McCarthyism, later president of Columbia University
Good old days:” WHY? welfare, mass production, emergence of suburbia, baby boom, consumer products appeared such as the chewing gum and Elvis Presley became a cultural icon
During the 1950’s there was a unique unifying force in the USA: anti-communism (red fascism), or the second Red Scare which was manifested in what we know as McCarhtyism; WHY? 1949: China turned communist and USSR explodes her a-bomb

McCarhtyism: second red-scare, an all-out hunt for alleged and real communists in the USA, people such as Hollywood artists, e.g. Arthur Miller, or State Department officials, e.g. Alger Hiss fell victims of this; trials, court cases, sentences often without evidence, televised public hearings, est. of the House of Un-American Activities, Arthur Miller’S play The Witches of Salem is about McCarthyism. Witch-hunt put to an end by Eisenhower in 1955.
1950’s good, welfare period, BUT: social criticism: Whyte, The Organization Man and Riesman, The Lonely Crowd: men are cogs in the machine w/out opinion or a say: criticism of the complacency and uniformity of the people
major effect of the TV on the rise: 17% -> 80% by 1960, transforms media: a key factor in the 1960s

During the 1950’s very important turning points in RACE RELATIONS happened:

-!!!!1954: Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas: a landmark Supreme Court decision declaring that segregation in public education was unconstitutional;

-appearance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955: Rosa Parks (read story in course book)

MLK: a Baptist minister, leader of the peaceful wing of the Civil Rights Movement, his name is associated with Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he organized the March on Washington in 1963 where he delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, assassinated in 1968, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964
In general: 1950’s "good old days" in the light of the 1960s; but not w/o conflicts

a period of welfare, success, baby boom, etc.

BUT the 1950’s carries in itself the conflicts of the 1960s

5. The 1960s: a “we” decade: a decade of movements and reforms, when the people were very active and took part in various social movements---- CIVIC PARTICIPATION was important
The movements:

The Civil Rights Movement: freedom rides, the –ins: breaking of local segregation laws by Blacks who read-in libraries where only white people were supposed to read, ate-in restaurants where for whites only, etc., the march on Washington, ghetto riots and assassinations

achievements: 1964 Civil Rights Act

The Anti-Vietnam War Movement: in response to the prolonged and unsuccessful war in Vietnam: resistance against the war in many forms: draft resistance, rock music, film; links up with other movements including: Students for a Democratic Society,; peaks in 1970 in the Kent State University shootout where protesting students were shot by the National Guard

Feminism: the second wave of feminism, challenging traditional female stereotypes, for the emancipation of women, equality in education and employment, abortion, etc. women ready to go to work but problems; the leader of the movement was Betty Friedan, whose book The Feminine Mystique (1963) was the manifesto of 2nd wave feminists; she founded the NOW: National organization for Women (1966); again advocated the ERA: Equal Rights Amendment to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sex--- NEVER ratified

Environmentalism: also became important, leader Rachel Carson, whose book The Silent Spring (1962) called attention to the use of pesticides in agriculture and the poisoning of nature; for protection of environment, against nuclear testing; links up with Native American movements: their attitude towards nature----- President Nixon declared April 22 as Earth Day
Counterculture: sex and drugs and rock and roll (rich kids' fun time): Woodstock and the flower generation, Jimmy Hendrix, etc.

the Presidents: JFK (DEM, 1961-63): assassinated; LBJ (DEM, 1963-69): chose not to run in 1968 because of the Vietnam war; Richard Nixon (REP, 1969-74): disgracefully resigned due to the Watergate scandal. See all in presentations!!!

Reforms: GREAT SOCIETY: a presidential reform program offered by LBJ in an attempt to provide solution for the crises of the 1960’s, it targeted social justice, and a society where “everybody middle-class,” it declared an “unconditional war on poverty.”

Measures of the Great Society: Civil Rights Act 1964, Voting Rights Act 1965, Medicare and Medicaid 1965, Immigration Act 1965, Economic Opportunity Act 1964, tax cut, minimum wage raised, aid to public education, urban development
assassinations: JFK in 1963; Malcolm in 1965.; Robert F Kennedy; MLK in 1968; John Lennon in 1981

Nixon: offered “Law and Order”: the hectic 60’s calms down, fight against violence: people get tired of violence

the end of the 1960s: Vietnam war ends and peace is signed and the Watergate scandal in 1972-74:

the Republicans (CREEP agents) broke into the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate building, bugged the place, etc., records show Nixon knew about it--- impeachment crisis but resigned in time
5. The 1970s: a ”me” decade: it is an APOLITICAL period, people turned away from politics, disillusionment, turning away from politics: because of crises, movements, violence, Vietnam and Watergate
disillusionment with politics and foreign affairs (Vietnam and Watergate)

economic depression: oil embargo, 1973, oil crisis, 1979, etc.

Presidents: Gerald Ford (REP, 1974-77); James Earl Carter (DEM, 1977-81): outsiders

backlash after the 1960s: the Right takes over: 1979: New Religious Right created: neo-conservatives, promoting traditional conservative values, religion, family, and country

6. The 1980s and the 1990s: often termed as “sleepwalking through history;” the era of multiculturalism
Presidents: Ronald Reagan (REP, 1981-89): special economic policy—the matching of cold war concerns and economic deals: known as Reaganomics, scandal: the Iran Contra affair (see course book), during his administration the emergence of the New Religious Right: slogan “God, family and country!” an attempt to recreate the spirit of the 1950’s: promoting values such as neo-conservatism, patriotism and anti-communism

1980s: emergence of the New Religious Right and Reagan: values and aims are best expressed by Reagan’s slogan: “God, Family and Country”: an attempt to recreate the spirit of the 1950s, anti-communism, etc.

George Bush (REP, 1989-1993); Bill Clinton (DEM, 1993-2001); George W. Bush (REP, since 2001); Barack Obama (2008-)
BUT: the Cold War ends during the second half of the 1980s: other issues emerge, such as

Multiculturalism: acknowledging that the US is more like a salad bowl than a melting pot, a rerun of the issues of the 1960s: race, women, environment; something new: language (Political Correctness)
7. New problems for the 21st century:
hotly debated presidential election

terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon

economic challenge: European monetary unification: the Euro, January 1, 2002

question: semi-isolation vs. international responsibility

The US assumes a leading role in international affairs: economic and political reasons, US is a superpower: The American Century

The US demonstrates ”The Arrogance of Power”: the American style of foreign policy and its fail­ure: Middle East (1956, 1973, now): the “diplomatic counterrevolution”

What was the cold war?: misleading to think that it was only a US-USSR rivalry, rather a period of international affairs and not merely US - SU rivalry, a whole web of international relations
Cold War theories:

1917: George F. Kennan/Walter LaFeber - actually the origins

1941: John Lewis Gaddis - wartime conflicts

1946: Stephen Ambrose - actual Cold War confrontations (the first to emerge)

Cold War periods: The “first Cold War” (to 1949), The “new Cold War” (1950s to late 1960s); Detente (1970s); the “second Cold War” (1980s)
To understand the logic of the cold war, TWO TERMS should be discussed first:


1. containment: one of the major core cold war ideologies, coined and formulated by George F. Kennan in his “Mr. X” Article and the “Long Telegram,” advocating that since communism and democracy are mutually exclusive worldviews , the US has to contain communism, that is the US has to stop, or check the spread of communism in every possible means
George F. Kennan: a State Department official, US ambassador to Moscow, associated with the formulation of the idea of containment
2. limited war: “wars in peace,” typical cold war confrontations, when the two super powers avoid eye to eye showdown and get in a conflict in an indirect way by supporting their enemy’s enemy, with money, contraband but never with troops (Korea, Vietnam were of this kind typically)

The periods of the cold war
The “first Cold War” (TO 1949): ALL THAT W/O ANY EXTRA EFFORT

-US: no. 1 economic and military power, untouched by the devastation of war

-the major US sphere of influence or concern at that time was Europe: Europe first policy, mainly Western Europe: the main aim was to eliminate communism from Western Europe and make it communist-free (France, Italy), West Germany unified, Berlin airlift

-To assist the cold war plans and carry out the Europe first policy the US initiated the foundation of NATO (1949): military alliance, and put forward the idea of the Marshall Plan: coming from Secretary of State George C. Marshall (soldier by profession, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, the Marshall Plan for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953) was a financial and economic relief offered to all Europe, but Europe divided by the “Iron Curtain” so only Western countered took advantage of it

Middle East: takeover from GB: Greece, Turkey, IRAN, ISRAEL, oil and unique political commitment to Israel

Far East: Japan defeated and transformed; China holding out

Latin America: good neighbor policy
SU: defined as enemy, “CONTAINMENT” by George F. Kennan, BOMB

The “new Cold War” (1950s to late 1960s):

-1949 was a major turning point in the history of the cold war: in that year USSR made and tested her own A-bomb, and China also turned communist, and Korea was also on the way to turn communist ---- strong anti-communist sentiments and FEAR of communism

-result: collapse of the American position, and change in policy

-The US had revised her cold war policy: foreign policy revision: manifested in a report of the National Security Council, known as the NSC 68 report: specified THREE major/new aims of the US in the cold war: 1. to meet communism and contain it eye to eye, bullet to bullet, 2. increase in military spending, 3. making a stronger bomb: H-bomb (hydrogen)

-Korea: the excuse for NSC-68 and ground rules for limited wars


MASSIVE RETALIATION,” ”NUCLEAR BRIKSMANSHIP” (Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers) See definitions in the course book!

-with Stalin's death in 1953 the era of “PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE” between the US and USSR began: disarmament talks began such as the open skies talks

-PACTOMANIA and a budget conscious arms race

-setbacks in the US-Su relations: 1. Sputnik crisis (1957): the Soviets launched their first spacecraft to space, SU is the FIRST not the US--- prestige; 2. U2 affair

  • 1954: war of colonial liberation, France gives up her colony, Vietnam becomes independent.

  • in South Vietnam: US starts vietnamization: the systematic build-up of the South Vietnamese army, providing financial help for the Saigon regime, parallel with this sending military ‘advisors’ to the region----ever-growing American presence

  • protest against the South Vietnamese regime and the US presence

  • North Vietnam allies with the USSR--- it become a limited war: North vs South Vietnam

  • WAR--- Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964 (see course book), escalation of the war--- the war prolongs and the US does not seem to win it

  • US strategy: bombing for peace (1965-67)--- does not work

  • January 1968: the Tet offensive

  • at home: RESISTENCE grows against the war

  • President Johnson becomes obsessed with the war, does not want to be the first to lose a war

  • during the presidency of JFK and LBJ: “FLEXIBLE RESPONSE”: an issue of pres­tige and not of common sense; carried to the extreme by Nixon.

  • becomes clear that it is a no-win war

  • LBJ decides not to run for office again

  • Nixon and Kissinger ends the war

John Fitzgerald Kennedy: Democratic president of the USA (1961-63), offers the New Frontier reform program, as for his foreign record: major crises such as the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962): see presentation, Bay of Pigs (1961), the Wall in Berlin is set up during his term: major setbacks in SU - US relations, assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 23, 1963.
Mention should be made of TWO persons who greatly contributed to the formulation and the making of US foreign policy during the new cold war: two brothers---

Allen Welsh Dulles: formerly a corporate lawyer, first civilian and longest-serving director of the CIA (1953-61), in office during the Bay of Pigs, later served on the Warren Commission investigating the Watergate case

John Foster Dulles: Secretary of State in the Eisenhower cabinet, maker and ‘ builder’ of NATO, he formulated the strategy to control the USSR expansion by threatening the communists with MASSIVE RETALIATION (in the event of communist aggression the US would massively fight back/retaliate, even willing to take the world to the edge of a nuclear war—the idea of NUCLEAR BRINKMANSHIP), and ROLL BACK: an aggressive approach advocating offensive and aggressive stand-up against communism everywhere and anywhere--- part of it was the DOMINO THEORY (if one communist regime falls in the wake of it others emerge and have to be contained)

Détente (enyhülés) (1970s):

comes from Europe: challenges from DeGaulle and Willy Brandt: will not tolerate American arrogance: own bomb, out of NATO; detente: agreements w DDR, RUM, SU, PL, etc., starts in mid-60s

Nixon and Kissinger pick it up: “LINKAGE,” another budget conscious version of contain­ment, to link political agreements to economic ones; aims: business done and concessions won AND get out of Vietnam

1972: visits to China and SU; peace in Vietnam in 1973/75”decent interval”; SALT 1, etc.

1973: setbacks: oil embargo, Yom Kippur War

1975: peaks in Helsinki agreement, Soyuz-Apollo flight: USSR and US cooperation, etc.

on Nixon: see presentation

Henry Kissinger: son of Jewish immigrants from Germany, a political scientist, a State Department expert and advisor, Nixon’s national security advisor and his Secretary of State, negotiated with North Vietnam and brought about peace in 1975, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the Vietnam peace treaty

The “second Cold War” (1980s)

Jimmy Carter: advocacy of human rights, idea of trilateralism, during his presidency: the Iran hostage crisis (see course book) in 1979, and economic problems, Panama Canal returned to Panama

SALT 2: strategic arms limitation conference seems on course when in 1979 the USSR invades Afghanistan: disillusionment and frustration, SALT 2 stopped in Congress

Ronald Reagan: “evil empire” rhetoric with ardent anti-communists sentiments and ”star wars:” increase in military spending to contain the USSR

Corruption: Iran-Contra Affair and Oliver North in; Grenada, Latin America messed up - a backlash from Carter's Panama canal deal

1985: Gorbachev: the Americans do not/cannot believe him: the SU gives in: the US won the Cold War; 1989 a new period starts: post-cold war era

After the Cold War:
”The End of History” or the Reluctant Policeman of the World and the age of new barbarism?

Where is and what is the New World Order: is democracy really the top level of human social development?

economic integration in the Americas: NAFTA deal

War crises: Gulf War; Bosnia; Israel: Samuel P. Huntington: the next centuries: wars between civilizations (while integration within the various civilizations)

The challenge of international terrorism: the attacks on NYC and the Pentagon

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