The United States of America is the main world power in the western hemisphere. Founded in a rebellion against an unjust British empire in the late 1700's, the nation had a strained relationship during a period in which the British Empire continued to spread around the world. The nation helped the British and Europe win World War II against the second act of aggression by the nation of Germany and its allies. But then, due to a strained national budget, the US Congress refused to allocate funds to rebuild Europe. Instead it built up the defenses of its North American and Pacific interests.
- 1 History of Post-War America
- 2 A Return to Conservatism
- 3 The Rise and Fall of Bill Clinton
History of Post-War America
The Occupation of Japan
After Japan's surrender, the US government honored its agreement with the emperor to keep his throne. However, he and his government would come under increased American control as the US military occupied the country to oversee the rebuilding of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Since securing its Pacific territories became a main priority after the war, the occupation lasted over ten years. This altered the perception of the Japanese people just enough so as to form a lasting economic partnership surpassed only by that to China.
The United Nations
Immediately after the war ended, meetings began in San Francisco to establish a replacement to the defunct and failed League of Nations. It was hoped that a new effort could be mounted to succeed where the League had failed. Like Woodrow Wilson, his predecessor a generation before, President Truman pushed for the adoption of the United Nations. However, opposition in Congress was similar to that in 1919. In the end, the United States did not join the UN. Without the support of the world's wealthiest nation, the UN floundered, and never held any real "power" from its headquarters in Switzerland.
Pacific Ocean Treaty Organization
Seeing that the United Nations, with its emphasis on peaceful dialogue, was ineffective in keeping the world "safe for democracy," the joint chiefs of staff convinced president Truman to open talks with Canada and Mexico to secure the Pacific coast of the Americas from invasion from hostile powers "through the back door." From command posts in the Philippines, the occupation of Japan became a priority to both rebuild the nation and to establish a "front line of defense" against Soviet expansion outside of Europe.
By 1951, the Philippines had joined the Federated States of Micronesia to become the forty ninth state of the United States. Hawaii and Alaska followed in 1955 to form a line of defense reaching from the Tropic of Cancer to the Arctic Ocean. The addition of these new states helped convince most of Central America and all the South American nations touching the Pacific Ocean to join the treaty organization to become popularly known as POTO - the Pacific Ocean Treaty Organization.
With the preservation of the Nationalist government in China, that ally had become essential in preserving the peace in Asia. It had joined POTO at the earliest opportunity, becoming the greatest example of "peace through strength" as the world had ever seen.
Communism in Asia
As communism was spreading in Europe, attempts for its rise in Asia were thwarted by the overwhelming presence of the United States military in Japan and the Philippines. The first attempt was in China, home to one quarter of the world's population. The nationalist government, the ruling party who had been fighting the Communists since before WW2, finally prevailed with the help of the US forces.
With the defeat of the communists in 1949, insurgencies of the ideology arose in Korea in 1950 but to no avail. In better times, the USSR could have "demanded" a right to part of the peninsula. But at the time it was establishing itself as the "superpower" in Europe (extracting its revenge on the Axis powers that had so decimated its population in the war). By the time General Eisenhower became president of the US in 1953, Korea was a secure democracy with a growing economy.
In southern Asia, European colonies had begun to be replaced by local powers demanding independence. Some of these, like India, hosted a stable economy and popular government from the beginning. Others, though, had to face the rising threat of spreading Communism coming down from the southern USSR. One such country was Vietnam. Leaders in its capital city put out a call to the US and its allies in the Pacific Ocean Treaty Organization (POTO). Just as they did in Korea, the American forces were able to beat back the communists and Vietnam became a developing economy as well.
The Golden Age
The period between the end of World War Two and the Neal Armstrong's step onto the moon twenty-four years later was an unprecedented era of prosperity for the United States. The fight against Communism in Asia and the Americas provided an atmosphere of patriotism that fanned the flame of the perceived "manifest destiny" of the nation. Capitalism was succeeding in the west and far-east (redefining "West" to those in Africa and Europe), while failing almost everywhere between London and Kabul. Economic prosperity increased, while unemployement, inflation, and other economic problems declined, making the US economy the wealthiest and strongest in the world. Where Communism had not taken hold, socialism made it easy to transition to that ideology if the "Russian Juggernaut" ever came their way. But in the "new west," things were flourishing -- especially in the United States, its "superpower."
American entertainers were unchallenged by anything in Europe. When a young sensation out of the Tennessee hills took his "rockabilly" music public, the youth of the 1950's went wild! The age of "rock and roll" began, heavily flavored with "country and western." The struggling music industry in England, which was evolving into an angry protest movement against the "establishment" was not welcome in America, and would not take in America until the mid-seventies. In-home entertainment went from audio to video as televisions became as common as radios. The film industry flourished in both Americas, as well as in China and India.
An unsuccessful attempt to influence the film industry with communistic ideology left a dark spot on some of the legends of the industry, but gave fresh life to the careers of some others who stood firm in the "fight for democracy." The election of B-grade movie regular Ronald Reagan as president of the Screen Actors' Guild, in fact, led to the revitalized career that reached into the twenty-first century. In his last appearance, at age 90, he played the role of an aging former president of the United States called on to be an ambassador to an emerging European nation.
After developing the nuclear bomb - tested successful in 1952 in the deserts of China - research turned to peaceful use of nuclear energy. The United States got an early lead on the USSR in both nuclear weaponry and energy production. The facilities that produced the refined uranium and plutonium were all located on the mainland of China in areas removed from the population centers. By 1970, fifty percent of the energy of China and Japan was from nuclear plants, as was thirty percent of that of the USA. The USSR, suspicious of all the nuclear material being produced in its back yard, began to build nuclear weapons of its own "as a matter of national security." When the US and China could not convince them of their peaceful intentions, an arsenal of its own began to be built in facilities in the US.
The need for delivery systems for these weapons gave rise to another phenomenon: rocketry. Both the US and the USSR had rescued German experts in rocket science - the science that had almost won the war for the Axis. However, solid fuel rocketry dated back to antiquity in China. With this edge, the US and China were able to put the first satellite - a radio transmitter sending out a message from Presidents Eisenhower and Kai-Shek relayed to it from radio towers in western China, Hawaii, and Florida in 1956. In 1961, soon after taking office, president John F. Kennedy would offer the challenge to America: a safe trip to the moon and back by a man by 1970. That challenge was to lead to a "space race" between the USSR and the US, won eventually by the US on July of 1968. American Neal Armstrong would be the first to step upon the moon on July 4, 1968. The fireworks displays in Chinese cities on that day (July 5th there) dwarfed any found in the US on that national holiday.
Where Chinese rocketry had been the edge to getting into space, American electronics was the boost needed to beat the Russians to the moon. From the birth of the computer in the late 1940's on, America would lead the world in information technology. Non-stop post war research into miniaturization lead to the invention of first the transistor and then integrated circuitry, allowing specialized computers to direct trajectory instructions from ground stations all the way to the moon in mere seconds. By 1980, one in three homes in America had not only multiple televisions, but a home computer as well.
Meanwhile, the "Chinese connection" had greatly increased the incorporation of ancient medical procedures into mainstream American medicine. From acupuncture to zen meditation, from herbs to narcotics, great strides were made in treating disease and promoting healing. A regiment of acupuncture and death-mimicking narcotics, in fact, resulted in the seemingly "miraculous" recovery of US president John F. Kennedy after an assassin's bullets had torn through his body on November 22, 1963.
Communism in the Americas
While the rise of communism was squelched within the United States, and defeated in Asia, there were ample examples of the ideology rising in its own back yard. In fact, while US troops were securing Vietnam, advisers from Soviet puppet states were aiding a young rebel named Fidel Castro in Cuba. This turned out to be a huge embarrassment to US president John F. Kennedy in the early 1960's as Soviet missiles were shipped in past the US Caribbean fleet stationed in its fifty-second state of Puerto Rico. It was only this definite connection with Communist Europe that revealed that Castro himself was indeed a communist. Attempts to remove Castro from power proved disastrous, and some believe lead to the assassination attempt on Kennedy in 1963. Acting president Lyndon B. Johnson had sent troops into Cuba in January of 1964 just days before Kennedy regained consciousness from a coma he had been in since nearly being killed the previous November. Before Kennedy returned to office, in fact, Castro had indeed been removed as president and leader of the Communist Party in Cuba.
The 1960's and 1970's would see uprisings of rebels in Central America and South America. All such uprisings, though, were put down by the combined forces of POTO, especially the trained warriors of China. China's army at its height numbered 200 million reservists, on call to secure peace on three continents (four, if Australia/Oceania is included).
The Radical Seventies
The presidential election of 1964 resulted in a decade of conservatism lead by presidents Goldwater and Nixon. The democratic party had been split over returning Kennedy to office and replacing him with Johnson, resulting in a close vote for retiring the more conservative Kennedy for his former vice president. With a strong anti-communist message, Goldwater was able to defeat Johnson and continue the conservative policies that had begun in the Eisenhower administration.
However, a generation of "baby boomers" were reaching adulthood by the late sixties, leading to sweeping progressive programs to assist the poor and disenfranchised. Goldwater had barely won re-election in 1968, and former vice president Richard Nixon was being presented as the Republican party's best bet to regain the congress in 1972. Goldwater's support of the space program, with the moon landing coming just before the 1968 election, had given him a slight edge in a close race against Senator Hubert Humphrey. It had been down hill from there.
Nixon's presidency had seen a new outreach to Europe, establishing diplomatic relations with Communist bloc there. This was a surprise to many conservatives, but set the stage for a slide toward socialism in the United States. An undercurrent of distrust that had been festering in the United Kingdom against the United States since World War II began to move into Canada and the Bahamas, neighboring Commonwealth nations. The music of the protest movement, called "hard rock," or just "rock," began to be popular all along the east coast of America, spreading to the west coast and the Pacific like wildfire.
Protesters took to the streets demanding US troops be withdrawn from Japan and Cuba, and that POTO forces be forbidden to interfere in Western Hemisphere political uprisings (such as those in Venezuela and Argentina). A navy veteran and former governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, rose to power as a spokesman for the civil rights of minorities, securing the Democratic nomination for president in 1976. He proved good enough to beat a scandal-weakened Richard Nixon and his new vice president Gerald Ford. Though a devout Christian himself, Carter presided over a period of declining moral values. The presidential election of 1980, then, became a mandate for a return to "law and order," a backlash to the influence of European values on the United States. Former CIA director, and ambassador to Germany, George H.W. Bush of Maine became the first president of the eighties.
The Bush Years
The 1980's saw the rise of a progressive conservatism similar to that of Theodore Roosevelt. George Herbert Walker Bush would prove to be competent, and fiscally conservative, but the social upheaval of the seventies had taken its toll on the national mores. The demand for progressive legislature to advance the changing morals had begun to take fruition. What can only be described as "class warfare" raged as Bush, son of rich post-war congressman Prescott Bush, was perceived as out of touch with the common man. In an attempt to connect, his years in the White House became years of compromise with a Democratic Congress. Bush had chosen Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee as his vice president. Baker had been one of Bush's opponents in the primary season of 1980. As president of the Senate, Baker moderated over a Senate that shifted to the left in the midterm elections of 1982. One conservative senator, though, spoke boldly for "traditional values." That senator was James Danforth "Dan" Quayle of Indiana.
Quayle had served in the House of Representatives during the Carter administration, having been elected at the young age of 29. Winning the Senate seat of three-term Senator Birch Bayh in a conservative backlash to the cultural liberalism of the seventies, Quayle became the voice of conservatism in a progressive land. He surprised almost everyone when he announced his bid for the Republican nomination for president in 1988. Even more surprisingly, though, was his defeat of Vice President Baker in the primaries. Many had expected Quayle to fall in the general election, but the savvy online campaign in "chat rooms" as well as the support of rising media star Rush Limbaugh, propelled a rush of young voters (age 18-24) to choose the youthful 41 year-old over the Democratic candidate Governor Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, age 67.
A Return to Conservatism
As Europe began to climb out of the disaster of Communism, Quayle used the momentum that "grass roots" America had tapped to turn America back to the power house that it had been in the fifties. The values that ended Communism in the Pacific and Americas were seen as the hope of Europe as well. The foreign policy of Dan Quayle began with strategic trade agreements with nations that were forsaking Communism. A new capitalism began to spur economic growth and a return to freedom.
At home, middle American values began to prove to be stronger than the progressive moves of the Democratic party. With Quayle's leadership, the mid-term elections of 1990 prove that a new wave of conservatism is on the rise. By the time his re-election campaign began, his approval ratings matched those of John F. Kennedy in his early years. The Democrats, in an attempt to hold on to their agenda, selected former California governor Jerry Brown over Arkansas Bill Clinton. Quayle won handily, and continued his climb in popularity among America's youth. When he left office at age 49, his popularity had remained above 60% for seven years running.
Unfortunately, though, his popularity had not stuck to his vice president, Bob Dole. Having finished his third term as governor in Arkansas, Bill Clinton once more returned to the race for the nomination. This time, he succeeded. Running as a centrist, he beat Dole in a close race complicated by a third party independent by the name of Ross Perot. Perot had been happy with the Dole administration, but had lingering issues with George Bush to which he had decided Dole would return. Clinton, though, had proved a very effective politician and presented himself as an "average guy next door."
The Rise and Fall of Bill Clinton
Since the presidency now was back in Democratic hands, the peace movement of the seventies began to revive. Veterans of the Nicaraguan War were tapped to demonstrate the inequities of the power displayed by POTO all around the Pacific Rim. The President, seeing an opportunity to stand up for "the little guy" began to pull US troops out of South America hoping that a continued POTO presence would be enough to prop up friendly dictators that kept the economies strong. Hawks in the US Congress, though, saw this as dangerous for America and looked for ways to bring Clinton down.
Clinton, it turned out, was every bit the philanderer that his hero John F. Kennedy had been. His problem, though, is that his choice of women was not as publicly acceptable. His days in Arkansas came back to haunt him even as his escapades in Washington continued. The conservative moral values that Quayle had worked so hard to instill in America were being disregarded by the "leader of the free world." It turned out, though, that sexual impropriety was not enough to remove a man from office.
It turned out, though, that the latter years in Arkansas had been covered up quite well by the campaign. Unfortunately for Clinton, though, his confidentes there proved to be far less dependable than he had imagined. Investigative reporters from major news media were able to uncover enough to keep the president preoccupied throughout his term. In 1999 he announced that he would not seek another term. His vice president, Al Gore, Jr., of Tennessee, the son of a 1950's Democratic Senator, would take up the battle against Governor George W. Bush of Texas (son of the former president and grandson of a 1950's Republican Senator). What would follow would be the closest election in US history.